When you look in the mirror, do you wish that your skin looked a little bit smoother and radiant? Do you wish that there was a way to not look so tired and to make a return to your fresh-faced self? The truth is that these thoughts go through almost everybody’s head at some point. Even if you are blessed with good genetics and you have a skin care routine that you love, there are still those days when you wish you could look a little brighter, a little fresher. Skin care products have come a long way in preserving the health of our skin, and maybe even turning back the hands of time just a bit. However, there is one ingredient that can not only help your skin look healthier and prevent premature aging, but also help you regain that youthful glow that seems to be missing from your reflection lately. To make it even better, this ingredient is natural, straight from Mother Earth herself. I am talking about good old Vitamin C.
If you are like me, you probably associate Vitamin C with staying healthy, particularly in the cold and flu season. Growing up, chicken soup and Vitamin C were the remedy for almost any ailment. While there is evidence to both support and deny the claim that Vitamin C fights the common cold, there is no question that this powerful vitamin has a lot to offer in terms of skin health.
For starters, Vitamin C is a critical component in the synthesis of collagen, which is the structural matrix that keeps your skin firm, subtle and young looking. The pink, luscious fleshiness of a baby’s cheeks is all thanks to collagen. As we age, even into our twenties and early thirties, collagen production begins to decrease by about one to two percent per year. By the time you turn 40, you will have lost approximately ten to twenty percent of your collagen and new synthesis begins to rapidly decline. But, what if you could do something to help slow down or halt the natural decrease in collagen production? Evidence shows that Vitamin C just might be able to help you with this.
Collagen cells contain amino acids. To produce collagen, the amino acids go through a process called hydroxylation. Vitamin C is a necessary cofactor in this process. Without adequate amounts of Vitamin C, the synthesis of collagen cannot occur. It is thought that adding enough VC to your skin through skin care products and diet might be enough to re-stimulate collagen production, even if your skin has been thinking about closing up the collagen factory.
The synthesis of collagen isn’t the only reason that vitamin C is a valuable member of a good skin care routine. Vitamin C can also:
- Protect your skin against photodamage caused by UVB rays
- Aid in healing of wounds
- Offer up its free antioxidant power. Vitamin C helps battle the free radicals that lead to premature aging and in some cases, even skin cancer.
- Even out skin discolorations
- Smooth overall skin texture
- Reduce the appearance of undereye circles
- Improve moisture and hydration levels
- Reduce inflammation and the presence of inflammatory skin conditions
This is quite a bit of power coming from one vitamin. So, what is the best way of treating your skin with Vitamin C? Is it topically or through nutrition? The answer is both.
When you consume foods that are high in Vitamin C, absorption of the vitamin is limited by an active transport mechanism in the gut. In simpler terms, you absorb much less Vitamin C than you consume. Vitamin C has a lot of work to do throughout your entire body, including your skin. However, the limited amount that is actually absorbed means that the amount that is available to your skin is relatively small. Thankfully, you can supplement this with Vitamin C infused skin care products.
As part of great skin care routine, you will find Vitamin C added in products such as moisturizers, targeted serums and facial mists. The Vitamin C molecule is small enough that it has good bioavailability when applied topically. Rather than make its way through your entire system, topical vitamin C gets right to the task of improving the health and appearance of your skin.
Keep in mind though that not all Vitamin C products are created equal. To begin with, you need a fairly high concentration of Vitamin C in a product for it to really have an effect. It is suggested that for maximum absorption, you should look for products that have a twenty percent concentration. Should you go higher if possible? Not necessarily. There isn’t any evidence that higher concentrations provide higher bioavailability. Your best bet is to go with products with a concentration around 20% and that value integrity and the use natural ingredients.
Vitamin C can take on many different names once you start looking at the ingredients list of your favorite product. Vitamin C can appear under any of the following aliases.
