A lot has been said recently about the effect vitamin C has on human skin. In the past few years, people have been going crazy for vitamin C serums and the potential applications of the vitamin itself.
But what makes it so special?
What makes the skincare community give it an A+ rating in battling acne, while some researchers insist on the fact that vitamin C is not nearly as important or beneficial as the hype suggests it is? Beauty bloggers gush about vitamin C serums constantly. What is it all about? Are they really as effective as they claim? If you are thinking about adding vitamin C to your daily regimen, here are some pretty useful facts and tips.
What Is Vitamin C?
Vitamin C can be found in many foods and is one of the antioxidants that can be found in nature. Unlike most plants and animals, humans are unable to synthesize vitamin C in their bodies, so they must acquire it through food. It’s known for its strong antioxidant properties and it’s been established that it’s a great helper in the regeneration of tissue.
Vitamin C vs. Acne
Since our subject of interest today is whether it can help fight and prevent acne, let’s go through all the processes this vitamin is involved in, and the properties it has.
Vitamin C is crucial for collagen creation. It’s a co-factor in the process of stabilizing it and improving the quality of the collagen. Studies have shown that external application of vitamin C has improved collagen production in both young and older people. Collagen is a protein which holds the cells together, giving our skin the right amount of elasticity, often flattening wrinkles and preventing new ones from forming. It can also help with the rejuvenation of acne scars.
The anti-inflammatory properties of vitamin C are pretty well known. It can drastically reduce redness and inflammation in acne.
As soon as bacteria starts to build up and the acne starts to form, our immune system reacts by releasing chemicals and white blood cells to fight the bacteria. But since bacteria have a defense mechanism trick which sets a sort of bait for the white blood cells who are meant to destroy the bacteria. The chemicals and white blood cells usually end up attacking healthy cells which in turn forces the immune system to keep releasing the chemical, causing that particular area to inflame.
This is where vitamin C comes in handy. It calms the immune system, diminishing the release of chemicals which end up attacking healthy cells. It reduces the redness by improving capillary function, improving the linings of the cells. Capillaries are blood vessels whose function is to carry nutrients and oxygen to skin cells.
Our skin is constantly exposed to the outside world, and this means there are a lot of toxins which enter our skin as free radicals. Radicals can damage our skin by upsetting its pH value and breaking down some of its constituents, which is why they are considered to be the leading cause of acne. Vitamin C with its antioxidant properties turns these radicals into simple compounds, making them harmless and easier for our body to deal with.
Our bodies can sometimes produce too much melanin, which is the brown pigment that gives skin its color. As an inhibitor of some of the key processes in melanin production, vitamin C is a good agent for depigmentation. It will even out the pigmentation and coloration of your skin.
Vitamin C also provides protection from UV rays. As we all know, UV rays can cause quite a bit of damage to our skin – and it’s a type of damage that long-lasting and accumulates over time. Keep in mind that vitamin C is no substitute for sunscreen. Apply sunscreen when needed, don’t rely on just vitamin C – although it might provide some protection, it’s not nearly as much as you need.
Vitamin C Topicals – How To Use Them
Now that we know of the benefits, it’s time to start treating your face. We are going to examine some of the most popular treatments with vitamin C – from serums, creams, and moisturizers, to food and food supplements.
Vitamin C Serum
Vitamin C serums are generally safe for all skin types but on rare occasions, they may cause slight irritation to people who are highly sensitive to them. Performing a patch test first is a good way to see if a particular serum is a good fit for you. Proceed as follows:
- Apply a small amount of it on a small concealable piece of skin,
- Leave it on for 24 hours
- Check if there is any sort of reaction on your skin. Do not proceed with the treatment if you develop a rash or redness.
When the time for the full treatment comes, make sure you read the product label for instructions. Most serums are usually applied once or twice a day, and as for the dosage, start with lower doses so that you give your skin the time to adapt. Since there is generally no issue about mixing it with other products and treatments (consult a physician if you are not sure!), you can implement it in your morning routine. Remember that consistency is always key. Cleanser first, then a toner (if you use one), and you can go straight for the serum before you wrap it up with a moisturizer.
Creams And Masks
Many facial creams and masks contain vitamin C, but make sure you use one that contains the type called palmityl ascorbate. These treatments are good for hydration, some of them can reduce the appearance of under-eye circles and even boost skin regeneration if you suffer from sunburn, as it boosts general healing.
Ways To Increase Vitamin C Levels
I know that after reading about the list of benefits, you know you should be eating your fruits, but keep in mind that there are multiple ways to increase vitamin C levels.
You can go for a food supplement, and a recommended daily dosage of 65mg for women, 75mg for men. Smokers and secondhand smokers should increase their intake of vitamin C by an additional 35mg per day since they use it up at a faster rate.
Here are some foods which are known to have high levels of vitamin C.
- Citrus fruits and juices
- Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries
- Green and red peppers
- Broccoli, cauliflower
- Spinach, cabbage and other leafy greens
- Winter squash
Keep in mind that cooking foods rich in vitamin C or storing them for a long period of time can lead to lower levels of the vitamin. Watch out for oxidization, as that is something that can easily happen to foods rich in this vitamin. If this happens, throw out the produce and replace it. Oxidization renders it ineffective and can potentially damage your skin. Microwaving or steaming vitamin C-rich foods is better than other methods and will reduce cooking losses, but the end line is that raw fruits and vegetables are the best sources for the vitamin.
Because the inability of our bodies to store vitamin, intake greater than 2,000mg/day is not recommended – but the chances for encountering serious side effects are very small, common side effects of overdosing with Vitamin C are stomach cramps, nausea, diarrhea, and dizziness, and also, since it helps our stomach acquire iron from plants – vitamin C can cause iron overload in our body.
But keep in mind that low doses of vitamin C can also have adverse effects on your health. Some of them include:
- Gingivitis (inflammation of the gums)
- Dry, damaged hair which splits and breaks
- Bleeding gums
- Possible weight gain, fluctuations in metabolic rate
- Joint inflammation
- Weakened immune system
- Decreased general regeneration rate
So what did we learn? There are a lot of pros to using vitamin C as a skin treatment. Its properties improve the general health of our bodies, and also help with all the regenerative processes in our skin.
Now, a lot of beauty bloggers have been vocal about its benefits and how vitamin C topical use has worked wonders for them, but the truth is that vitamin C will have little to no effect if it’s not used with other medical treatments for your acne -whether that means over-the-counter medicine or prescription grade.
As cool and beneficial as vitamin C appears to be, scheduling a visit to your dermatologist should always be your first course of action if you are really struggling with acne or other skin conditions. Also, some of the research regarding the benefits of serums has been rather inconclusive, leading some researchers and bloggers to call for caution and for people to wait until further research is conducted.
After all, there are numerous other treatments available for you and your skin, both with or without vitamin C, but if you want to give it a go, try it in some of the regular creams and moisturizers, see how your skin handles it, and then decide if you want vitamin C to be an active part of your daily regime.