Vitamin c cannot be synthesized by the body, but can only be used by the body when ingested either by food or supplements.

Ingested vitamin C is distributed to the body tissues and the skin gets only about 8% of total vitamin C generated in the body.

Studies have found that it is possible to boost the vitamin C  levels in the skin directly, by topical application of stable forms of vitamin c, that are easily penetrable into the skin cells.

“So now you know that eating all those fruits and popping all that many tablets of vitamin C will not do much directly for your skin, without adding a Vitamin C skincare product”

Vitamin C and UV rays

Vitamin C levels in the skin are further depreciated by UVrays.

Uv rays initiate a chemical reaction in the skin which leads to the production of free radicals. Free radicals are a small family of oxygen species which are highly unstable and have the ability to cause further disruption of skin cell stability by acquiring electron from normal cells , destabilising them and making them free radicals, thereby creating a destructive chain reaction that if left uncurbed will ultimately lead to cell destruction or mutation.

Vitamin C in the skin, acts as an antioxidant to stop this free radical damage and destructive chain reaction

Vitamin C is one of the body’s primary protectants from reactive oxygen damage, but it is depleted during ultraviolet injury.

Why you need Vitamin C in your skin care

  1. As an antioxidant, topical application of Vitamin C in the skin can help to neutralise free radical damage.
  2. Vitamin C is a water soluble antioxidant, and hence when formulated at the right conditions, it can be absorbed straight into skin cells, protecting them from free radical damage etc., not only that, Vitamin c can help to recycle Vitamin E, which is an oil soluble antioxidant that can help protect the lipids and cell membranes from damage.

“Vitamin C, can help protect the skin holistically, by aiding protection of cells, cell membranes and other lipids through its symbiotic relationship with Vitamin E”

3. Unlike sunscreens, that need to stay on the skin surface to offer protection from UV rays, which may at times get rubbed off or washed off, Vitamin c is absorbed into the skin cells, cannot be washed or rubbed off by perspiration, and is able to offer skin protection for about 3 days more after application.

4. Vitamin C, apart from acting as free radical blocker, also helps to prevent UV induced immunosuppression.

Uv induced immunosuppression is a break down of the body’s immune system as result of excessive Uv exposure, and its been scientifically observed that having adequate levels of vitamin C in the skin can help to prevent this.

5. Photo-aging : Recent experimental anecdotes have demonstrated that in normal skin moderate exposure to UVA rays, are responsible for aging.

They observed that UVA rays, rather than UVB rays generate matrix metalloproteinases, enzymes that ate responsible for destroying connective tissue in the skin.

The end result of this persistent destruction of connective tissues is skin ageing.

New studies show that topical vitaminC is an excellent antioxidant for UVA and UVB (290 to 320 nm) protection, making it a useful adjunct to (but not replacement for sunscreens)

5. Photo protection:

The added levels of Vitamin C achieved by topical application provide photoprotection to skin.

Vitamin C has been observed to help with sunburn ( either by UVA or UVB rays), interestingly with UVA rays looking really good.

Vitamin C does not work the same way sunscreens work, which is either by dispersing or absorbing UV rays, but instead by neutralising free radicals generated by UV exposure.

Vitamin C is not only used to prevent sunburn, but can also be a useful treatment.

“Topical Vitamin C can even be used to treat sunburn, presumably by neutralizing inflammation. Results to date indicate that topical vitamin C is a useful adjunct to sunscreen”

6. Collagen synthesis: Vitamin c is able to stimulate enzymes that help to produce stable collagen molecules (prolyl hydrosylase) and the enzymes that help to ensure that collagen molecules cross link with Esch other for tissue strength (Lysyl hydrosylase) as well as signalling collagen genes to produce collagen cells.

“Vitamin C is the only antioxidant that has been proven to increase collagen synthesis. In human skin fibroblastsin culture, L-ascorbic acid stimulates collagen synthesis without affecting other protein synthesis”

When is the right time to Apply Vitamin C

Vitamin C is best applied in the morning, preferably before your sunscreen

This way you can get a double protection of UV rays by the dual mechanism of neutralisation of free radical reaction caused by Uv rays that might have broken through the layer of sunscreen, and dispersing of UV rays.

Vitamin C can also be applied at night, being an antioxidant and an antiinlammatory agent, it can help with healing or repairing the skin through the night.

However, because Vitamin C has been observed to be active and effective for days when effectively absorbed by the skin.

One daily  or twice weekly application might suffice.

Once vitamin C gets into skin, it cannot be rubbed or washed off or run off with perspiration. The protection seems to last unchanged for days”

Next post, we will discuss different types of Vitamin C.

You really don’t want to miss this.

This can explain why some vitamin C products work and others don’t .


Aesthetic Surgery Journal

Topical Vitamin C in Skin Care

Sheldon R. Pinnell, Doren L. Madey