My journey in skin care began with C. You know, Vitamin C also known as ascorbic acid. I think it’s one of the newest craze to have swept the skin care market. It seems like any skin care brand decent enough will have a line with vitamin c. But how do we know Vitamin C can help our aging skin. We are always getting bombarded with the newest biotechnology in skin care that can do things that seem unbelievable. Don’t worry, you’ve got me. I’ll read all the boring scientific studies that let us know the real deal.
Vitamin C is an antioxidant. Compared to other antioxidants on our skin, Vitamin C is the most bountiful. It helps combat the never ending oxidative stress our body is dealing with. When UV reaches our supple youthful skin, it sets of a reaction that creates reactive oxidative species (ROS, which you may know as free radicals) that puts our skin under oxidative stress and that means a whole host of problems for the aging skin:
- hinders cell cycle progression
- switches on mechanisms that can lead to cell death
- inflammation attributed to UV
- loss of elasticity of the skin in photoaged skin
- collagen breakdown
- damages lipids, proteins and DNA leading to mutation and immunosuppression (responsible for skin becoming cancerous)
Vitamin C exerts a photoprotective effect against photoaging by preventing UV-induced erythema and pigmentation, sunburn cell formation, and induces collagen repair. It does this by neutralizing the ROS, with enzymatic antioxidants, and voila no more oxidative stress. But once ascorbic acid donates its electron, it is biochemically inert and pretty useless. And we are pretty useless, because unlike plants and some other animals, we lack the enzyme to convert the inactive form of ascorbic acid into the active form. So go ahead and eat some leafy greens, apples, etc. Unfortunately, the amount of Vitamin C we are able to absorb is limited by a transport chain in our gut. Therefore, you can’t just eat as much Vitamin C as you want and expect it to reach your skin. Which leaves us with topical application. If life was so simple that is.
Ascorbic acid is a very unstable chemical. It is sensitive to light and can’t easily penetrate our skin cells. So you can put those orange slice down now. Companies have to formulate a stable form of ascorbic acid that doesn’t easily degrade and can manage to permeate into our skin. One of the ways researchers were able to increase it’s ability to penetrate into our skin cells is by lowering the pH of the Vitamin C solution below 3.5. Scientists have developed esterified forms of ascorbic acid, MAP (magnesium ascorbyl phosphate) and palmitate (ascorbyl-6-palmitate), making it stable at a neutral pH. There is conflicting information on ascorbyl palmitate in regards to potential side effects but the MAP form of ascorbic acid seems promising. I should mention though, there have been studies that demonstrate that applying esterified forms of ascorbic acid did not necessarily translate to a increase in the biochemically active form ascorbic acid on the skin. Just some things to keep in mind.
Okay you feel ready to go out there and shell out some serious cash for some Vitamin C skin care products. But to your dismay you find products with differing levels of Vitamin C concentration, if they even bother to mention it at all. I’m weary of products that don’t list the percentage of Vitamin C because you need more than 8% of ascorbic acid for it to have a significant biological effect. In addition, if you see products with more than 20%, don’t go for it either, really unnecessary and may cause irritation. How the Vitamin C solution is contained is important too. Remember light will degrade the Vitamin C, so the container needs to be at least opaque. The liquid should hopefully be clear, because when the Vitamin C solution is yellow, it means it has degraded. There are powdered version available, but given that the pH isn’t counted for, I’m not sure about its permeability. Perhaps you can mix it with another product you have that has a low pH.
Studies have shown that when antioxidants are paired, they act synergistically. Go ahead, get the serums that are loaded with various antioxidants. But if you are like me with a budget, you probably want to focus on the ones that give you the most bang for your bucks. There has been studies that suggest that combining Vitamin C with Vitamin E and ferulic acid resulted in the best protection against oxidative stress.
In conclusion, in my opinion Vitamin C is an absolute must in any skin care routine. And since it’s provides such great protection from the sun, I would pair it with your sun screen to get an all around better protection. What are some vitamin C skin care products you’ve tried and loved? One of my favourites is Dr. Brandt SkinCare Power Dose Vitamin C. However, I’m thinking of trying the SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic, it has Vitamin C, ferulic acid and Vitamin E. The only thing is I’ve read reviews saying it may cause break outs if you have oily skin, which I do have! So we’ll see.
Telang PS. Vitamin C in dermatology. Indian Dermatology Online Journal. 2013;4(2):143-146. doi:10.4103/2229-5178.110593.
Voisin-Chiret, Anne S., et al. “Synthesis of New L-Ascorbic Ferulic Acid Hybrids.” Molecules (Basel, Switzerland), vol. 12, no. 11, 2007., pp. 2533-2545doi:10.3390/12112533.
Geesin, J. C., J. S. Gordon, and R. A. Berg. “Regulation of Collagen Synthesis in Human Dermal Fibroblasts by the Sodium and Magnesium Salts of Ascorbyl-2-Phosphate.” Skin pharmacology : the official journal of the Skin Pharmacology Society, vol. 6, no. 1, 1993., pp. 65.
Pinnell, Sheldon R., et al. “Topical L‐Ascorbic Acid: Percutaneous Absorption Studies.”Dermatologic Surgery, vol. 27, no. 2, 2001., pp. 137-142doi:10.1046/j.1524-4725.2001.00264.x.
Meves A, Stock SN, Beyerle A, Pittelkow MR, Peus D. Vitamin C derivative ascorbyl palmitate promotes ultraviolet-B-induced lipid peroxidation and cytotoxicity in keratinocytes. J Invest Dermatol. 2002 Nov;119(5):1103-8.