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January 20, 2022

The skin-beautifying promise of vitamin C has been well aired for many years. One of skincare’s most famed ingredients, it’s a tricky little active to tie down to a simple explanation, mostly because it comes in different forms, with different names.

While the sweeping statements of vitamin C being a skin brightening, free-radical fighting active (plus more) is true, there are ways to use it in products for max benefit.   

What is vitamin C anyway?

Vitamin C is an ingredient found in our bodies, and our skin can benefit from it either through our diet or when applied topically. From a skincare point of view, it’s considered one of the most effective and safe actives out there, so hooray for that. 

Its special powers lie in its anti-ageing properties which can tackle wrinkles, fine lines, even out skin tone and protect against environmental stressors. Yet, this smart-working vitamin comes under many guises on your skincare label, depending on its type, which is why we always put the “Vitamin C” note in brackets to help you out.

The names you’ll commonly find in skincare include the big five of ethyl ascorbic acid (otherwise known as L-ascorbic acid), sodium ascorbyl phosphate, tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate, magnesium ascorbyl phosphate and ascorbyl palmitate.

Here’s what they all do.  

Ethyl Ascorbic Acid

One of the most widely used derivatives of vitamin C, ethyl ascorbic acid is pure, water-soluble, easily absorbed and works in harmony with almost every other active and botanical in skincare.

This means you can get maximum benefit fast, including protection against environmental stressors, reducing visible signs of ageing and fading hyperpigmentation, while blending it with your other products without fear of a reaction. Sensitive to heat and light, always check your products comes in an amber bottle or jar, because that helps to preserve it.

Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate

Another water-soluble form of vitamin C, sodium ascorbyl phosphate doubles up on the skincare benefits by being a particularly stable form of vitamin C. You see, vitamin C can oxidise easily, which tampers with its ability to give you the best results.

Because sodium ascorbyl phosphate doesn’t do this as readily, it lasts well in the bottle and maxes out its promises. Among its predictably good skin brightening perks, used in a vitamin C cream or serum, it can also help with acne and skin tone and lightening.

Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate

Considered a stable form of vitamin C, tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate offers similar anti-ageing, antioxidant benefits. It’s also linked to collagen preservation and free radical protection.

This one is generally used in oil-based products, and it has to be formulated at certain pH levels to remain effective. That makes it a little trickier to handle than its counterparts such as ethyl ascorbic acid, even though it's less sensitive to heat and light exposure.

Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate

Along with its youth-bringing capabilities, magnesium ascorbyl phosphate is hailed for its skin-soothing properties. It has a chameleon-like ability to work in both water-soluble and oil-based forms which give it versatility too.

Unlike tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate, it doesn’t need a certain pH tolerance when used in formulations, but at the same time, it’s not as pure in antioxidant goodness as pure forms of vitamin C, like ethyl ascorbic acid.

Ascorbyl Palmitate

This combo involves blending ascorbyl acid with palmitate acid which gives it some extra oomph in some respects but lessens the effectiveness of pure vitamin C at the same time.

On the plus side, it boosts the effects of vitamin E when used together and its oil-loving nature helps it to stabilise certain sensitive skincare formulations. 

How do we use vitamin C in our skincare

While we love the science that backs up the benefits of these types of vitamin C among other derivatives, our main focus for our products is on ethyl ascorbic acid and sodium ascorbyl phosphate. Considered stable and easy to formulate and match with other ingredients, we’re confident that they up the efficacy levels we expect.

From your perspective, this means you can trust our vitamin C products to deliver, and you don’t need to get tied up in knots trying to find the right routine that won’t irritate your skin. What we would say is that, as with most actives, it’s always worth checking out concentration levels and testing it first.