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Benefits of Vitamin C for Pigmentation

Can Vitamin C help with Pigmentation? 

As a kid, you loved sipping lemonade – the sweet and tangy taste of lemon and sugar mixed in water – a delight for the tastebuds. Your parents approved too because lemons are loaded with vitamin C, the immunity booster that helped keep you away from infections. Cut to the present, as an adult now, you'll find that the humble vitamin C can also help your skin – giving it a smooth, glowing complexion and helping tackle pigmentation issues. Let’s dive down deeper to uncover the benefits of Vitamin C and how it can help to combat your pigmentation problems?  

Firstly, what is Vitamin C?  

Vitamin C is an essential nutrient that helps the body develop blood vessels, muscle, cartilage, and collagen. Officially known as ascorbic acid, vitamin C plays a crucial role in the body's healing processes. Since our body does not produce vitamin C on its own, we need to make it a part of our diet. Apart from citrus fruits like lemon, lime, gooseberry, oranges, and tangerines, vitamin C can also be found in tomatoes, brussels sprouts, spinach, broccoli, and other assorted fruits and vegetables. It is also available as an oral supplement in chewable tablets and capsule form.  

Vitamin C has strong antioxidant properties that help the skin's regenerative abilities by fighting the adverse effects of free radicals caused by UV exposure. Due to its reactive nature, free radicals are responsible for breaking down the collagen of our skin, which leads to unflattering skin flaws such as dark spots, fine lines, loose and saggy skin. Vitamin C protects skin cells from free radicals and inhibits melanin production in the skin, which helps to ease hyperpigmentation, brown spots, even skin tone, and improve skin radiance.

Benefits of Vitamin C for skin 

While your body is getting its vitamin C requirements in the form of fruits and supplements, you don't know if your skin is reaping the benefits. That is where topical applications like serums come into the picture.  

Anti-ageing

The goodness of vitamin C as a topical application in cream or lotion helps the skin face the constant assaults of harsh sunlight, pollution, and free radicals in the air. Apart from helping to slow down the impact of the body's natural ageing processes, vitamin C's antioxidant properties are a valuable ally in protection against exposure to harmful Ultraviolet (UV) rays in the atmosphere.  

Lighten pigmentation

Its strong melanin-inhibiting capability makes vitamin C a brightening agent that can reduce skin discolouration issues such as hyperpigmentation, melasma, dark spots, and acne marks (PIH).  

Collagen Boosting

Its high acidic value reserves a special place for vitamin C in skin health regimens. When applied on the skin surface, vitamin C boosts the production of collagen and elastin, which encourages healthy cell turnover and regeneration. This is one secret behind plump and firm skin. Vitamin C can protect your skin from developing fine lines too and reduces the appearance of under-eye circles.  

Safety Profile

Vitamin C has a good safety profile in a wide range of clinical applications that allows it to be used topically over extended periods by most people, without fear of adverse reactions. It is also safe for use in combination with a range of skin protection compounds such as retinol, alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), and sun protection creams and lotions.  


Common Forms of Vitamin C in Skin Care

Ascorbic Acid (L- Ascorbic Acid): A water-soluble derivative, it's the purest form and one of the most effective types of vitamin C. Since ascorbic acid suppresses melanin formation, it is majorly used for skin depigmentation purposes. Topical treatment with ascorbic acid also exerts a protective effect on the inflammatory response to UV rays, even after sun exposure. In addition to the above, ascorbic acid also finds use in removing age spots, melasma, stretch marks, and other such conditions at deeper skin levels.

On the flip side, ascorbic acid can be quite unstable as it can become inactive and degrades very rapidly when exposed to light, or air, when applied to the skin. However, formulations containing derivatives of ascorbic acid have been found more stable, but they might not produce the same effect as that of the parent compound. 

Vitamin C Derivatives

Due to its antioxidant properties, vitamin C is unstable and naturally tends to decompose and become ineffective when exposed to light or air. That's why, in addition to its pure form, there are several derivatives of vitamin C that are used in skin health applications.  

Derivatives are created by adding a compound such as phosphate or palmitate to vitamin C. Along with preventing the degradation of vitamin C, such derivatives are useful in producing skincare formulations.  

Compared to ascorbic acid, the vitamin C derivatives are relatively more stable and less sensitive to light and air, cause less irritation to the skin, and are not so pH dependent. However, these derivatives are found to be relatively less effective too. Some of the popular derivatives of vitamin C include ascorbyl palmitate, magnesium ascorbyl palmitate, magnesium ascorbyl phosphate, and calcium ascorbate. Understanding their properties and application is crucial for obtaining the maximum value for your skin, from vitamin C skin products.  

