When it comes to understanding the language of skincare, it seems there’s never been a better time to know your ABC. As awareness of the far-reaching benefits of vitamins continues to grow, beauty shelves are filling with products featuring vitamins A, B and C - the holy trinity of vitamin skincare. From serums and creams to sprays and masks, there’s now a cornucopia of vitamin-packed beauty products on offer, with more debuting every month. So what’s driving this uptick and how can you vitamin-charge your beauty regime?

While our oral consumption of vitamins continues to surge, only 1-2 per cent of digested vitamins reach our skin. By contrast, vitamins applied direct to our skin have a far greater impact, helping to counter fine lines and pigmentation, boost collagen, fight the impact of free radicals, and pump up hydration levels. Talk about kicking goals.

Amping up these benefits, the science of vitamin skincare has advanced significantly in recent years.  Not only have cosmetic companies created more effective product formulas, bringing together synergistic ingredients, they’ve identified new natural vitamin sources like the Australian Kakadu plum, brimming with vitamin C.

What’s New

Just as importantly, they’ve also developed new delivery systems and technology to ensure that vitamin-based products remain stable and active as they penetrate the skin – welcome news for anyone who’s watched an expensive vitamin C serum turn brown and lose its impact thanks to oxidisation. Sephora’s National Artistry Lead Alphie Sadsad says the beauty giant’s range of vitamin-based products has grown significantly over the past few years as technology has evolved and the offerings have become more effective.

Many skincare products now feature buffer ingredients to allow vitamins to be more readily accepted into the skin, while there’s also a greater focus on the stability of active ingredients. “The more vitamin products that become available from different brands, with better education each time, the more people are understanding that a high percentage (of vitamin) doesn’t necessarily equal a more effective product. Vitamins need complementary ingredients that help to stabilise them in order to be accepted with effect into the skin,” Alphie says.

He says customers are not only looking to add vitamin serums into their regimes, they’re also keen to have a vitamin component in core products such as cleansers and moisturisers. “An ‘added’ vitamin is a bonus when it comes to skincare … extra vitamins will only have a beneficial effect on skin health.”

For those keen to work out what’s best for their skin, Australian-owned cosmeceutical brand Alpha-H offers a special Vitamin Profiling Collection in its updated serum range, featuring 15ml bottles of vitamins A, B, C and E in delicate pastel colours. Alpha-H Professional Education Manager LeeAnne Leslie says the range allows users to self-prescribe their preferred vitamin serum so they can address their skin’s particular need on any given day.

“Years ago you didn’t choose your own serums or mix them but now there’s a bespoke approach to your own skincare,” LeeAnne says. She says the brand’s serums have been formulated to swap into any routine and use with other products, with each vitamin paired with complementary ingredients such as evening primrose and licorice extracts to enhance their effectiveness.

So if you’re learning the alphabet, which vitamin is best for you?

In many ways vitamin A, also known as retinol, is the sophisticated vitamin of the ABC triumvirate – it’s anti-ageing, particularly suitable for mature skins, and usually only allowed out at night.  Wearing vitamin A in the day can dramatically increase your sensitivity to sun damage, but applying it at night, when your skin cell regeneration is at its peak, will significantly boost its positive impact. Formula strengths differ and it can irritate some skins, so make sure you know what your skin needs and pay attention to where the percentage point falls – there’s a big difference between 0.1 and 1.0 when it comes to retinol!

Vitamin B is the Jan Brady of the ABC family, the often overlooked middle child.  But it’s worth paying attention to as many skincare experts hail vitamin B3, or niacinamide, as a powerhouse. Suitable for all skin types, vitamin B its known for its ability to help skin restore moisture and improve texture and is a deliciously simple way to achieve plump, glowing, healthy skin – day or night.

There’s no doubt vitamin C is the best-known member of the vitamin trio – a real crowd pleaser, it’s suitable for all skin types of all ages and can be used at any time of day.  Not only does it help counter one of the first signs of ageing, uneven skin tone, it’s a winner for brightening the skin and supporting collagen production, and a great companion for your daily SPF, helping to defend your skin from free radicals caused by sun exposure.

So once you’ve chosen your vitamins, how do you get the most out of them?

According to LeeAnne, it’s best not to mix your vitamin serums. If you combine products with high vitamin percentages, you could get some unexpected side effects – for instance mixing vitamin B and C can provoke a niacin flush.  And even if the vitamin percentages in your serums are on the low side, there’s only so much your skin can absorb at any time, which is why Alpha-H normally recommends single use application of serums.

While new technology means most vitamin skincare is now designed to avoid oxidisation, it’s still important to be aware of the expiry date and the shelf life of a product. Once a product is opened, make sure you use it, says LeeAnne, who also recommends squirting out the full contents of each dropper, rather than returning a half-full dropper to the bottle, to avoid oxidisation.

What’s on offer

If you’re keen to get a vitamin boost, here’s a quick look at some other popular vitamin products in the beauty cabinet, as well as some of the newest.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A products have been around for quite a few decades now, but in recent years formulas have been refined and products have become far more stable and effective.  The renowned Dr Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Universal Daily Peel  has just been released in new packaging to celebrate its 20th anniversary.  A two-step daily peel that helps address the most common visible signs of ageing including uneven tone and texture, fine lines, wrinkles and enlarged pores, it’s suitable for first time peel users.

