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Vitamin C serums - The science

Picture by Lauren Mancke

Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is a multifunctional vitamin that can transform and protect the skin. Not only is it beneficial when taken in food and as a vitamin supplement. It is also a beneficial anti-aging skin care ingredient when applied onto the skin.

Below we have discussed some of the benefits of using Vitamin C on the skin. We have also highlighted what you should look for when looking for Vitamin C serums.


Vitamin C in the synthesis of Collagen.

Collagen is responsible for the elasticity and tensile strength of the skin. Studies carried out on collagen strength found that collagen fibres were stronger than steel fibres of the same size. Collagen is also the most abundant protein in the human body and in the skin dermis. 

As you grow older the skin becomes thinner and the amount of collagen in the skin decreases. Sun exposure has been shown to affect the quality of collagen. Ageing and sun exposure result in weak wrinkled skin.

Topical and oral administration of vitamin C  has been found to influence the biosynthesis of collagen. Vitamin C is involved in the synthesis of Collagen by maximising the activity of pro-collagen hydroxylases and stabilising the products and intermediates of collagen biosynthesis.

Vitamin C as an anti-oxidant.

Vitamin C acts as a water-soluble antioxidant which protects the skin from UVA and UVB sun damage. It has been suggested that Vitamin C is sacrificed instead of the enzyme proline hydroxylase Proline hydroxylase is used in collagen production.  

The Brightening effect of Vitamin C.

Vitamin C also has a brightening effect/whitening effect. It has been shown to reduce hyperpigmentation in conditions such as Addison’s disease. It works by inhibiting the oxidative reactions involved in melanin production. Melanin is responsible for the pigmentation of the skin. 

Melanin is produced by the oxidation of tyrosine by enzymes called tyrosinases. It has been suggested that UVA rays can increase the activity of tyrosinase and this can result in excess production of melanin, which can contribute to hyperpigmentation and  dark spots.

Vitamin C serums

Look for vitamin C in the L-ascorbic acid form. By applying vitamin C topically you will be maximising the use of Vitamin C by targeting the skin and bypassing oral metabolism.

What to look for in Vitamin C serums.

  • The pH of your vitamin C serum must be below 3.5 in order for it to be effective.
  •  The maximum concentration that can be absorbed by the skin is 20%. So look for L-ascorbic acid between 7.5 % - 20%.
  •  Look for a product in an amber glass bottle as this reduces exposure of the serum to sunlight and prolongs the shelf life of your vitamin C serum.
  •    Refrigeration of your vitamin C serum can prolong its shelf life.
  • Try and apply your vitamin C serum every 8 hours to maintain the concentrations in your skin.
  • It is best to apply vitamin C after sun exposure as opposed to before sun exposure.

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