Facial & Skincare's Star: Vitamin C

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.


L-ASCORBIC ACID 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).