Vitamin C and skincare: how it really works

I have always been a huge vitamin C advocate, with a passion for encouraging an over abundance of vitamin C into everyone’s lives. I feel this stems from my mum giving me tangy orange flavoured chew-able vitamin C tablets as a kid to ward off the cold Irish weather and from it being my go to during the ‘flu season’, making it seem to me vitamin C is the real MVP, at least since 1998.  Vitamin C also plays a vital role in collagen construction and is often advertised in anti-ageing products as a ‘super ingredient’ due to its wondrous abilities to both strengthen collagen supplies in weak skin cells, and reducing collapse of skin elasticity and tissue membranes. This knowledge introduced the concept of Vitamin C in EVERYTHING – from face creams to concealers, creating a buzz in the beauty community and something that is listed as top skincare product during the Winter periods.
But, do we really need it?

orange sun




The concept that vitamin C is good for you is by no means new, with it being used in modern and alternative medicine for centuries, particularly for healing wounds, immune deficiencies, and nutrient management; in fact major hospital trials found adding vitamin C enzymes to trauma patients increased wound healing and it is a typical addition to dietary requirements for inpatients with chronic and complex wounds. While there is research to suggest vitamin C will strengthen immune systems and reduce likelihood of disease prevalence, there is no firm evidence it will offer protection from any specific strain of illness or disease state, although clinical trials showed it was effective at reducing infection rates of viral illnesses in large population studies – it does not guarantee protection from the common cold. Its efficiency as an illness preventative has been due to its ability to help reduce the rate infections and bacteria enter the body by ‘defending’ the skin tissue by using its large molecular mass to protect gaps in fragile skin cell walls and provide an extra layer of permeability, which I personally think, is still pretty neat!


Despite its role in immune protection being somewhat a slight mega-mystery, we do know vitamin C is great for skin! Vitamin C is known as one of the key ingredients that protects skin from free radicals by reducing the rate UV rays penetrate skin membranes; again by adding the extra layer of permeability, therefore significantly decreasing UV related damage and minimising free radical production.  Free radicals destroy skin cell structures and collagen walls, increasing fine lines, wrinkles and adding sallow to the skin; now adding vitamin C to your skincare won’t stop wrinkles, but its uncanny ability to slide between damaged skin cells and expand the space gives an immediate boost leaving the skin radiant, smoother and firmer; so if you have vitamin C and stop using it, you would notice a remarkable difference due to the simply molecular job.




Vitamin C is a tricky, water soluble molecule that is metabolised and excreted through the body quite quickly, meaning it is one of those vitamins you really do need a daily intake of as it doesn’t hang around long and it can burn out fast due to the daily demand of our metabolism. This rapid mechanism of action means it has little time to spare and it simply just does not have the patience or ability to absorbed through the skin with factors such as water permeability and rapid intake affecting how much time it has to lazily penetrate the epidermis – think about it, vitamin C is a large water based molecule that needs to fit through teeny-tiny oil filled skin surface pores; so yeah – it doesn’t work.  

What does happen, is the large sized vitamin C molecules fail to penetrate pores or sink into the skin cells, instead snuggling in amongst pores, fine lines, and wrinkles and expanding (with their collagen and vitamin goodness) creating a firm layer, producing a smoothing effect, and correcting uneven skin tone by reducing redness and dark patches. The potent anti-oxidant additive in vitamin C reduces the perforation of epidermal skin cells by UV rays, reducing the visible daily impact of pollution and oxidation, making the skin to appear firmer, fresher and less tired!


One item I do love is Rimmel’s Wake Me Up foundation and concealer; in fact when on special, I purchased two of each!
I immediately noticed a fresher and firmer appearance to my face and it has a faint orange scent to it which makes it a joy to put on! My only beef with this is it did lightly oxidise several hours into the day and one bottle was ruined after approximately 3 months due to oxidising (I did it use it frequently, but it had a 12 month expiry date!); I have since found this is due to the added vitamin C sitting snugly on the skin cells and reducing air permeability – so while it is seemingly a negative, it means my foundation is doing its job – so it is kinda hard to complain! I would purchase again and for a drugstore product it did offer great results, however, it literally comes in a shade range of 4 so not universal and it slowly oxidises; although I am yet to find a higher end foundation with added vitamin C! (If you know of any, let me know in the comments below! I’d love to try some!)


vitaminC.jpgVitamin C is one of the only vitamins the human body is unable to synthesis itself – unlike other vitamins and macronutrients, the metabolism cannot pull vitamin C from other sources like sunshine, sleep or food intake. This doesn’t mean you will need a supplement – especially  for something as abundant in food like vitamin C! You can protect your health and skin from the outside with creams and products, and the inside by eating a nutritiously balanced diet.

There are plenty of foods that offer vitamin C and kick out enough antioxidants to give you an added internal bonus full of goodness in addition to better looking skin! Some foods include:

  • Citrus fruits like orange, lime, and lemon
  • Pineapple
  • Chilli and Bell Peppers
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Strawberries
  • Dark leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale
  • Watermelon

A single, orange weighing approximately 130g will contain 75% of your daily intake of vitamin C, or a medium red bell pepper, which holds 90% of your daily intake – one cup of strawberries will push you above the 80%. It is really super easy to add vitamin C naturally, so it’s worth doing for your skin in the long term to build more antioxidants – not to mention the benefit to your overall health. But if you can’t increase dietary vitamin C there are numerous opportunities for pumping up the vitamin C for the body with vitamins and drink supplements. 

So in closing the humble orange flavoured chew you had as a kid whenever the neighbourhood got the flu (just me?) is more than just a sugarless vitamin; it is actually, really great! As I mentioned above, using vitamin C in skincare will not necessarily permanently reduce fine lines, pigmentation or tired looking skin, but by adding it daily you will notice a radiant change to your already beautiful skin and maybe slow down the visual ageing process of your skin!  If you’re concerned about how much vitamin C you are incorporating into your daily routine and want to maybe add more with as little effort as possible, consider the following:

  1. Add fresh veggies and fruit to your diet to add vitamin C, your face will love you for it!
  2. Heavy night moisturisers with vitamin C will give you the best result as they stay longer on the skin surface
  3. Foundations with added ‘C’ will keep you looking fresher, for longer but can oxidise so be wary!
  4. Download a macro-managing app on your smartphone to monitor vitamin intake if you’re into that
  5. Speak with your doctor or dietitian and check your levels

Tell me is Vitamin C a go-to product for you? What do you love about it? Would love to hear from you in the comments below!

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