  • Ascorbyl Palmitate: An oil-soluble derivative, it is also known as vitamin C ester. When applied to the skin surface, ascorbyl palmitate transforms into ascorbic acid. This derivative is more stable than ascorbic acid and is capable of faster penetration into the skin layers.  
  • Ascorbyl Glucoside: This derivative is considered as one of the most stable forms of vitamin C. Ascorbyl glucoside is usually recommended for sensitive skin types. When applied to the skin, ascorbyl glucoside transforms into ascorbic acid.  
  • Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate: An oil-soluble derivative of vitamin C and is stable at pH levels less than 5. When applied to the skin surface, it transforms into ascorbic acid and enjoys a better penetration capability than most other vitamin C derivatives. 

How to get the best out of your vitamin C serums:  

#1 The best time to apply Vitamin C serum

Your body undergoes a natural repair process when you are sleeping. During this time, Vitamin C will have the biggest and most effective impact on your skin. Adding Vitamin C to your skincare routine at night also helps to avoid the risk of photosensitivity which may occur in some cases with daytime use. It is also suitable for individuals with sensitive skin. To ensure maximum efficacy, we recommended applying sunscreen (SPF 30 and above) the following day. 

#2 Choose vitamin C products that suit you

Depending on the product, you will have to fit it into your skincare routine. Vitamin C serums are usually applied on skin that has been freshly cleansed and patted dry. It needs to go on your skin before you apply moisturizer. But moisturizers loaded with antioxidants can go on your face towards the end of your skincare routine.

#3 Match skin type and vitamin C concentration

With product concentration ranges varying from a low of 10% to a high of 20%, the effect they could have on your skin can also differ. Opt for vitamin C products with lower concentration percentage levels if you have dry or sensitive skin. If you suffer from oily skin conditions or excessive pigmentation, you can use products with concentrations of around 20% because, after this level, effects tend to plateau.  

Products that you can complement with your vitamin C  

  • Sunscreen: The combination of vitamin C and sunscreen improves sun protection capabilities to fight ageing more effectively. 

  • Vitamin E: In addition to its excellent antioxidant properties, vitamin E and vitamin C work more powerfully to protect against UV radiations. It also adds to vitamin C's ability to fight free radicals.   

  • Ferulic Acid: Just like vitamin C, ferulic acid is also rich in antioxidant properties. Apart from combating free radicals to prevent and rectify skin damage, ferulic acid helps increase the effectiveness and lifespan of vitamin C. When combined with ferulic acid, L-ascorbic acid, vitamin C's most potent form, acquires stability and retains its potency even when exposed to light and air. 

Myths Debunked About Vitamin C  

Just as vitamin C is popular for its skin-health benefits, several myths abound around its adverse effects:    

#Myth 1: All Vitamin C serums are the same.  

Fact: Not all vitamin C serums are created equal. Factors such as the concentration levels, ingredients, and chemical structure, play a role in the composition and skin benefits offered by the different vitamin C serums. 

Ascorbic acid is the purest form of vitamin C and one of its most effective variants. Although it’s rich in antioxidant properties, ascorbic acid’s reactive nature leads to its rapid oxidisation. This affects efficacy as well as causes skin irritation. While other forms of Vitamin C derivatives may be more stable, it is important/ advisable to avoid formulations that contain parabens, petrochemical, synthetic colorants, and artificial fragrances that may harm the skin. Look for products that contain medical-grade ingredients and natural certified formula. 

#Myth 2: Vitamin C can cause skin discolouration  

Fact: It's true that vitamin C does inhibit tyrosinase, an enzyme that helps melanin production. But it's equally true that instead of darkening your skin, vitamin C actually evens the skin tone and brightens it over time. However, if exposed to light or air, vitamin C products can degrade and turn brown/orange; its benefits will also become obsolete. Ideally, L-ascorbic acid skin products must be used up within three months.  

#Myth 3: Higher the percentage of Vitamin C, more the efficiency  

Fact: More than the percentage levels, vitamin C effectiveness is dependent on pH levels and the specific formulation. While a percentage range between 10% and 20% is considered safe to use, it is advisable to use Vitamin C of lower percentages. Ultimately, the absorption factor makes the difference, irrespective of concentration. 


Vitamin C to the rescue against pigmentation 

While pigmentation is a hazard that we must factor into our daily lives, nutrients like vitamin C do not act as knights in shining armour. It certainly helps to take professional advice from certified aesthetic medical professionals on the best skincare products or treatments to help you with pigmentation issues. Take that first step today.