What is Vitamin C?
Vitamin C is essential to our diets, and involved in wound healing - in fact, it was inadvertently the subject of the very first clinical trial. On sailors, to treat scurvy! Vitamin C comes in many forms in skincare and they all have -ascorb- somewhere in their name. It’s important to know which form you’re using as the effects vary.
For the purposes of this communication, we’re referring to the pure form – L-Ascorbic Acid. Here’s why it’s great;
Why do we use Vitamin C?
Most importantly to me, Vitamin C helps protect against sun damage, even increasing the time taken before burning! (1)(4)(6). To understand this, you need to understand that there is more than one way that UV damages the skin.
First, UV radiation directly warps cell DNA, and second, it generates free radicals.
Free radicals are molecules that contain an unpaired electron, making them highly unstable and reactive. Like your ex.
When they’re in our bodies, free radicals donate or accept an electron from whatever molecule is nearby – a structural protein, your DNA, the cell membranes… not good. Lots of this will destabilise and stress out your cells – it’s called oxidative stress (5). That’s why we want antioxidants! And Vitamin C is our body’s most powerful and abundant antioxidant. It can’t make you not text back, though.
Vitamin C can also lighten skin through tyrosinase inhibition and a strong antioxidant effect (6)(7), thus improving the appearance of dark spots. It’s required for synthesis of collagen I and III (7), with potential to boost your collagen and improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. It also stimulates barrier lipid/sphingolipid/ceramide production in cell culture, so may even have potential to improve skin barrier function (2)(3).
If these benefits sound like they work with your goals for your skin then great! You could use Vitamin C in your skincare routine. Before you start, keep in mind that to absorb into skin, Vitamin C must be quite acidic, and that can be challenging for your skin’s barrier or even feel spicy as you apply. I’d recommend introducing slowly by using every second day for a month or so, and increase use as tolerated.
If you go too hard, too fast, your skin could go backward and put you off the whole experience, and we don’t want that! We want your skin happy and healthy.
Do you use a vitamin C product? Are you going to start now?
- Humbert et al. 2003, (1034/j.1600-0625.2003.00008.x.)
- Uchida et al. 2001, (1046/j.0022-202x.2001.01555.x.)
- Kim et al. 2015, (10.4062/biomolther.2015.044.)
- Murray et al. 2008, (10.1016/j.jaad.2008.05.004.
- Lobo et al. 2010, (4103/0973-7847.70902)
- Al-Niaimi & Chang, 2017, (PMID 29104718)
- Pullar, Carr & Vissers, 2017, (3390/nu9080866)