Let’s Talk About Vitamin C…
You may already know, but it bears repeating, that when it comes to smart skin care, there isn’t a single magic ingredient, no matter how expensive, no matter how rare. Just as eating only one vegetable can’t possibly give your body everything it needs, no single antioxidant, no matter how potent, can give your skin all the care it needs. Yet if you’ve seen any skin care marketing in the past two decades, you’ve probably noticed that vitamin C gets a lot of attention as being nothing short of miraculous. Rather than rely on hype, we turned to published, substantiated research in order to understand how the antioxidant powerhouse vitamin C can truly benefit skin.
A piggy-back ride to skin-care fame.
Almost 20 years ago, a Duke University scholar published a ground-breaking paper that showed how a form of vitamin C called L-ascorbic acid reduced UVB damage when applied to the backs of hairless pigs. This evidence suggested that photodamage or sun spots could be repaired with topical use of vitamin C and that was big news for anyone concerned with signs of aging! That original paper preceded an impressive and conclusive body of research that has since proven the benefits, stability issues, and usage requirements for vitamin C. Further research (lots of research) continued to show vitamin C’s positive effect on skin, and a bonafide, legitimate skincare craze was born!
Mass market explosion leads to consumer confusion.
As widely used as vitamin C is in cosmetics now, it can get confusing because there are many forms, each with its own name formulated in varying amounts. Here’s what you need to know:
The forms of vitamin C that are proven most stable and effective are: ascorbic acid, L-ascorbic acid, ascorbyl palmitate, sodium ascorbyl phosphate, retinyl ascorbate, tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate, and magnesium ascorbyl phosphate. Regardless of marketing hype, there is no single best form of topically-applied vitamin C. A proven range for vitamin C efficacy is between 0.3% and 10%. All antioxidants, including vitamin C, are vulnerable to deterioration in the presence of air and light. If a product containing antioxidants does not come in airtight, opaque packaging, don’t buy it!
So what can vitamin C really do?
Here’s what a well-formulated, stably-packaged product with vitamin C can do for your skin: Protect skin cells and skin’s support structure from UV-related damage Improve the appearance of sun-damaged skin Strengthen skin’s barrier response Reduce inflammation Promote collagen production Enhance effectiveness of peels and microdermabrasion Lessen hyperpigmentation (at levels of 5% or greater) Boost the efficacy of sunscreen actives.
Now You C It!
From its humble skin-care beginnings atop the backs of hairless pigs to the countless studies and research that followed, vitamin C has definitely been shown to be a powerful antioxidant. In her peer-reviewed article Topical Vitamin C, Dr. Patricia Farris nicely sums up how conclusive research supports the positive effects of vitamin C, stating,”A significant body of scientific research supports the use of cosmeceuticals containing vitamin C. Cutaneous benefits include promoting collagen synthesis, photoprotection from ultraviolet A and B, lightening hyperpigmentation, and improvement of a variety of inflammatory dermatoses.” With the added bonus of carrying a low risk of sensitization (at levels below 10%), vitamin C is a proven, beneficial addition to your skin-care regimen.
(Sources: Archives of Dermatological Research, August 2009, pages 487–495; Brazilian Journal of Biology November 2009, pages 1,195–1,201; Journal of Cellular Biochemistry, March 2009, pages 589–598; International Journal of Cosmetic Science, February 2009, pages 41–46; Experimental Dermatology, November 2008, pages 946–952; Dermatologic Surgery, July 2005, pages 814–817; International Journal of Toxicology, Volume 24, Supplement 2, 2005, pages 51–111; Nutrition Reviews, March 2005, pages 81-90; Skin Pharmacology and Physiology, November-December 2004, pages 298–303; and BMC Dermatology, September 2004, page 13.)