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Myth Buster

Are you using this potent skin Vitamin?

Posted on: March 13th, 2018 by Dr. Jennifer Herrmann

You’ve heard it before—Vitamin C is key for skin health. Indeed, a wealth of scientific research has supported this vitamin’s role in optimizing skin function, and almost every cosmeceutical company offers a litany of Vitamin C products. But, what does it actually do, and are all vitamin C creams created equal?

Skin Care benefits of Vitamin C

One of Vitamin C’s main benefits in the skin is its function as an antioxidant. Normal cellular processes as well as environmental insults like ultraviolet light and pollution create free radicals in the skin. Free radicals are inherently unstable molecules that damage cells, promoting skin dullness, wrinkles, and even cancers. By scavenging these free radicals, Vitamin C protects skin, keeping it healthy.

Vitamin C is also praised for its role in collagen synthesis. Collagen gives our skin support and structure, and as it degrades with age, we begin to notice wrinkles and folds. Vitamin C is a necessary cofactor for building collagen bundles, without, which this process halts. Remember Scurvy? Biologic disaster ensued when transatlantic sailors became Vitamin C deficient and lost skin, bone, and even teeth.

Finally, Vitamin C is helpful in decreasing skin pigment or brown discoloration. By blocking the pathway of pigment synthesis, Vitamin C can lighten unwanted brown spots.

It’s clear that Vitamin C plays important functions in promoting skin health, but just squeezing lemon juice and rubbing it onto your skin won’t necessarily offer benefit.

“The problem with Vitamin C,” says Dr. Jennifer Herrmann, a Beverly Hills dermatologist, “is that it doesn’t easily penetrate the skin’s barrier and it’s quite unstable. Vitamin C is hydrophilic, meaning it loves water. This presents a challenge because the skin barrier is mostly made of fats.” Think trying to mix oil and water. “Vitamin C is also very reactive and easily loses its antioxidant properties. Certain alkaline environments, high temperatures, and the presence of oxygen and metal elements can render it ineffective in seconds,” Dr. Herrmann adds.

To overcome these challenges, biologically-minded manufacturers have altered Vitamin C’s structure, so that it better penetrates the skin and stays active longer. But, this is a costly process, and many companies just don’t invest in necessary formulation improvements.

So, should you invest in Vitamin C at all? Here are Dr. Herrmann’s three tips.

  1. The first rule is to throw out any Vitamin C product that has a yellowish-brown discoloration. This means that its anti-aging power has been used up and that it is no longer going to give benefit.
  2. Second, try a product that has been researched extensively by dermatologists or scientists not affiliated with the product. One example is SkinCeuticals CE Ferulic. Multiple independent studies have shown this product to improve skin brilliance, firmness, and pigment problems.
  3. Finally, combine Vitamin C products with laser procedures. Dr. Herrmann’s favorite combination is applying Vitamin C immediately after treatment with the Clear + Brilliant laser. Clear + Brilliant is a very light rejuvenating laser that increases absorption of topical products up to 17 times. While leaving the top laser of skin intact, it creates microscopic areas though which topical creams and serums are more easily absorbed. Because only a fraction of the skin is treated, healing is quick and there is almost not social downtime. When applied after Clear + Brilliant lasering, Vitamin C decreases redness, improves skin radiance, and helps clear stubborn brown spots.

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