The Real Effect of Vitamin C in Skincare
As our bodies cannot make vitamin C, we rely on our diets and supplementation to provide this extremely important nutrient. Topically, vitamin C offers antioxidant protection against UVA, UVB, and environmental pollutants, as well as skin brightening capabilities and collagen stimulation.
While vitamin C has very real benefits to the skin, recent popularity has caused many skincare products to offer lesser forms of vitamin C to cut costs, fool consumers, and improve marketing agendas. In this blog, we will break down the differences in forms of vitamin C commonly used in topical products and what you should look out for when considering your next antioxidant serum.
The Most Common Forms of Vitamin C
There are many derivatives of vitamin C used in skincare, including ascorbyl palmitate, magnesium ascorbyl phosphate, tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate, and L-ascorbic acid. The first two are widely used in over-the-counter skincare products because they are less expensive alternatives and they can still make a vitamin C claim. They also have a tendency to be more gentle and more stable. The trade-off, however, is that these forms of vitamin C are far less effective, if effective at all, at producing positive changes in the skin and providing antioxidant coverage.
L-ascorbic acid is the purest form of vitamin C and any derivatives must be converted into L-ascorbic acid within the skin to be truly effective at stimulating collagen production, providing antioxidant protection, and brightening the appearance of the skin. Tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate is one derivative of vitamin C that has been shown to effectively make this conversion.
The downside of L-ascorbic acid is that it is unstable (unless compounded at the time of purchase) and has a low pH, which makes it a poor alternative for patients with sensitive or dry skin. Patients who have oily or acne-prone skin should consider the use of L-ascorbic acid, as the low pH also offers clarifying properties.
In addition, some vitamin C products that contain L-ascorbic acid may also contain harmful solvents in an attempt to stabilize the vitamin C and keep it from oxidizing. These solvents can harm your skin's natural lipid barrier and cause other complications.
What Color is Your Vitamin C Product?
Believe it or not, the color of your skincare product can say a lot about its efficacy. When it comes to vitamin C, for instance, be weary of products that are tinted, especially if they have a yellow appearance, which is often an indication that the vitamin C within the product has oxidized.
Vitamin C should always be a clear and colorless to be effective. Tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate is stable within a formula for up to 1 year and will then breakdown and begin to oxidize. L-ascorbic acid is extremely unstable and requires compounding at the time of dispensing to provide a clear, colorless liquid and then has approximately 60 days before it will begin oxidizing. Vitamin C that has oxidized is no longer providing antioxidant benefits and can, in fact, create the very concerns that the use of topical vitamin C is meant to address.
A Medical-Grade Alternative
Lumen offers both tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate and the L-ascorbic acid options for patients at medical-grade concentrations, free of harmful solvents and fragrances. Talk to our skin care professionals about which option is right for your skin.