Amongst all the numerous kinds of vitamins available from food and supplement sources, it is Vitamin C that garners the most attention with its anti-aging function as the most attractive. We may not be able to stop the process of aging – in fact, we should embrace it as an opportunity for growth – but we can definitely age as gracefully as possible.

So, what exactly is Vitamin C?  It is a water-soluble vitamin, which means that it can easily dissolve in water and then excreted from the body through urine.  As a result, we all need a continuous supply of ascorbic acid in our diet both from food sources and nutritional supplements.

How does Vitamin C work on the skin?

It works in two ways. First, keep in mind that ascorbic acid is an essential component in the development of collagen, which is the cellular glue that gives the skin its strength, firmness and elasticity.  However, our bodies produce lesser amounts of collagen as we age and, thus, slowly giving way to sagging skin with fine lines, wrinkles and even age spots.

So, when we take Vitamin C, we are essentially helping the body produce more collagen.  Of course, with more collagen, we can look forward to firmer skin with lesser signs of aging.

Second, ascorbic acid being a powerful antioxidant, it significantly fights the damaging effects of free radicals on the cellular and exterior levels of the skin.  Scientific studies have shown that Vitamin C helps in repairing damaged skin brought by various factors like injuries, exposure to pollutants and toxins as well as from natural aging itself.

Research also suggests that it may lessen the severity of sunburns brought by ultraviolet B radiation exposure.  This means that Vitamin C can prevent the consequences of long-term exposure to the sun that, in turn, leads to skin cancer.

How do I apply Vitamin C?

Ascorbic acid can be found in natural foods like green peppers, citrus fruits and juices, cantaloupe, strawberries, tomatoes, turnip greens, broccoli, and other leafy greens as well as sweet and white potatoes. However, you may not be getting sufficient amounts of Vitamin C in your diet.

In this case, you can take nutritional supplements that take many forms – conventional tablets and capsules; effervescent and chewable tablets; syrups and drops; powders and granules; ampoules and even prescription injections.

There are also topical skin care applications with vitamin C.  Facial and body washes, exfoliants, lotions and moisturizers are also available.  Just make sure that these products come in the L-ascorbic acid form.

How often should I use Vitamin C to get the desired effect?

It depends on factors like age, sex and physical condition of the individual.  For males, 90 mg is the optimal amount while females can aim for 65 mg per day.  You should also add 65 mg if you are a smoker.  Pregnant women are advised to limit their daily Vitamin C dosage to 85 mg to avoid newborn complications while nursing women should take 120 mg daily. Take note that these dosages are the minimum amounts for disease prevention – as much as 300 mg to 500 mg will be recommended but ask your doctor first.

As for topical applications, it is important to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations.  You want to balance optimal effects with lesser side effects.

What concentration of Vitamin C should I be using so I know it actually works?

The following tips should help in deciding the concentration of ascorbic acid for optimal advantage:

  • Vitamin C in whatever form can only be retained by the body with a maximum of 4 hours.  After said period, it will either be excreted in the urine or oxidized by the cells.  As such, you should take ascorbic acid in small divided doses throughout the day.
  • You will need additional supplementation on the recommended dosages if and when you have a poor diet consisting of processed foods; increased exposure to pollutants and toxins; on cigarettes and alcohol; taking aspirin, cortisone, sulfa drugs and birth control pills; and acute infections like hay fever. In these cases, your dosage should increase to 1000 to 2000 mg daily.
  • As for topical applications, you can apply as often as necessary as these usually have little to no side effects.

Are there issues with Vitamin C stability and what can I do about it?

It must be emphasized that ascorbic acid is sensitive to light, heat and oxygen.  To counteract such instability in daily use, look for more stable derivatives like magnesium ascorbyl phosphate and ascrobyl palmitate.  Any formulation containing vitamin C will be sensitive to light and heat and the product should be discontinued if it changes to an orange or brown color which signifies oxidation. To prevent this, some skincare companies make pure 100% Ascorbic Acid powder which can be mixed with your own products as you use them to ensure maximum efficacy and stability. A good quality vitamin C product is well worth using   especially when one considers that oxidized ascorbic acid facilitates free radical formation instead of fighting it.

This is true for both the oral and the topical forms of ascorbic acid.  Just remember to store them in a cool, dark place as well as to use them as soon as practicable.

Can I use Vitamin C with other products?

Yes, you can use ascorbic acid with other products.  You will find that it works best when combined with products containing nickel, iron, phosphorus, Vitamin A and B15, and selenium, to name a few, since these are ascorbic acid synergists.

However, you should consult with your doctor if you are taking manganese, zinc, calcium, copper, estrogen and even Vitamin E with ascorbic acid.  These are the antagonists that will necessitate changes in Vitamin C use.

How can I keep my investment in Vitamin C to a minimum?

Admittedly, effective Vitamin C in its unmodified and derivative states is an expensive ingredient.  But since this is a potent antioxidant for healthy skin, your investment is worth it.

Just remember to take Vitamin C in its recommended forms and dosages.  It also helps to purchase from reputable manufacturers as there are more a few unscrupulous ones in the market.

Plus, do adopt a healthy lifestyle consisting of a balanced diet, moderate exercise, sufficient rest and positive outlook.  In this way, you are helping your body become healthier.  Vitamin C, after all, is not a miracle bullet of life.


Last Reviewed: 08-Sep-2011 

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Fiona Tuck is a Skincare Expert, Nutritional Medicine Practitioner and an accredited member of the Australian Traditional Medicine Society. Her in-depth knowledge and insight into future trends within the health industry has made her a sought-after media expert. Fiona’s holistic approach to nutritional health is driven by her mantra: “Nutrition is the grass roots of good health".