Vitamin C and Vitamin C Products
Vitamin C is a chemical, its chemical name is L-Ascorbic Acid.
Deficiency of Vitamin C results in scurvy, and the name “Ascorbic Acid” is derived from the Latin word for scurvy (scorbutus), a nasty illness whose (easy) fix, citrus fruit, eluded pirates and sailors until 1753.
Why is L-Ascorbic Acid a vitamin? Most animals can make their own vitamin C, but humans can’t, because somewhere along the line we lost a crucial enzyme, L-gulonolactone oxidase, required for the synthesis of L-Ascorbic Acid, making it an essential nutrient, i.e. we must get it by eating food containing it (or applying the vitamin to our skin)
L-Ascorbic Acid is important for plants and animals because it works as an antioxidant. More specifically, it is a water soluble antioxidant, and this means that it can work in almost all the reactions occurring in the cell. [Conversely, chemicals with vitamin E activity are lipid (oil) soluble and can work in the lipidic side of the cell membranes. They are both important, this is why they are vitamins!]
There is more to Vitamin C than “just” the antioxidant side. In humans and many animals ascorbic acid is also a cofactor in the synthesis of carnitine (look this up in our website) and tyrosine (an amino acid) and it is required for the synthesis of collagen, that very important protein in the skin. Collagen is a protein of complex structure, and the final protein we require is very different from the peptides initially made at the ribosomes. It is composed of a triple helix, which consists of two identical chains and an additional chain that differs slightly in its chemical composition. The amino acid composition of collagen is unusual for proteins with a high content of hydroxyproline. The peptides synthesized in the ribosomes undergo many modifications of their structure before they become collagen; among other modifications, proline (and lysine) residues in the peptides must be hydroxylated in a process catalyzed by enzymes that require ascorbic acid as a cofactor. The many symptoms of scurvy result from the inability of the human body to complete the transformation of the nascent peptides into collagen because of this lack of ascorbic acid. [Incidentally, here you see why it is silly to add hydroxyproline to a skin care product: this amino acid is NOT used in the synthesis of collagen. Proline is used and after protein synthesis, the proline residues are hydroxylated.]
Vitamin C is a chemical, its chemical name is L-Ascorbic Acid.
Why is L-Ascorbic Acid a vitamin? Most animals can make their own vitamin C, but humans can’t. We must get it by eating food containing it (or applying the vitamin to our skin).
L-Ascorbic Acid is important for plants and animals because it works as an antioxidant, preventing damage to cells from oxidation reactions.
L-Ascorbic Acid is also require to create collagen, an important protein in the skin.
Un-oxidized L-Ascorbic Acid acts as a strong antioxidant; oxidized L-Ascorbic Acid acts as an oxidant and will not be useful to the skin.
Ascorbic Acid (L) provides important protection against damage induced by UV radiation (and the DNA mutations and cancer that may result from it), improves skin elasticity, decreases wrinkles by stimulating collagen synthesis, reduces redness, promotes wound healing and suppresses melanin synthesis.
Visually, the use of L-Ascorbic Acid improves wrinkles, and decreases inflammation.
Glycolic and lactic acids are frequently used in peels because they are weak acids that will do their job and later be metabolized by the skin. L-Ascorbic acid is also a AHA and useful for an acidic peel. [See below for information regarding the strength of Vitamin C Serums as an exfoliant]
Chemical derivatives such as MAP (Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate) offer advantages such as stability and an acidity level that can make them more suitable for skin care products.
MAP is a good vitamin C derivative, because it has been shown that it penetrates the skin and in the skin it is converted to L-ascorbic acid. As for most important question, is it an actual Vitamin C, MAP has been shown to protect the skin from UV damage and prevents synthesis of melanin, just as L-Ascorbic Acid does. This is why in our popular Collagen serum you will find MAP and not L-Ascorbic acid.
Sometimes an oil-soluble version of Vitamin C is wanted for a special formulation, and for that, we turn to Ascorbyl Palmitate. But it must be remembered that the principal role of vitamin C is as a water-soluble antioxidant.
It is important not to combine Vitamin C with metallic ions such as Copper or Zinc in a formulation.
A 20% concentration is pretty close to the maximum solubility and at that point you may see some crystals coming out of solution, this will occur more frequently in a refrigerated serum. If the Vitamin C comes out of solution, warm the serum up a little and shake well.
It is very important that Vitamin C products contain un-oxidized L-Ascorbic Acid, old products with oxidized Vitamin C can cause damage to the skin.
In non-acidic formulations, like our Collagen Serum, it is important to use a Vitamin C form that like MAP or Ascorbyl Palmitate.
At an acidic pH, L-Ascorbic Acid will be quite stable. The shelf life of the serum will depend on the acidity of the serum.
Our new best estimate is that a serum with a pH. of 2.5 will have a shelf life of around 6 months.
Because of the above point, we suggest checking the pH. of any L-Ascorbic Acid serum and ensuring that its pH. is below 3.5 (pH. strips can be purchased to measure this).
Refrigeration slows the oxidation of L-Ascorbic Acid and extends the lifespan of the serum.
Alpha Tocopherol and Ferulic Acid are added to L-Ascorbic Acid serums to delay the oxidation of Vitamin C.
It is very important to make sure that you do not use oxidized L-Ascorbic Acid Serums. Make sure your product contains a 'made on' or 'use by' date. Do not use a product that is over 12 months old as it will not be useful to the skin. If mixing your own water/ascorbic acid mix do not keep the solution for more than a few hours. Refrigerate the products if possible.
We recommend using a Vitamin C product daily
High concentration L-Ascorbic Acid serums, or even fresh L-Ascorbic Acid crystals dissolved in water, are great exfoliating options.
Because over exfoliation can cause inflammation and other problems we recommend careful use of L-Ascorbic Acid serums, once or twice a week is optimal for most skin types. Our Collagen Serum with MAP is a great alternative for daily use as it contains other valuable actives we cannot use in an acidic solution.
Do not worry about waiting for the acidity of the skin to go back to normal (it will take a few hours) before using most other products. If you are using products with complex proteins, such as our EGF or our antioxidant products, it is recommended that you wait at least an hour to ensure the proteins are not damaged.
Our 'mix your own' serum kit is optimal because freshness is assured, and the exfoliation level can be tailored to suit the mixer