How Vitamin C Works To Fight Ageing

Vitamin C (L-Ascorbic Acid) has long been touted as a potent antioxidant skin health as well as anti-cancer. Did you know, however, that a higher concentration of Vitamin C does not correlate directly to its effectiveness for skin? To allow for the maximum absorption into skin, Vitamin C is best used in the stabilised form. Read on to find out more about the benefits of Vitamin C for anti-ageing and how the stabilised form is readily absorbed into the skin.

1. What is L-Ascorbic Acid?

L-Ascorbic Acid refers to the chemically active form of Vitamin C or raw Vitamin C, which is an essential nutrient that the human body does not synthesise on its own and forms a critical part of our diet as an antioxidant proven to fight free radical cell damage and facilitate cellular repair in general. Consequently, topical L-ascorbic Acid is associated with the same antioxidative and cellular repair mechanisms when applied directly to the skin, and in fact delivers targeted efficacy to the human skin instead of solely relying on the dietary route that sees a bulk of the vitamins diluted through and excreted from the human body. The antioxidative and healing properties of L-Ascorbic Acid make it an excellent candidate to fight the effects of ageing.

2. What are the benefits of L-Ascorbic Acid? Are there any side effects?

L-Ascorbic Acid or raw Vitamin C, whilst fundamentally important as an antioxidant and driver of cellular repair in the human body, may not confer the most benefit when applied topically as it is, in its raw form, to the skin. Chemically, L-Ascorbic Acid is highly unstable in solution under atmospheric conditions, being the potent antioxidant that it is which inadvertently causes the molecule to react almost instantly with oxygen in the air and be degraded of its functional form. This often results in L-Ascorbic Acid based Vitamin C serums having to be formulated with higher concentrations – for instance 20% L-Ascorbic Acid formulations may quite frequently be marketed, in order to survive the degradation in some manner and have any reasonable efficacy by the time the molecule is absorbed by the epidermis and dermis.

A consequence of high concentrations of L-Ascorbic Acid however is that, as may be suggested by its chemical nomenclature, it increases acidity on the skin. For individuals with sensitive/sensitised or eczema-prone skin, it is not uncommon to experience irritation and flare ups following the use of such highly concentrated L-Ascorbic Acid formulations. To avoid potential irritation in these individuals, the use of stabilised Vitamin C, dermatologist-tested and formulated at concentrations no more than 5% is recommended.

3. What is L-Ascorbic Acid best used for?

L-Ascorbic Acid or Vitamin C is required by our bodies to produce collagen, making this vitamin crucial for anti-ageing. Think of it as an anti-ageing shield your skin needs to reduce the damage your skin suffered, and also to prevent future damage. The vitamin forms cofactors of enzymes that augment the stability of collagen fibers. It also increases expression of collagen and synthesises inhibitors to block enzymes from degrading collagen, thereby contributing to the treatment of wrinkles – which are frequently caused by the loss of collagen and skin elasticity with age.

In addition, Vitamin C plays an important role in skin-lightening as it inhibits an enzyme called tyrosinase which participates in the metabolism of melanin that causes pigmentation on skin. This enzyme works by converting tyrosine into melanin, so by reducing the activity of tyrosinase, our skin cells inadvertently produce less melanin. Furthermore, topical Vitamin C can help improve acne conditions by combating oxidation of sebum and comedogenesis (also commonly referred to as the clogging of pores), by its sheer potent antioxidative strength to neutralise free radicals and reduce oxidative stress. This neutralisation of free radicals also protects the individual from UV light exposure, which may lead to photodamage such as via sunburn cell formation and DNA fragmentation.

4. Which Vitamin C derivatives are recommended and why?

Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate (SAP) is a stable precursor of L-Ascorbic Acid, which is found in the formulation of a stabilised Vitamin C serum – the Vitá C Gold™ Serum, a cosmeceutical often opted for by patients as adjunctive treatment to acne and pigmentation conditions. The SAP is a salt of ascorbic acid and is stable in solution under atmospheric conditions. This allows the molecule to be kept intact mostly on exposure to environmental oxygen up till absorption through the epidermis and dermis, where the enzyme phosphatase is abundant to cleave off the phosphate group attached to the ascorbic acid molecule. From here, the SAP is converted back to its functionally active L-Ascorbic form, to deliver the efficacy of the vitamin optimally right into the skin without the same losses that may be experienced by conventional Vitamin C serums, due to intermediary exposure to environmental oxygen. What this means is that a much lower 5 percent concentration of SAP (which is the amount present in the Vitá C Gold™ Serum) for example, could have sufficient potency for similar if not stronger efficacy than more concentrated raw L-Ascorbic formulations, whilst avoiding the pitfalls of potential irritation from high concentrations.

In fact, studies have shown that a mere 1 percent concentration of SAP has strong antimicrobial efficacy against acne1. Also, one added benefit of the SAP is that skin cells are understood to continuously take up the SAP and convert it into ascorbic acid by the process of dephosphorylation. This continuous process allows elevated levels of ascorbic acid to be maintained in the skin for considerable lengths of time after the initial introduction of SAP, to deliver more sustained benefits to the skin.

5. Who should use Vitamin C in their skincare routines, and who should avoid it? How can Vitamin C be incorporated into your skincare routine for maximum efficacy and safety?

In general, Vitamin C, being a powerful antioxidant and essential nutrient that helps drive cellular repair and wound healing in the human body, is suitable in any skincare routine, much like a healthy diet being suitable for anyone. However, for sensitive skin individuals especially, it is important to discern the type and concentration of Vitamin C used in topical formulations, and do also look out for dermatologist-tested and formulated labels for added assurance. Avoid concocting your own Vitamin C, as it may lead to phytophotodermatitis – inflammation of the skin from contact with light sensitizing botanicals followed by sunlight exposure, which is somewhat common with patients who DIY using lemon, lime or oranges, etc.

On top of the use of stabilised Vitamin C, you may also opt for a lightweight moisturising emulsion (oil-in-water for a comfortable texture in humid climates) – the Radiance Fluide™ Hydrating Emulation, which is imbued with an added mix of antioxidants and plant extracts that help to augment the anti-ageing effects of Vitamin C, via hydration to the skin and a boost to collagen production. Above all, however, it can’t be stressed enough that a healthy balanced diet (which includes consumption of dietary Vitamin C) and regular exercise are imperative to maintaining healthy youthful skin.

1. Klock, J. , Ikeno, H. , Ohmori, K. , Nishikawa, T. , Vollhardt, J. and Schehlmann, V. (2005), Sodium ascorbyl phosphate shows in vitro and in vivo efficacy in the prevention and treatment of acne vulgaris. International Journal of Cosmetic Science, 27: 171-176.

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