Is the Ordinary’s 100% L-ascorbic acid powder good? You may have heard of this inexpensive vitamin C product from The Ordinary, but do you know what L-ascorbic acid actually is, and do you know what to mix this powder with in order to get the maximum benefits for your skin? In this blog, we’re going to talk about the science, the chemistry of L-ascorbic acid, and why there are nuances between it and vitamin C.
We’re also going to discuss what you should know before putting this on your face, and of course, how to use it.
What is L-ascorbic acid?
L-ascorbic acid is often called the most potent form of vitamin C, but there are nuances between L-ascorbic acid and Vitamin C. Vitamin C is more of a complex compound whereas L-ascorbic acid is one piece. L-ascorbic acid is a fractionated crystalline isolate of vitamin C (a form of broken down vitamin C). Chemically altering vitamin C into L-ascorbic acid lets our skin absorb more of it in an efficient way (J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2017 Jul) There are also two different types of ascorbic acid. There are L-ascorbic acid and D-ascorbic acid, but L- ascorbic acid is the one we care about most for our skin and bodies.
Why do we need vitamin C?
You probably know that vitamin C is important. It’s found in oranges, lemons, other citrus fruits, and different vegetables. It’s very important for us to consume because it’s used in so many processes within our bodies, and a lack of it causes the disease called scurvy. Outside of consuming it, using L-ascorbic acid or “vitamin C” on our skin has some amazing benefits. But, here’s the thing: a lot of brands will sell you expensive vitamin C even though it’s such a finicky ingredient that degrades pretty quickly.
So, sometimes you’re paying a lot of money for a product that, in time, won’t give you the full potency. So, what’s great about the Ordinary’s 100% L-ascorbic acid is that you can mix the amount of vitamin C that your skin needs. It’s a great choice, but because this is so powerful, some people have had negative reactions. That’s why we need to know the science behind how it works, how you can use it, and what to do if things go wrong.
What is L-ascorbic acid in skincare?
The main benefits of L-ascorbic acid come from its antioxidant properties. Vitamin C is often sold as something that will brighten or glow up the skin, and that’s very true. It’s great at brightening the skin and working against dark spots specifically those caused by sun exposure, UV exposure, and reactive oxygen species. The reason that sun exposure can be damaging to the skin is because of ROS.
L-ascorbic acid, a derivative of vitamin C, protects the skin by neutralizing those reactive oxygen species, unstable molecules that want to destroy your skin. Not only is L-ascorbic acid great for working on sun damage and sunspots, but it’s also great for boosting up collagen. In the body, vitamin C is needed to produce collagen, but it doesn’t work the same when absorbed from the outside of the skin. However, some studies show vitamin C to be collagen synthesis boosting when applied topically. This means it has the potential to keep your skin stronger for longer by protecting it and promoting it to create more collagen, the stretchy stuff.
Should you use vitamin C?
Here’s the biggest problem with L-ascorbic acid, better known in skincare as, “Vitamin C” – it oxidizes. That means if it touches air, it’s going to be less effective for your skin. Even in some water-based formulas, it starts to break down. That’s why if you buy a really expensive vitamin C product from the store and let it sit in your warm, moist bathroom or even on the shelf for six months, the “vitamin C” may have completely degraded. And in that case, you wouldn’t be getting any benefit to your skin.
What is The Ordinary’s 100% L-ascorbic acid?
The Ordinary 100% L-ascorbic acid - $5.80
That’s why this powdered form is fantastic. The Ordinary’s 100% l-ascorbic acid offers you a fresh, powerful dose. You mix it right in your hand whenever you’re ready to use it. However, as mentioned before, it’s very potent, and it can cause pain or sensitivity when used improperly. The other thing is that L-ascorbic acid is generally safe to use during the daytime, but you might want to use this one at night. That are studies that suggest the use of it in combination with sunscreen. This combination has been shown to protect your skin just the slightest bit more. However, as The Ordinary’s is 100%, it can cause a little bit of irritation to the skin. So, Cassandra personally recommends using this only at night.
Why is The Ordinary’s 100% L-ascorbic acid in powder form?
L-ascorbic works best at a low pH. PH stands for potential hydrogen. The pH scale also shows us how well an ingredient is going to get into the skin. Our skin is built to protect us. This outer layer, the stratum corneum, on the very top is made to keep things out and keep us in.
The stratum corneum is a very fatty layer which means it’s hard for products to get inside of it. It’s actually quite difficult for products to penetrate into the skin. We want our products to go through the epidermis or maybe even into the epidermis where they can do work, but naturally, our skin tries to protect us, and it aims to keep those things out because it doesn’t know that we’re giving it something beneficial.
