If you’ve been looking for a product that addresses aging or sun damage concerns, it’s pretty likely that somewhere along the way you’ve heard about Vitamin C. We’ve already known for centuries that Vitamin C is good for you, it helps in the treatment of scurvy, minor ailments such as the common cold and is a juggernaut as a top anti-aging ingredient in skin care products. Here’s the 411 on Vitamin C in skin care products, what type of vitamin c should be in your skin care, why and how to get it.
TYPES OF VITAMIN C
One of the most common forms of Vitamin C used in skincare products, it’s water-soluble, biologically active and easily absorbed by the skin. It is a potent antioxidant that stimulates collagen production, meaning is builds skin, repairs wounds and helps protect the skin. Unfortunately, there is no research showing that it can eliminate wrinkles when applied topically. It can, however, reduce hyperpigmentation.. In addition, L-Ascorbic Acid is highly unstable and oxidizes rapidly when exposed to air, light or heat. If your product contains L-Ascorbic Acid and changes colors, discard immediately. This form of Vitamin C can also cause skin irritations.
Ascorbyl Palmitate is a non-acidic form of Vitamin C (L-ascorbic Acid + Palmitic acid, a fatty acid). It is an effective antioxidant. However, it seems that most of the time the concentrations used in skincare products are too low to boost collagen production. It is more stable than L-ascorbic acid, but still degrades over time. The idea behind this form of Vitamin C is to enhance penetration through the top layers of the skin. These layers contain a large number of lipids (fats) by Nature’s design to help keep out pathogens. Oil soluble derivatives are proven to penetrate more readily, however there are major problems with making an Ascorbic Acid derivate oil soluble. If you use a product containing ascorbyl palmitate, be sure to use a higher SPF sunscreen on top or stay out of the sun. Under UV exposure, ascorbyl palmitate is toxic to skin cells and can contribute to skin cancer if not used appropriately.
MAGNESIUM ASCORBYL PHOSPHATE
Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate (MAP) is a water-soluble derivative of Vitamin C. MAP is an antioxidant that increases collagen production, is effective in lower concentrations, is non-irritating and more stable than L-Ascorbic Acid. However, it should be stored properly, like all other forms of Vitamin C it degrades over time when exposed to light and air. By adding magnesium phosphate in a process known as esterification, it raises the pH to a level closer to the pH of the skin while ascorbic acid remains stable in when in solution. L-Ascorbic acid naturally occurs at a pH of around 3.5 which is fairly acidic and therefore can be irritating. Its acidity also creates problems in emulsions. Emulsions are carriers like lotions and creams formulated to make products look and feel nice. The addition of a phosphate group to ascorbic acid, whether magnesium or sodium, raises the pH level to somewhere between 5 and 7.
SODIUM ASCORBYL PALMITATE
Sodium Ascorbyl Palmitate is a water-soluble form of Vitamin C combined with palmitic acid (a fatty acid) and sodium. It is an antioxidant and is more stable than Ascorbyl Palmitate.
SODIUM ASCORBYL PHOSPHATE
Water-soluble, Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate is a L-ascorbic acid monophosphate, consisting of a stabilized (phosphorylated) sodium salt of L-ascorbic acid. Used as an antioxidant, it is more stable than Ascorbyl Palmitate (also see Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate).
MY FAVORITE VITAMIN C PRODUCTS
Whether it’s the at-home products I recommend to my clients after a facial or the carefully selected products I use in my customized facial treatments, my very favorite ingredient is Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate (MAP). It’s stable, it works great in lower percentages and is non-irritating. For Colorado skin, it’s my Vitamin C of choice, followed up by L-Ascorbic Acid, which is an effective ingredient but requires a higher percentage in formulations and has a lower pH which can cause irritation. The problem I find some facial care products is that many are misleading, stating it is a Vitamin C product but then putting so little into it that it cannot create any change in the skin. Most OTC products will only use L-Ascorbic Acid in their formulations because it’s one of the least expensive on the market. It’s also important to be aware of the color of your serum or moisturizer when you purchase it as many companies make the product look more yellow or orange to disguise when the product has gone rancid. When in doubt, seek the advice of a licensed esthetician to ensure the facial products that you are using are effective and appropriate for your skin.
HERE ARE MY TOP PICKS
Skin for Life Vita C Peptide Serum - This is a great water-based serum for all skin types. Excellent for pigmentation, sun damage, acne and sensitive skin. The star ingredient is Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate along with Bearberry, Aloe, Peptides and Amino Acids to ensure brighter, healthier skin.
IMAGE Skincare Vital C Hydrating Anti-Aging Serum - One of IMAGE Skincare’s most popular products. This is a hydrating Vitamin C serum for dull, dry or tired skin. Though it has a very long list of ingredients, it does include 3 different types of Vitamin C, including Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate. Other star ingredients include Hyaluronic Acid, Peptides, Grape Seed Extract, Algae Extract and Green Tea.