Vitamin C in Skincare: Topical Use, Benefits and Forms of Vitamin C

In the quest for healthy skin, we rely on powerful ingredients to achieve a smoother and radiant complexion. One of these science-backed and safe for all skin types ingredients is without a doubt vitamin C.


Benefits of Topical Vitamin C
Vitamin C stimulates collagen synthesis and provides antioxidant protection against stressors like UV-damage and pollution. It also reduces transepidermal water loss which helps the skin retain moisture better. Skin naturally contains high concentrations of the vitamin but as we age, the levels of vitamin C in our skin decrease which can lead to loss of firmness, dull complexion, and uneven skin tone.
Applied topically, vitamin C helps brighten the skin, smooth out fine lines and wrinkles, fade sun spots, and fight the ageing effects of free radicals, UV radiation, and pollution. Vitamin C has anti-inflammatory activity and can be used in conditions like acne and rosacea. It also supports the skin’s barrier function, has wound-healing properties, and reduces the risk of scarring and infection.


Forms of Vitamin C
Vitamin C in skincare has many forms, the most popular one is Ascorbic acid or also called Lascorbic
acid. It is well-studied and proven to be the purest, most stable, and effective form
of vitamin C in skincare. There are also derivatives of vitamin C with notable research
proving their efficacy and some of them include: Magnesium ascorbyl phosphate, Ascorbyl
tetraisopalmitate, Sodium ascorbyl phosphate, and Ascorbyl glucoside.

  • Ascorbic acid – a pure form of vitamin C and the most effective one. It can cause mild irritation on people with sensitive skin, so performing a patch test is recommended beforehand.
  • Ethylated ascorbic acid – an ethylated form of vitamin C that acts directly like pure vitamin C for visible results. It is less researched but shows evidence of being even more stable than ascorbic acid.
  • Magnesium ascorbyl phosphate (MAP) – less potent than ascorbic acid while known to help reduce the appearance of sun spots, age spots, and hyperpigmentation.
  • Ascorbyl tetraisopalmitate – oil-soluble vitamin C derivative that reduces inflammation and protects against DNA cell damage induced by UV exposure. It is proven to penetrate the skin faster than other forms of vitamin C.
  • Sodium ascorbyl phosphate (SAP) – water-soluble form of vitamin C, lacks detailed data, however, it is effective at brightening uneven skin tone.
  • Tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate – stable, oil-soluble derivative. Its fatty acid component helps it penetrate the skin better and faster.
  • Ascorbyl glucoside – a mild derivative that converts into ascorbic acid when applied to the skin and a good option for sensitive skin.

Finding the Right Product
In addition to finding the right form of vitamin C, it’s essential to also determine the best vehicle and concentration, depending on the specific concerns. Concentration of 10% - 15% vitamin C provides better absorption if your skin can tolerate it. If you have very sensitive skin, lower concentration might be more beneficial. A lower concentration of vitamin C doesn’t mean it is not effective. Products with a higher percentage deliver targeted results
while lower concentration assists the cumulative effect of all ingredients in a certain product. Studies show that concentrations of vitamin C as low as 0.6% have antioxidant and anti-ageing benefits and help enhance the effect of other important ingredients like retinol, for example.
Ascorbic acid oxidises easily upon contact with water. It remains more stable in products where water is not the main ingredient. Alternatively, look for products with water-free formulas.
Vitamin C is extremely sensitive to air and light and breaks down over time if it is regularly exposed to them. To get the best possible results from this potent antioxidant, make sure the vitamin C product you are using is in an opaque and airtight container to help the formulation remain stable.

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