The Vitamin C Hype – Fact vs Fiction

Oranges and an immune system boost is what traditionally comes to mind when you think of Vitamin C, so what’s the hype around Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid) in skincare?
We’ve broken down fact from fiction and given you the 411 on everything Vitamin C.

FYI we’re about to get technical, and we guarantee your head will be spinning at the end of this read. We don’t want you to give up on Vitamin C so we’ve done the hard work for you, our Sunrise Morning Serum ticks all the appropriate boxes concerning Vitamin C in Skincare. It’s available online here

Why the Hype?

Applied to our skin, Vitamin C acts as an anti-oxidant and reduces (and to some degree reverses) signs of ageing such as pigmentation, wrinkles, fine lines and skin roughness. It also promotes collagen growth and protects from UV radiation[1]. With a list of benefits like that who wouldn’t what a piece of the action, but before you go rushing out the door it’s important to know what type of Vitamin C to look for.

Unstable (Ascorbic Acid) & Stabilised Vitamin C

There have been a large number of studies that have shown the effectiveness of Ascorbic Acid in skin care. However, Ascorbic Acid is inherently unstable and oxidises in the presence of light, water and air (amongst other things) – think of an apple that goes brown after cutting it in half. The only formulation of Ascorbic Acid which can be stable is in an oil base.

And it gets even trickier, to be absorbed by the skin, Ascorbic Acid needs to be in an acid environment with a pH somewhere around 3.5. In addition, Ascorbic acid also needs to be at the right concentration (most studies show that 10% is the concentration that is “just right”)

I know right. Who knew skin care could be so complicated. Skin Care manufacturers thought so too, which is why for pure ease and commercial reasons, ‘Stabilised’ forms of Vitamin C are often used in skin care products.

However the issue here is there are very few studies done to prove the effectiveness of these products, with most dermatologists in agreement that the effects of Vitamin C are only achieved from using Ascorbic Acid and not Stabilised forms of Vitamin C[2].

So what should I look for in a vitamin C skin care product?

Here are the key things that to look out for;

  1. Look for ASCORBIC ACID in the ingredient list.
  2. The first ingredient should be an oil (If the first ingredient on the ingredient list is water, the product will not be stable and will go off)
  3. It must be clear or pale yellow. The only reason vitamin C products are coloured yellow, brown or orange is to hide the oxidization process (the brown apple example) -big red flag.
  4. If there are too many ingredients on the list, almost certainly, one of them will oxidise the Ascorbic acid and it will go off.
  5. If the concentration of Ascorbic Acid is quoted as being greater than 10%, it will need too much water to dissolve it. That means – you guessed it, it will go off.
  6. Finally, avoid forms of ‘Stabilised’ Vitamin C as there is little proof of their effectiveness. These include Ascorbyl Palmitate, Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Ascorbyl Glucoside, Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Tetrahexadecyl Ascorbate.

And to finish with a fun fact: While some animals can synthesise Vitamin C, unfortunately we can’t. We also don’t store it very well and therefore need to consume sufficient quantities in our regular diet.

Top food sources of Vitamin C (its actually not oranges)

1.Kakadu Plum            2.Camu Camu             3. Acerola         4. Seabuckthorn       5. Indian Gooseberry


[1] Experimental Dermatology 2003, Humbert et. al

Skin Pharmacology and Physiology 2004, Raschke et. al

Journal of drugs in Dermatology, 2012, Xu et. al

Journal of Dermatological Science, 2012, Aguilera et. al

[2] Skin Research and Technology, 2008, Campos PM, Gonçalves GM, Gaspar LR.

Journal of photochemistry and photobiology, 2012, Tsai FJ, Wang YD, Chen CC, Hsieh C, Cheng ZJ, Wu YJ.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s