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Vitamin C for wrinkles and skin aging
Vitamin C is one of the most widely used skin care ingredients. The variety of skin rejuvenation / anti-wrinkle products with vitamin C is staggering. Do these products work? Do their claims have any substance? The situation is a little complicated. On one hand, vitamin C does possess definite, scientifically validated merits for wrinkle reduction and skin rejuvenation. On the other hand, many vitamin C products do not work.
Potentially, vitamin C can benefit skin in two important ways. Firstly, vitamin C is essential for the synthesis of collagen, a key structural protein of the skin. Adding vitamin C to a culture of skin cells (fibroblasts) dramatically increases the synthesis of collagen. Secondly, vitamin C is an antioxidant and can help reduce skin damage caused by free radicals. So, when vitamin C is properly delivered into skin cells, there is a good chance to reduce wrinkles and improve skin texture.
There are, however, some complicating circumstances often disregarded by manufacturers. First, vitamin C is relatively unstable (unless it is in a dry form). In the presence of air or other oxidizing agents, vitamin C is easily converted to oxidized forms. The oxidized vitamin C is not only incapable of boosting collagen synthesis or scavenging free radicals but may actually promote free radical formation causing damage to vital molecules such as proteins and DNA. In poorly prepared or poorly stored skin care products, vitamin C may already be oxidized by the time you apply it to your skin. Second, only highly concentrated preparations (10% or more) deliver enough vitamin C to the cells to be topically effective.
A number of skin care companies offer highly concentrated stabilized vitamin C products, which (at least in theory) are supposed to be consistently effective. However, these products are usually quite expensive. Furthermore, even stabilized vitamin C products may be at least somewhat oxidized by the time you use them. When vitamin C oxidizes, it eventually acquires a yellowish tint indicating an advanced stage of oxidation. Interestingly, some manufacturers add coloring to their vitamin C products, in which case it becomes hard to spot advanced vitamin C oxidation. Whatever the motives for adding color may be, we recommend avoiding vitamin C products that aren't colorless or white. Unfortunately, the lack of a tint does not, by itself, guarantee the lack of oxidation because the initial product of vitamin C oxidation (dehydroascorbic acid) is colorless. Only further oxidation produces a noticeable yellowish tint. Therefore, when selecting a vitamin C product it is important to pick a trustworthy source and be careful about the expiration date and proper storage.
If you are willing to invest a bit of extra time, you can easily make a vitamin C gel or serum on your own. That way you ensure both freshness and potency - not to mention substantial cost savings.
Even when using an optimal formulation, not everyone will respond to vitamin C treatments. About 50% of people show noticeable benefits. The chances are improved when vitamin C is a part of a comprehensive regimen to rebuild collagen in your skin. Also, people who do not respond to conventional vitamin C products may respond to its derivatives, such as magnesium ascorbyl phosphate, ascorbyl palmitate and others. These vitamin C cousins not only boost collagen synthesis but also are more stable and less irritating.
Finally, keep in mind that taking large amounts of vitamin C (or its derivatives) orally is of little benefit for reducing wrinkles because you cannot obtain high enough concentration of vitamin C in the skin to increase collagen production.
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