Sure, you stock up on vitamin C when you have a cold (LivOn Labs Lypo-Spheric Vitamin C ($42) anyone?), but have you given it a proper shot on your skin? The potent antioxidant is as much for your belly as it is for your face. From serums to day creams, masks, and fizzing cleansers, vitamin C is the powerhouse that may help reduce wrinkles, decrease sun damage (here's the actual research), and boost your skin's immunity much the same way you boost your immune system when you take it orally.
"Topical vitamin C, when active, is a great antioxidant," says holistic esthetician Jordana Mattioli. Which means, it can, when applied directly to the skin, help fight everything from broken capillaries and dark spots to fine lines and rough texture. Bottom line: Use products spiked with the ingredient in your regular skin-care rotation and eat as much of the potent antioxidant as you can because since vitamin C is water-soluble, it’s important to get your daily dose of it through eating food sources, too, since it won't hang around in your system for long. Think oranges, grapefruits, strawberries, and red and green peppers (that's in addition to topical treatments) to experience its benefits.
Because vitamin C stays most active when it hasn't been activated by liquids, the best vitamin C treatments are often powders that you mix with a serum to activate. Try mixing True Botanics Vitamin C Booster ($90) into your regular serum or moisturizer—your mind will be blown by how clear and smooth it makes your skin.
Sun damage and prevention.
Applying a moisturizer or serum with vitamin C before your daily sunscreen application will help ward off those harsh rays—we're currently loving Marie Veronique's Vitamin C+E+Ferulic Serum ($90), which is also a good altearnative to retinol for pregnant women. And remember, with whatever product you use, the closer it is to the top of the ingredients list, the higher the concentration. Dark spots are caused by an increase in melanin that produces pigment in the skin and can be caused by hormones, the sun, or the result of inflammation such as acne or eczema. Topical vitamin C is an effective way to treat hyperpigmentation and early signs of aging caused by overexposure to the sun. Another great formulation is Elizabeth Dehn for One Love Organics Vitamin C Active Moisture Serum ($68).
Vitamin C plays an essential part in the body’s ability to produce collagen, a protein that helps support tendons, ligaments, blood vessels, and our skin. To sum it up: Collagen production will strengthen your nails from the inside out. You can also consume collagen directly—try adding some Vital Proteins Vanilla Coconut Collagen Peptides (they also have hyaluronic acid to plump your skin) to your smoothies, or even just mixing a heaping teaspoon into your coffee or tea.
Lengthen your locks.
If you’ve been trying to grow out your hair, vitamin C and how it affects collagen production plays an important part in stimulating hair follicles, which promotes growth. Enough of the super vitamin is also necessary for absorbing iron to keep hair strong and healthy and eliminating pesky split ends.
DIY Vitamin C Mask: Use a handful of vitamin C-rich strawberries (the leftovers from the ice pop recipe, below, are great!), a tablespoon each of honey and coconut oil. Blend, and then apply to your hair for 15 minutes.
Look (and feel) energized.
Lack of iron can lead to fatigue and weakness, and since vitamin C is linked to how our bodies absorb iron, getting enough of the nutrient will help improve your energy levels.
Want a vitamin C bomb that's perfect for summer? Try an ice pop. This Rosemary Strawberry Pop, excerpted from our own food editor's Glow Pops: Super-Easy Superfood Recipes to Help You Look and Feel Your Best, has a hefty dose of vitamin C-rich strawberries as well as anti-inflammatory rosemary, which adds a unique, sophisticated note and further helps protect your skin and body from the summer sun. Eat one of these poolside and get ready to glow.
Skin-Brightening Rosemary Strawberry Ice Pop
Makes 5 or 6 (3-ounce) pops
- 3 cups hulled fresh strawberries
- ¼ cup water
- 3 sprigs fresh rosemary
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons honey
- In a small pot, combine the strawberries, water, and rosemary and cook over low heat, mashing up the strawberries with a wooden spoon until the berries have collapsed and released their juices, about 10 minutes.
- Turn off the heat; make sure the rosemary sprigs are submerged in the liquid; cover, and let cool for 10 minutes. Remove and discard the rosemary sprigs. Transfer the mixture to a blender and add the vanilla, salt, and honey. Blend until well-combined.
- Pour the mixture into pop molds and freeze for 1 hour, then insert sticks and freeze for at least 4 hours more, or until solid.
This piece was co-written by mbg's senior food editor, Liz Moody.