How does Vitamin C Benefit as a Skincare Ingredient?

TL;DR:

    • The skin has abundant reserves of vitamin C during our young age. However, these resources get depleted as we continue to age.
    • The skin receives only a small portion of vitamin C when consumed orally.
    • Using vitamin C in the form of serums or moisturizers helps the skin to absorb it more effectively.
    • Vitamin C offers various benefits to the skin, like protecting against free radical damage, enhancing collagen production, and countering hyperpigmentation.
    • Vitamin C is available in various forms and concentrations and one has to choose the appropriate one.

Vitamin C is one of the well–researched and notable skincare ingredients that works as an antioxidant and protects our skin from environmental damage. This vitamin forms a natural component of healthy skin.

The skin has abundant reserves of vitamin C (found in the epidermis as well as the dermis) during our young age. However, these resources get depleted as we continue to age. To counter this, many people start taking several supplements as they age.

While this vitamin can certainly be taken in edible forms in foods, drinks, and supplements, the skin receives only a small portion of vitamin C when consumed orally. Using vitamin C in the form of serums and moisturizers helps the skin absorb it more effectively.

Benefits of Vitamin C for the Skin

Applying Vitamin C Serum

#1 Minimizes Appearance of Fine Lines and Wrinkles

While the benefits of vitamin C are vast, one of the most important properties of topical application of vitamin C is the reduction of fine lines and wrinkles, thereby making you appear more youthful.[1]

#2 Promotes Wound Healing

Poor wound healing is linked to decreased collagen formation and thinning of stratum corneum. High levels of vitamin C help in quick healing of wounds and reducing scar formation.

#3 Shields the Skin from Damage Caused by Environmental Factors and Free Radicals

It has been proven that too much exposure to oxidative stress by the way of UV irradiation or through various pollutants is associated with diminished levels of vitamin C in the epidermal layer. [2], [3]

Given the antioxidant properties in Vitamin C, the topical application of Vitamin C greatly helps to safeguard the skin from various environmental stressors and scavenge free radicals.

Collallegen Vitamin C
Collagen Vit

#4 Enhances the Production of Collagen and Elastin

The skin benefits of Vitamin C are not restricted to its antioxidant properties alone. For instance, the acidic nature of vitamin C enhances the production of collagen and elastin and this, in turn, enables the skin to repair itself. Both collagen and elastin are protein fibers that help keep the skin firm and elastic, and vitamin C, by enhancing the production of these two protein fibers, helps in preventing premature aging.

#5 Minimizes Hyperpigmentation and Dark Spots

Patricia Wexler, a board-certified dermatologist, states that vitamin C helps to inhibit the skin’s production of melanin. Melanin is a pigment that is responsible for giving the skin, hair, and eyes their color.

However, an increase in melanin production leads to skin issues, like hyperpigmentation, dark spots, and discoloration. Vitamin C, by inhibiting melanin production, helps resolve such skin issues. Not only does vitamin C resolve such skin issues, but it also prevents them from recurring in the first place with continued topical usage.

This property of mitigating skin issues before as well as after they occur makes vitamin C a powerhouse to reckon with.

Forms of Vitamin C for Skin Health:

Woman Excited for her skincare routine

While there are many forms of vitamin C with rich antioxidant benefits used in skincare, a few types of vitamin C work much better than the others when used in skincare formulas. Hence, it pays well to gain some knowledge of the various forms of vitamin C.

Ascorbic Acid

L-ascorbic acid (or ascorbic acid, in short) is one of the most common, popular, and well-researched forms of vitamin C.

This is a water-soluble form of vitamin C. The efficacy of ascorbic acid is also pH-dependent. At a proper pH formulation of 4 or less, with an ideal pH range of 2.6 to 3.2, this form of vitamin C aids in promoting firm looking youthful skin and also helps to fade out dark skin spots and uneven skin tone.

However ascorbic acid when exposed to air or light oxidizes very fast and will break down over time upon constant exposure to air and light. Hence, one must buy an ingredient that is packed and stored in an airtight and opaque container and also with a proper pH formulation.

In a nutshell, ascorbic acid (a natural form of vitamin C) is the most effective but the least stable topical version.

Ascorbyl Palmitate

This is a more stable derivative form of vitamin C where phosphate or palmitate is added to prevent the degradation of vitamin C. Derivatives are quite stable, in the sense, they are not sensitive to air and light, unlike ascorbic acid.

They are also not pH-dependent unlike ascorbic acid and less irritating on the skin.

Ascorbyl palmitate is more stable and effective at even a neutral pH (hence, less irritating on skin). Furthermore, ascorbyl palmitate is also an oil dispersible and a potent antioxidant.

Other research-backed efficient forms of vitamin C include sodium ascorbyl phosphate, tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate, ascorbyl glucoside, magnesium ascorbyl phosphate, and 3-O ethyl ascorbic acid.

Concentrations of Vitamin C

High concentrations of vitamin C, (usually 10% or more) are found commonly in targeted serums, and treatments are quite effective in tackling various skin health issues.

For stubborn dark spots, treatments with higher vitamin C concentrations work great. Reputed products of Vitamin C are available in the range of 10% to 20%.[4]

Low concentrations of vitamin C (as low as 0.6%) are also effective, especially when it comes to leave-on products like moisturizers, serums, and eye creams.

Lower concentrations not only help in anti-aging and antioxidant benefits, but they are also helpful to increase the efficacy of other youthful ingredients in skincare products like ceramides and retinol.

How to Use Vitamin C

The Vitamin Revival Serum
The Vitamin Revival Serum - $29.99

Vitamin C gels well with other skincare ingredients easily and hence, can be used with most skincare formulas. One can apply vitamin C twice a day (morning and night). In the morning it is best to add on an SPF cream.

A combination of vitamin C and vitamin E, acts well, true to the formula “ the whole is better than the sum of its parts”. This combination also increases the efficacy of vitamin C, and hence one can find this combination in popular vitamin C based serums.

So, one can choose a product that has vitamin E in addition to vitamin C as it offers double protection from free radical damage.

For those with sensitive skin and those who are new to vitamin C, it's best to start with low concentrations and work your way upward gradually.


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