Magical Vitamin C


“So, should I start taking it?” This is a common response I get from patients when we are talking about skincare regimens and I mention vitamin C. The importance of vitamin C has been engrained in many of us since childhood when we were encouraged to eat oranges at half time and thus has persisted into adulthood as we reach for an Emergen-C when we have the tiniest hint of a cold emerging. Most of us associate it with strengthening our immune system and therefore, it is logical to assume when I mention it during my product consultations that I mean for patients to start supplementing with it orally. In actuality, I am talking about its use topically. Vitamin C is so familiar to most of us that the idea that it could be beneficial to our skin topically does not seem that far-fetched. I encourage my patients to incorporate this powerful antioxidant into their regimen and hope that this article reinforces its importance and can convince those who are not using it to start.

I think this conversation needs to start with the basics. What is an antioxidant and why is that important? This takes us to an even more basic issue of a pesky thing called a free radical. Free radicals are unstable molecules that are missing electrons from their outer shell. You may ask, “Why should I care about a missing electron?” This is because these unstable molecules are trolling around looking for something to attach to and would love to grab ahold of your skin molecules. Yuck, right? But wait, they just want to feel whole again. Don’t we all? These free radicals can bond to atoms on our skin and this causes oxidative stress. This stress can damage the DNA in our skin cells, leading to weakening…i.e. progression of aging, wrinkling and even skin cancers. Where do these awful free radicals come from was the first thing I wanted to know. Unfortunately, they are commonly found invaders of our environment and are generated from the foods we eat, the medicines we take, and the water we drink. They are byproducts of air pollution, sunlight, alcohol, smoking, pesticides, poor nutrition, and the list goes on. Antioxidants claim to fame is that they can delay and sometimes stop the damage the free radicals cause our skin cells because they bind to free radicals and therefore make them feel whole again. What a happy ending!

And guess what, vitamin C also does more for your skin than just bind to free radicals. It plays an important role in collagen production. It is a cofactor for building collagen which gives our skin support and makes it stay youthful. It can also brighten our skin by saying “STOP, DO NOT CROSS GO” to the pathway of pigment synthesis therefore stopping the brown spots in their tracks.

We know that Vitamin C can be found in fruits and vegetables, so can we just squeeze OJ on our face to reap in the benefits. Unfortunately, it is not that easy. The most effective form of topical vitamin C is synthetically produced and is called L-abscorbic acid. This is the most active and pure vitamin C product. There are many derivatives that you may see on the ingredient list of a vitamin C product, which can deliver benefits and also help keep the L-abscorbic acid stable. Generally, the labeling of vitamin C products will list a percentage on the bottle. This percentage can range from 5-20%, but a concentration of at least 10% is needed for efficacy. The percentage that is able to penetrate into your skin depends heavily upon the pH and the water absorbing capabilities of the product formulation. The vitamin C molecule is unstable and can lose its antioxidant abilities when it is exposed to air, light, and heat. Therefore, I stress heavily to patients, that it is important to choose high-quality vitamin C products because they are going to have greater stability and skin penetration. The Nua private label vitamin C products are stable for up to 2 years and are all made with pure L-abscorbic acid at concentrations of 15% and higher.
Most patients have no problem tolerating Vitamin C, but in high concentrations, it can be irritating. Some patients with sensitize skin cannot use it and I recommend testing it with your skin for about a week before committing to the purchase.
So now that you are sold on the benefits of its use, you may be wondering how and when to incorporate it into your regimen. Consistency is first and foremost in my opinion but I prefer for my patients to use it in the morning. I recommend avoiding using it at the same time as other acids such as glycolic or retinols because of its volatile nature. For patients that use it in the morning, I recommend the Nua Brightening serum or the Nua Collagen Rejuvenation serum right after cleansing your face. These are lighter products that feel good on the skin and allow for layering of sunscreen and makeup on top. If a patient is not using a retinoid product or glycolic, then nighttime use is a wonderful time to use vitamin C. I generally recommend the Nua Vitamin C 15% cream for these night owls because it is super hydrating. We would love for you to schedule a product consultation at Nua Medical Spa to discuss any of your skin care needs (434) 956-4835.

  Katherine Loose, PA-C

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