Taking care of your skin is essential when it comes to keeping your skin looking healthy, youthful, and beautiful. This, however, requires you to not only adopt an effective skincare routine, but also see to it that you incorporate products best suited for your skincare goals.
In a world that’s swarming with numerous beauty products, and each promising better results than the last, one thing remains true; vitamin C is among the few supplements that work as advertised. As a matter of fact, the WHO lists the vitamin as one of the ‘essential medicines’ for a healthy body.
With this in mind, we have put together everything you need to know; here is your quick guide to vitamin C for glowing skin.
What is Vitamin C?
Vitamin C is a water-soluble mineral found in various foods, in particular fruits and vegetables. Its abundance in plant matter makes it among the most readily available minerals in nature. In your body, vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, serves as an essential nutrient in most cell functions.
Your body utilizes the vitamin in the synthesis of collagen, promoting wound healing, boosting immunity, and keeping tissues strong, among other important functions. Unfortunately, your body does not synthesize the nutrient, hence the need for supplementation.
Vitamin C was the first vitamin to be made in a lab, in 1933. Since then, people have been supplementing the nutrients in various forms. Apart from getting it from your diet, you can now enjoy the benefits of this vitamin in the form of tablets, drinks, and injections. In dermatology, vitamin C-infused topical creams have been found to be beneficial.
Importance of Vitamin C in Skin Care
Vitamin C has a set of specific properties that make it very beneficial to the skin. It helps in maintaining the integrity of your skin and fighting conditions such as scurvy, a disease associated with poor wound healing, increased skin roughness, jaundice, edema, and general skin fragility among a host of other issues.
More specifically, vitamin C serves the following functions to make your skin glow.
The secret to glowing skin is shedding off dead and old skin cells, while encouraging brightness and luminosity. To make your skin a shade or two lighter, lighteners de-pigment your skin by reducing the amount of melanin produced, the pigment responsible for your skin tone, and skin hyperpigmentation when produced in excess.
De-pigmenting agents work by:
- Interrupting melanogenesis
- Killing melanocytes
The latter is dangerous and comes with adverse side effects. Vitamin C falls into the former category, whereby it inhibits the actions of tyrosinase – the enzyme responsible for melanin synthesis.
Vitamin C is one of the most abundant antioxidants in your skin. As such, it reduces skin damage from free radicals found in the environment. Specifically, vitamin C donates electrons to neutralize unstable free radicals, which, if left unpaired, lead to oxidative skin damage.
The free radical theory of aging has it that; without a reducing agent to neutralize the free radicals, skin cells end up being overworked in dealing with the free radicals. As the damaged cells accumulate, the skin starts losing its integrity and luster, leading to untimely aging. A good example of damage from free radicals is photoaging.
Inflammations in the skin, from conditions such as rosacea and acne, can leave you with dark spots. Also known as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH), these discolorations are among the leading causes of an uneven skin tone.
Apart from de-pigmenting dark spots, vitamin C is known to reduce inflammation by inhibiting the proteins that are responsible for activating of pro-inflammatory cells. As such, the nutrient helps the skin to heal wounds faster while preventing PIH.
As earlier noted, vitamin C is involved in most cell functions, among these being collagen biosynthesis. Collagen, the major component of skin tissue, is responsible for skin rejuvenation, repair, elasticity, and firmness. Age and exposure to the elements, however, reduces your body’s ability to synthesize the protein.
When supplemented, vitamin C helps to boost collagen in the skin. This helps to strengthen the structural integrity of your skin, making your skin smoother and firmer. Additionally, vitamin C also plays a big role in stabilizing and increasing the production of elastin, an elastic protein necessary for healthy skin.
If yours is dry skin, then you will find a reprieve in vitamin C. The nutrient, which has come to be known as the ‘holy grail’ of skincare, helps in moisture retention. Improved production of elastin and collagen thickens your skin, which reduces the loss of water to the environment.
Also, when applied topically, vitamin C boosts the effectiveness of other skincare products. For example, when applied with or before slapping on some sunscreen, the mineral helps the sunscreen to penetrate deeper into the skin.
Forms of Vitamin C for Skin
To start with, vitamin C comes in different formulations and derivatives. Common forms include:
- L-Ascorbic acid
- Αscorbyl Palmitate
- Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate
- Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate
- Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate
- Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate.
Depending on the condition that you are battling, vitamin C can be administered in the following ways;
Vitamin C Tablets
Tablets are the most widely used form of vitamin C supplements. The recommended dietary allowance, simply denoted as RDA on the packaging, is 90mg and 75mg daily for men and women respectively.
When it comes to skin issues, the dosage can go higher but NOT beyond 2000mg/day – any amounts higher than this can lead to severe side effects. A typical prescription contains 500mg to 1000mg daily vitamin C tablets.
Vitamin C Serums and Creams
Among the most sought after ingredients in topical skin care products is vitamin C, sometimes labeled as the other derivatives. Why so many derivatives you may ask? Well, it all has to do with looking for the most stable and tolerable form.
Sunscreen, lotions, gels, and serums come formulated with a given percentage of the vitamin. Dermatologists, however, recommend going for topical products with 10 to 15% of the ingredient. This is considered the right optimal amount that wouldn’t cause irritation redness and redness.
