Some things are just better together. Like peanut butter and jelly or Batman and Robin, the best iconic duos are able to exist outside of each other, but are infinitely stronger when working as a team. In skincare, the same can be said of vitamin C and sunscreen. Sure, each is capable of delivering multiple benefits alone, but when in a pair can create seismic shifts in skin health and radiance can be achieved; when paired with sunscreen, vitamin C protects your skin from sun damage even more than SPF alone.
“Vitamin C helps boost antioxidant protection to neutralize the effects of UVA and UVB rays in tandem with helping to reverse visible signs of sun damage,” explains Youth To The People’s Director of Education, Laura Cline.
On its own, vitamin C is the stuff of skincare legend. A powerhouse antioxidant, it’s capable of neutralizing the damaging effects of free radicals and other environmental aggressors—like pollution and central heating. Although instantly effective, (most people typically experience a shift in overall skin brilliance soon after adding it to their routine), it shines best when used consistently over time.
“The longer you use vitamin C topically, the better results you will see because sun damage stems from deeper in the skin at your melanocytes [the cells responsible for producing melanin, aka dark spots and the tanning of skin],” says Cline. “After a week of using it you might see a general brightening, but a sun spot that took years to appear will take longer to fade than discoloration from a superficial blemish.”
And there’s more: unlike other active ingredients, say retinol or alpha hydroxy acids, vitamin C doesn’t make the skin more susceptible to sunburn, and it’s never too late (or too early) to start using it.
“I’d recommend the 15% Vitamin C + Clean Caffeine Energy Serum for anyone who wants to prevent premature signs of aging and get a good dose of antioxidants,” says Cline, adding that to avoid irritation, it’s best to alternate vitamin C and retinoids between your morning and evening routine. Some other tips to maximize results include creating a smooth base with a good exfoliator, like the Yerba Mate Resurfacing Energy Facial, and slathering on yet more antioxidants and essential vitamins—specifically vitamin E which can further support the healing of sun damage and scarring.
Ultimately, though, SPF is the only friend vitamin C needs. It’s the gold standard when it comes to protecting the skin from cancer, and safeguarding the hard work of any robust skincare routine.
“Our skin is our largest organ and its main job is to protect us,” says Cline. “It can do its job even better if we use the right skincare and give it a hand.”
Written by Elsa de Berker for Youth To The People