Overexposure to ultraviolet radiation and environmental pollutants can accelerate skin aging by degrading collagen and triggering oxidative stress in the skin. Fortunately, the anti-aging benefits of a time-honored remedy used by ancient civilizations to heal their skin can help overcome these undesirable effects. Vitamin C is an essential component in the body’s production of collagen and a potent antioxidant that can help rejuvenate aged and sun damaged skin.
While vitamin C is an important nutrient for overall health, little reaches the skin when taken orally. As levels of vitamin C in the skin decline with age, replenishing levels directly in the skin can help combat collagen breakdown and oxidative stress. Results from clinical trials show that when applied topically, vitamin C promotes collagen formation and mitigates the effects of free radicals, helping to maintain firm and youthful skin.
A Staple of Ancient Beauty
Throughout history, women have always found ways to enjoy the anti-aging effects of vitamin C on their skin.
In Tibet during the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD), women who wanted to fight the outward signs of premature aging would rub sea buckthorn on their face and hands. The golden-orange berries of the sea buckhorn plant yield a deep-colored oil that is a major source of vitamin C.
It is not surprising that centuries ago, Native Americans made a vitamin C-rich paste out of rose petals to moisten and heal their skin. In fact, cold cream was originally known as “ointment of rose water” because of its two main ingredients: rose oil and rose water.
Modern medicine has come to realize why these herbal remedies were so trusted by ancient civilizations. When topically applied, vitamin C provides a skin-rejuvenating effect by improving collagen synthesis in the skin that slows down with aging, as well as limiting skin damage from free radicals. Collagen is a structural support protein that is essential for firm, youthful skin. Overall, the amount of collagen in the skin tends to decline with age, an ongoing process that is accelerated by a number of factors like sunlight, smoking, free radicals, and inflammation. As the synthesis of new collagen slows down, topical vitamin C is one of the most effective ways to boost collagen synthesis and slow its degradation.
What makes topical vitamin C preparations so important? Humans and a few other species lack the ability to produce the vitamin C that is so vital for beautiful, healthy skin. To make things even more challenging, vitamin C is water-soluble. Consequently, a great deal of the vitamin C we ingest gets excreted rapidly.
While oral supplementation with vitamin C is important for maintaining one’s overall health, it is not very effective at increasing skin concentrations of vitamin C because its absorption is limited by active transport mechanisms in the gut. The most effective method for replenishing vitamin C in the skin is therefore to go straight to the source, and apply it directly to the skin.
Topical antioxidants produce much higher concentrations in the skin than nutritional supplements. In fact, applying vitamin C to the skin is 20 times more effective than oral ingestion. Simply applying vitamin C daily for three days can achieve optimal levels in the skin. It is also known that once a topical antioxidant is absorbed into the skin, it cannot be washed or rubbed off. So, even after stopping application, significant amounts of vitamin C will remain in the skin for up to three days.
Rejuvenating the skin by constantly replenishing vitamin C stores can therefore help maintain healthy, younger-looking skin, especially as we get older.
Rebuilding Youthful Skin From the Inside Out
Vitamin C’s skin-health benefits are largely attributed to its benefits in supporting healthy collagen. Collagen works hand-in-hand with elastin to support the skin. Basically, it supplies the framework that provides form, firmness, and strength to the skin, while elastin is what gives skin its flexibility.
Collagen is just one of thousands of different proteins in the body. Most proteins occur only in small amounts. But by far the most abundant protein is collagen. In fact, collagen constitutes more than a third of all protein in the body and about 75% of the skin.12 From our bones and teeth to blood vessels and cartilage, collagen is the main connective tissue that holds us together. Collagen is a very complex structure and can only be composed in several steps. Vitamin C is involved in every one of them!
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No wonder the tensile strength of collagen is greater than steel wire of the same weight. Understandably, the making of such a complex structure as collagen can only be accomplished in several steps. And vitamin C is involved in every one of them.
However, levels of this important vitamin are known to decline with aging, especially in the skin. Age-associated damage occurs when the rate of collagen production cannot keep up with its breakdown, a process that is also accelerated by overexposure to sunlight and environmental factors. A number of in vitro studies have confirmed that treating human skin cells with a topical vitamin C derivative can stimulate collagen synthesis. Topical vitamin C may also help preserve existing collagen by influencing the enzymes responsible for collagen degradation. Protecting Your Skin From the Effects of Aging, vitamin C is not only necessary for collagen production and maintenance, but it is also a potent antioxidant that can neutralize free radicals in the skin. Free radicals are atoms or molecules with an unpaired electron. They are very chemically reactive and short-lived. These free radicals can cause damage to collagen over time. As a result, the skin begins to sag and wrinkle. Although our skin naturally has cellular enzymes and other metabolic processes to deal with this oxidative damage (antioxidants being one of them), aging and environmental stresses like sunlight, smoking, and pollution, can eventually overpower these protective controls. Applying a low-molecular weight antioxidant like vitamin C is a very effective way to boost the skin’s natural protection against age-causing free radicals. Once absorbed into the skin, this water-soluble vitamin can also help regenerate vitamin E that has been oxidized. Vitamin E is a potent lipid-soluble antioxidant that is important for preventing oxidative damage in the lipid cell membrane.
Clinical Studies Demonstrate Beautifying Effects of Topical Vitamin C. Several clinical studies have also found that topical vitamin C provides numerous beneficial effects on aged and photodamaged skin.A placebo-controlled study performed in 25 volunteers showed that those who topically applied a topical formulation of ascorbic acid (vitamin C) experienced a reduction in fine lines and wrinkles in aged skin after a relatively short time period of 12 weeks. Several other studies have substantiated these benefits. A three-month double-blind study in 19 patients with moderately photodamaged facial skin found a significant improvement in fine wrinkling, tactile roughness, skin tone, and sallowness on the side treated with ascorbic acid compared with the control side. Photographic assessment also revealed a 57.9% improvement in the vitamin C-treated patients compared with the control group. More recently, a six-month study using topical application of vitamin C cream in photoaged patients also showed reduction of facial wrinkles and improvement in the appearance of photoaged skin compared with a control group. Besides its uses in photorejuvenation, vitamin C has also been shown to be of benefit in patients with acne, both helping to prevent and reduce acne lesions. In addition to all this, topical vitamin C can reverse yet another aspect of skin aging: age spots (or lenti-gines). These dark areas are where UV-induced oxidation causes melanin to pool in the upper layers of the skin.
Turmeric is another great antioxidant for your skin, for more information. Check out: Turmeric for beauty