The Tweakment Tart: Vitamin C Sounds Like Science, But Does It Work?
By Polly Vernon Posted on 12 Nov 2018
God, I love an active ingredient! Where once creams and serums and liquids and so forth were basically prettily-packaged exercises in pointlessness encased in marketing copy and sparkle and a vague hope of surface-level moisturisation; now, they’re turbo charged! With science! And acid!. And percentages, and oh! I love that. I especially love a warning on overuse in the instructions leaflet? It’s like with Ibuprofen and booze; if you’ve got to exercise moderation, you know it’s gonna work. I even like it when a new thing slightly stings on application… I’m some kind of product pervert, I guess.
At the same time: active ingredients are complex. How do you know which your skin requires? Azeliac, or multipeptides? Mendelic, or Salicylic? New brands like The Ordinary and Garden of Wisdom have massively reduced the cost of these products, technically democratising them, bringing them to the masses… But they’ve also brought a whole new distracting lexicon of efficacity to the game, along with the impulse to just screw it and try it all simultaneously, because it’s so goddamn cheap and readily available online… But that’s not necessarily a good idea. Unless red raw and flaking skin is your end game.
The only way to truly establish which active ingredients are right for your skin, is to first see a dermatologist, which is faffy and expensive and terribly limited in terms of instant gratification - but I would do it, if you can. If you can’t: many interviews and appointments with dermatologists and facialists of my own have left me with the impression one particular active ingredient is appropriate for most of us, and that’s Vitamin C. Dr Sarah Tonks for example, the woman I see for Botox, because she’s ace, and I have a possibly completely unfair prejudice about trusting other women to inject my face more than I would men… But that’s for another column. ANYWAY. Dr Tonks says: “Vitamin C is such a versatile skincare ingredient because it helps to reduce any pigmented areas of the skin, reduce inflammation and makes the skin brighter. It also helps to prevent further damage from UV and environmental factors.”
A lot of products claim to have Vitamin C, but some have more, of a better quality, and a higher absorption rate, than others. Skinceuticals CE Ferulic is an old fave of mine, a curious-smelling liquid you pipette onto your face, via your fingertips, which will honk for the rest of the day, which is how you know it’s good. Someone intensely knowledgeable once told me to be wary of pleasant-smelling products, because nice aroma is an indication manufacturers have focused on that superficial concern, to the likely detriment of other, more useful concerns. I’ve used SkinCeutical’s CE Ferulic (£135) for the last two years, and have without question registered a refining in the quality of my skin: a reduction in semi-palpable qualities like dullness and slackness; a decent boost on the glow.
I’ve tried others (because SkinCeuticals is expensive), and been impressed by the results of The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 23% (£5.75), if less enamoured by its texture. It’s a tad gritty, which again is an indication that manufacturers have concerned themselves with efficacity over charm, which is actually good… I’m just a bit of a princess about it. I’ve more recently discovered Garden of Wisdom’s Vitamin C Serum 23% with Ferulic Acid (£10), which is creamier than SkinCeutical’s CE Ferulic, but less gritty than The Ordinary’s, and which (so far), seems to do the job.
Would I spend my own money on it?
Some of it, for sure. I’d grin and bear it with SkinCeuticals epic price tag because I really trust it, and I’d actively enjoy giving over my PayPal account to Garden of Wisdom. But I’d probably give The Ordinary a swerve.
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