Because the skin has oil in it and because most vitamin C is water-soluble, vitamin C is a really hard product to get into the skin. That’s why lowering the pH, “potential hydrogen,” helps them get in deeper. You can think of a lower pH as being a pathway for vitamin C to get to where it needs to go. A pH below 3.5 is generally best. But remember, a pH below 3.5 is also very acidic. So, it can sting, or it can be irritating, especially if you have sensitive skin. So, although low pH products like this one are fantastic for getting actives to penetrate deeply, you might want to mix it with something else more neutral or alkaline (ph of 7 or above). However, please keep in mind that you should always patch test this first just to make sure that you don’t have a negative reaction. Patch testing should always be done as a safety precaution at least 2 to 48 hours before. It’s better not to patch test on the face as well.
What should you be mixing The Ordinary’s L-ascorbic acid with?
Remember that L-ascorbic acid is a fractionated crystalline isolate of vitamin C. So, essentially it’s soluble in water, but unfortunately, leaving it in water too long can cause it to degrade. When using it with water-based products, you should mix it. The Ordinary has also put out a statement recommending that you mix it with water-based solutions. There are a couple of oils that you can mix this with, and there are a couple of anhydrous or “zero-water” solutions that you can mix this in with too.
How do you mix The Ordinary’s 100% L-ascorbic acid?
The Ordinary provides a little measuring scoop that you can use for taking a custom amount of vitamin C. Cassandra recommends only using about half of the spoon per use because again, this stuff is really potent. As a general rule of thumb, mixing this powder into oils is going to be a little more gentle on the skin than mixing it with water. Mixing it with water is going to give it a little bit more of a sting. Once again, L- ascorbic acid is water-soluble. So, if you mix this in with oil, it might stay a little chunky or gritty. If you’re going to use oils, Cassandra would recommend using something like vitamin E. Vitamin E has been shown to stabilize vitamin C, and it’s also very beneficial to the skin.
In our bodies, vitamin C and vitamin E react to rejuvenate each other in different biological processes, and on the skin, it also provides a benefit. One of Cassandra’s favorite oils to use with this is The Ordinary’s B5. B5 is also a very water-soluble vitamin that is very beneficial to the skin, especially when it comes to soothing, anti-inflammation benefits. B5 is also really good for acne-prone skin.
The Ordinary B-oil - $10
Marine Hyaluronics is a water-based formula that Cassandra really likes to mix this in with, but one of her true favorites is The Ordinary’s resveratrol and ferulic acid. You may have heard of vitamin C and ferulic acid in many other products such as ones from Drunk Elephant or Skinceuticals.
The Ordinary Marine Hyaluronics - $8
This is because ferulic acid and vitamin E can directly benefit from L-ascorbic acid. The Ordinary's ferulic acid and resveratrol is an amazing antioxidant, and these formulas work very well together. They blend in very nicely, and they really treat Cassandra’s skin kindly. Actually, the Ordinary has directly recommended using this with the 100% L-ascorbic acid.
Resveratrol 3% + Ferulic acid 3% - $9
These are water-based products to combine the L-ascorbic acid with. But remember, even though L-ascorbic acid is soluble in water-based products, it can sting a lot more. And again, because water degrades L-ascorbic acid, you shouldn’t be saving this formula. Only mix what you need for the moment, put it on your skin, and use it.
What should you not mix The Ordinary’s 100% L-ascorbic acid with?
There are a few products that you should not mix with vitamin C. One in particular suggested by The Ordinary is the EU K 134. There’s also niacinamide. While most of the vitamin C products that you’ll find at the store aren’t going to have negative reactions to B vitamins like niacinamide this product is 100% L-ascorbic acid, and it’s very potent. The Ordinary’s niacinamide and zinc are also very potent. Likewise, they should not be mixed. The Ordinary specifically says this directly, but Cassandra wouldn’t go as far as to say, “don’t mix this with any niacinamide.” Just patch test, and tread with caution.
Moreover, you also shouldn’t mix this with benzoyl peroxide. But, if you’re struggling with acne, you can use these two at different times of the day. Remember to use the L-ascorbic acid on unbroken skin even though vitamin C is used on wound healing. The Ordinary states too that this should not be used on broken skin. You don’t want to cause granulomas in the skin. Cassandra has seen some extreme videos online of people micro-needling or doing chemical pees on their face, and then putting vitamin C on it. Don’t do that because that can irritate the skin, granulomas, and little bumps underneath the skin that can be even harder to get out.
If you use this on the skin, and it starts to sting, you can always use an acid neutralizer to counteract this. Remember that it's the low pH causing it to sting a little bit. If you bring the pH higher to a neutral or an alkaline position, It can reverse that stinging from happening.
This is an inexpensive product, and you get a lot of it, but be careful with the products you’re using before and after.