It’s the common remedy for the common cold—when we’re feeling under the weather or are on the verge of coming down with the flu, one of the things we do is increase our Vitamin C intake. Whether it comes from citrus fruits or a vitamin supplement, Vitamin C (a.k.a. ascorbic acid) is a go-to immune booster, helping keep sickness at bay and, as some studies suggest, shortening the period of illness.

But it seems that Vitamin C’s powers go beyond building up our immune system. Backed by promising scientific studies, dermatologists and skincare companies are now touting the health benefits of Vitamin C for skin.

There is a growing interest in this ingredient, if the surge in Vitamin C “pins” on Pinterest is any indication—the social media app revealed that said pins increased by over 3,000% in 2017! From keeping skin fresh and young-looking to protecting it from harmful UV rays and fading dark spots, Vitamin C has all the makings of a skincare superhero.

How Vitamin C Helps Improve Beauty: What Science Says

Studies show just how important Vitamin C is for skin:

It stimulates collagen synthesis. Collagen is another buzzword in the beauty world. It’s the component of skin that’s responsible for its elasticity, making it look plump and flawless. Beginning in our 20s, collagen production slows, meaning skin appears less plump and flawless—you can blame sagging skin, fine lines, and wrinkles on the loss of collagen.

Vitamin C has been found to be a key factor in the production of collagen. A 2017 review entitled “The Roles of Vitamin C in Skin Health” concluded that “skin fibroblasts have an absolute dependence on Vitamin C for the synthesis of collagen, and for the regulation of the collagen/elastin balance in the dermis.

There is ample in vitro data with cultured cells demonstrating this dependency. In addition, Vitamin C supplementation of animals has shown improved collagen synthesis in vivo.” What this implies: With its collagen-boosting powers, Vitamin C can keep your skin looking younger.

While topical Vitamin C (which comes from creams and serums) may help stimulate collagen production, your diet may be a bigger factor. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition noted that a higher Vitamin C intake was linked to less wrinkles. So add some extra Vitamin C to your diet through oranges, strawberries, red peppers, and other Vitamin C-rich fruits and vegetables.

It may protect against UV damage. The biggest factor when it comes to skin aging? Photoaging, or skin damage due to sun exposure. A review by the Linus Pauling Institute of Oregon State University states that Vitamin C “limits the damage induced by ultraviolet (UV) light exposure.” It stresses, however, that Vitamin C is not a sunscreen because it does not absorb UVA and UVB rays. Instead, it’s a powerful antioxidant that protects against UV-induced damage caused by free radicals.

Slathering on a Vitamin C-infused skincare product is no excuse to skip your daily sunscreen but you’re assured of an extra line of defense against UV damage.

It can brighten and even out skin. The antioxidant, anti-inflammatory powers of Vitamin C can also help fight hyperpigmentation and discoloration (i.e., dark spots). Additionally, a 2017 review published in the journal Nutrients notes that numerous clinical studies have found that “the provision of Vitamin C to the skin greatly assists wound healing and minimises [sic] raised scar formation.”

Know Before You Glow

You can apply Vitamin C once a day, preferably in the morning, so you get extra protection against free radicals from environmental stressors like pollution.

Excited about introducing Vitamin C to your skincare routine? You might be overwhelmed by the products out there and confused by the different Vitamin C ingredients. There’s L-ascorbic acid, sodium ascorbyl phosphate ascorbyl palmitate, and retinyl ascorbate. L-ascorbic acid is the most studied kind ad has collagen-boosting and skin-firming abilities but you can still reap the Vitamin C skin benefits from the other types.

Keep in mind that for all its powers, Vitamin C is highly unstable. Sun and air exposure can make the ingredient ineffective so go for products that come in opaque bottles. Also store them in a cool, dry place to keep them for longer.

Ready to get glowing? You can find a range of skincare products with this superstar ingredient at Healthy Options.