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Vitamin C skin sensitivity is fairly common, despite the lauded antioxidant’s reputation as the reigning champion in free radical defense and anti-aging super powers. It’s one of most effective anti-aging skin care actives you can use, whether you’re looking to fade dark spots and hyperpigmentation, improve firmness, soften fine lines, or brighten up a dull, sallow tone. Not only does Vitamin C help reverse the signs of aging, but it also functions as a barrier, shielding the skin from environmental aggressors like smoke and pollution, thereby helping to prevent photoaging.
However, while it may be one of the most transformative topical antioxidants available, it’s also one of the most high maintenance. Allergic reactions to C-infused skin care products are fairly common, often resulting in red bumps and itchy skin after application, and it’s also one of the more difficult ingredients to tolerate if you suffer from rosacea or simply have highly reactive, sensitive skin. Vitamin C is also notoriously difficult to stabilize, and can be impacted a wide range of variables that can render your serum virtually useless without even knowing it. Because of its less-than-stellar shelf life, many Vitamin C products are suspended in silicone bases, which is a common culprit for triggering breakouts and clogged pores.
While ascorbic acid and ester C (the two most well-researched-backed forms of Vitamin C) have long been dubbed the gold standard when it comes to anti-aging defenses (alongside Retinol, of course), there are a slew of other under-the-radar active ingredients that offer similar skin-enhancing benefits without the common side effects associated with Vitamin C. Whether your skin simply can’t tolerate the antioxidant or you’re just downright tired of having to guess whether or not your serum has turned after a month of opening it, these alternatives also deserve a reserved spot in your skin care lineup.
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The Ordinary Alpha Arbutin 2% HA Serum
Alpha Arbutin is a form of Arbutin (a derivative of bearberry plants) and while it remains largely under-the-radar, it also happens to be one of the most reliably effective compounds for fading dark spots and melasma. Just like Vitamin C, it’s also an incredible agent for tone correction overall brightening, but because it has a sustained release, it doesn’t pose as much risk for irritation and redness.
L:a Bruket Broccoli Seed Serum
This organic and all-natural serum is an antioxidant powerhouse courtesy of yes, broccoli. Broccoli seed oil has been shown to have some powerful anti-aging benefits, in part due to its abundance of Vitamin A. It also contains a ample supply of Vitamin C, but thanks to broccoli seed oil’s rich concentration of anti-inflammatory and humectant fatty acids, it isn’t associated with causing dryness or irritation.
Derma-E Sensitive Skin Moisturizing Cream
This hydrating cream is infused with a lesser-know (yet powerful) antioxidant called Pycnogenol, which, according to the brand is actually 50 times more effective at preventing free radical damage than Vitamin E. This oil-free cream does contain Ascorbyl palmitate, which is a mild form of Vitamin C that tends to be safer for those with rosacea and sensitive skin compared to pure Vitamin C.
The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% Serum
While often marketed as an anti-acne ingredient, Niacinamide (a B vitamin) is quickly emerging as the rising star in skin care thanks to its laundry list of skin-enhancing benefits. In addition to keep oil levels at bay and treating acne, it’s been clinically shown to a powerful anti-ager as well. In addition to improving texture and brightening tone, like topical Vitamin C, it’s also been found to significantly reduce the visible signs of photoaging.
Urban Skin RX Rapid Dark Spot Rapid Repair Treatment
Retinol is just as legendary in the skin care realm for it’s clinically-proven effectiveness and derm-approved anti-aging benefits. Like Vitamin C, this exfoliant can also cause irritation and dryness for those with sensitive skin. However, for those with an allergy to C, gentle retinol products are equally as reliable in reducing hyperpigmentation and evening the skin.
BioEffect EGF Serum
Epidermal Growth Factor (EGF) is an up-and-coming anti-ager on the beauty front. Originally researched for their effectiveness in healing wounds, plant-derived growth factors have been more recently researched in the dermatology sphere. Some studies have shown that they’re able to boost cellular regeneration and accelerate collagen production which results in more luminous tone and softened lines, without posing a risk for redness and over-drying.