Skin Health: One of the Lesser Known Benefits of Vitamin C
Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is best known for its role in the immune system. A potent antioxidant that supports healthy inflammatory response, vitamin C supports the immune system by regulating white blood cell production, targeting pathogenic microbes, and boosting antibody and collagen production for recovery and skin integrity . It is through very similar pathways that ascorbic acid also supports healthy, youthful-looking skin. Vitamin C benefits for the skin are numerous and backed by science. We’ve explained the mechanisms below.
Biological Processes Behind Vitamin C Benefits for Skin
1. Collagen Synthesis
Vitamin C is a key player in the synthesis of collagen. Collagen is a naturally occurring protein that provides strength and elasticity to the skin. Unfortunately, as we age, we make less and less collagen which leads to wrinkles . When we boost our natural collagen production, as we can by providing the body with more nutritional precursors, we can slow the decline in skin elasticity and extend the life of our youthful appearance.
Collagen synthesis occurs through the hydroxylation of specific amino acids, and vitamin C acts as a cofactor for the enzymes involved in this process . Adequate levels of vitamin C promote the production of collagen, which helps maintain skin integrity, reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and promotes wound healing .
2. Antioxidant Protection
Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that helps neutralize harmful free radicals in the skin . Free radicals are unstable molecules that cause oxidative damage to cells, including skin cells.
By scavenging free radicals, vitamin C helps protect the skin from oxidative stress caused by environmental factors such as UV radiation (sun damage), air pollution, and other toxins . This antioxidant activity helps prevent premature aging, reduces inflammation, and contributes to overall skin health . The effect is maximized when vitamin C is combined with vitamin E.
3. Melanin Production
Vitamin C plays a role in regulating melanin production, the pigment responsible for skin color and “tanning”. It inhibits the enzyme tyrosinase, which is involved in melanin synthesis. By reducing the production of melanin, vitamin C can prevent the darkening of skin in response to UV light, reducing the appearance of dark spots or hyperpigmentation .
4. Wound Healing
Vitamin C is involved in various stages of wound healing. We already described how it is required for structural collagen. Collagen is necessary for new skin tissue to grow over a healing wound .
Vitamin C’s antioxidant properties also help protect the wound from further damage caused by oxidative stress .
5. UV Protection
Although vitamin C alone is not a substitute for sunscreen, it can help protect the skin from the damaging effects of ultraviolet (UV) radiation. When combined with sunscreen, vitamin C enhances the effectiveness of sun protection by neutralizing free radicals generated by UV exposure and reducing UV-induced inflammation .
6. Healthy Inflammatory Response
Vitamin C has properties that can help soothe and calm irritated or inflamed skin. It can support a normal inflammatory response and a return to normal coloration in cases of some skin conditions or sunburn .
How Can I Get More Vitamin C?
To obtain these benefits for the skin, it’s important to ensure an adequate intake of vitamin C either through diet or topical application. Dietary sources of vitamin C include citrus fruits, berries, kiwi, peppers, and leafy green vegetables. Topical vitamin C formulations are available in various skincare products, such as serums and creams, which can be applied directly to the skin for localized effects.
Metabolic Maintenance offers high-quality oral supplements containing vitamin C as a stand-alone nutrient (powdered or encapsulated) or as one of many nutrients in several full-spectrum multivitamin formulas.