Topical vitamin C can help keep your skin young

Vitamin C can beat tough back acne


(courtesy of the Sephora facebook page)

By Sophia Perkins

Lately there have been a lot of skin-care products claiming to use vitamin C as an anti-aging agent to give people youthful skin; even my dermatologist recommended I use it to reduce acne marks from my high school days. When I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror after my post shower routine (which includes a vitamin C-based serum from Murad) it does look like my skin is glowing despite my baggy pajamas and messy, half-dried hair. Topical applications of vitamin C are supposed to reduce dark marks, wrinkles and other signs of aging. In my opinion, it’s a bold claim, but so far I’ve only had positive experiences. I was inspired to write this article to find out why topical vitamin C works to protect your skin, how effective it actually is and what other benefits it has.

First of all, acne is actually a form of skin infection. When I use the term acne I mean anything from a single monthly pimple to persistent blackheads to painful cystic acne: all of it is considered a skin infection. This means that, in many cases, it does not matter how much someone washes their face or what other treatments they use, they could just be hitting a wall that feels unclimbable because their face washes and treatments might not be specific enough for their needs. Most importantly, acne is persistent and can be incredibly hard to control. That being said, if you have been struggling with acne for a long time and have decided to just “live with it” like I did, I really recommend you go to a dermatologist. It changed my life and my skin for the better.

When it is used topically for acne, vitamin C has been proven to help increase collagen synthesis and reduce redness, which can be helpful during a current breakout. Collagen is a protein within the skin that provides structure; as we age and become exposed to more UV lights and other harmful substances and radiation, our bodies’ natural collagen production decreases. This makes skin more prone to wrinkles and scarring. Vitamin C also helps regulate your immune system, helping to prevent redness and inflammation. I did not come across any research that debunks the benefits of topical vitamin C, so it wouldn’t hurt to at least pick it up to try it. However, the proper application of serums and other products containing vitamin C are more complex than you would think.

Skin sits at a natural pH (acidity) of about 5.4-5.9 and does not absorb vitamin C unless it has a pH of less than 4. So unless something is done to lower the pH of your skin, it won’t absorb any vitamin C no matter how much serum you lather on. You need to use a toner that has a pH below 4 in order to lower the pH of your skin and then immediately apply the vitamin C serum. After 20-30 minutes your skin will neutralize the low pH of the toner and return to its natural pH. It may seem significantly easier for you to just take a supplement, but your body can only absorb so much vitamin C at one time. Topical solutions are favored by dermatologists because they guarantee an adequate amount of vitamin C is reaching the skin; only a sub-optimal amount is taken to the skin from the digestive system.

I hope that the slight complexity does not stop anyone from adding vitamin C to their skin-care regimen. The benefits far outweigh the few extra minutes of work that you might have to put into your daily routine. If you’re looking to buy some serum, I would recommend starting by asking knowledgeable staff who understand the products at places like Ulta or Sephora. Don’t be afraid to ask them to show you multiple products, but try not to let them pressure you into purchasing something on the spot. My best advice is to snap some pictures of a few products they recommend, then go home and do some Google searching to find some unbiased opinions about the product and the companies they are coming from. Find product reviews, testimonials and any other information you need to make sure that you are getting the right product for you.

Sophia Perkins can be reached at [email protected].