Skincare has gotten complicated lately. There are 12-step systems, masks studded with gold flakes, and a lot of creams, powders, and muds that claim to do a ton for you—but haven't been actually proven to do anything but smell nice.
If you're not really interested in getting swept up in the skincare craze and would rather add just one product to enhance your routine, it should pack a lot of added value without requiring a ton of effort on your part. Assuming you already wash your face in the morning—and we feel pretty comfortable with that assumption—the next item to add into your routine is a good-quality Vitamin C serum.
Why? Vitamin C is an extremely potent antioxidant that's capable of neutralizing free radicals, which happen when your body interacts with the all the nasty stuff in the world around us, including UV rays and air pollution. Left to their own devices, free radicals can mess up your body in a lot of ways: they cause diseases, impact our DNA, and damage our skin. The best way to fight them off? Antioxidants—and when it comes to antioxidants you can absorb through your skin, Vitamin C is one of the best options around.
Vitamin C Serum Benefits
Like any other product, a Vitamin C serum is going to respond differently to an individual's skin. But for most of us, consistent use of a Vitamin C serum is going to lead to visibly healthier, more glowing skin. First off, because it's anti-inflammatory, this stuff is great for improving a lot of skin problems like acne—and even fading old acne scars—as well as reducing redness.
Vitamin C has also been shown to stimulate collagen production. As we age, our skin's natural production of collagen slows, and that's why we start seeing fine lines and sagging. Jump-starting it with a natural booster like Vitamin C can help keep us from premature aging (or jumping on the Botox bandwagon).
So What Makes The Best Vitamin C Serum?
So you know you want a Vitamin C serum, but how do you know which one is the best Vitamin C serum? It's all about finding a product that demonstrates all of the following factors: they contain the highest-quality form of each ingredient possible, the ingredients interact well together, and the concentrations of each ingredient is optimal for your skin's health.
The Star of The Vitamin C Serum Show: Vitamin C
Vitamin C isn't just one thing. Because chemistry is complicated, there are a ton of different forms of this stuff, and some forms of Vitamin C are more stable than others. The stability of the form of Vitamin C matters because the second you open your bottle, your product can start to degrade if it's made with a less-stable form.
For instance, ascorbic acid has been shown to be pretty effective for your skin—but it also degrades really quickly. Instead, consider a product with a more stable, waterless form of Vitamin C, such as tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate. These forms of Vitamin C more rare, but they're also more effective, because they don't stop working after being exposed to light and air. This is why so many Vitamin C serums turn brown so quickly—they've oxidized, and once they do that, they are much less effective.
It's also important that your serum has the right concentration of Vitamin C in it—too little, and you're not getting the full benefits; too much, and you're paying extra for something that isn't going to do much good. A concentration of 15-20% is generally considered by dermatologists to be the optimal range.
The Team Player: Vitamin E
It isn't just how each individual ingredient benefits your skin, it's about how they work together as a team. In the same way that eating a little healthy fat helps your body absorb certain vitamins, some ingredients in a serum can help the other become even more effective. For instance, Vitamin C is pretty effective on its own, and if you chose a Vitamin C serum made entirely of a stable form of Vitamin C, it would be ok. But in clinical studies, products that contain both Vitamin C and Vitamin E have been shown to work in serious cooperation with each other, boosting the effectiveness of each of the ingredients significantly, making them stronger than the sum of their parts. The combination of C and E in particular has been shown to decrease the inflammation caused by UV exposure, which is excellent for anyone who ever, well, goes out into the daylight. (So it's not really necessary for vampires, but it's great for the rest of us).
The Anti-Aging Master: Bakuchiol
Vitamins C and E are pretty impressive on their own, but when it comes to finding the best Vitamin C serum out there, we want it to do even more for us. For a Vitamin C serum to take the cake, we think it should include the one ingredient out there that really deserves to be as completely trendy as it is: bakuchiol. Research indicates that this wonder ingredient works a lot like retinol, but without all of the nasty side effects. That means it's great for smoothing uneven skin, reducing redness, and fighting fine lines.