When it comes to skincare ingredients that work, we only really have a handful that are truly transformative. When it comes to combating the signs of ageing, one of those is vitamin C.

That’s because it works inside our cells, changing the way our skin behaves. I’m big on intracellular mechanisms of action, in case you’re wondering. That’s because it's the most effective way to get skin to behave like it’s vibrant, younger self. This is something you’ll hear me talking about a lot. Ditto for retinoids. And for sunflower shoot extract, azelaic acid and niacinamide…

How do we know we need vitamin C in our skin? Because of scurvy, a disease that’s described as far back as the Ancient Greeks, perhaps most famously documented by seaman on lengthy voyages who got sick when they failed to eat citrus fruits for long periods of time (the humble lime was the solution). One of the many features of scurvy was failure to heal wounds effectively. It turns out that vitamin C is essential for healthy collagen assembly. Hence its importance in maintaining a youthful complexion.

Collagen is one of the most abundant proteins in our body - it represents one third of our total body protein and is the main protein of the dermis, a place I consider to be the source of our youth. The function of collagen is to create a thick, resilient protective wrapper for our insides and it really is critical to keeping us safe. This function comes about because of its clever structure - collagen is made from a simple, triple stranded rope of amino acids that turns into a helix when assembled. AND, vitamin C is key for that correct assembly process. Without it, we get poor quality collagen that doesn’t have the same tensile strength.

So why do we lose collagen as we age?

The crucial issue is that our skin is constantly being exposed to the environment, especially areas like the face, neck and hands. These are sites we tend to see the signs of ageing first. Antioxidants like vitamins A, C and E from our food help us defend against this ongoing barrage from things like UVA rays (present all year round and they penetrate through glass) and pollution but the body may have different priorities and not send enough supplies to our skin to cope with the damage, so levels get depleted.

The result of this is that free radicals get generated which cause harm by leading to an increase in the collagen-chomping enzymes matrix metalloproteinases. This damages our dermis, making it thinner and more prone to wrinkles. That’s why supplementing our skin topically with antioxidants, where we can control the dose, makes so much sense. This helps us future proof both the health and appearance of our skin.

This is even more critical for women approaching the menopause, a challenging time for collagen levels. As oestrogen levels drop, around 30% of collagen is lost in the first 5 years of menopause. That’s one third of your skin thickness. So we want to hang on to our collagen with all our might!

But that’s not all vitamin C does for our skin. It also helps regulate pigmentation. That’s the thing about the truly great ingredients - they invariably offer multiple benefits for our skin.
Vitamin C reduces the activity of tyrosinase, the crucial rate-limiting step in the production of melanin. More controlled tyrosinase activity means greater skin clarity and a more even skin-tone, delivering that fresh, radiant glow that we all so desire.

So, in a nutshell adding vitamin C to your daytime routine just makes sense. It enhances radiance, makes skin firm and springy and helps keep it that way, working in partnership with your daily SPF.