If you’re a regular reader you’ll know I’m always banging on about the wonder of retinol. Personally, I use Dermaceutic’s 1% but because it’s nice and sterk I can’t use it every day or I’ll irritate my skin. So, on non-retinol days, I tend to slap on vitamin C. As far as I’m concerned, it’s the next best thing when it comes to multi-tasking like a boss. Much like retinol, vitamin C is a kick ass antioxidant, encourages your skin to produce more collagen and can lighten up the look of pigmentation. Essentially all the things that retinol can do, but to a slightly lesser degree of efficacy. In short, retinol is Batman and vitamin C is Robin.
Still, not all forms of vitamin C are created equally. Of all the kinds you could buy, L-ascorbic acid is the most potent. He’ll give you the best collagen-boost for your buck BUT he’s also super-duper unstable. You have to package him carefully – (no air, no light) and ensure he’s at the right pH or he’ll lose his mojo. Then, the moment he hits your face, he starts to degrade (Light! Air! OMG!) And it gets worse… thanks to all his big dick energy, he’ll irritate sensitive skins. Hearing all that, you’d wonder why anyone would put up with L-ascorbic acid. Alas, he’s good at what he does. Think of him as the asshole brain surgeon that everyone hates, but the only one who can snip out your tumour. Or is he?
Enter ascorbyl tetraisopalmitate. As I’m not a masochist, I’m not going to type that out again, so let’s refer to this as AT. A relatively new form of vitamin C, AT is a lot more stable than moody L-ascorbic acid. He can do all the things that L-ascorbic can do – albeit to a slightly lesser extent – with the pay-off that he’s a dream to work with. No stinging. No redness. No drama. He’s also super-duper stable, so he won’t have a divalicious nervous breakdown the moment you don’t treat him right.
Then there’s the penetration factor (God, that sounded terrible even as I typed it)… Unlike L-ascorbic acid which is water-soluble, AT is oil soluble. Oil and water do not mix and all skins have an oily lipid barrier. This means water soluble ingredients like L-ascorbic acid have a harder time penetrating your skin, but AT can slip in fast and go a lot deeper. It also remains in your skin a lot longer than L-ascorbic acid as the latter is excreted easily and quickly via your skin’s water channels. Good to know as there’s been evidence to suggest that a slightly less potent ingredient can be just as effective – and maybe even more effective – than something stronger if it’s better at penetrating and has more time to work its magic.
Being so new, there aren’t too many products in South Africa that contain AT but one of them is sk.in Gloss Radiant Shot (R1 300). Created by local aesthetic medicine practitioner and all round nice guy Dr. Alek Nikolic, it contains a whopping 10% AT! Better yet, it’s not a one note wonder. He’s included extra kiffness in the form of brightening niacinamide, soothing panthenol, antioxidant vitamin E (which boosts vitamin C’s antioxidant factor further) and ultra-hydrating, skin-plumping hyaluronic acid. (The latter sits at a very sexy 5%.)
I got to sit down with Dr. Nikolic late last year to chat about his new line and came away super impressed. In answering my questions he was 100% transparent and didn’t side step anything (this is a biggie – just try to ask Environ about their retinol percentages and see what happens) and didn’t make any bullshit claims. It was very clear that this new line was his baby and that he’d painstakingly trialed loads of formulations before settling on something of which he is proud. He didn’t just hire some chemist to whip up a dupe of whatever’s already on the shelf and slap his name on it. Sk.in is the result of a guy who really knows his stuff and wanted to create something that could be as potent as possible without freaking out sensitive skin.
If you’ve been wanting to benefit from vitamin C but find L-ascorbic acid too intense, give sk.in Gloss Radiant Shot a bash. It’s literally the next best thing! I’ve been using it since I got it and love that it isn’t tested on animals, is packaged in an airtight pump and has a crème-gel texture that absorbs in a flash.
P.S. Paying just over a grand for an action-packed cosmeceutical is pretty standard but I realise not everyone has deep pockets. If this you, know that The Ordinary also make an AT product that costs less. It’s currently out of stock at the few local online stores that sell it but it’s worth a shot if you’re desp for potent, non-irritating vitamin C on a budget. Just bear in mind that unlike sk.in’s formula, which serves up a lekker bouquet of ingredients, The Ordinary’s only active is AT. (The ‘vitamin F’ they’ve include is just a made up name for the fatty acids i.e. plant oils that it’s been mixed with.) And nope, I haven’t tried it myself.
P.S.S. Dr. Nikolic was kind enough to give me two other products to try and I’ll be chatting about them in yet more posts later on down the line. Both are great and I now somewhat regret leaving his office screaming ‘Find me a rich doctor husband or I’ll tell everyone your skin care gave me herpes!’ Sorry Alek! I was super jet lagged and you’re a gem!