People keen on having healthy looking skin are often advised to eat lots of fruits and vegetables. The scientific basis for this advice is the supply of vitamin C which is absolutely essential for skin health. Skin is composed of two layers, the epidermis which provides a barrier function and the internal dermal layer which provides elasticity and strength and also provides nutritional support to the epidermis. But why is vitamin C essential for skin and what role does vitamin C play within skin?
How does it work within your skin?
Normally, skin contains high concentrations of vitamin C which supports important and well known functions including collagen synthesis and providing antioxidant support to shield against UV-induced photo-damage. Skin is the largest organ in the body and its appearance generally reflects the health of its underlying structures. We also know that vitamin deficiencies within the body, and hence the skin, can result in significant skin disorders. Vitamin B deficiency within skin may result in red rashes, seborrheic dermatitis and increased incidences of fungal infections of the skin and nails. A vitamin C deficiency is characterised by skin fragility, corkscrew hairs and impaired wound healing. Prolonged vitamin C deficiency results in skin haemorrhages as found in scurvy.
What are the skin benefits of Vitamin C?
The high concentration of vitamin C in skin indicates that it has important biological functions as outlined below.
Collagen formation: Studies indicate that vitamin C is required for the manufacture of the structural protein collagen. Additionally, vitamin C has been found to stabilise the messenger molecules that encode proteins for the repair of damaged skin. So not only does vitamin C enhance stability of the structure of skin, it also enhances its repair process.
Photo-protection: Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant which limits the damage induced by UV light exposure. Vitamin C is not a sunscreen because it does not absorb any part of the light spectrum. It protects skin against UV-induced damage caused by free radicals. UV light exposure decreases the vitamin C content within skin and therefore exposure to the sun suggests greater vitamin C will need to be replenished.
Protects against and treats hyperpigmentation: Vitamin C visibly brightens and improves an uneven skin tone. Its antioxidant properties and hence Its ability to scavenge damaging free radicals means that it may provide protection against the formation of age spots and excess pigment formation within skin.
Vitamin C has also been shown to inhibit the synthesis of melanin, skin’s pigment. It does this through a variety of mechanisms and so could prove to be valuable in the treatment of melasma and hyperpigmentation.
Photo-damage, fine lines and wrinkles: Ageing of skin can be thought of as two processes; natural ageing caused simply by the passage of time and environmental ageing as a result of pollutants, UV radiation and lifestyle factors. Observational studies have found that increasing vitamin C intake from the diet resulted in better skin appearance and less wrinkling. Topical applications of vitamin C for 12 weeks were shown to decrease wrinkling, reduce protein fibre damage, reduce roughness of skin and increase collagen production.
Dry skin: Many people will experience dry skin at some stage in their lives. The effect of vitamin C are not clear however increasing dietary intake of vitamin C has been correlated with a decreased risk of dry skin. Studies indicate that vitamin C enhances the production of barrier lipids, called ceramides, which protect skin against water loss.
These are just some of the functions and benefits that vitamin C confers to the skin and its importance to the health of our bodies and skin is unquestionable.
Is a serum better than supplements?
Since its discovery in 1930’s, the role of vitamin C in skin health has been the subject of discussion and this still remains today. As mentioned previously, skin contains high amounts of vitamin C particularly the outer layer called the epidermis suggesting a need to ensure that its levels never deplete. I am a proponent of taking vitamin C supplements as well as using a topical form of vitamin C.
Vitamin C is involved in countless enzyme reactions carried out within the body and this has led scientists to investigate if many of us are deficient in it. Most of us understand the importance of vitamin C and yet we simply are not able to consume large amounts of fruits and vegetables on a daily basis. Scientists believe that we should be consuming between 700 mg and 2000 mg of vitamin C on a daily basis – to put this into perspective, a large orange provides 50 mg. This in my opinion makes it imperative that we supplement vitamin C and the one of choice is Liposomal Vitamin C.
Liposomes are tiny phospholipids that resemble the outer membrane of each of our cells. Using a liposomal form of vitamin C ensures that each and every cell of the body including those within skin receives vitamin C.
I also believe that almost every one of us would benefit from the use of topical vitamin C to deliver this nutrient to both the epidermis for protecting skin against environmental aggressions and to also deliver vitamin C to the dermal layer.
Vitamin C can be delivered topically to the cells too. The biggest obstacle to this delivery is the stratum corneum, the outermost layer of the epidermis. Studies indicate that the absorption of vitamin C, l-ascorbic acid, greatly depends upon the pH of the topical being used. Topicals with a pH below 4.0 aid in transporting the uncharged form of vitamin C, ascorbic acid, into the epidermis and into the dermis too.
What should you look for in a cream or serum?
The stability of vitamin C in topical solutions is also of concern as exposure to heat, air and/or light starts to degrade it. Unfortunately, the most effective form of vitamin C, l-ascorbic acid, is also the most unstable. The stability of l-ascorbic acid serums may be increased by the use of other antioxidants such as ferulic acid which is a potent plant-based antioxidant.
Garden of Wisdom’s Vitamin C 23% + Ferulic Acid Serum addresses all the issues concerning stability and pH. It is presented in an airless pump to protect it from light and air; ferulic acid is added to the formulation to protect the ingredients from oxidation and to work in synergy with vitamin C to protect skin against free radical damage.
However, some people cannot use vitamin C serums containing L-ascorbic acid as it can be uncomfortable to use especially during the daytime if skin is exposed to the sun. For these people, and actually for anyone else too, there is a newer derivative called tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate which is converted into L-ascorbic acid and is able to get deeper into the dermal layers where collagen production takes place. Garden of Wisdom’s C-Deep Vitamin C Serum contains tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate at a therapeutic concentration of 3% to help ageing skin as well as to provide all the other benefits of using a vitamin C serum.
Vitamin C is essential for skin health. It offers protection from UV-induced photodamage, helps decrease photodamage and encourages wound healing. Taking vitamin C through the diet or by way of supplements helps to insure against a deficiency within skin especially when combined with the right topical vitamin C serum.