Whenever I tell someone I’ve had my appendix removed a few years ago they hardly believe me—especially if they’ve seen me in a bikini—because I hardly have any visible scars. Once those stitches from my small incisions began to fall off, I was slathering my abdomen area with vitamin C oil rather than reaching for the Mederma Scar Gel. Within a couple of months my scars were faded and barely noticeable and that’s because vitamin C helps to fade scars. It also diminishes dark spots and brightens complexions, which is why it’s become a gold-standard beauty ingredient in skincare. After just a few months of incorporating vitamin C into my skincare regimen, I immediately noticed a difference and my skin has literally never looked better—not even in my early 20s.
We’ve been hearing for years about the beauty benefits associated with vitamin C but it’s only been in recent years that we’ve had access to the kind of high-quality, best in the market vitamin-C based skincare products that’s filling up department store shelves and actually giving noticeable results. As a Latina with naturally tan skin that gets at least 2-4 shades darker in the summer time, I’m easily prone to dark spots especially after a breakout. Incorporating vitamin C into your skincare routine is especially beneficial for women of color with olive skin or darker.
“Vitamin C helps to lighten and break up pigmentation you might already have and also prevents dark spots or sun spots from forming in the future,” says Dr. Dennis Gross, board-certified dermatologist, dermatologic surgeon and founder of Dr. Dennis Gross Dermatology. “Vitamin C is especially important for people with darker skin tones because they tend to experience more issues with dark spots. Dark skin types are characterized by higher content of melanin (more melanin indicates a dark skin tone), and while this helps protect against UVA/UBV, it also makes skin more vulnerable to post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation or dark spots. Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation is caused by a break in the skin, such as a cut, pimple or burn. In reaction to this break, skin cells produce more melanin for protection, resulting in more frequent dark spots. A lot of times, dark spots can be more obvious in darker skin tones.”
Applying a dollop of Dr. Dennis Gross’ C+ Collagen Brighten + Firm Vitamin C Serum every morning instantly worked to fad the two dark spots that were forming on my left check, while also instantly brightening my complexion. It’s a pick-me up my skin was desperate for, especially with all the dullness I was experiencing from constant travels and weather changes.
And for the record ladies, if you thought eating vitamin C foods or taking vitamin C supplements was enough to see a difference in your skin—think again. Dr. Gross insists that it’s not.
“Simply eating vitamin C-rich foods is not as effective as applying vitamin C directly to the skin with target treatments. You should apply vitamin C to the skin once daily,” he says. “I prefer to use the serum in the morning so I can walk out the door knowing my skin is protected from damaging free radicals all day.”
But if you want to see a difference in your skin, consistency is key especially if you have brown skin and are prone to dark spots and hyperpigmentation. “People who are prone to hyperpigmentation tend to continue to be prone to hyperpigmentation. It’s really a lifelong commitment to keep it under control,” says Dr. Whitney Bowe who suggests taking a “360 approach” year-round incorporating vitamin C and antioxidants into your diet and skincare.
Before treating hyperpigmentation, Dr. Bowe suggests understanding the different types of dark marks you can develop. There’s lentigos, there’s PIH, there’s melasma, and there are dark spots.
Lentigos are essentially sun spots. “You can differentiate lentigos from freckles because freckles lighten up in the winter, while lentigos stay the same shade all year round,” he says. ‘They are primarily caused by sun exposure over the years, but they can also be caused by pollution and even infrared heat [caused from] hot yoga, food warmer, space heater, some blow dryers and visible light rays [that can be caused from iPads or a computer screens].”
There is Post Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation, also known as PIH, which Dr. Bowe explains is a stain left over after inflammation in the skin dies down such as a dark spot or mark left after a pimple or acne breakout heals. This is probably the most common form of hyperpigmentation especially for women with medium to dark complexions.
Melasma is another form of hyperpigmentation. “Melasma looks like someone took tan or brown paint and splattered it on your skin,” says Dr. Bowe. “We primarily see melasma on the forehead, cheeks and upper lip as a result of estrogen/hormones, plus sunlight and heat. Fortunately, vitamin C can treat all of these various types of hyperpigmentation with consistent use.
“Sunscreen is key, but it only protects against 50 percent of free radical damage and we now know that free radicals from pollution, IR heat, and visible light (as well as UV rays), can lead to hyperpigmentation. It’s therefore essential to get antioxidants in your diet and your skincare,” he adds. “One key ingredient to look for is vitamin C, but not all vitamin C formulas are created equal in terms of stability and bioavailbilty—meaning the ability of the active ingredient in a particular product to be absorbed by the skin so that they can have their optimal impact.”
Dr. Bowe recommends Dermalogia’s BioLumin-C Serum, which is made with two highly stable forms of vitamin C that work together to effectively penetrate the vitamin C into the skin, defending it from free radicals and essentially healing it.
I’ve been using this high-performance serum at night before bed and wake up every morning looking like a glowing Latina goddess. It not only works to brighten the skin but also leaves it firmer, more radiant and even calmer.
Another kind of serum to consider is a vitamin C serum that also includes vitamin E as a key ingredient. “Vitamin C and E work well together because they have roles that complement the other,” says Dr. Gross. “Vitamins C and E both work together to maintain healthy collagen, which provides structure to your skin. You need vitamin C to help the formation of collagen, as well as vitamin E to maintain proper cross-links between collagen fibers. They work together to give you a stronger defense against pollution and other free radical damage resulting in more youthful skin.”
Don’t wait for the summer to wrap up to start giving your skin a much needed daily dose of vitamin C. If you want your fall/winter skin to start looking bright—I suggest adding one of these innovative serums to your beauty cabinet ASAP!