Vitamin C - How It Helps Your Skin
By Mariusz J.A. Sapijaszko, MD FRCPC (Dermatology)
Vitamin C (L-ascorbic acid) is a nutrient that your body is not able to produce itself and therefore you need to eat those healthy fruits and vegetables that contain it. You've heard that vitamin C is used to help treat colds, but did you know that it is also used to prevent and even reverse ageing skin? Vitamin C has been studied for a few decades to determine its effect on the skin. Although the jury is still out whether or not it is as beneficial as professed, it has shown to be helpful for some people. Learn more about sun damaged skin on skincareguide.ca/conditions/sun_damaged_skin.html
How Vitamin C Works:
It works in two ways:
1. Antioxidant: Ultraviolet radiation can generate oxygen free radicals that cause aging of the skin. Vitamin C can act as a first defense, against some of these radicals (plasma/water-generated radicals). Vitamin E on the other hand, works against another type of radical; the fat-soluble radicals within the plasma membranes. It makes sense that Vitamin C and E are used together to defend against both types.
2. Collagen: Collagen is a key component of most tissues. Vitamin C works as an essential factor for the normal formation, maintenance and structural stability of collagen.
Will Eating Oranges Help My Skin?
You might think that eating a bunch of oranges will improve your skin, but unfortunately it's not that simple. In fact, eating Vitamin C does not appear to increase its levels in your skin to any significant degree. Topical creams and lotions containing Vitamin C however can be absorbed. The difficult part is first, keeping the Vitamin C stable enough in the lotion for it to be beneficial and secondly, for it to be able to penetrate the skin. Both of these factors are difficult to achieve with Vitamin C due to the nature of its composition. In order for it to penetrate the skin, a low pH (acidic environment) and high (>10-15%) concentration of Vitamin C are needed before it is effective. Not all Vitamin C products are alike and not all of them meet these two essential elements.
What Are the Benefits?
There have been a number of studies conducted both on animals and humans, many with very encouraging results. Animal studies have shown Vitamin C can protect against UVA and UVB damage such as redness, formation of abnormal cells and immuno-suppression. In human studies, topical Vitamin C has resulted in some improvement in collagen production, perhaps leading to better looking skin.
So in summary, Vitamin C has shown positive results as UVA/UVB protection, decreasing pigmentation and increase collagen production, all factors in aging your skin. It is important to note that using one solution alone will not resolve your photo-damage. It starts with protecting your skin, taking care of it, and using the best combination of products for your skin type to fight photo-damaged skin.
About the author:
Mariusz J. A. Sapijaszko, MD FRCPC is the Director of the Western Canada Dermatology Institute located in Edmonton, Alberta. He is also the Clinical Assistant Professor at the Division of Dermatology, University of Alberta, in Edmonton. His areas of expertise include cosmetic and laser surgery.