Derms Say Vitamin C and Niacinamide Are 2 of the Best Antioxidants To Include in Your Skin-Care Routine—Here’s Why
A good skin-care routine is proactive. Including antioxidants like vitamin C and niacinamide is an excellent way to arm your skin against environmental stressors that can lead to issues like hyperpigmentation and premature aging. Both ingredients can make a great addition to your daily regimen, explains Ivy Lee, MD, a board-certified dermatologist based in Pasadena, California.
"Vitamin C and niacinamide decrease the oxidative stress and damage that we get from environmental factors, like UV radiation from being outside, pollution, and smoking," which all accelerate skin damage, says Dr. Lee. Sunlight creates reactive oxygen species (ROS), which can accumulate over time, causing oxidative stress that degrades collagen and compromises the skin barrier—and niacinamide and vitamin C help stop this process in its tracks. "These ingredients also improve the signs of premature aging, so they can improve fine lines and wrinkles, decrease hyperpigmentation, and increase collagen production."
While the two ingredients are similar, they also have their differences. "Because it's a mild acid, vitamin C also gives you more of an exfoliating and brightening effect than niacinamide," says Dr. Lee. "Niacinamide has a greater impact in terms of hydrating the skin."
Niacinamide is the gentler of the two, making it a great vitamin C alternative in those with sensitive skin. However, if you don't have sensitive skin, Dr. Lee says there's room for both in your routine.
"If someone comes in without any prior history of a skin condition or any problem of tolerating skin-care products in the past, oftentimes I will add a vitamin C with niacinamide in the morning routine as a step before their sunscreen...or sometimes I'll split vitamin C in the morning and then niacinamide in the evening," says Dr. Lee "For folks who do have that sensitive skin, frequently I'll start with the niacinamide in their regimen, see how they tolerate that, reassess them about a month and then if everything's going well we'll add a low-strength vitamin C to see if they tolerate it."
6 great niacinamide products
When looking for niacinamide, Dr. Lee says to look for formulas that pair the ingredient with hydrating elements, like hyaluronic acid so that you can get the most out of its hydrating and barrier repair benefits.
Dr. Lee loves formulations that combine niacinamide with other ingredients. This serum combines niacinamide with hyaluronic acid, pineapple ceramides, and vitamin B5 to help seriously up your skin’s hydration alongside its antioxidant defenses.
“In terms of standalone niacinamide, I do like The Ordinary just because it is such an easy price point for people to try out,” says Dr. Lee. Zinc helps to regulate excess sebum activity while niacinamide helps to brighten and clear the complexion.
This serum combines niacinamide, licorice root, and reishi mushrooms to soothe skin while ginger, ginseng, and goji berry help reduce inflammation and hydrate.
“I love combining niacinamide with sunscreen and that’s why I love that Elta line that includes niacinamide and hyaluronic acid,” says Dr. Lee. This zinc-oxide-based mineral sunscreen provides great, sheer sun protection.
This serum from Paula’s Choice contains 10 percent niacinamide and vitamin C to help minimize the appearance of enlarged pores and brighten skin while licorice root and allantoin soothe sensitive skin, and panthenol helps the skin attract and retain moisture.
Drench your skin in moisture with this marine-concentrate serum from Tony Moly. It’s got three different weights of hyaluronic acid, a blend of four mineral-rich marine ingredients, ice plant extract, and niacinamide to hydrate, strengthen, and brighten your complexion.
6 great vitamin C products
When looking for vitamin C, Dr. Lee says to look out for ones that contain 10 to 30 percent L-ascorbic acid as that's "the most bioactive form of vitamin C." Plus, make sure it's in a dark or opaque container that won't let light in. "Vitamin C is highly unstable as a molecule, and UV light degrades it," she says. "So if it's in a see-through bottle, your vitamin C is probably not going to be very active if you leave it on your bathroom counter."
For folks with sensitive skin who may be able to withstand vitamin C, Dr. Lee recommends this serum from Sunday Riley. It contains a gentle concentration of 15 percent vitamin C to help visibly minimize pores, brighten dark spots, and target signs of aging.
For those with less sensitive skin, Dr. Lee recommends they start with an option from The Ordinary since it’s so affordable. She recommends this 23 percent vitamin C mixed with hyaluronic acid spheres to anyone who prefers more of a hydrating, liquid serum.
If you prefer more of a matte finish, Dr. Lee says to start with this 30 percent vitamin C which is delivered in a silicone formula.
Dr. Lee is also a big fan of this vitamin C serum. It provides great protection against damaging free radicals caused by UVA and UVB rays is “a serum that I would recommend before sunscreen,” she says.
Vitamin C has so many benefits, but one of its major drawbacks is that it’s hard to keep fresh for long, explains Dr. Lee. This formulation from Drunk Elephant allows you to mix the formula when you get it, meaning the vitamin C isn’t losing its efficacy while it sits on the shelf.
“For those who are not price-sensitive, I really like the Skinceuticals C E Ferulic,” says Dr. Lee. This much-loved serum is considered the holy grail of vitamin C serums. It’s made with vitamin E and ferulic acid to reduce oxidative damage from free radicals generated by UV rays and environmental pollutants, improves the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and evens, brightens, and firms the skin.
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