The Universal Skin Protector

Why loading up on vitamin C can do wonders for your skin.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

If you want overall better-looking skin, turn to vitamin C. This powerhouse ingredient is a potent antioxidant that helps to soothe inflammation, firm up skin structures and brighten complexions. As an antioxidant, vitamin C not only combats external aggressors, such as free radicals generated by UV rays and air pollutants but also helps to repair tissue and reduce damage caused by inflammation and oxidation.


The problem is, our body does not store vitamin C. To ensure we have an adequate amount, it needs to be consumed daily. Without sufficient vitamin C, a litany of issues can arise – from poor wound healing to fatigue, and inflamed skin, to name a few.

If you find your skin beset by dryness, dullness, fine lines or a rough, uneven texture, you may be lacking the very thing that your skin requires to stay healthy. Ageing and environmental pollutants can also cause the depletion of vitamin C in our skin. And that would result in lacklustre, tired-looking complexions. 

While you can get your vitamin C from dietary sources such as berries, spinach, red peppers or oranges, topical antioxidants also work from the outside in to help stave off the damage caused by free radicals and boost collagen production. Topical vitamin C triggers the skin’s natural healing process and slow down premature skin ageing. It can also help inhibit melanin production, the process that leads to hyperpigmentation, discolouration and dark spots.


Although vitamin C is best in its most natural form, it is prone to oxidation and the least stable in solution. What you want is ascorbic acid (also known as L-ascorbic acid), which has been proven to be the most stable and effective at penetrating the barriers of the skin. In fact, its efficacy is further increased when combined with other antioxidants such as vitamin E. The combined power of two antioxidants gives you double protection against free-radical damage.

Most dermatologists agree that vitamin C serums are more effective than creams or toners. As it is a volatile substance, vitamin C breaks down when it is exposed to air or light. That’s why most vitamin C serums come in dark bottles to help maintain its stability. 

As wonderful as it is for our skin, vitamin C is a potent ingredient that must be used carefully. Only a tiny amount is needed each time. Start with a lower concentration, like a serum with five per cent of vitamin C, and work your way up to 20 per cent as your skin adjusts. Begin by adding vitamin C to your routine three times a week and gradually working up to daily use. For bright, clear skin, remember to layer a sunscreen of minimum SPF 30 after, too.

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The new vitamin C serums are said to be more stable than before. They don’t irritate sensitive skin as much as they used to and they don’t break down as easily as before. They reportedly penetrate deeper into the skin, and at a faster rate, too.

Elizabeth Arden Vitamin C Ceramide Capsules Radiance Renewal Serum, $81 (30 capsules); $153 (60 capsules)

You get a total skin boost with this potent serum that has vitamin C, E and ceramides to leave skin firm, clear and bright. Meanwhile, avocado, sunflower seed and olive oils help maintain optimum moisture levels.
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The Body Shop Vitamin C Glow Sheet Mask, $5 (per sheet)

Infused with vitamin C-rich camu camu ingredient from Peru and organic aloe vera from Mexico, this vegan mask leaves your skin hydrated and radiant.
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The Inkey List Vitamin C, $18 (30 ml)

Lightweight and smooth, this serum protects your skin from free radicals, evens it out and restores radiance.
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Kiehl’s Powerful Strength Line-Reducing Concentrate, $105 (50 ml)

For noticeably smoother skin and improved radiance, this anti-ageing serum contains 12.5 per cent of two forms of active vitamin C as well as hyaluronic acid, which promises to remain in the skin for up to six days.
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Sunday Riley C.E.O. Vitamin C Rapid Flash Brightening Serum, $126 (30 ml)
Fight dark spots and discolouration with this hydrating antioxidant formula that is infused with 15 per cent advanced vitamin C.
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Tatcha Violet-C Brightening Serum, $140 (30 ml)

With Japanese angelica root extract to even out skin tone and Japanese beautyberry to stabilise vitamin C, this brightens and firms up your skin while boosting hydration levels.
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Fresh Vitamin Nectar Glow Juice Antioxidant Face Serum, $45 (15 ml)
This rejuvenates with nutrients, minerals, and fruit and vegetable extracts, as its fruit complex revitalises dull complexions with vitamins C, E and B5.
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111skin Vitamin C Brightening Booster, $91.90 (20 ml)

Target hyperpigmentation, age spots, uneven skin tone and discolouration with this formula that combines pure vitamin C with glutathione and liquorice root to encourage collagen production and boost brightening effects.
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Lixirskin Vitamin C Paste, $43.42 (50 ml)

Aside from regulating dark pigment production and helping to keep skin firm, this cream works to neutralise oxidised sebum on the skin surface, so your complexion looks radiant all day long.
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Skinceuticals C E Ferulic, $248 (30 ml)

Combining ferulic acid with vitamins C and E, this offers twice the protection against premature skin ageing caused by free radicals while reducing the look of wrinkles.