If you don’t yet have a go-to vitamin C serum, give the Introstem Stem Cell Vitamin C Serum a try. It not only contains two different potent forms of vitamin C, but is also formulated with a number of botanical extracts that also provide extra natural sources of the essential vitamin.
Vitamin C Injections
Injections are usually advised in cases of acute vitamin C deficiency, such as seen in scurvy sufferers. The F.D.A also approves the use of injections to treat skin trauma and burns. However, the treatment is used as a last resort when oral supplementation is deemed ineffective or too slow.
For deficiency, the dosage is usually 200 mg daily for up to a week. To treat wounds and burns, 1000 mg daily for up to 21 days is administered. With off label use, common in skin lightening, the dosage is usually very high and dangerous- typically daily or periodical injections of between 10,000 mg and 100,000 mg.
Vitamin C Drink Mixes
Your skin can also benefit from dissolved vitamin C in juices and energy drinks. The quantities differ from one brand to the other. In the market, a spot check shows sweetened drinks with up to 42.3 g of vitamin C in 100 g servings. The highest concentrations are seen in cranberry and grape juice mixes.
While these drinks can give you the dietary requirement, they can be quite addictive. Reason being, most are formulated as energy drinks with caffeine and other stimulating ingredients. They can also be high in calories, which might not do for your health and well being.
Scientific Studies on Vitamin C in Skin Care
Here are some highlights of scientific studies and clinical trials on the effectiveness of different forms of vitamin C in skincare.
1) A study to find out the optimal conditions for topical vitamin C absorption was carried out by Duke University Medical Center, US. The methodology involved using different concentrations of ascorbic acid while adjusting the pH levels. From the results, vitamin C creams and serums should be formulated at pH levels of 3.5 or below. What this means is that, to supplement your skin’s antioxidant levels, go for products with low pH. The findings also favor topical use of natural sources of vitamin C, such as lemon and orange juice.
2) To investigate the effectiveness of orally administered antioxidants on skin radiance, a clinical trial was carried out using a vitamin C-rich formulation. For 8 weeks, 35 women of between 40 and 70 years of age took a daily dose of the supplement. To quote the conclusion, “The oral supplement containing the antioxidant-rich formulation was found to improve skin radiance by reducing skin coloring, increasing face luminosity, reducing imperfections, and improving skin firmness in women with dull complexion”.
3) The effect of vitamin C on the appearance of facial scars was investigated using the topical mode of treatment. The study enrolled a total of 80 patients, with 41 patients being in the experimental group. The treatment involved the use of a silicone gel infused with vitamin C on surgical scars. The parameters investigated included scar pigmentation, elevation, and erythema. After six months of treatment, there was a notable and great difference in the healing, in favor of the experimental group. Also, the treatment was well tolerated and patient satisfaction was high.
Side Effects Of Vitamin C Supplements
Topical vitamin C is not associated with many side effects, except for the occasional redness and irritation. This is usually seen in first-time users or those who overindulge on highly concentrated serums.
Oral and intravenous vitamin C comes with a host of possible side effects. Minor complications include headaches, nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, and heartburn.
At high concentrations, (over 2,000mg daily dose) severe cases of diarrhea have been reported, and also the onset of kidney stones. A daily dose of 1000 mg has also been associated with recurrence of kidney stones.
Contraindications For the Use of Vitamin C
Vitamin C supplements should not be taken by people who are allergic to ascorbic acids or any of the many derivatives. Also, If you have a kidney problem, such as kidney stones, taking the vitamin can aggravated condition.
For children, pregnant and lactating women, the supplements should only be administered with a doctor’s prescription. The same case applies if you are under medication for diabetes or schizophrenia.
Expert tip: Vitamin C and alcohol don’t interact well. The supplement is not well absorbed in the presence of alcohol.
How To Increase Vitamin C Intake Naturally
Long before people could chew a pill and get all the vitamin C their body required, the richest source of the mineral, as it is today in most parts of the world, was natural sources. If yours is a natural lifestyle, here are tips on how to supplement the mineral naturally for radiant skin.
- Eat lots of fruits: The richest sources include apples, guavas, kiwi, strawberries, cranberries, grapes, and citrus fruits.
- Err on the side of veggies: Eat broccoli, red pepper, vegetable juice, kale, brussels sprouts, spinach, and snow peas.
- Apply a vitamin C face mask: Mix freshly squeezed lemon juice, honey and brown sugar in the ratio 1:2:1 to make a mask. Apply and leave to dry before washing off with lukewarm water. You can also use other rich sources of vitamin C to make the mask.
Tip: for the mask, you can also use vitamin C powder instead of lemon juice. Also, brown sugar is optional but it is recommended due to its exfoliating property – a great step when you are after glowing and younger-looking skin.
Vitamin C is proven to be a great nutrient for your general health and a worthy partner in the quest for glowing skin. The vitamin works by positively influencing several processes that affect the state of your skin, leading to a healthier, more youthful and glowing skin.
There are several forms of vitamin C supplementation, common among them being the use of topical formulations. Whichever you choose to go with, be sure to boost natural intake by incorporating more vitamin C-rich fruits and vegetables into your diet because, after all, you are what you eat.