The Secret to Maximizing Your Sun Protection: Vitamin C

woman in sun hat

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Sun protection — we all know how important it is. Dermatologists, beauty gurus and our mothers remind us all the time. We know that slathering copious amounts of a broad spectrum sunscreen every day, whether rain or shine, is our best defense against those harsh solar rays. And that we need to reapply it every two hours, especially when spending hours outdoors. But did you know that to get the most out of your sunscreen, you should pair it with a powerful antioxidant like vitamin C?

Sun damage is an oxidative process. UV rays and other environmental stressors like pollution and cigarette smoke cause the release of damaging free radicals. Free radicals lead to premature signs of aging, but vitamin C neutralizes them and helps shield your skin from this damage, keeping your complexion healthy and vibrant. 

“Vitamin C does not work as a barrier to UV rays, but once rays enter the skin, it is a potent antioxidant that slows the rate of free radical damage to collagen and aids in skin repair by factors linked to reduced oxidation damage to the skin cells’ DNA,” says New York dermatologist Dr. Patricia Wexler. It also reverses photoaging, evens pigmentation and decreases fine lines by stimulating collagen production. If you’re at risk for deeper sun damage, she suggests using a topical formulation that teams vitamin C with vitamin E (an antioxidant known to reduce inflammation and help speed healing) for additional benefits. “In serums, they have been shown to enhance the function of SPF formulations when used in combination, reducing the incidence of sunburns and increasing the SPF’s stability,” adds Wexler.

So whether you prefer adding a vitamin C complex to your normal sun protection routine or you want to simplify it by utilizing an all-in-one vitamin-infused sunscreen, here are the best antioxidant sun protectors that will help you beat the burn.