Remember getting sick as a kid and your parents would make sure you were eating enough vitamin C? Vitamin C has long been associated with boosting immunity and protecting us against illnesses. However, medical researchers, healthcare practitioners and even beauty professionals are illuminating a lesser-known health benefit of vitamin C—the support and maintenance of healthy skin.
In recent years, vitamin C for skin has sparked a renewed interest among Australians when it comes to wanting to improve and maintain clear skin. This is because vitamin C not only has visible effects on complexion, but also plays a crucial role in physiological processes such as the skin’s disease-fighting and wound healing abilities, maintaining elasticity, effective collagen formation, and power to remain resilient against environmental stressors.
Studies have consistently reported that vitamin C is found in high concentrations (1) on the inner layers of the skin, and that it protects skin and its efficient functioning as the body’s largest organ.
Let’s take a look at how exactly vitamin C benefits skin health:
Vitamin C is a water-soluble nutrient that plays an important role in collagen synthesis and maintenance. Collagen is the body’s most abundant protein that makes up most of our skin and bones. This fibre-like collagen strengthens the body’s connective tissues, and this is essentially what makes skin elastic and resilient to physical stress. However, as we age, collagen production naturally decreases, causing the skin to lose some of its elasticity. As collagen fibres weaken and the tightly organised network loosens, causing fine lines and wrinkles form (2).
Vitamin C enters the picture by serving as a cofactor for amino acids that stabilise the collagen molecule and promote collagen formation. Several studies examining vitamin C benefits support the claim that it can ease signs of ageing on the skin with changes in wrinkle depth (1). This demonstrates the role of vitamin C for skin health and maintenance.
Vitamin C is also a powerful antioxidant that can help prevent or delay some forms of cell damage. Antioxidants are substances that reduce the effects of free radicals—unstable molecules that damage cells, including skin cells. Free radicals can be the culprit of sunspots or hyperpigmentation (especially on the face), a sensation of tautness, dryness or flaking, and the exacerbation of fine lines.
By working on both the inside and outside of cells, vitamin C can reduce or eliminate free radicals in the body, such as those found in the environment or that you are exposed to in the form of ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun (1). Doctors have found that one of the many vitamin C benefits is the reduction of oxidative damage. This is further enhanced when vitamin C is paired with vitamin E, another known vitamin for skin health (1).
When there is an injury or a break in the skin, your cells work in an orderly fashion to repair the damage from within. Wound healing is a complex process with three main stages beginning with inflammation, followed by new tissue formation, then ending with remodelling. None of these processes can be efficiently carried out by the body without vitamin C for skin (3).
More studies suggest that vitamin C may help increase the proliferation and migration of dermal fibroblasts, contributing to speedier recovery and minimising the risk of scar formation (1). In one study, researchers concluded that supplementation of vitamin C together with vitamin E improved the rate of wound healing in patients that sustained severe burns (1). Since the pace at which vitamin C turns over at the site of injury due to local inflammation and demands of heightened collagen production increases, it is suggested that topical application and increased nutrient intake of vitamin C may be advantageous (1). Given its role in wound healing, you may want to consider vitamin C for skin repair and overall health.
While doctors have yet to understand the full extent of mechanisms underlying the benefits of vitamin C for skin health, dietary and topical ascorbic acid have been shown to have positive effects on skin cells, especially when it comes to protection against skin ailments.
It has been seen that in some cases, there were significantly lower amounts of vitamin C among individuals with skin inflammation in comparison to unaffected individuals (1). According to a study by the National Institutes of Health, patients exhibiting skin ailments had vitamin C plasma levels between 6-31 μmol/L as opposed to the optimal healthy range of more than 60 µM, indicating a possible link between a vitamin deficiency and getting enough vitamin C for skin health (1).
UV radiation poses a significant risk to skin health. It can inflict damage to components in the skin and alter the structure and function of skin cells. Long-term exposure to UV radiation can even cause premature skin ageing (1), otherwise known as photoageing. This condition is marked by the appearance of wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, and changes in skin integrity (1).
Doctors suggest that UV light depletes vitamin C content found in the epidermis, and that vitamin C levels are reportedly lower in individuals with aged or photodamaged skin (1). This assertion is further proof that vitamin C for skin is a worthy area of exploration for those with skin concerns, especially if you wish to be proactive about skin health and take on protective measures before skin is damaged in any way.
Considering this, taking additional vitamin C as part of your skin health regimen can help support connective tissue health and formation, and assist in the healing of minor body tissue injuries (1), demonstrating yet again the many benefits of vitamin C on skin health.
When it comes to caring for skin health, Australians may neglect the effects of changing weather conditions on skin. Seasonal changes bring with them different environmental factors that affect the skin in different ways, highlighting the necessity of ensuring you get an appropriate intake of vitamin C for skin all throughout the year.
For instance, during the summer, with its longer and sunnier days, you are inevitably exposed to more UV light. Though sun exposure in limited amounts has health benefits of its own, too much of it can cause skin problems. Sunburn is a common problem, alongside various forms of skin irritation caused by humidity, constant perspiration, or seasonal allergens.
On the other hand, colder months of the year present yet another set of skin stressors. The wintertime can be tough on the skin due to decreased humidity, which in turn results in dry patches, itchiness, flaking, the increase in appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, or even cracks in the skin when it’s severely dehydrated.
Vitamin C for skin, when taken regularly regardless of season, can help provide the support your skin needs.
Given the many benefits of vitamin C for skin health, it’s important to know the recommended daily intake of this crucial vitamin. Adults aged 19 years old and above should get 45 mg of vitamin C a day, according to the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (4).
This vitamin is found widely in plenty of fruits and vegetables, like guava, citrus, kiwi, broccoli, and sprouts. In Australia, around 40% of vitamin C is sourced from vegetables and 19% from fruits (4). Getting your daily dose of vitamin C from these food sources is still the best way to meet your vitamin C requirements, however, you can complement a healthy diet with supplementation.
This is especially helpful as the reality is that many Australians may not be meeting their recommended vitamin C intake via a balanced and vitamin C-rich diet. Poor lifestyle choices like smoking and alcohol can also decrease levels of vitamin C in the body and affect its absorption. In this case, you can reap vitamin C benefits for skin and overall good health through supplementation.
If you would like to benefit from having vitamin C in your daily multivitamin packs, Vitable Australia has you covered. Our Vitamin C Plus supplement is specially formulated with rosehip extract for an antioxidant-rich blend and comes with naturally occurring carotenoids to keep your skin strong and healthy from within. In addition to vitamin C, we offer a multivitamin subscription where you can mix and match tailored vitamins depending on your health and wellness goals. We even take care of vitamin delivery too!
Find out more about other supplements that can help you with skin:
*Always read the label. Follow the directions for use. If symptoms persist, talk to your health professional. Vitamin and/or mineral supplements should not replace a balanced diet.