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, M.D. "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.
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, when vitamin C is used topically, because it's highly acidic, "the skin is triggered to heal itself by accelerating the production of collagen and elastin," explains New York City-based dermatologist Howard Sobel, M.D. 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.
Who should avoid vitamin C?
"Those with sensitive skin may have allergies or redness from vitamin C," Dr. Goldenberg says. If you tend to have sensitive skin, she recommends starting with a lower concentration and also "trying a test area first to make sure that no allergy exists."