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Keys to Unlocking the Benefits of Vitamin C

Lawrence Samuels, MD December 2012 issue of Skin Inc. magazine
unlocking the benefits of vitamin C in skin care

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Vitamin C is an essential vitamin for maintaining a healthy body and healthy skin. Yet, the body cannot synthesize vitamin C from glucose, because it lacks the enzyme required for this reaction. As a result, humans rely on dietary intake for their supply of vitamin C in the body, which can be ingested from food sources, such as citrus fruits and dark-green leafy vegetables. Unfortunately, ingested vitamin C cannot deliver an adequate amount of L-ascorbic acid to the skin. If antioxidants could be delivered in high concentration through the stratum corneum into the skin, then the antioxidant protective reservoir could be increased, and photoprotection and skin cell repair could be enhanced. More importantly, skin cell rejuvenation and collagen synthesis could be increased.1

The skin relies on antioxidants for protection against such environmental insults as ultraviolet (UV) rays, cigarette smoke and pollutants that can cause free radicals and photoaging of the skin. Free radicals damage DNA, proteins and lipids, which cause skin cells to die. Since the skin receives the most intense free-radical assault from UV light exposure, replenishing and increasing the antioxidant defense of the skin becomes an attractive strategy for photo protection and photo repair. Studies show that, when applied to the skin, L-ascorbic acid stimulates collagen synthesis, provides sun protection and protects the skin by reducing free radicals that would otherwise destroy skin cells and their components. Topical vitamin C has also been shown to improve skin texture and tone, reduce brown spots, decrease the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and help prevent their formation.2

Biologic antioxidant

L-ascorbic acid is one of the most abundant and most powerful antioxidants in the skin and body. It is the primary water-soluble, nonenzymatic biologic antioxidant in human tissue that protects the body from oxidative stress. It is important to note that water-soluble antioxidants act as a first defense against free radicals generated in plasma, but they cannot scavenge lipophilic (fat-soluble) free radicals within the membranes. Lipophilic antioxidants—particularly vitamin E—suppress oxidative damage efficiently in membranes. In addition to its direct antioxidant effects, L-ascorbic acid is known to be the primary replenisher of vitamin E, the most efficient inhibitor of lipid peroxidation in cell membranes.3

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