Ingredient Spotlight: Vitamin C



 

 

 

 

What is vitamin C and how does it help your body?

 

An essential nutrient throughout the body, Vitamin C is involved in everything from immunity protection to the body’s stress response.

Found in foods including citrus fruits, blackcurrants, broccoli and potatoes.

Known to protect cells and keep them healthy, maintain bones and blood vessels, and help with wound healing.

A powerful antioxidant: vitamin C protects the body from free radical damage and helps support collagen production*

Found in high levels within the skin’s epidermis – with brightening and anti-aging properties.

The body cannot store vitamin C, so it must be taken regularly to maintain levels.

 

As ingredient buzz levels go, vitamin C is off the scale. Thanks to its roles in everything from immunity to anti-pigmentation – it is one of the best-known vitamins around, and it supports many vital functions in the body.

While horror stories of sailors with scurvy may have convinced you to eat oranges as a child, vitamin C’s present popularity stems from its benefits for skin. Specifically, its glow-giving, radiance-revealing powers.

At Advanced Nutrition Programme™, we know that these headline-grabbing properties are only the beginning of vitamin C’s credentials. Vitamin C plays an important role in skin health far beyond the glow and is a hero nutrient for daily skin health.

Here, we take a deep dive into the science behind the vitamin and run through precisely why and how vitamin C is beneficial to skin – from antioxidising powers to its complexion brightening potential.

 

 

What is vitamin C?

Found in foods ranging from oranges and lemons to brussels sprouts and potatoes: vitamin C is one of the most important nutrients in the body and is integral to innumerable biological processes. Within the skin, vitamin C is renowned for its brightening, protective properties.

Vitamin C has a potent reputation, and it is sometimes touted as a wellbeing panacea: claimed to help everything from heart disease to loss of memory. Most of these grandiose claims are unproven and boosting your vitamin C levels won’t make you superhuman.

However, ensuring the body has adequate stocks of vitamin C is vital, as it a component in activities ranging from the stress response to cardiovascular function.

A severe vitamin C deficiency – or scurvy – can be characterised by symptoms as varied as fatigue, excessive bruising, or joint pains.

There also is emerging evidence connecting vitamin C to everything from collagen production to cognitive function, and our understanding of its vital role within the body is an evolving all the time.

 

 

Why is vitamin C good for skin?

Beyond general health benefits, vitamin C has specific roles in keeping skin healthy. Thanks to its brightening and anti-aging properties, it has become a hugely popular ingredient in modern skincare.

Vitamin C is found within the skin’s intercellular matrix (the substance filling the gaps between cells) where it plays numerous roles in maintaining skin health.

Normal skin contains high levels of vitamin C in the epidermis (the top layer of skin), but supplies are swiftly depleted by factors including UV exposure, pollution and stress. Vitamin C is involved in processes ranging from collagen formation to UV protection. If the skin does not have enough vitamin C these functions can be impacted.

 

 

An ultimate antioxidant?

Essentially, antioxidants protect the skin from damaging lifestyle and environmental factors such as pollution, UV damage, stress and smoking.

Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant. Many of vitamin C’s skin properties stem from its antioxidant status: UV protection, wound healing and anti-aging are all connected to this function.

Antioxidants protect skin from substances known as free radicals: these are highly reactive molecules that can damage the skin by causing oxidisation and are produced by our lifestyle and environment. Think of rusting metal, or how a cut apple turns brown: that’s oxidisation in action.

As the name suggests, antioxidants prevent oxidisation from happening. They protect cells from free radical damage, which has been linked to a host of health issues: from skin aging to various diseases.

 

 

Radiance renewer

Vitamin C has become a byword for glow, and it is a staple in the routine of those with uneven or tired skin.

These skin brightening impacts are related to how vitamin C interacts with our skin cells, and its role in the process of pigmentation.

Melanin is the pigment within our skin and hair and is responsible for our natural skin tone and hair colour. Produced by skin cells called melanocytes, it is thought to be partially responsible for protecting skin against UV damage, as it is produced when our skin is exposed to sunlight. A natural tan or a summer explosion of freckles are both signs of skin reacting to protect itself from damaging UV rays.

If melanocytes become damaged (most often by excessive UV exposure) they can produce melanin in excess. This leads to pigmentation and dullness.

Vitamin C can help to minimise excessive pigmentation acting as something called a “tyrosinase inhibitor”. Tyrosinase is an enzyme needed to produce melanin: vitamin C stops it from working, which regulates pigment production.

Research has shown that oral supplementation of vitamin C has a significant impact on skin tone and pigmentation[1]. A 2016 study showed significant skin tone and brightness improvements to participants taking a fermented papaya supplement for 90 days. [2]

 

 

Collagen’s secret support

Fine lines and wrinkles are a classic hallmark of aging, and one of their causes can be dwindling levels of collagen in the skin or damage to collagen structure. Collagen acts like a scaffolding within the skin, supporting its structure, so when levels decline or elements become damaged, we notice the impacts in the skin’s texture and elasticity.

Like so many other substances in the skin (such as hyaluronic acid and ceramides) collagen production slows down as we age, beginning to slow after the mid-20s. Vitamin C is one ingredient that can support and maintain skin’s production of normal collagen*, helping maintain elasticity and structure of the skin.

Vitamin C is a co-actor in the creation of collagen, meaning it must be present in the body for the process of collagen production to happen[3]. One study from 2015 found that vitamin C was “highly effective in rejuvenating the skin” primarily thanks to its collagen synthesising properties.[4]

 

 

An immunity powerhouse?

Outside of its skin benefits, vitamin C is often spoken about for its benefits supporting our immune system. Its reputation is such that when the pandemic first struck in March 2020, sales of vitamin C supplements soared by 110%[5].

