When most people think about taking care of their skin, they focus on the outside — but what's on the inside counts even more! Perhaps you avoid tanning beds or wear sunscreen every day. You may have a stack of skin care products at home that you use to fight the signs of aging or sun damage. Are you aware that the foods and nutrients you put inside your body make an even bigger difference? Vitamin C is one of those powerhouse nutrients for skin you should get every day!
Vitamin C, also called ascorbic acid, is an essential water-soluble nutrient. You can find vitamin C in many foods, including oranges, strawberries, tomatoes, kiwifruit, and others. It acts as a potent antioxidant in the body, which means it helps neutralize free radicals (harmful substances) in cells.
Keep reading to learn more about what vitamin C can do for the skin.
How Does Vitamin C Benefit the Skin?
When you take vitamin C, you’re also helping your skin. Erin F., a writer for a hotel booking site from Flemington, New Jersey, was surprised to learn how much vitamin C helped her skin after she started taking a daily supplement. "I feel more confident after taking vitamin C," she says. "My skin actually looks smoother! I know I’m taking something good for my body and skin. I feel like I’m doing something positive and proactive to take care of myself."
Below are several ways vitamin C helps your skin.
Acts As a Strong Antioxidant
As mentioned above, vitamin C is an antioxidant, which means it’s a substance that can fight free radical damage in your cells. Free radicals are highly reactive molecules that can hurt cells. Since vitamin C can be concentrated in your skin, it can lower the type of damage that free radicals cause, known as oxidative stress. Oxidative stress can cause inflammation and can hurt collagen production.
Helps the Skin Produce Collagen
Vitamin C can promote collagen production in the skin. This means it can stimulate skin cells to make more collagen, a structural protein that helps hold the body together. Your skin has a lot of collagen fibers; in fact, it makes up 75 percent of the tissue layer. Enzymes in the skin that build collagen require vitamin C to work properly.
Protects Against UV Damage
Did you know that vitamin C can protect skin against ultraviolet (UV) damage? UV damage usually comes from the sun or tanning beds, which not only cause sunburns but also skin damage. It’s important to note that vitamin C isn’t a sunscreen that can block the harmful light rays. Instead, this nutrient’s antioxidant activity protects your skin from damage such as dark spots or sunspots caused by too much sun exposure.
Promotes Smooth Skin
As you get older, you’re more likely to see fine lines and wrinkles or brown spots on the skin. Acne is another common skin issue that affects both women and men. Most everyone wants smooth skin and vitamin C may help.
The antioxidant properties of vitamin C reduce the oxidative damage behind aging of the skin and beyond. Taking extra C stabilizes collagen synthesis, and that heals skin from acne or other types of damage.[2, 4] Vitamin C also helps build carnitine, an amino acid that plays a role in protein metabolism.
Repairs DNA Damage
Our DNA is the genetic code that makes up who we are, but it’s not immune from damage. Simply aging can cause damage to DNA over time. However, vitamin C may help repair DNA that is broken or mutated. Vitamin C even helps people exposed to substances with a higher risk of damaging DNA, such as cigarette smoke or air pollution.
Promotes Wound Healing
Have you ever had a cut that takes a long time to heal? When you have a wound on your skin, vitamin C levels in the area actually go down. People with extremely low levels of this vitamin in their bodies can have trouble healing cuts or scrapes. Vitamin C can help promote wound healing through skin repair and collagen production.
How Can You Add Vitamin C Into Your Skin Care Routine?
Since aging decreases the vitamin C levels in the skin layers, many people add this nutrient to their skin care routine. From wanting an anti-aging treatment to desiring a better skin tone, the right form of vitamin C may help you achieve the skin renewal results you want. Vitamin C deficiencies are rare these days, but you still want to ensure you get enough each day.
Take a Supplement
Vitamin C is available in many forms, including powders, lozenges, capsules, tablets, liquids, and injections. In general, adult males should get 90 mg, and adult females should get 75 mg of vitamin C per day. Vitamin C can break down in the presence of light or oxygen, so buy dark bottles and store them at either room temperature or in the fridge — avoid the freezer. Make sure to get a plant-based vitamin product, versus a synthetic vitamin.
A great option is Global Healing’s Plant-Based Vitamin C in a convenient liquid formula. Derived from amla, kakadu plum, camu camu, and acerola fruit, this advanced formula contains the equivalent of 150 oranges!
Use a Serum
Another option is to apply vitamin C directly to the skin. You can usually find vitamin C serum available as a cream or liquid or in patches you place on top of your skin.[4, 8] Similar to oral supplements, topical vitamin C products are also sensitive to light and oxygen, so you have to store them correctly. If you have sensitive skin, consult with your dermatologist before using any serum.
Take With Vitamin E
Taking vitamin C with vitamin E can boost its power. Vitamin E can make vitamin C four times more powerful in the skin! Together, their antioxidant properties help protect the skin even more because they can stop damage from UV rays and prevent cell death. Consider taking these two powerhouse nutrients at the same time to achieve better results.
Points to Remember
Vitamin C is an important nutrient that acts as an antioxidant in the body. It has multiple benefits for the skin and may even improve your appearance. As a strong antioxidant, vitamin C fights free radical damage and protects the skin. It also helps the skin produce more collagen. In addition, vitamin C can help protect the skin from UV damage and may promote smoother skin. It can even repair DNA damage in the cells.
If you’re interested in adding vitamin C to your skincare routine, you have many options. You can take this nutrient as an oral supplement or use a topical serum. Make sure you store the bottle in a cool, dark place away from direct sunlight that can break it down. Also, think about taking vitamin C and vitamin E together since they can boost each other.
- Skin Care and Aging. National Institute on Aging, National Institutes of Health. 1 Oct. 2017. Accessed 28 April 2020.
- Vitamin C and Skin Health. Linus Pauling Institute, Oregon State University. Sept. 2011. Accessed 28 April 2020.
- Vitamin C: Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. Office of Dietary Supplements, National Institutes of Health. 10 Dec. 2019. Accessed 28 April 2020.
- Pullar JM, et al. The roles of vitamin C in skin health. Nutrients. 2017;9(8):866.
- Kruk J, et al. Oxidative stress and skin diseases: possible role of physical activity. Asian Pac J Cancer Prev. 2014;15(2):561-568.
- Sram RJ, et al. Vitamin C for DNA damage prevention. Mutat Res. 2012 May 1;733(1-2):39-49.
- Vitamin C. Health Encyclopedia: University of Rochester Medical Center. 2020. Accessed 28 April 2020.
- Telang PS. Vitamin C in dermatology. Indian Dermatol Online J. 2013;4(2):143-146.
†Results may vary. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician.