There are many, many effective skincare ingredients, but we have yet to discover one that does it all. But based on what you may have read about vitamin C—namely its discoloration-fighting, wrinkle-smoothing and antioxidant benefits—you might think it’s the only ingredient your skin needs. While a valuable part of just about any skincare regimen, there’s a lot of misinformation about the “sunshine vitamin,” so let’s separate the fact from the fiction.
1) True or False: Vitamin C Fights Skin Discoloration
True. Yes, vitamin C has been proven to improve skin discoloration, and here’s how. Dark spots are clusters of pigment, which is produced by cells called melanocytes. In order for the melanocytes to do this job, an enzyme called tyrosinase must be present. Vitamin C has been found to inhibit tyrosinase, in turn preventing new pigment from forming. The combination of no new pigment and the natural exfoliation of old pigmented cells leads to a fading of spots, hence vitamin C’s role in fighting skin discoloration.
2) True or False: Vitamin C Smoothes Wrinkles
Again, true, but there’s more to how vitamin C achieves this end result. All young skin has something in common: collagen. Along with elastin, collagen acts like scaffolding the keeps the skin smooth, taut and lineless. Over time, collagen begins to breakdown, the skin doesn’t produce as must as it used to, and lines become visible. Numerous studies have shown a link between vitamin C and increased collagen production, which helps reinforce the skin’s support structure and improve the appearance of age-related lines.
3) True or False: Vitamin C Protects Skin from the Sun
This one is actually part true and part false. Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant, which means it neutralizes damaging free radicals, and one source of free radicals is sun exposure. However, vitamin C does not protect the skin from damage caused by exposure to UV rays, so it does not offer truly reliable (or extensively proven) sun protection, and should not be used in the place of broad-spectrum sunscreen.
4) True or False: Vitamin C Improves Acne
False—with a caveat. A form of vitamin C called SAP has been found to improve acne, but SAP is not widely used in skincare products. Among the most common forms of vitamin C found in topical skincare products are L-ascorbic acid, ascorbyl palmitate, magnesium ascorbyl phosphate and ascorbyl tetra-isopalmitoyl.
5) True or False: Vitamin C Moisturizes the Skin
False. Vitamin C itself is not a moisturizing ingredient. Some evidence suggests it may play a role in preventing dry skin by promoting the production of lipids that help the skin’s barrier keep moisture in. But there’s also research that suggests vitamin C may increase water evaporation from the skin. Regardless of these contradictory results, this is still false.