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10 Minute ReadEducation by Jess Lacey
14.06.22 (Updated 09.12.22)
Ten years ago most of us associated vitamin C with the nutritional repertoire of an orange and vitamin C benefits for skin were still largely undiscovered. Yet today, vitamin C skincare is a booming beauty sector and considered by experts as the very crux of good skincare. Alongside Retinol and Hyaluronic acid, vitamin C serums are advised by dermatologists as a daily habit. So much so it seems, Vitamin C was the most Googled skincare ingredient of 2020 and according to a top online retailer, searches on their website for the wonder ingredient have way passed the million mark in the last 12 months alone.
So why do we worship it so? Well, vitamin C skin benefits are seemingly endless; solving many of the most commonly experienced skin woes such as dullness, pigmentation, fine lines and wrinkles. As a potent antioxidant, vitamin C is also well documented to protect the oxidisation of skin cells from free radical damage, UV radiation and air pollution. It is vitamin C’s ability to benefit skin health as well as improving its appearance that has made it so popular.
Vitamin C is often referred to as L-ascorbic acid which is the technical name in its purest, active form. Though the terms have become somewhat interchangeable, it’s L-ascorbic acid that has been proven to work in clinical trials, not generic vitamin C. L-ascorbic acid has a clinically proven effect on the skin from very low concentrations and even a 0.6% concentration can be an effective daily antioxidant.
The molecules that make up L-ascorbic acid are water soluble and small enough to pass through the skin barrier, meaning skin can readily absorb vitamin C. Most vitamin C serums take just a minute or so to sink in fully before you can apply a moisturiser over the top.
L-ascorbic acid is the best and purest form of vitamin C but it is a complex and highly unstable molecule that needs careful management. The potency of L-ascorbic acid depletes rapidly when in contact with oxygen and direct sunlight so airtight, light blocking packaging is essential. This is why many derivatives of L-ascorbic acid are engineered to make vitamin C products stable, tolerable and more effectively metabolised by the skin.
Vitamin C skincare will often contain derivative names such as:
sodium ascorbyl phosphate
ethylated ascorbic acid
Vitamin C is a powerful skincare ingredient that’s suitable for all skin types and has an impressive portfolio of skincare benefits. As a potent antioxidant, Vitamin C protects skin from environmental attack but can also reverse pre-existing and unwanted pigmentation. The benefits of vitamin C for skin from a cosmetic standpoint are also impressive and results show vitamin C lessens acne scarring, brightens skin tone, tackles dullness, fades out fine lines and smoothes any patches of rough textured skin.
Vitamin C is a highly effective antioxidant that forms a barrier on the skin against microscopic pollutants like carbon emissions and any external aggressors that might oxidise the skin.
Vitamin C does not contain any skin bleaching properties, so it does not chemically lighten skin and therefore is considered entirely safe to use on all skin tones. It has, however, repeatedly been shown to improve both the texture and brightness of the skin’s surface. By lessening the appearance of enlarged pores and smoothing the epidermis, vitamin C increases the light refraction of skin, therefore making it appear brighter and more luminous.
In it’s antioxidant capacity, vitamin C can prevent inflammatory hyperpigmentation forming. There is also evidence to show that in mild cases, regular use of high concentrations of L-ascorbic acid can effectively fade out existing pigmentation conditions such as dark spots, melasma, age spots, and sun spots.
Vitamin C is a popular skincare solution to improving and unifying skin tone but the risk of irritation and complications associated with concentration, bioavailability and instability can often be a barrier to suitability. As an alternative approach, the LYMA Laser creates a brighter and more even skin tone by transferring laser beam light into the energy centres of cells, thus recharging them to operate in an optimal fashion. This regeneration stimulates collagen synthesis and creates a bouncier, brighter skin tone without any concern or risk of irritation. What’s more, the LYMA Laser helps skincare formulations to penetrate deeper and the skin to better respond to formulas. The increase in collagen and anti-inflammatory effects of the Laser boost skin’s intake of active ingredients, so it’s possible to apply vitamin C skincare to skin and smooth it into skin using the LYMA laser to achieve even better results.
Because vitamin C does not bleach the skin in any way it can be very effective on black skin and achieve tone-unifying results for the deepest of skin tones. It’s also collagen building and repairs post-blemish scarring, so it can be of brightening benefit to any skin tone.
Clinical trials show that vitamin C can help slow the ageing process by preventing both the oxidation and stress impacts on the skin that cause lines and wrinkles to form and collagen reserves to diminish. There are many ways to effectively preserve and prolong the body’s collagen synthesis and regular use of high quality vitamin C formulations is among them.
When used daily and dosed at the correct concentration, vitamin C products are good for the face. Whether in a cream, oil or serum consistency, Vitamin C protects, repairs and strengthens skin, targeting acne, signs of ageing and improving tone and texture. This makes vitamin C unilaterally beneficial for both complexion appearance and long-term skin health.
