Vitamin C and Skin Care


Vitamin C, also called ascorbic acid, is a popular natural ingredient used in skin care cosmetics. There are two mechanisms by which it can affect your skin.

First, vitamin C is an essential component for collagen synthesis. Without adequate vitamin C, the collagen in your skin would be malformed and your skin and gums would not heal properly. This is obvious in patients who are clinically deficient of vitamin C, a condition called scurvy. Among other problems, scurvy patients have bleeding from their gums and poorly healing wounds.

Secondly, vitamin C is a potent antioxidant. Like other antioxidants, it helps to prevent skin damage and wrinkles by soaking up harmful free radicals.

The problem is how to get the vitamin C into your skin. Your skin is designed to keep things out (on the whole, a good idea), but this makes getting medications and creams below the surface, where they exert their effects, rather difficult.

In order for vitamin C to penetrate the skin, it needs to be in an acidic environment, and it needs to be in a high concentration in the product. Unfortunately products that contain 5-10% ascorbic acid are expensive and it’s unlikely that products with low amounts of ascorbic acid have any measurable impact on your skin.

In addition, topical vitamin C is highly degradable. When exposed to air it oxidizes and its free radical soaking capabilities are muted — it becomes an inert, yet nicely citrus fragranced, cream. This is obvious if you have a vitamin C cream at home; you will see that the cream around the cap turns brown (like an apple slice) indicating that the vitamin C in it has oxidized.

If your are going to purchase a topical vitamin C cream, this is one place where more expensive might be worth the cost. La Roche-Posay makes Active C, a nightly eye cream with 5% vitamin C.

If you are trying to save a few dollars this year, I recommend just eating a citrus fruit everyday. You need only 90 mg of vitamin C daily which can be found in a couple of orange slices. Eating a whole orange or other citrus fruit will easily give you many times the amount of vitamin C you need.

There is no evidence that taking vitamin C supplements or consuming huge amounts of vitamin C will have any impact on your skin. Once you have an adequate supply of vitamin C to make collagen, having a huge oversupply is not likely to lead to more collagen production. But it certainly will lead to lots more vitamin C in your urine — it’s simply eliminated by your kidneys.

Other foods high in vitamin C can be found here.

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14 thoughts on “Vitamin C and Skin Care”

  1. this was a very helpful entry. thanks!

  2. A couple of problems/additions to this entry. Dietary vitamin C intake is different than topical vitamin C, because the bioavailability in skin of stabilized topical vitamin C is about 20x that of Vitamin C that can possibly work its way into your skin via diet.

    Thus, topical application has potentially additive effects in anti-oxidant protection, anti-carcinogenic protection and collagen synthesis. That said, the results from topical Vitamin C, while beneficial, are usually not nearly as dramatic in non-smokers and people who get adequate dietary intake.

    Second: Additional benefits of topical ascorbic acid are increased small capillary formation and, in combination with E (and other anti-oxidants) the inhibition of thymine dimers that lead to cancers.

    Third: research shows that topical ascorbic acid is only effective at over 10% concentration, ideally 15-20% concentration, and then again loses effectiveness for some reason over 20%. So a 5% ascorbic acid treatment isn’t really potent enough.

  3. I guess I never thought about the fact that the skin resists absorption. Thanks for sharing your knowledge, this really helps me.

  4. I found this information very useful, and will tell my family about this, because they are always looking for better solutions and ideas. Thank You very much, and let me know about any other ideas you can offer, by leaving a comment back to me about anything else you recommend that you can offer. Thanks!

  5. Vitamin C is great to take on a daily basis to stay in the
    best of health as possible, and without it it can lead to
    other problems later on, which can be serious. Thanks
    for all the great information on Vitamin C.

  6. Nice Information on Vitamin C and Skin Care….. thanks

  7. As we all can see, there is a relation to fruits and our skincare products.
    The amount of products out there that have the scent of oranges,
    apples and all those lovely citrus smells are not just coincidental.
    Fruits definitely provide us with natures natural vitamins for our
    body’s and our skin craves those vitamins also. It is important that you
    skin is well taken care of and given the essential vitamins that it requires. We all like to have that natural flawless skin and knowing
    what it needs and how to take care of it is important, it really is
    with us for a lifetime. We shed layers of skin, but there is always
    a new skin layer underneath, and we have to make sure each layer of
    skin gets the royal treatment it deserves. Take the time and do daily
    skin cleansings, open the pores so that it can breath and remove the
    unwanted dirt and you will see how much it truly helps. Applying a
    great skincare product and one that fits for you is very important for
    taking care of your skin.

  8. mmm i just loose my interest on topical vitamin c after reading your post above. i thought topical vitamin c is the magic that i am looking for. how about lypo-spheric vitamin c? i read that this kind of vitamin c is the best vitamin c in the market, it is in liquid form and how about if one applies th lypo vit c to skin?

  9. I am an esthetician and would like to find a good vitamin c serum can you help. I currently use obagi 15 what do you think? by the the way the info on all the topics are great. Intersting info about peptides cooper and oil of olay regenerist, thanks please respond when you have a chance,Im from south florida. Thank you again!

  10. It is always better to have natural food to gain proteins instead of using the artificial creams, as they will have some side effects.

  11. what about murad products they have a vitamin c exfoliant used in the backbar how good is that

  12. Francine Glick says:

    I bought a small bottle of vitimin C Liquid with Rose Hips 118ml. Could I apply this to my face?

  13. There are products out there that have excellent amounts of vitamins and do not oxidize. I have been using the face creams and at 40 my skin looks brighter firmer and healthy.

  14. Hi,

    Wonderful tips on Vitamin C, we all talk about Vit.C but so important to know the details as you have explained your article.
    Wonderful read..


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