Dr Dennis Gross is also offering  some new action in the A category, with the recent launch of its Ferulic + Retinol Anti-Aging Moisturizer,  a luxurious anti-ageing cream with infused active ingredients to smooth textured skin, hydrate, and improve the appearance of expression lines, wrinkles, and discolouration as well as strengthen the skin’s natural protective barrier.

Leading UK cosmeceutical brand Medik8 has a large range of vitamin A products available in a variety of strengths to suit different skin types and highlights its Crystal Retinal™ as one of its bestsellers. It’s formulated with a super-charged vitamin A derivative, retinaldehyde, which converts to retinoic acid 11 times faster than retinol and is more biologically active and better tolerated by those with acne.

Meanwhile, Dermalogica has just launched a new Retinol Clearing Oil. The first skincare product to combine retinol and salicylic acid in an oil, it’s been specifically designed to help people who want to address the dual problems of acne breakouts and ageing skin.

Vitamin B

Australian company Ultraceuticals says its Ultra B2 Hydrating Serum is one of its bestsellers. Featuring provitamin B5 (Panthenol) as well as vitamin B3 and hyaluronic acid, the serum aims to support and hydrate the skin at both a superficial and deeper level.

Medik8 nominates its Clarity Peptides, which offers 10% niacinamide, as one of its most popular products, with customers using it to help soothe and restore irritated, redness-prone, and blemished complexions, boost natural dew, and reduce hyperpigmentation.

Meanwhile French brand La Roche-Posay recommends its Hyalu B5 Hyaluronic Acid Anti-Ageing Serum as one of its top serums, delivering a combination of vitamin B5, madecassoside and hyaluronic acid for an instantly plumping action.

For those looking for a vegan option, Apot.Care has launched a new Hyalu B3 Face Cream to boost skin hydration and skin immunity while firming and plumping.

Also new on the scene is Dr Dennis Gross B3Adaptive SuperFoods Stress Rescue Super Serum a deliciously soothing elixir featuring superfoods, adaptogens, and niacinamide to correct and prevent visible signs of stress including worry lines and dullness.

And keep an eye out for the new La Roche-Posay Retinol B3 Serum which contains pure retinol as well as niacinamide to improve skin tone, create a clearer, more uniform complexion, and boost hydration.

Vitamin C

Ultraceuticals launched its first vitamin C serum in 1998 and it remains one of its most popular products. The company now offers its vitamin C in a 10% and 23% formulation with the additional benefits of MicroElastin® and MicroCollagen Peptides. It says the effectiveness of the product isn’t just the strength of the vitamin C it offers, but also the delivery system and stablisation technology it uses to ensure it doesn’t oxidise.

Meanwhile it’s been 15 years since SkinCeuticals launched its iconic C E Ferulic, a patented product combining 15% pure vitamin C, 1% vitamin E, and 0.5% ferulic acid.  According to National Education and Scientific Communications Manager David Whyte, the serum reflects SkinCeuticals’ research which shows that specific combinations of antioxidants can perform synergistically to provide results superior to each single antioxidant formulation. There’s no doubting this highly potent serum packs a punch, delivering visible results as it protects against atmospheric ageing, improves the appearance of lines and wrinkles, and brightens skin complexion.

La Roche-Posay says its Pure Vitamin C10 Anti-Ageing Serum has been extremely popular. Featuring ascorbic acid in a concentration of 10%, the serum aims to deliver anti-ageing benefits by boosting the skin’s elasticity, as well as providing antioxidant power for daily free radical protection.

In new offerings, UK-based skincare expert Mimi Luzon has introduced a high strength Cyber C- Vitamin C Serum 12% to her collection. Mimi says for best results vitamin C products should have a potency of at least 10%, although she warns a too high concentration can result in breakouts and inflamed skin. “This is why the products in my vitamin C collection are formulated with a high concentration of pure vitamin C (12%) for enhanced efficiency, absorption, and stability,” she says.

Volition Beauty is also amping up the vitamin C offering with its new Beauty Strawberry-C Brightening Serum packed with 20% strawberry-derived vitamin C as well as Kakadu plum.

But vitamin C is increasingly popping up in a range of other skincare products, beyond serums.

Skin Physics, which just won a beauty award for its OXYGEN-C Brightening Foaming Cleanser, has added a new vitamin C Brightening Sleep Mask to its range. Enriched with Kakadu plum, the mask features encapsulated hydrospheres that release pure sources of vitamin C and E, and hyaluronic acid as you rub it into your skin. “We wanted to create an ingredient driven mask that would work on your skin overnight, so in the morning you wake up with that rejuvenated glow you get from a summer holiday,” Business Development Manager Chantelle Searle says.

New brand YORA, which launched last year, includes vitamin C in its unique Conditioning Face Balm – a powerful paste which you apply like lip balm to areas of skin needing a boost.  The brand’s Refreshing Hydrating Mist also features vitamin C extracted from the Kakadu plum to provide an extra boost of antioxidants.  “The mist is perfect for carrying around to spritz the skin during or after exercise, and for use when your skin is feeling a little dry and needs an extra boost of hydration,” YORA Co-Founder Antoinette Barnardo says.

Sephora’s newest vitamin C offering is Bybi Beauty’s C-Caf Cream, featuring vitamin C and caffeine in a day cream designed to reduce morning puffiness and boost your glow – a sure sign you’re speaking the language of vitamin skincare.

Story by Libby Moffet

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