Build up tolerance to vitamin C serums slowly, starting with a low concentration and slowly, steadily increasing in line with skin comfort level. Skin might feel a slight tingling sensation but should not all out sting or flush with redness. If this happens, take it back down to a lower percentage concentration.
Vitamin C should be the first step in your skincare routine every day. Due to its antioxidant capabilities, use it first thing in the morning to offer protection and then apply it again last thing at night for repair. However, because vitamin C needs to be in an oil, silicone or squalane base to keep it stable, textures tend to be slippy and often on the heavy side. This can mean it’s not always suitable for under base makeup and foundation. For some, this limits vitamin C skincare application to night time only but daily use is still recommended.
Concentrations and formulas vary hugely in the world of vitamin C skincare. Vitamin C can be a balancing act that requires finding the right formula for your skin type. Overall, a 5% concentration should suit sensitive skin, going up to 25% concentration for skins with a high tolerance.
Vitamin C is not reserved just for skincare though, high-level doses of Vitamin C are given intravenously in medical settings as part of disease management(6) treatment. When delivered at an exceptionally high and targeted dosage,, Vitamin C has been seen to block tumour development and fight some forms of cancer.
Vitamin C facials are for those looking for brightening and smoothing results and are widely available in dermatologist offices, salons and spas. Professional therapists combine traditional facial steps such as deep exfoliation, massage and LED light therapy with an application of high potency vitamin C.
Vitamin C is available without prescription at such varying concentrations that it’s not common for a doctor to prescribe it. Some dermatologists might prescribe it at the highest potency for their clients as part of a wider treatment plan. Alternatively, in some cases prescriptions of vitamin C are given for medical reasons such as cardiovascular health issues and cancer treatment.
By far the most common form of vitamin C is in topical skincare applied directly onto the skin in the form of serums that have a low molecular weight able to sink down into lower layers of skin.
Taking a vitamin C supplement for skin is probably not as effective as directly applying it in serum form. Vitamin C tablets tend to be engineered for bolstering the immune system, rather than brightening the skin. In theory they work but in truth, evidence to prove their efficacy is scant. A smarter, failsafe approach is the peer-reviewed LYMA supplement that contains Lycored Lycopene™ and Vita-Algae D3™ 2,000 i.u. - two ingredients that have been robustly trialled and patented for their proven results on beauty.
Vitamin C skin benefits are only one element and the general health benefits of vitamin C are considerable. As an important physiological antioxidant, vitamin C can play an important role in wound healing and immune function. In the body, Vitamin C is required for the biosynthesis of collagen; an essential component of connective tissues such as the skin, gut, blood vessels, ligaments and bones.
Vitamin C is deemed completely safe to use topically and there is no evidence to suggest you can have too much of it. However, it must be applied with a slow and steady approach. Too strong a concentration of vitamin C can cause redness, sensitivity and stinging to the skin.
L-ascorbic acid is vitamin C in its purest and most unstable form, meaning that skincare products containing it are often compromised and not delivering at their stated level. L-ascorbic acid degrades quickly in air, so has to be encased in airtight containers. It also begins to break down in sunlight, so must be stored in opaque bottles, not on a bathroom shelf but rather in a drawer or cupboard.
L-ascorbic acid can be quick to lose its potency, so pay attention to expiration dates on bottles and use them within that time-frame. Most vitamin C formulations have a shelf life of 3-4 months if kept in a dark place, out of direct sunlight.
Another complication of vitamin C skincare products is that L-ascorbic acid must be in an anhydrous base, (non water based) because as soon as it comes into contact with water vitamin C will dissolve, oxidise and become of no use to the skin. This is why vitamin C skincare products are almost always held in oil-based, squalane or silicone based formulas.
Concentration is key when it comes to vitamin C and this can be confusing to consumers. Formulas for sensitive skin and those new to it, are advised to start at a dose of L-ascorbic acid around 0.3%. Individuals with a high skin tolerance can go up to concentrations around 25%, sometimes even higher.
L-ascorbic acid is the gold standard for vitamin C but it is only stable at a pH level of 3.5 or less. This low pH is acutely acidic and can therefore be astringent to skin and cause discomfort. Even off the shelf beauty counter vitamin C formulas can cause stinging, burning and damage to the skin. As a result, other versions of vitamin C have been engineered to make it more skin friendly and enable options of vitamin C for sensitive skin.
Vitamin C is unanimously recommended by dermatologists and experts as a safe and effective antioxidant for skin but its high volatility and likelihood of causing irritation make it less than ideal in many cases. This is why science-led companies like LYMA have gone in search of alternative antioxidants that have a more stable, proven track record. Much like Vitamin C, Lycored Lycopene™ is a potent skin nutrient that prevents and delays cell damage. A carotenoid found naturally in brightly coloured fruit and vegetables, Lycored Lycopene™ like Vitamin C, can be obtained through diet although it is not possible to get as much as it needs to supplementation is vital. Lycored Lycopene™ as a carotenoid is unrivalled in its ability to reverse damage to the skin and the degradation of collagen, which is why it’s been formulated into the LYMA supplement at the clinically proven daily dose of 30mg.