Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Vitamin C in Skin Care - The Basics

I think we all have heard of Vitamin C being used in skin care, but some of you (and me included, until I researched this topic) may not know the who-what-why-when-where of the whole Vitamin C skincare stuff.  Here are the answer to my questions about Vitamin C I found while doing my research:

What does Vitamin C do?
When applied to the skin, Vitamin C has been shown to:

  1. Increase collagen production (That's important for reducing wrinkles)
  2. Even skin tone by reducing some skin discolorations
  3. Enhance the skin's repair process
  4. Reduce inflammation
  5. Help skin better withstand exposure to sunlight, even if not protected by sunscreen (But you should ALWAYS wear sunscreen!)
  6. End all wars and maintain World Peace.
OK. 6 is NOT true, but according to some marketers, they would have you believe Vitamin C is the cure all for all that is wrong in the world.  Sure, if we all had amazing looking skin the world might be a happier place, but then what would the Dermatologists and Estheticians do?  They would be out of a job and they would be pissed. I bet they would form small roving bands of skin destroying mercenaries that would make you fall asleep in your makeup, hide your sunscreen, and rub comedogenic ingredients on your face when you least expect it.  But I digress.  Back to Vitamin C.
Ascorbic Acid

What kind of Vitamin C should I look for in products?
Vitamin C is available in a few different forms.  Ascorbic Acid is the most common form found on the ingredients list.  You might also see Vitamin C listed as: Ascorbyl Glucosamine, Ascorbyl Palmitate, Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate, L-ascorbic Acid, Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Retinyl Ascorbate, Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate, or Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate.  If you don't have a degree in Chemistry, the previous words are not only difficult to pronounce, they are difficult to remember.  What is important to remember is that you want STABLE forms of Vitamin C or packaging that keep the non stable forms of Vitamin C effective for longer periods.

You see, Vitamin C starts to break down and lose its effectiveness almost immediately after packaging. However, some forms of Vitamin C are better than others and do not break down as easily therefore remaining active and effective in skin care longer than others.  Although the natural form of vitamin C, called Ascorbic Acid, is the most effective when applied topically, it is the least stable of all the Vitamin C formulations found in serums/creams/etc.  There are some stable synthetic derivatives, such as Ascorbate Phosphate, but that has a limited ability to permeate and function well in skin.  This lipid-soluble (oil versus water soluble) derivative called Ascorbyl Palmitate, also has limited absorption capabilities. However, the stability of topical vitamin C solutions may be increased by the addition of other antioxidant compounds to the formula.

Are there ANY stable forms of Vitamin C?
Yes.  There are a few.  But remember that with the proper container, unstable forms of Vitamin C can be just as effective.  Here are a few of the stable forms of Vitamin C:

  1. Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate also referred to as MAP.  This is the most stable and preferred form of Vitamin C for topical Use.  MAP is easily absorbed into the skin, it has a hydrating effect on the skin and decreases water loss from skin cells.  MAP has also been shown to increases collagen production under laboratory test conditions.
  2. Ascorbyl 6 Palmitate (Safety Studies still pending)
  3. Disodium Isostearyl 2-0 L-Ascorbyl Phosphate (VCP-IS-Na)
  4. Ascorbic Acid Sulfate

What's a "stable environment"?
ALL vitamin C formulations will deteriorate in the presence of air and light. THEREFORE, if a Vitamin C product you are interested in is NOT packaged in a container reducing exposure to air and is not packaged in a container that is opaque or darkened to reduce light exposure, DON'T BUY IT!  Plain and simple.

So which is best?
That depends.  Don't you hate that answer?  Well, marketing hype will try to convince you that there is a "best" form of Vitamin C, but really what you need to know is that a) There isn't and b) As long as it is a stable form of Vitamin C OR c) If the Vitamin C is kept in a stable environment, it's all "The Best".
I think of the many forms of Vitamin C out there, I personally like L-ascorbic Acid and Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate (MAP) the most. While MAP has been shown to be the most stable form of Vitamin C,  L-ascorbic acid still has been proven to stimulate collagen production even if it doesn't penetrate the skin as deeply as MAP.  In addition L-ascorbic Acid has been shown to prevent water loss from the skin much better than MAP, so it just DEPENDS on what sort of other care you need for your skin.  Those with drier skin would benefit from using MAP, but might not see as much dryness is they used L-ascorbic Acid and vice versa for those with oilier skin.  But that's not to say that other forms of stable and non stable Vitamin C or Vitamin C Esters aren't good either...I'm just giving you my personal preference.

So what do I do now?
Well the first thing you should do is run out and spend $350 on a vitamin C serum...NO. I'm kidding. You don't have to spend that much for a good and effective serum. You can get a really great serum for a little as $25! But more on that in another post! The FIRST thing you should do is determine if using a Vitamin C serum is what you need for your skin concerns. You might have to consult your doctor first, especially if you have any known allergies to Vitamin C or allergic reactions to taking or using Vitamin C.  Also if you have very sensitive and reactive skin, you might try a patch test before using a Vitamin C serum all over your face. Usually the inside of your arm, behind your ear or near the jaw line is a good place to test for tolerance.  Last but not least (such a cliche phrase, but necessary), you should not judge your skin tone and texture by what you see in movies, magazines, on line or in so called "candid" photos of celebrities. Photoshop will always trump Vitamin C serums. You will never have that bright, glowing, perfect skin because it just doesn't exist in real life.  Also a 10X magnifying mirror is your enemy. NO ONE is ever that close to your face and scrutinizing it as much as you're still beautiful.  

Adding a Vitamin C serum to my skin care regimen has dramatically improved the tone, texture and overall look of my skin. I can't believe I went this long in my life without using it. Hopefully the above information has educated you enough about Vitamin C to make an education choice about adding it (or not) to your skin care rituals.

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