Vitamin C – The Difference

There is an overwhelming amount of new vitamin C containing skincare products on the market, with marketing campaigns and social media urging one to use vitamin C in their skincare regimen. But what exactly does vitamin C do for the skin, and why is it important to invest in the right product?

Vitamin C is present in virtually all tissues in the human body and normal skin contains high levels of it.
Humans are unable to make Vitamin C so we need to get it from food. It is absorbed into the skin from blood vessels in the dermis with the help of sodium-dependent transport channels.

Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant which can be supplemented orally or applied topically as an anti-ageing ingredient in skincare.
Though oral Vitamin C has numerous benefits to the body, we are unsure of how much eventually filters through to the skin.
We do know however that supplementation whether oral or topical does increase the concentration in tissues with measurable benefits.

What are the benefits of vitamin C in the skin?

-Vitamin C as an antioxidant-
Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that works by neutralising reactive oxygen species (ROS).
ROS formed by sun exposure and cellular processes causes damage to cellular DNA, cell membranes and collagen. The result is ageing skin and skin cancers.
Sunscreens are unable to fully protect against ultraviolet light (UVA, UVB) reaching the skin.
Comprehensive sun protection requires a topical antioxidant as well as a sunscreen.
In addition, recent evidence suggests that sunscreen is unable to protect against newly discovered environmental aggressors like infrared and pollution that contribute to declining skin health.

Vitamin C is able to bridge this gap in skin vulnerability.
Clinical studies have shown that sun exposure and smoking depletes vitamin C in the skin, while regular topical application can lead to a replenished skin reservoir.
Overall topical application of vitamin C will help treat and prevent the changes associated with skin ageing and skin cancer.

-Vitamin C in collagen synthesis –
Vitamin C is a co-factor in collagen synthesis, so it is vital for collagen formation. It also works by increasing the gene expression for collagen synthesis and reducing the breakdown with a resultant overall increase in the amount of collagen formed. In this way vitamin C plumps up the dermis to increase the thickness of ageing skin.
Studies have shown that topical application of Vitamin C increases collagen production in young skin as well as photo damaged skin meaning that the benefits can be seen from an early age.

-Vitamin C and hyperpigmentation-
Vitamin C inhibits the enzyme tyrosinase decreasing melanin production.
It stabilises melanocytes which react in particular to sunlight. The overall effect is reduced pigment production and improvement in uneven skin tone. Vitamin C can therefore be used in the prevention and treatment of disorders of hyperpigmentation including melasma and post inflammatory hyperpigmentation(PIH). It is used in combination with other skin lightening agents.

-Vitamin C as an anti inflammatory-
Vitamin C inhibits pro inflammatory cytokines interrupting the inflammatory cascade. It can be topically applied to reduce inflammation in skin conditions like acne and rosacea.
In rosacea it calms down inflamed skin and reduce redness.
In acne, the suppressive effect of Vitamin C on melanocytes and inflammation prevents the development of post inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH).

-Vitamin C in wound healing-
Vitamin C promotes the migration and proliferation of fibroblasts to areas of skin injury. In this way it promotes new collagen formation and aids in wound healing.

-Vitamin C for dry skin-
Topical application of Vitamin C is reported to improve the appearance and feel of rough, dry skin. Studies have shown that Vitamin C promotes the formation of the lipids in the upper layer of the skin. This helps to maintain the integrity of the skin barrier locking in moisture and alleviating dryness.

So we know the benefits of Vitamin C, but how do we get it to the skin?
A variety of Vitamin C preparations are available. Not all are equal and it is important to look for a reputable brand.
The challenge is getting topically applied vitamin C into the dermis where it can have optimal benefit.
L-Ascorbic acid is the biologically active and best studied form of Vitamin C and generally the form you should look for in skincare products.
There are other forms with varying clinical benefits.

L- Ascorbic acid is hydrophilic, which is why absorption through the skin surface which has lipophilic properties is not easy.
However studies have shown that L-Ascorbic acid in the right formulation with a pH lower than 4, can effectively penetrate into the skin. The optimum concentration is between 10-20%. Lower concentrations are suitable for sensitive skin types while higher than 20 % can be irritating to the skin.

L-Ascorbic acid is unstable, especially when exposed to light and heat, so it should be in an opaque or amber bottle and stored in a cool, dark place.
Lots of effort has gone into keeping Vitamin C in stable formulations so that it is still active when applied to the skin. When vitamin C has oxidized it becomes brown in colour.

Vitamin C is often combined with other antioxidants like Vitamin E and Ferulic. Combination formulations have a synergistic effect multiplying the antioxidant and photo-protective benefits and in some cases improving stability.

Vitamin C is safe to use with multiple clinical benefits to ensure a healthy and younger looking skin. At Skinsmart we stock a range of products that offer the benefits of Vitamin C – contact us to assist you in finding the Vitamin C formulation best suited to your skin type and skin concern.