- Vitamin C20
- Ascorbic Acid or AA
- Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate or SAP
- Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate or MAP
- Ascorbyl Palmitate or AA-PAL
- Ascorbyl Tetra-Isopalmitate or VC-IP
- Ascorbyl Glucoside or AA-2G
- Ascorbyl 2-Phosphate 6-Palmitate or APPS
- 3-O-Ethyl Ascorbate or EAC
- Retinyl Ascorbate
Another thing to keep in mind when choosing a Vitamin C skin care product is that in general, Vitamin C is a gentle, non-irritating ingredient that is well tolerated by a wide variety of skin types and sensitivities. If the Vitamin C product that you use causes you any irritation or dryness, don’t blame the Vitamin C, but instead consider a different, gentler product.
Vitamin C is also a great team player in the skin care game and pairs well with products that contain other therapeutic ingredients such as hyaluronic acid, vitamin E, astaxanthin, and green tea extract.
As with anything worth having, you need to treat your Vitamin C products properly to ensure that they provide you with the benefits that you are looking for. Vitamin C can breakdown and degrade easily compared to other more stable skin care ingredients, and some forms of the vitamin are more volatile than others. Because of this, it is important to take proper care of your Vitamin C skin care products. Proper care includes keeping them out of direct sunlight and extreme temperatures. It also means, using the product regularly rather than letting it sit on your vanity countertop for a year and then expecting it to produce noticeable results. Look for products that are packaged in dark or opaque containers and look for an expiration or use by date on the package. While old Vitamin C products won’t likely harm your skin, they do lose their effectiveness, so they might not exactly help you achieve that youthful glow either.
While we mentioned that only a small amount of the Vitamin C that you consume makes it way to your skin cells, that little bit is still very important. Important enough that you should make Vitamin C-rich foods a staple of your daily diet, and in fact, your whole body will thank you. Vitamin C derived from the foods you eat can not only keep your skin looking young, but also provide other healthy benefits such as antioxidant properties, improved immunity, improved mineral absorption, improved circulation and better overall dental health. The recommend daily allowance of dietary Vitamin C is 90mg per day for men and 75 mg per day for women.
If you are interested in really seeing what effects Vitamin C can have on your skin health you can always increase the amount that you consume to be greater than the RDA. It is thought that there are no serious side effects with higher doses of Vitamin C up to 2000 mg per day. However, higher amounts of Vitamin C can cause some unpleasant symptoms such as nausea, diarrhea and general digestive and intestinal upset.
The next question is when you are looking to add more Vitamin C to your diet, do you scope out the produce section or the supplement aisle? Research shows that Vitamin C is equally bioavailable whether it comes from food or quality supplements. Notice the word “quality” there because in supplements it is especially important. So, basically, it is a matter of personal choice. However, you need to be eating a very well-rounded wholesome diet to get in enough of high Vitamin C foods to fit the bill, at least if you want to make a difference in the appearance and health of your skin. Since Vitamin C is water soluble, there is no harm in adding a supplement even if your diet is already rich in vitamin C foods. Again, it is all about personal preference.
So, what does a “high Vitamin C” content grocery list look like? Here is a list of foods with some of the highest Vitamin C contents.
- Citrus fruits such as oranges and grapefruit
- Red and green bell peppers
- Certain green vegetables such as broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, spinach, kale, and turnip greens
- Winter squash
- Mango and guava
The great, positive effects that Vitamin C can have on the way you look and the way you feel is just additional proof that what you put both into and onto your body matters. Vitamins help to heal your body from the inside out, and in some cases from the outside in. The next time you are ready to reach for a synthetic, chemical treatment to ease away a few of those early signs of aging, try reaching for something a little more natural, like Vitamin C, instead. In this case, Vitamin C outshines unnatural ingredients in so many ways. Plus, it can be delicious too! I bet you can’t say that about the list of ingredients on your moisturizer that are unpronounceable. Nature almost always offers a gentler and more effective option when you are open to it.