Vitamin C is a very important vitamin—internally. It is neither manufactured nor stored in the body, so you must get it daily from food or from supplements. Vitamin C is also important to healthy skin. It is an antioxidant, meaning it helps to keep free radicals from invading your cells’ oxygen stores. And vitamin C helps in the formation of collagen.
It sounds great to think you can apply a topical product to the skin and have it penetrate down to the inner skin or dermis, affecting the collagen fibers. But there is no evidence to show that vitamin C can penetrate down that far into the true skin. However, because topical vitamin C products are generally made with citric acid, they can help to smooth texture and decompose cells (exfoliate). Remember, citric acid is in the alpha hydroxy acid family. So using vitamin C topically may help with exfoliation, but it is doubtful that anything more than that will occur. Also, the acidic nature of topical vitamin C may cause skin sensitivity and possibly redness.
I have yet to meet a client who has had any sizable results from using a topical vitamin C product. Many agree that these products are expensive and do not deliver the expected results. In many cases the vitamin C caused sensitivity in even non-sensitive skins.
As an example of someone who not only loves these types of products but who is also possibly incurring damage, years ago while I was getting ready to do a national TV show, one of the producers said she used and loved vitamin C products. As I was speaking with her, I couldn’t help noticing she had a lot of capillary damage on her cheeks. It gave her a rosy glow, but it was still capillary damage. I recommended she discontinue using the C products to try to halt the progression of the redness.
She did say she already had some capillary damage before she started using the C products. She probably had sun damage, which definitely can cause capillary issues, and was using the vitamin C product to help combat premature aging from the sun. I would still recommend not using the acid product—even if just for an experimental period—to see if the redness diminished. If it did, this would be a sure indication that the topical vitamin C was causing more redness and probably more capillary damage.
Acids irritate; that is a fact and a function of what they do. Is the irritation and subsequent redness worth any “anti-aging” benefits vitamin C products may or may not provide? Perhaps today your answer will be yes. But remember that years from now you will probably, naturally, have some capillary damage due to sun expose and just plain age. Please use caution when using these kinds of acidic compounds along with any products or procedures that may cause capillary dilation and damage. Keep tabs on how your skin looks and feels and proceed accordingly.
For more information, see:
- Emergen-C—a little effervescence for your health (for an easy way to get vitamin C in your daily diet)
- What are AHAs? Miracle ingredients or not?
- Sensitive Skin: Q & A
- Trends & Fads: all links so far