Why vitamin C plays an important role for women in their 50s

Let’s be very honest here. Our skin during perimenopause and menopause takes quite a hit. A big one!

If you are anything like me, it will be dry, itchy and just dull. Well, there is hope for us all: It’s called vitamin C.

There has been so much ‘talk’ about vitamin C and why it’s so important to include this in your skincare routine, especially as you get older.

So, we asked the fabulous Dr Ginni, creator of ESK Skincare (menopause specialist and author of How to Thrive in Menopause – we love her) about the benefits and why using Vitamin C plays an important role for women in their 50s.

The wonderful Dr Ginni, Founder of ESK Skincare.

What makes mature skin different to younger skin?

As we get a little more experienced in life, so too does our skin, seeing more total years of sun and its UV rays as well as other pollutants. Plus, its innate ability to create new cells and heal old ones reduces with age. So, older skin starts to lose some of its natural scaffolding (the collagen rich “extracellular matrix”), losing elasticity and thickness, leading to fine lines and wrinkles. We also produce less of our natural oils in the skin, leading to drier skin. Melanocytes, which create pigment in our skin, start to reduce in number, but can become more active, which coupled with a slower skin cell turnover can result in areas of pigmentation.

Vitamin C in its active form, L-Ascorbic acid plays a critical role in healthy skin.

  1. For a start, as an antioxidant, it helps to combat damage done by the sun’s UVA and UVB rays by quenching and stabilising “Reactive Oxygen Species” (ROS). Exposure to the sun creates unstable and damaging ROS which lead to premature skin aging.
  2. Secondly, it helps boost collagen by acting as a “cofactor” or helper molecule helping to crosslink and stabilise collagen fibres. Collagen is the skin’s scaffolding and is essential for firm plump, healthy-looking skin, and for minimising fine lines and wrinkles.
  3. Vitamin C inhibits the enzyme tyrosinase, the enzyme responsible for producing melanin in the skin, so can help manage pigmentation.
  4. Finally, ascorbic acid is anti-inflammatory which can help with very dry skin conditions.

The results? Brighter skin, less fine lines and wrinkles, less pigmentation and better hydration!

Vitamin C should be an essential part of your skincare regime

So incorporating a vitamin C skincare product into your routine is a no-brainer. But what do you look for?

For a vitamin C product to work, look for these features;

  1. L-ascorbic acid. This is the evidence-based form of Vitamin C. Because L Ascorbic acid is unstable, lots of skincare products go for an easier to formulate cousin, like magnesium ascorbyl phosphate and ascorbyl-6-palmitate. The evidence for them is minimal.
  2. The right concentration. Research tells us that we need L-ascorbic acid at a concentration of at least 10% to be effective. Formulas with more than 20% L-ascorbic acid don’t have evidence to support them and have a high risk of irritating the skin.
  3. The right chemistry. L-ascorbic acid serums must be in a pH below 3.5 (acidic) to remain stable.
  4. The right packaging. To remain stable, L-ascorbic acid must be protected from light and air. This means you need an airless bottle (not a dropper) and in an opaque container (not clear glass).
  5. Few ingredients. Given vitamin C’s instability, many ingredients will directly or otherwise result in it oxidising or “going off”. So when it comes to actives and other ingredients, unless it’s Vitamin E or Ferulic, fewer ingredients is better.

So when we were formulating our L-ascorbic acid serums, being obsessed with evidence, we wouldn’t compromise on any of these. Both our Reverse C Serum and C Serum Lite (for oilier, acne prone skin- with a finer oil) serums contain L-ascorbic acid at a 10% concentration. We use airless, opaque bottles, not droppers. The pH of Reverse C serum is 2.75-3 and C Serum Lite, being anhydrous doesn’t have a pH.

When should you use vitamin C?

Because of its UV protection, vitamin C should be used in the morning after cleansing. It’s not that there’s a problem with using it at night but there’s no evidence for using it twice daily and its benefits are MOST pronounced from using it in the morning.

Because it is a serum, we suggest it is used as the first step after cleansing. For most intense results, use it on slightly damp skin. For sensitive skin, make sure you pat your skin dry and wait five minutes after cleansing before applying it. Then move on to a broad spectrum day cream with SPF. In between you can add your depigmentation product if you use that!

Things to watch for: L-Ascorbic Acid can be associated with redness and sensitivity (we see about 1 in 50 people experience that – especially if they have sensitive skin). If that happens, introducing it (very) slowly will usually get the skin used to it.

How long will it take to see results?

“Epidermal turnover time” is the time taken for the outer skin cell layer or epidermis to replace itself. The epidermis turns over approximately every 48 days but that turnover time increases as we age. For this reason, it will take time to see effects. We find our customers will have better FEELING skin within a week, but you will start to SEE changes in three weeks. Pigmentation takes much longer- usually months.

What other products can we pair vitamin C with?

Giving vitamin C the entire job of correcting skin brightness, fine lines and wrinkles is a huge ask so getting some other evidence-based ingredients on board will help. We suggest also adding Niacinamide (vitamin B3 for reduced pigmentation and improved skin barrier), Retinal (vitamin A for skin rejuvenation) and Alpha Hydroxy Acids (e.g. Glycolic and Lactic acid for brighter skin and improved activity of vitamin A) for best effects. Retinal and AHAs are best used at night while vitamin C is best used in the morning, but ideally all will be in your skincare regime.

Jo, founder of 50sowhat, loves vitamin C and this product is her go-to skincare hero.

A note from Jo, creator 50sowhat “I have used ESK for well over a year, and introduced vitamin C to my routine about four months ago, I absolutely love it! My skin looks brighter and so much more hydrated (I really needed this, as my perimenopausal skin was suffering). I also love the feel of this on my skin, it’s beautiful to use. I highly recommend it.”

As our hormones fluctuate (hello perimenopause and menopause) our skin often takes the brunt of it. A hydrating serum such as ESK Vitamin C, can make a big difference to that dry hormonal skin.

To find out more, you can check out the range here ESK Skincare.