Unlocking the Power of Vitamin C: A Guide to Choosing the Right Form for Skincare  

by | Jul 18, 2023

Using a Vitamin C serum in your skincare routine is a great idea, but have you ever wondered why there are so many different types of Vitamin C used in skincare products?

Well, each form of Vitamin C has its own unique characteristics and properties. They vary in solubility, stability, irritation potential, and anti-aging functions. It’s important to understand these differences so that you can choose the most suitable one for your skincare needs.

In this post, I’ll explain the important role that Vitamin C plays in keeping your skin healthy as you age. I’ll also give you a guide to some of the most common forms of Vitamin C used in skincare. Let’s get started!

Why is Vitamin C Beneficial for the Skin?

Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is a powerful antioxidant that offers several benefits for the skin. It helps in collagen synthesis, protects against UV damage, reduces hyperpigmentation, and brightens the complexion. However, pure ascorbic acid is highly unstable and can easily get oxidized when exposed to light, heat, oxygen, water, and other reactive substances. To overcome this issue, different derivatives and forms of Vitamin C have been developed to enhance stability while maintaining their beneficial properties.

So, how does topical Vitamin C benefit our skin? There are three main ways:

1. Vitamin C helps to protect skin from environmental damage: Vitamin C is an excellent antioxidant that fights against free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules that can damage the skin and accelerate the aging process. They are generated by various sources such as UV light, pollution, smoke, and inflammation. By using a topical antioxidant product like Vitamin C, you can counteract the natural depletion of Vitamin C in your skin over time and protect it from environmental damage.

2. Vitamin C helps preserve and promote collagen production: Collagen is essential for maintaining youthful-looking skin, and Vitamin C plays a crucial role in collagen synthesis. It protects existing collagen by inhibiting enzymes that break it down and supports healthier collagen production by acting as a cofactor for enzymes involved in collagen formation. By preserving and promoting collagen, Vitamin C contributes to the firmness, elasticity, and overall youthful appearance of the skin.

3. Vitamin C reduces inflammation and counteracts signs of aging: Inflammation is a significant factor in the aging process and is associated with various skin concerns such as wrinkles, sagging, and dullness. Vitamin C has anti-inflammatory properties that help reduce inflammation in the skin and counteract the signs of aging caused by inflammation. By reducing inflammation, Vitamin supports a healthier and more vibrant complexion.

Which Form of Vitamin C is Most Effective in Skincare?

Topical Vitamin C offers multiple benefits for the skin, including antioxidant protection, collagen preservation and promotion, and reduction of inflammation and signs of aging. However, pure ascorbic acid is unstable, so various derivatives and forms of Vitamin C have been developed to enhance stability while retaining their beneficial properties in skincare products.

Let’s explore some of the most common forms of Vitamin used in skincare:

1. Sodium ascorbyl Phosphate: This stable derivative of Vitamin C provides antioxidant protection and collagen synthesis similar to L-ascorbic acid. It is less likely to cause irritation and is suitable for sensitive skin.

2. Scorbyl Palmitate: Ascorbyl palmitate is a fat-soluble form of Vitamin C that is more stable than L-ascorbic acid. It possesses antioxidant properties.

3. Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate: This oil-soluble ester form of Vitamin C is highly stable, easily absorbed by the skin, and provides longer-lasting antioxidant protection. It has a lower potential for irritation.

4. Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate: This stable form of Vitamin C is often used in products targeting hyperpigmentation and melasma. It may help improve skin elasticity and reduce wrinkles.

5. Ascorbyl Glucoside: Ascorbyl glucoside is a water-soluble derivative of Vitamin C that is gentle on the skin. It brightens the complexion and helps reduce the appearance of age spots.

6. 3-O-Ethyl Ascorbic Acid: This stable derivative of Vitamin C effectively reduces pigmentation and offers antioxidant protection. It is suitable for various skincare formulations.

7. Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate: This oil-soluble form of Vitamin C is highly stable and easily absorbed by the skin. It improves collagen synthesis, reduces fine lines, and protects against UV damage.

Choosing the Right Form of Vitamin C

When selecting a Vitamin C serum, consider your skin type, concerns, and tolerance for potential irritation. Each form of Vitamin C has its own advantages and considerations. L-ascorbic acid provides potent results but requires careful handling, degrades faster compared to other Vitamin C forms and is not recommended for sensitive skin. Sodium ascorbyl phosphate and other stable derivatives offer similar benefits with less irritation potential. My personal favorites are tetra hexyldecyl ascorbate and 3-O-ethyl ascorbic acid as they are the most stable ones and may help support collagen production and decrease hyperpigmentation better than ascorbic acid.

In conclusion, not all types of Vitamin C in skincare products are the same. The choice of the right form depends on factors such as stability, skin penetration, collagen synthesis, potential for irritation, and specific concerns like aging caused by inflammation (aka inflaming) and other environmental stressors. Understanding the pros and cons of each form will help you select the most suitable Vitamin C variant to enhance the health and appearance of your skin. Consulting with a dermatologist or skincare professional can help you determine the best form of Vitamin C for your specific needs.

Article by: Dr. Ebru Karpuzoglu, MSc, PhD
Molecular Medicine & Immunology
Founder & CSO | AveSeena

Scientific References:

• Farris, P. K. (2005). Topical vitamin C: a useful agent for treating photoaging and other dermatologic conditions. Dermatologic Surgery, 31(S1), 814-818.

• Fitzpatrick, R. E., Rostan, E. F., & Marchesoni, D. (2002). Double-blind, half-face study comparing topical vitamin C and vehicle for rejuvenation of photodamage. Dermatologic Surgery, 28(3), 231-236.

• Pullar, J. M., Carr, A. C., & Vissers, M. C. (2017). The roles of vitamin C in skin health. Nutrients, 9(8), 866.

• Quan, T., Qin, Z., Xia, W., Shao, Y., Voorhees, J. J., & Fisher, G. J. (2019). Matrix-degrading metalloproteinases in photoaging. Journal of Investigative Dermatology Symposium Proceedings, 20(1), S17-S20.

• Telang, P. S. (2013). Vitamin C in dermatology. Indian Dermatology Online Journal, 4(2), 143-146.

• Camargo et al. (2015). Stable derivatives of L-ascorbic acid: synthesis, biological properties and potential uses. Brazilian Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, 51(1), 53-64.

• Humbert et al. (2003). Topical ascorbic acid on photoaged skin: clinical, topographical and ultrastructural evaluation: double-blind study vs. placebo. Experimental Dermatology, 12(3), 237-244.

• Kim et al. (2013). Anti-acne effects of Oriental herb extracts: a novel screening method to select anti-acne agents. Skin Pharmacology and Physiology, 26(5), 248-257.

• Kameyama et al. (1996). Inhibitory effect of magnesium L-ascorbyl-2-phosphate (VC-PMG) on melanogenesis in vitro and in vivo. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 34(1), 29-33.

• Miyaji et al. (2008). Effective cosmeceuticals for facial photodamage: results of a comparative study. International Journal of Cosmetic Science, 30(1), 37-44.

• Vollmer et al. (2011). Aging skin is functionally anaerobic: importance of coenzyme Q10 for anti-aging skincare. BioFactors, 37(5), 381-388.

• Kircik, L. H. (2017). Efficacy and safety of a new generation of stabilized, lipidized vitamin C: ascorbyltetraisopalmitate. Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, 10(10), 14-17.

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