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orange slices and a tincture jar of vitamin c

One of the most powerful antioxidants, vitamin C reduces cell damage from external insults like pollution and too much sun. It protects us from factors that age us from the inside, like poor sleep.

It also works topically. “Vitamin C is the topical nutrient we’ve tracked the longest and know the most about,” says Mark Tager, MD, author of Feed Your Skin Right: Your Personalized Nutrition Plan for Radiant Beauty. Research shows that vitamin C protects against sun damage, age spots, and even melanoma, the deadliest type of skin cancer.

As the skin ages, a diet high in vitamin C reduces wrinkles by nudging the body to make more collagen and elastin, two proteins that give the skin structure, stretch, and strength. It also helps the skin retain moisture, which can reduce the appearance of fine lines.

Consuming adequate vitamin C even helps heal scratches and cuts, says Julie Garden-Robinson, PhD, RD, a food-and-nutrition specialist at North Dakota State University. Our bodies can’t make vitamin C, which is why it’s so critical to consume vitamin C–rich foods, such as red peppers, broccoli, kale, and citrus, every day. You can also safely supplement with up to 1,000 mg a day.

There’s a lot of hoopla about the benefits of topical vitamin C, but not all products are equal. Look for those with L-ascorbic acid, an active form of the ­vitamin that your body can put to work immediately. Because vitamin C degrades quickly when exposed to oxygen and light, choose products packaged in dark-tinted bottles with airless dispensers.

(This essential nutrient supports nearly every aspect of health. Learn more at “What You Need to Know About Vitamin C.”)

For further guidance on maintaining healthy and radiant skin through nutrition, see “11 Vital Nutrients for Skin Health,” from which this article was excerpted.

Catherine Guthrie

Catherine Guthrie is an Experience Life contributing editor.

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