benefits of vitamin c for skin

May 4, 2021

What are the Benefits of Vitamin C in Skincare?

When used in skincare products, vitamin C packs a powerful punch. It has many benefits that help skin look smooth and even, hydrate the skin, and reduce the signs of aging. While many foods contain this nutrient, ingesting it is not enough to make a significant impact on the skin, which is why topical skincare products are the best way to get the many advantages. Vitamin C can be used in cleansers, moisturizers, serums, and oils.

Vitamins have been used in skin care products for years, but the number of products that include vitamin C or ascorbic acid has increased substantially over the last few years. A significant amount of scientific research supports the use of cosmeceuticals that contain vitamin C for collagen synthesis, protection from ultraviolet rays, lightening of hyperpigmentation and improvement of inflammatory skin conditions.

When used topically, the vitamin is absorbed directly to the top layers of the skin. Most research has found that even lower concentrations of under 1% can still give antioxidant protection and benefits to the skin. Board-certified dermatologist Patricia Wexler explains that this vitamin is “a potent antioxidant that can neutralize free radicals. Because of its antioxidant properties, vitamin C aids in your skin’s natural regeneration process, which helps your body repair damaged skin cells.”

How Does Vitamin C Work in Skincare Products?

Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin that has antioxidant properties when applied to the skin. It is a nutrient that repairs tissue in the body, including the skin, but it must come from an outside source as the body does not product it naturally Many fruits and vegetables, such as oranges and sweet potatoes, contain this vitamin.

Vitamin C in its synthetically active form is known as L-ascorbic acid, but there are also a few derivatives of the vitamin, which are combined to keep the vitamin C stable. Examples of these derivatives include sodium ascorbyl phosphate and ascorbyl palmitate. When these derivatives come into contact with the skin, they partially release the vitamin C onto the skin. Because vitamin C is very effective, it can easily by deactivated by light, water and oxygen so it must be combined with derivatives in skincare products to remain potent.

Benefits of Vitamin C in Skincare

Vitamin C derivative ingredients when used in cosmetic formulas in the proper way can benefit the skin in the following ways.

Evens Skin Tone:  Acne, hormones, and other skin conditions can all cause skin tone to become uneven. Because this vitamin has anti-inflammatory properties, redness and discoloration are minimized.

Brightening: Hyperpigmentation is a common condition caused by the sun and age can really dull the skin. Vitamin C can lighten dark spots and discoloration and impede the production of tyrosinase which helps make melanin. What’s amazing about this vitamin is that there is no effect on normal skin coloration, just on the abnormal melanin dark spots caused by sun damage.

Protects Against Free Radicals: Free radicals which come from the environment can damage skin cells by causing oxidative stress. Vitamin C protects against free radicals and improves aging skin. When paired with vitamin E, there is double the protection against free radicals.

Boosts Collagen Production: Collagen, which gives the skin support, decreases with age, and fine lines and wrinkles emerge. Vitamin C helps the process of building collagen and reduce the signs of aging. When applied topically, skin may be more elastic and firmer with the use of this vitamin and lead to a more youthful appearance.

Hydrating: Without enough moisture, the epidermis will dry out and can lead to premature aging. Magnesium ascorbyl phosphate, which is one of the main derivatives used in skincare is hydrating to the skin by decreasing the amount of water loss and helping the skin to retain moisture which keeps it looking plump.

Improve Under-Eye Circles: Dark circles under the eyes are common especially during allergy season. This antioxidant can improve the delicate area under eyes by reducing discoloration and hydrating the area.

Heals Sunburn: Vitamin C not only minimizes the redness associated with a sunburn but can help the skin heal faster.

Lessens the Appearance of Scars:  The appearance of scars on the face can make people feel uncomfortable. One study found that vitamin C gel applied to the skin made surgical scars less noticeable. Those that used the vitamin C had less visible scars than those that did not use the product.

Faster Cell Turnover: Vitamin C also helps cells turn over faster, which leads to overall, healthy looking skin.

The many benefits make this a great choice as an ingredient in personal care products.

Who Should Use Vitamin C

Vitamin C is suitable for all skin types and gentle enough to be used topically every day or ever other day. However, it is not recommended for those with very sensitive skin (a patch test for users with sensitive skin is a good idea). Vitamin C in lower concentrations is best for those who do have skin that is sensitive. As a rule of thumb, concentrations of 5% or less are less irritating to skin.

It is safe to use it with other skin products such as SPF’s and alpha hydroxy acids but should not be mixed with benzoyl peroxide which can oxidize the vitamin and make it less potent. The same is true with retinols, they should not be used together, but can be used at different times of the day or on different days.

How to Use It

In skincare products, vitamin C works well with other antioxidants like vitamin E and ferulic acid because they increase the stability of the molecule which makes it more effective. It should not be used with other acids because it can cause skin irritation or with retinol which can decrease the effectiveness of this antioxidant.

As to whether to use vitamin C overnight or during the day, there are conflicting schools of thought. Some dermatologists feel that when used in the morning it protects the skin, while others feel it is best used at night when vitamin C is depleted. Whether the user decides to use it in the morning or at night, it should be applied to a clean face.  When used as a serum in the morning, it should go before the application of moisturizer and sunscreen.

How to Build the Best Formula for Vitamin C Skincare Products

Serum is one of the most popular product types for the addition of vitamin C. The stability of the product must be kept in check by the product formulation and packaging. A derivative can help prevent the degradation of vitamin C as they are not as pH dependent, more stable, and not as pH dependent. The following derivatives of vitamin C help it last longer:

  • L-ascorbic acid
  • ascorbyl palmitate
  • magnesium ascorbyl phosphate

Since this vitamin is unstable it quickly loses its antioxidant properties when exposed to light and air. Cosmetic companies should be aware of this when choosing packaging. The formula should be free from water and the bottle should be opaque and sealed tightly.

Because of the instability, natural cosmetic formulations will not be as effective as when paired with a derivative. The vitamin should be in a concentration of at least 10% and the pH of the additive should be acidic to allow for maximum absorption. The formulation should have a low pH of less than 3.5 for potency. This makes for a powerful combination to combat aging skin.

When building the formula, it is also important to consider what other ingredients will be effective. Ingredients like vitamin E, lecithin (a penetration enhancer), and other high-performance ingredients like extracts can also amplify the potency of the product. The mix of these ingredients make it more effective than just the vitamin C.

Proportion Considerations for Vitamin C Formulations

Ascorbic acid, or vitamin C, is the most effective when it is applied topically but that is also when it is least stable. It is especially important that the formula of this product is correct otherwise it can be harmful to some consumers. The exact proportions will determine how the skincare product is categorized. For example, formulations that claim skin lightening properties are considered drugs and not cosmetics.

As far as the concentration of the vitamin, they usually range from less than 5% all the way up to 30%, however, the effectiveness of it does not increase substantially after a 20% concentration.  Skincare products with a concentration between 10% and 20% will benefit the skin without irritating it.

Serums containing vitamin C are often more effective than creams and toners but for a more streamlined skincare routine, vitamin C can be used in cleansers, moisturizers, and even sunscreens. With so many benefits, more consumers are becoming aware of the use of this vitamin in skincare. Evora Worldwide can give you information about incorporating vitamin C to your personal care products so that it remains effective.

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