How to Deliver Vitamin C Skincare Benefits, Straight to Your Skin
by elmt Lab on Feb 24, 2023
Ascorbic Acid - The Ultimate Well-Aging Hero
If you're looking for a way to enhance your skin's texture, reduce wrinkles and improve elasticity, ascorbic acid is an ingredient you don't want to miss in your skincare routine. Ascorbic acid, the technical name for pure vitamin C, has been extensively researched and shown to have remarkable well-aging effects on human skin.
The photos below show the improvement in the skin of two individuals who used a high concentrate vitamin C cream once every day for six months. The individual pictured in the top row of photos showed reduced facial redness, fine lines and dark spots as seen in the "after" photo. The individual pictures in the bottom row of photos showed reduced hyperpigmentation as seen in the "after" photo.
But in order to truly reap the benefits of vitamin C, it's crucial to ensure that it penetrates beyond the skin barrier and reaches the dermis, the middle layer of our skin that contains collagen, elastic tissue and other components that help support and protect our skin.
To achieve this, your vitamin C product needs to clear two key missions.
Mission 1. Maintain Freshness Through Stabilization
Due to regular exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays, our skin undergoes oxidation on a daily basis. This can lead to signs of aging such as wrinkles and freckles over time. However, studies show that using vitamin C skincare can help counteract this process and protect the skin from further photo damage by oxidizing in place of the skin. Thus, vitamin C’s effectiveness in anti-aging care.
While pure vitamin C is famous for its excellent effects, it's also notorious for oxidizing quickly. Ironically, this is due to its powerful antioxidant properties. Because of its delicate nature, pure vitamin C is susceptible to oxidation from external factors such as air, moisture, UV rays, high temperatures, and alkaline environments.
The graph below depicts results from a study about how sunlight affects pure vitamin C products in cream form. Researchers made three different cream variations each with a different emulsifier - myristic acid, stearic acid and palmitic acid - and observed how exposure to sunlight affected their stability.
Despite slight variation depending on the emulsifier used, it's crucial to note that all three creams experienced some degree of breakdown from sunlight exposure.
💡 Question: Can we use an oxidized vitamin C product?
📌 Answer: No, especially if the contents have become dark orange or brown in color. This is a sign that the product’s vitamin C has lost much of its efficacy and can potentially cause skin irritation.
To ensure your vitamin C product stays fresh, here are a few things to keep an eye out for:
1. Choose products with airless containers
Airless containers help preserve pure vitamin C’s freshness by blocking out external air and moisture from entering with each use.
2. Choose products with dark or opaque containers
Dark or opaque containers with low UV transmittance help to shield pure vitamin C from harmful UV rays. As vitamin C is sensitive to UV rays, we suggest using pure vitamin C products at night for best results. However, if using during the day, remember to apply sunscreen to protect your skin.
3. Avoid long term storage in high temperatures
Pure vitamin C is sensitive to high temperatures and UV radiation. To ensure product longevity, it’s best to avoid storing it in environments with temperatures exceeding 40°C.
4. Check the product’s pH
An effective vitamin C product will have an acidic pH due to vitamin C’s naturally acidic nature. As a rule of thumb, if a product contains less than 5% pure vitamin C its pH should fall between 2.0 and 3.5, the ideal range for stability.
Mission 2. Utilize Effective Delivery Methods
As mentioned above, vitamin C is known to be most stable when not exposed to air or water, yet it requires water for its efficacy to be activated. Due to its contradicting properties, the best solution to maximize its effectiveness is to activate it just before use.
Here are a few ways that can be made possible:
1. Powder type product formulated without a fluid base
Features & Benefits: In its natural form, pure vitamin C exists in a sharp crystalline structure. Because products in powder form maintain pure vitamin C in its natural state and eliminate contact with water, it keeps risk of oxidation during storage low.
Note: To effectively use powder type products, each particle must be thoroughly dissolved in a water-based product, such as toner, serum or cream. Take care to ensure it has dissolved properly to activate its properties and ensure it effectively penetrates the skin.
2. Water-based product stabilized with antioxidant rich ingredients
Features & Benefits: When pure vitamin C is dissolved in water, it becomes fully activated and is more quickly absorbed by the skin, delivering its effects faster. Combining it with other antioxidants, such as Ferulic Acid, can help delay oxidation.
Note: The presence of water in the product can cause it to oxidize faster. Keep an eye out for any discoloration, and store in a cool, shaded area.
3. Powder dispersed in a water-free (anhydrous) base
Features & Benefits: Water-free vitamin C products provide a unique textural experience, similar to that of beads in clay, which is created by using water-free bases like silicones and polyols. By removing water from the formula, the risk of oxidation is reduced, making them more reliable than powder forms by blocking off any exposure to airborne oxygen and water. Additionally, their smooth gliding texture makes them convenient to use.
Note: It's important to note that vitamin C crystals are not dissolved, but rather suspended and preserved in a crystalline state. When using a water-free product, it is essential to ensure that the particles are evenly dispersed for maximum effectiveness. Some water-free products may still require water to be added for proper use, similar to powder type products.
 Nicholas P J Stamford, BSc(Hons), MA, MMngt, PhD, Stability transdermal penetration and cutaneous effects of ascorbic acid, Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, 2012](https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/jocd.12006)
 Iqbal Ahmad, Muhammad Ali Sheraz, Sofia Ahmed, Riaz Hussain Shaikh, Faiyaz H. M. Vaid, Saif ur Rehman Khattak, and Shakeel A. Ansari, Photostability and Interaction of Ascorbic Acid in Cream Formulations, APS PharmSciTech, Vol. 12, No. 3, September 2011](https://link.springer.com/article/10.1208/s12249-011-9659-1)