Beyond idiomatic advice that eating plenty of oranges can ward off a cold, there is extensive research attesting to the benefits of vitamin C for the immune system.

Researchers have suggested numerous ways vitamin C may be used by the immune system. These include: antioxidant protection, supporting the epithelial barrier function (which protects against physical damage and infection), killing unwanted microbes, decreasing tissue damage, and even enhancing the differentiation and proliferation of T-cells and B-cells[6] – the cells that the body produces to help fight infections and diseases.

Recent research has also begun to investigate the role vitamin C plays in regulating inflammation. Several studies have shown that those experiencing inflammatory skin conditions often have much lower levels of vitamin C in the body[7].

In one trial of patients with atopic dermatitis (eczema), vitamin C levels were shown to be less than half the norm, and the lower the level of vitamin C in the body, the more severe the eczema.[8] Researchers are continuing to investigate the exact nature of the link, but vitamin C is clearly an impressive multi-tasking molecule.

 

 

Eat me

There are different forms of vitamin C which contain ascorbic acid, sodium ascorbyl phosphate or ascorbyl palmitate. When it comes to skin, topical application is beneficial, and oral vitamin C can also deliver significant skin results.

Numerous studies have demonstrated changes to skin thanks to the supplementation of vitamin C.  Collagen production, antioxidant protection, healing, eased pigmentation, and more hydrated looking skin have all been demonstrated in various scientific studies on vitamin C supplementation[9].

In addition to these skin benefits, vitamin C may be one of the most important nutrients to supplement, as it is vital to so many processes within the body. Skin is the last place in the body to receive the vitamin C we ingest, as vital organs and processes take priority. To see skin benefits from vitamin C, it’s important to make sure that there are optimum levels in the whole body and taking a Vitamin C is a helpful way to do this.

 

 

 

[1] Kameyama, K et al. “Inhibitory effect of magnesium L-ascorbyl-2-phosphate (VC-PMG) on melanogenesis in vitro and in vivo.” Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology vol. 34,1 (1996): 29-33. doi:10.1016/s0190-9622(96)90830-0

[2] Bertuccelli, Giuseppe et al. “Effect of a quality-controlled fermented nutraceutical on skin aging markers: An antioxidant-control, double-blind study.” Experimental and therapeutic medicine vol. 11,3 (2016): 909-916. doi:10.3892/etm.2016.3011 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26998011/

[3] DePhillipo, Nicholas N et al. “Efficacy of Vitamin C Supplementation on Collagen Synthesis and Oxidative Stress After Musculoskeletal Injuries: A Systematic Review.” Orthopaedic journal of sports medicine vol. 6,10 2325967118804544. 25 Oct. 2018, doi:10.1177/2325967118804544

[4] Crisan, Diana et al. “The role of vitamin C in pushing back the boundaries of skin aging: an ultrasonographic approach.” Clinical, cosmetic and investigational dermatology vol. 8 463-70. 2 Sep. 2015, doi:10.2147/CCID.S84903

[5] https://www.thegrocer.co.uk/category-reports/immunity-to-your-door-healthcare-and-supplements-category-report-2020/605009.article

[6] Carr, Anitra C, and Silvia Maggini. “Vitamin C and Immune Function.” Nutrients vol. 9,11 1211. 3 Nov. 2017, doi:10.3390/nu9111211

[7] Shin, Jihye et al. “Associations among plasma vitamin C, epidermal ceramide and clinical severity of atopic dermatitis.” Nutrition research and practice vol. 10,4 (2016): 398-403. doi:10.4162/nrp.2016.10.4.398

[8] Shin, Jihye et al. “Associations among plasma vitamin C, epidermal ceramide and clinical severity of atopic dermatitis.” Nutrition research and practice vol. 10,4 (2016): 398-403. doi:10.4162/nrp.2016.10.4.398

[9] Pullar, Juliet M et al. “The Roles of Vitamin C in Skin Health.” Nutrients vol. 9,8 866. 12 Aug. 2017, doi:10.3390/nu9080866

Fuchs, J, and H Kern. “Modulation of UV-light-induced skin inflammation by D-alpha-tocopherol and L-ascorbic acid: a clinical study using solar simulated radiation.” Free radical biology & medicine vol. 25,9 (1998): 1006-12. doi:10.1016/s0891-5849(98)00132-4

https://www.thegrocer.co.uk/category-reports/immunity-to-your-door-healthcare-and-supplements-category-report-2020/605009.article

Kameyama, K et al. “Inhibitory effect of magnesium L-ascorbyl-2-phosphate (VC-PMG) on melanogenesis in vitro and in vivo.” Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology vol. 34,1 (1996): 29-33. doi:10.1016/s0190-9622(96)90830-0

Lin, Jing-Yi et al. “UV photoprotection by combination topical antioxidants vitamin C and vitamin E.” Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology vol. 48,6 (2003): 866-74. doi:10.1067/mjd.2003.425

Pullar, Juliet M et al. “The Roles of Vitamin C in Skin Health.” Nutrients vol. 9,8 866. 12 Aug. 2017, doi:10.3390/nu9080866

Shin, Jihye et al. “Associations among plasma vitamin C, epidermal ceramide and clinical severity of atopic dermatitis.” Nutrition research and practice vol. 10,4 (2016): 398-403. doi:10.4162/nrp.2016.10.4.398

Tajima, S, and S R Pinnell. “Ascorbic acid preferentially enhances type I and III collagen gene transcription in human skin fibroblasts.” Journal of dermatological science vol. 11,3 (1996): 250-3. doi:10.1016/0923-1811(95)00640-0

 

*Vitamin C contributes to normal collagen formation for the normal function of skin.