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Science Saturday: Vitamin C

Vitamin C gets A LOT of attention in the skincare industry, but it is more often touted as a magical panacea that “does great stuff” than as an actual comprehensive ingredient with specific properties. So today, we are going to take a second to demystify Vitamin C, so you can understand what it actually is, and how it works!

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If you asked most people what has vitamin C, they’d probably say “Citrus fruit!” And they wouldn’t be wrong! 🙂 Photo by Brooke Lark at Unsplash

When most people hear “Vitamin C”, they probably immediately conjure up images of freshly poured orange juice… and they would be forgiven for doing that, because the citrus fruits pack one hell of a vitamin C punch! But vitamin C is found in more than just your morning OJ (don’t worry, we won’t give you the WHOLE list… it’s pretty extensive!). Rose hips, kiwis, and cantaloupe all rock the vitamin C. But so do some surprising sources like kale, thyme, parsley and Brussels sprouts!

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Vitamin C is in more than you would think! Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash.

So what is it, exactly? Vitamin C, also called L-ascorbic acid, is a water soluble vitamin that the body can’t synthesize on it’s own- it’s something that needs to be added either in diet or topical application. 1 Because of it’s chemical structure, vitamin C in skincare is generally found either in powdered form (to be stirred into your favorite products) or in a hydrous, or water based, formula. L-ascorbic acid doesn’t dissolve in oil. 1 That doesn’t mean there’s no such thing as a vitamin C oil serum- tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate is an oil soluble form of vitamin C! 2

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Vitamin C- it makes for some really happy skin! 🙂 Photo by Noah Buscher at Unsplash

Vitamin C is infamous in the skincare industry both for it’s antioxidant properties, and for it’s ability to aid in the maintenance and synthesis of collagen (the cellular structure that gives skin it’s elasticity). 

But how does it work? TO explain this, I’m going to have to explain what collagen is (not super science-y? Don’t worry, I’ll make this as pain-free as possible! Love reading science journals? Got you covered, the links and references are at the end of the post!). Stemming from the Greek word kolla (“glue”), collagen is structural protein found throughout the body, mainly in the skin and in connective tissues like ligaments and cartiledge.3 It’s pretty awesome, and is composed of three main amino acids, glycine, hydroxyproline, and proline.4 Without going overboard with information, these three amino acids link together to create a chain,  facilitated all along the way with vitamin C, through a process called hydroxylation.4 It’s super cool, and you can learn more about collagen synthesis HERE, if you want to know the full nuts and bolts.

As we age, though, our body’s ability to speedily create more collagen decreases, leading to less collagen synthesis, and thus, to lower ratios of collagen present.5 There are additional factors that effect the slow down of collagen production like excessive exposure to sunlight and environmental. And while having a diet rich in vitamin C is awesome for keeping the collagen pipeline flowing for your joints, ligaments and cartiledges, studies have shown it doesn’t do a whole lot for your skin.6

Hold the panic. Applied topically, vitamin C has proven incredibly effective in both maintaining and stimulating collagen production in the skin.6 It sounds a little too good to be true, but a clinical study in 1999 showed that using a topical source of vitamin C helped to rejuvenate the skin.7 These claims were supported by another study in 2002.8 And then another one in 2003.9 And another one in 2004.10 

So we’re comfortable saying that vitamin C is a thing, and it’s awesome!

Here at The Raw Spa, we macerate rose hips and vegetable glycerine to extract all the awesome phytochemicals locked away in the rose hip, including vitamin C!  You can find or rose hip extract in nearly all the Nefertiti products, as well as the Garnet Booster Ampoule!

Wondering where I got my information from? Behold my references! And also apologies for not being able to figure out how to link the footnotes. 

1. Available at: https://www.drugs.com/monograph/ascorbic-acid.html. Accessed December 3, 2018.
2. Available at: https://www.truthinaging.com/ingredients/tetrahexyldecyl-ascorbate. Accessed December 3, 2018.
3. Available at: https://www.dictionary.com/browse/collagen. Accessed December 17, 2018
4. Pinnell SR. Regulation of collagen synthesis. J Invest Dermatol. 1982 Jul;79 Suppl 1:73s-76s. Available at: https://www.jidonline.org/article/S0022-202X(15)46404-8/pdf
5. Rhie G, Shin MH, Seo JY, et al. Aging- and photoaging-dependent changes of enzymic and nonenzymic antioxidants in the epidermis and dermis of human skin in vivo. J Invest Dermatol. 2001 Nov;117(5):1212-7. Available at: https://www.jidonline.org/article/S0022-202X(15)41443-5/fulltext
6. Available at: https://www.skin911.com/pages/anti-aging-ingredient-definition-what-they-do.html. Accessed December 10, 2018.
7. Traikovich SS. Use of topical ascorbic acid and its effects on photodamaged skin topography. Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 
1999 Oct;125(10):1091-8. Abstract available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10522500
8. Fitzpatrick RE, Rostan EF. Double-blind, half-face study comparing topical vitamin C and vehicle for rejuvenation of photodamage. Dermatol Surg. 2002 Mar;28(3):231-6. Available at: http://beauty-review.nl/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Double%E2%80%90Blind-Half%E2%80%90Face-Study-Comparing-Topical-Vitamin-C-and-Vehicle-for-Rejuvenation-of-Photodamage.pdf
9. Humbert PG, Haftek M, Creidi P, et al. Topical ascorbic acid on photoaged skin. Clinical, topographical and ultrastructural evaluation: double-blind study vs. placebo. Exp Dermatol. 2003 Jun;12(3):237-44. Available at: https://orbi.uliege.be/bitstream/2268/39190/2/Humbert2003-postprintauteur.pdf
10. Raschke T, Koop U, Dusing HJ, et al. Topical activity of ascorbic acid: from in vitro optimization to in vivo efficacy. Skin Pharmacol Physiol. 2004 Jul;17(4):200-6. Abstract available at:  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15258452

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