Skin Care

Ask a derm: Why Vitamin C and SPF are super together

To celebrate the launch of our new SPF Super-C SPF 30 Vitamin C Moisturizer, we asked Dr. Melissa Kanchanapoomi Levin, board-certified dermatologist and founder of Entiere Dermatology, to discuss how combining Vitamin C with SPF is a brighter way to moisturize. Get the download here.

Why is Vitamin C essential for skin?

Vitamin C is one of the most studied, potent, and plentiful antioxidants in human skin. Its robust antioxidant properties continue to be one of the most recommended treatments for the skin for improving uneven skin tone, texture, acne scars, dullness, and fine lines. But before understanding what an antioxidant is, it's essential to understand what a free radical is first. Free radicals are molecules that can cause damage to different components in cells, such as the proteins, outer barrier, and the matrix. In the skin, almost all skin cell types produce free radicals, which are important for maintaining healthy skin. There’s a delicate balance between these free radicals and antioxidants that are naturally made in the skin. Once that balance is lost, then we get something called "oxidative stress." Oxidative stress plays a role in skin aging, pigmentation, inflammatory conditions like eczema and acne, and skin cancers.

Ultraviolet light, infrared radiation, and pollution are common causes of skin damage on the cellular and tissue level. Antioxidants are molecules that neutralize free radicals. Therefore, antioxidants like Vitamin C aid in the skin's natural rejuvenation process to repair. 

Talk a bit about the relationship between Vitamin C and SPF - what do they do for each other?

The best way to correct, treat, and prevent sunspots is to protect the skin from exposure to environmental aggressors like UV light, infrared radiation, heat, and pollution. Without a doubt, sunscreen is vital to maintain protection from sun damage. Unfortunately, most people not only do not apply enough sunscreen but also do not reapply consistently. Therefore, the amount of UV protection you receive from sunscreen is lower in practice than what's on the label. Not only are people not applying enough or as often as they should, but broad-spectrum sunscreen does not provide enough protection against other environmental stressors that cause free radicals, which is why the combination of antioxidants like Vitamin C and sunscreen is ideal. Sunscreen is the most important anti-aging skin care step anyone can take regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, and time of the year. 90% of the changes we see in the skin are due to sun exposure. Everyone, regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, and time of year, should be applying daily sunscreen and reapplying when outdoors.

What is the advantage of adding SPF to skincare treatment products?

The sun is one of the most significant contributors to aging skin. An essential part of reversing or halting future sun damage is protecting and preventing sun-damaging UV rays and environmental stressors. Overexposure to the sun's damaging radiation can lead to uneven pigmentation, thickened skin, wrinkles, and volume loss. Without a doubt, sunscreen is imperative to maintain protection from sun damage. Not only is applying sunscreen every day (even in the winter months!) necessary, but we now understand antioxidants are also essential to neutralize free radical from from UV radiation, infrared radiation, and environmental stressors.

Is Vitamin C more effective with SPF?

It's more accurate to say that Vitamin C combined with sunscreen effectively protects the skin from exposure to environmental stressors.

Are all Vitamin Cs created equal? What makes some more effective than others? 

There are many different cosmetic products available that contain Vitamin C. The majority of the variability depends on the vehicle in which Vitamin C is contained, the percentage of Vitamin C, and Vitamin C derivative. For example, antioxidants are incredibly unstable compounds, making them difficult to formulate as stable topicals for cosmetic use. This is why Vitamin C products need studies to prove their efficacy as well as thoughtful formulation. 

Can you use Vitamin C & SPF with acids or retinol products? Prescription retinol?

You can use Vitamin C, sunscreen, and retinol together. While retinols are focused on accelerating skin cell turnover and repair signs of aging such as pigmentation and fine lines, Vitamin C improves skin protection from sun damage. While L-ascorbic acid, one active form of Vitamin C, is active at a lower pH level, there are different Vitamin C types, such as Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate. These Vitamin C types are less irritating and more stable, which is ideal for combination use with retinols. Different night serums combine active and effective retinol and Vitamin C derivatives, which have been tested for stability, tolerability, and clinical efficacy. While Vitamin C is commonly used in the morning with sunscreen for more comprehensive protection, there are known benefits to use an antioxidant at night as DNA damage continues for hours after exposure to UV or sunlight.

What is the difference between new Vitamin C formulas and that of previous generations?

Newer generation Vitamin C formulations contain other skin-benefiting ingredients such as humectants, retinol, sunscreen, peptides, and Vitamin B3. The combination of Niacin (or Vitamin B3) with Vitamin C plus sunscreen harnesses each ingredient's protective qualities. Niacin is a potent antioxidant that brightens the skin and stabilizes the skin barrier.

Want to learn all about our super stable, SPF Super-C SPF 30 Vitamin C Moisturizer? Check out our latest launch here.


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