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Vitamin C has many benefits as a cosmetic & general health ingredient. The following are important facts about the vitamin C.

  1. It is a popular antioxidant with many benefits
  2. Cannot be synthesised in vivo by humans but most plants and animals can.
  3. Its deficiency can lead to scurvy; a condition that presents with bleeding gums.
  4. It is associated with a reduced risk of certain cancers, cardiovascular disease, cataracts and it improves wound healing.

Topical Benefits of Vitamin C – as L-ascorbic acid

L-ascorbic acid is naturally unstable, and stable forms require an acidic environment of pH <3.5-4. At this pH, the molecule quickly penetrates the stratum corneum (outermost layer of the skin forming your Skin Barrier).

Benefits as an anti-oxidant

  1. Free radical damage: exposure to UV light promotes the generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS). These include superoxide, peroxide and singlet oxygen. Vitamin C donates a free electron to the ROS; therefore, neutralising the free radicals reducing the processes eventually lead to collagen breakdown.
  1. Vitamin C is hydrophilic (mixes with water easily), and Vitamin E is lipophilic (mixes with oily environment). Synergistically, they protect the respective cellular compartments by reducing premature cell apoptosis and thymine dimer formation (DNA Damage) giving up to four times more protection than when Vitamin C is used alone. Vitamin E can spare electrons to use up vitamin C molecules to make them active again.
  1. Addition of ferulic acid increases the efficacy of Vitamin C by up to eight times. The commonly used formula is 15% Vitamin C, 1% Vitamin E and 0.5% Ferulic. Other useful substances in increasing bioavailability include zinc and tyrosine.
  1. Prevents sun damage and improves sun protection when combined with sunscreen. It is equally effective against UVA (230mm-400mm) and UVB (290mm 320mm)

Benefits of Vitamin C in Collagen Synthesis.

  • It serves as a cofactor for the enzymes prolysysl & lysyl hydroxyls which are responsible for cross-linking stabilising collagen molecules.
  • It stimulates collagen gene expression
  • It directly activates transcription of collagen synthesis and stabilises pro-collagen mRNA molecules
  • Therefore, it significantly improves wrinkles and hydration

Benefits as a skin brightening and lightening agent

It is a non-toxic interrupter of melanogenesis

  • Reduces tyrosinase kinase activity regulates controls melanin production.

Benefits of vitamin C as an anti-inflammatory

  • It inhibits factors that induce skin inflammation. Hence, it can be used for acne vulgaris, rosacea and wound healing.  
  • It helps to prevent post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) skin disorder due to high amounts of oxidative stress produced in response to injuries from laser hair removal or micro-needling.

Side Effects of topical Vitamin C

The safety of Vitamin C is a fact. Its therapeutic index is very high. You need to take between 100 and 200 times its recommended dose for toxic effects to show. However, some user may develop the following problems that in most cases are self-limiting.

  • Stinging, dryness and erythema but these can be treated easily with a moisturiser.
  • Once applied cannot be washed off.
  • Rarely, urticaria and erythema multiforme have been reported.


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