POSTED: 11 Mar 2024

All the Different Types of Vitamin C Skincare & How to Find the Best One for You

Vitamin C is one of the grandees of the skincare world and is pretty much vital if you’re looking for radiant healthy skin. It’s rightly earned its status because of its huge number of benefits including brightening and anti-ageing as well as its ability to cater to wide range of skin concerns. Even better, vitamin C can be used by just about anyone and across every skin tone. That being said, the sheer number of types of vitamin C skincare can be daunting and even off-putting. In this article, we explore the different types of vitamin C to help you choose the best form for your skin. We also guide you through how to add vitamin C into your skincare routine.

Why Use Vitamin C in Skincare

There’s decades of scientific research behind the value of using vitamin C in skincare. At its core, it is a potent antioxidant that protects the skin against the harmful effects of free radicals. These are unstable molecules that contribute to premature skin aging, dullness, hyperpigmentation and sun spots. However, its benefits extend beyond its protective abilities. Vitamin C is a key player in brightening the skin and even out skin tone. It also stimulates the production of collagen which is vital for the skin’s firmness and elasticity.

The Different Types of Vitamin C in Skincare

Despite all the benefits, it can be difficult to add vitamin C into skincare. This is because some of the most common preparations can be very irritating. They are also sensitive to light and water which can lead to rapid degradation and make it less effective. As such, a lot of people get put off by vitamin C skincare. We’ll discuss below the different types of vitamin C and how to choose the best one for your skincare routine that overcomes these limitations.

L-Ascorbic Acid (LAA)

So L-Ascorbic acid stands as the gold standard in vitamin C skincare. It is the most researched and potent type of vitamin C. L-Ascorbic acid has potent antioxidant that make it unparalleled in stopping oxidative stress. It is also highly effective in helping with the repair and rejuvenation of the skin. However, its high potency comes at a cost. The acidic nature of L-Ascorbic acid can lead to irritation, particularly in those with sensitive skin. This manifests as redness, itching or even a stinging feeling upon application. Worst still, it can lead to post inflammatory hyperpigmentation if too strong a dose is used especially on skin of colour.

Additionally, L-Ascorbic acid’s achilles’ heel is its stability. It is very sensitive to air and light which can make it degrade quickly and hence become less effective. This means LAA needs careful storage—preferably in opaque air-tight containers in a cool dark environment. It’s also important to exercise caution if you want to integrate LAA into your skincare routine. Make sure you begin with a low strength and frequency then build up as your skin adjusts to it. If you have sensitive skin it’s probably best to avoid this type of vitamin C in your skincare.

Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate (SAP)

Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate is a gentler type of vitamin C in skincare. It is less likely to cause irritation or purging in people with sensitive or acne-prone skin compared with L-Ascorbic acid. Despite it’s mild nature, Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate still delivers good antioxidant protection. It also boasts anti-inflammatory properties that can be particularly useful in people with acne or rosacea. All in all SAP a great option for anyone but in particular if you have sensitive skin conditions or prone to breakouts.

Ascorbyl Palmitate

This ester a fat-soluble form of vitamin C. Ascorbyl Palmitate offers a good balance of antioxidant protection with better stability and reduced risk of irritation. Although it is not as potent as LAA, it is still very effective and tolerated by a greater range of skin types including those prone to sensitivity. The increased stability of Ascorbyl Palmitate also means it is less prone to rapid degradation. This gives it a longer shelf life and means it is better at maintaining its effectiveness over time.

Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate (MAP)

The key reason Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate stands out is due to its hydrating properties and its role in stimulating collagen production. MAP is a gentle but very effective form of vitamin C and is compatible with pretty much all skin types. It’s ability to boost skin hydration, alongside its collagen boosting benefits, makes it a great option for those who want to use it to treat aging skin especially if you also have dry or sensitive skin. It’s also very stable in formulations which increases its effectiveness and shelf-life. These benefits often offset the higher cost of MAP containing vitamin C products compared with LAA.

Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate

This variant stands out in the vitamin C family for its deep skin penetration and stability. As such, Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate is an ideal choice for all skin types, including sensitive ones. It is an oil-soluble form of vitamin C which penetrates the skin’s lipid layers more effectively. It delivers potent antioxidant benefits, evens outs skin tone and stimulates collagen production near the dermis. As such it has impressive skin brightening and anti-aging effects. Despite these potency, Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate is tolerated even by those with sensitive skin due to its less irritating nature. It also has superior stability against light and air exposure. This means that its efficacy is better preserved over time.

Complementary Skincare Ingredients

Combining vitamin C with other skincare ingredients can enhance its efficacy and provide additional benefits. Below are some of the ingredients that pair well with Vitamin C either when used at the same time but in separate products or combined in one skincare product:

  • Ferulic acid is a powerful ingredient to pair with vitamin C as it stabilises it and boosts its antioxidant properties.
  • Vitamin E also pairs well with vitamin C as it boosts its photoprotective effects thereby increasing protection against UV-induced damage.
  • Glutathione is a potent antioxidant known for its skin-brightening properties. When combined with vitamin C, these benefits are amplified. The combination also helps improve skin texture and treat skin ageing.

Despite the above benefits, its important to be careful when combining vitamin C with certain products due to the risk of skin irritation. The acidic nature of any type of vitamin C may not work well with active skincare products such as exfoliating acids and so it may not be possible to layer them. Retinoids are also an excellent skincare ingredient to use alongside vitamin C but due to the high risk of irritation, you will need to use them at different times of the day or even on different days based on how sensitive your skin is.

How to Introduce Vitamin C into Your Skincare Routine

Integrating vitamin C into your skincare routine can really boost your skin’s health and beauty. However, your success will depend on choosing the right type of vitamin C and protocol for your skin. Below are some key tips for how to add vitamin C into your skincare routine:

  • Figure out your skin type, concerns and goals then use this to choose the best type of vitamin C for your skin.
  • Start with a low strength and frequency then build up both as your skin tolerates.
  • Be mindful of how it interacts with other products in your routine and you may need to temporarily stop certain irritating products like exfoliating acids or reduce their frequency until you’re sure your skin is tolerating vitamin C well.
  • If you’re using prescription skincare like Tretinoin or hydroquinone, check with your doctor how to introduce vitamin C into your routine.
  • Always perform a patch test before using properly to check for irritation or allergies.
  • Layer your skincare to maximise the benefits of vitamin C in your skincare routine. Its best to use vitamin C in your morning routine (after cleanser or toner) and before moisturisers, hydrating serums and sunscreen.

As you can see, vitamin C is an excellent skincare ingredient and worthy of a slot in most people’s skincare routines. However, it’s important to understand the various types of vitamin C available in order to choose the best one for your skincare routine. Taking the time to figure out your skin type, concerns and needs is the single most important step to help you figure out which type of vitamin C is best for you. If you have any skin conditions, health problems, using prescription skincare or are prone to allergies or irritation, it’s best to seek advice from a medical practitioner before starting any new skincare products.

At City Skin clinic, we are passionate about personalised skincare and provide high quality skincare products including vitamin C through our online skincare shop. Through our virtual skin clinic, our doctors offer safe and effective prescription-strength treatments like Tretinoin and Hydroquinone. We treat skin conditions like acnehyperpigmentationmelasma and skin ageing. To get start your personalised skincare protocol, book a virtual video consultation or use our online consultation form. The journey towards great skin starts here.

Authored by:

Dr Amel Ibrahim
Aesthetic Doctor & Medical Director
Founder City Skin Clinic
Member of the Royal College of Surgeons of England
Associate Member of British Association of Body Sculpting GMC Registered - 7049611

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