I have always loved citrus – smell and taste – and whether that had a life-time effect on my strong immune system could be debated ad nauseum – especially in these Covid times, where everyone is an expert on the subject.
My fascination with Vitamin C however, started in a history class in junior school, where I learned that if you were a sailor on an exploring expedition, the chances of you getting a dreadful disease called scurvy were pretty good. Now Scurvy was worse than a terrible storm at sea or a blood-thirsty pirate – it was a debilitating disease that made your gums spongy, your breath foul and your skin splotchy. I made up my mind there and then that lemon juice was my best friend.
Further down the line, in the Victorian era, there was no knowledge of ultraviolet rays, but what they did know that too much sun would result in skin damage and sunspots. Parasols were the order of the day, as well as lemon juice and glycerine concoctions, which were used to fade freckles, along with strawberry water – a distillation of strawberries which smelled divine and was packed with Vitamin C.
Science has saved us from home remedies with some brilliant facial serums which work efficiently to tackle the pigmentation that is the unfortunate result of too much sun – and of course, the key ingredient is my old friend, Vitamin C.
Vitamin C is a strong antioxidant that neutralizes free radicals (unstable atoms that cause disease and ageing) and helps our skin regenerate and repair damaged calls. By neutralizing these free radicals, Vitamin C may help to protect and prevent changes in cells caused by UV exposure.
Used topically, the vitamin’s high acidic content triggers the skin to heal itself by revving up collagen and elastin production. Continued use could stop dark spots forming or fading if they are already there – those Victorian gals were onto something.
The catch is – there is always a catch – that Vitamin C is rather unstable – the chemistry buffs will tell you that this is because it’s water-soluble, it degrades when exposed to oxygen and it does not penetrate the skin easily.
However, happily for us, L-ascorbic acid is the most stable and effective form of vitamin C in skincare – this is the ingredient to look for. It does penetrate the skin barrier and in combination with Vitamin E (a favourite mixer with C in a serum), it packs a powerful punch.
If you are new to Vitamin C, start slowly, in the morning after cleansing, a few drops of serum are more than enough and you can get a lower strength/concentration of Vitamin C before you build up to 20%.
Finding C: What to look for in a serum
A dark glass bottle or opaque packaging – essential! Vitamin C breaks down when exposed to light or air.
My selection of Vitamin C Serums in no order of importance:
- Top of the pops but pricey: SkinCeuticals’ legendary C E Ferulic – really excellent, but for those with a healthy budget. R2750 (30ml)
- Local is lekker dupe: Dermafix Ferulic +C+E. I use this one regularly, bought multiple times. It absorbs like a dream, works well under any sunscreen and make up. R690 (50ml)
- NeoStrata Antioxidant Defence Serum – have been using this one for years as well – lasts a long time, absorbs totally, evens skin tone and brightens incredibly. R1060 (30ml)
- Timeless 20% Vitamin C Ferulic Acid +E: new in South Africa, this one was gifted to me. I have only had it for 2 weeks but absorbs beautifully and feels promising. Gorgeous packaging, very economical, watch this space for a more in-depth review. R540 (30 ml)
- Sensitive skins: Avène A-oxitive Antioxidant Defense Serum – really good for early signs of ageing. R440 (30ml)
Written by Paola Chellew
Paola Chellew is a feature writer for the A2 Aesthetic & Anti-Ageing Magazine. A former professional contemporary dancer, she has always loved the arts in all their forms. She has been a freelance writer for many years and has been published in various magazines including Live Out Loud, Private Life and Do It now magazines. Her passion for beauty and skincare started in her teens when she would read every beauty editor’s picks and reviews. Serious about skincare, she has researched medical-grade products for over ten years, as well as aesthetic treatments to restore and repair skin to looking its best. Having turned 60 last year, she has dedicated her blog to the “over 50s and beyond Club”, shining a spotlight on a generation that is seemingly side-lined by the beauty industry. “There is no age limit for when you stop being beautiful – a gorgeous lipstick, a sexy fragrance, radiant skin- these are not synonymous with youth- they are just things that add an extra sparkle to my day”.