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Vitamin C serums are legendary for a reason: They really work. Uneven skin tone, rough texture, fine lines, acne scars, general dullness — you can name just about any common complexion concern and there's a good chance that vitamin C (and the skin-care products it's featured in) is a recommended treatment. How does the ingredient work on the skin, though? Are the brighter, smoother results thanks to the same potent antioxidant found in the orange juice you drink when you have a cold?
Given that interest about the ingredient is seemingly at an all-time high, we felt a deeper dive into the wonders of vitamin C was warranted. We consulted the experts to learn all about what really makes vitamin C such a sought-after skin-care ingredient, as well as the best ways to reap its many benefits.
First off, what is vitamin C?
As far as your skin is concerned, vitamin C is "a potent antioxidant that can neutralize free radicals," explains board-certified dermatologist Patricia Wexler. "Because of its antioxidant properties, vitamin C aids in your skin's natural regeneration process, which helps your body repair damaged skin cells."
So, in the same way that consuming antioxidant-rich foods aids your body in fighting off free radicals, topical antioxidants do the same for your skin by helping to offset daily aggressors like UV damage and exposure to air pollution. Quick refresher course on antioxidants: They prevent or reduce damage to our cells by neutralizing the production of highly reactive molecules called free radicals. In other words, antioxidants help keep our body and our skin cells healthy.
This free-radical fighting power isn't just important for helping to keep signs of premature aging at bay. In neutralizing these free radicals, vitamin C may also help protect skin from precancerous changes caused by UV exposure, Joshua Zeichner, the director of cosmetic and clinical research at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, previously told Allure.
How else does vitamin C benefit the skin?
Amazingly, vitamin C's skin-saving benefits aren't limited to its antioxidant status. It has plenty of other skin-healing properties that make it worthy of a permanent place in your medicine cabinet. For one, because it's highly acidic, when vitamin C is used topically "the skin is triggered to heal itself by accelerating the production of collagen and elastin," explains New York City-based dermatologist Howard Sobel. Remember: Collagen and elastin are both naturally occurring protein fibers that help keep skin plump and firm. So, in helping to promote collagen production, topical vitamin C can help prevent premature aging of the skin.