Updated on :

vitamin c benefit for skin

Being a female doctor myself, one of the most frequent questions I got asked is about “how to get better skin?”.

Vitamin C ( Ascorbic acid ) can’t be excluded for glowy, fresh, and youthful skin. Commercials have been encouraging vitamin C in tablet form, topical serum, or intravenous therapy to get skin benefits. But it is not as simple as buying pills or any serum to get the results.

Is vitamin C good for the skin?

Yes, because vitamin C  is a potent antioxidant that protects your skin against free radicals. Free radicals are produced when your body converts food to energy or is exposed to ultraviolet radiation, air pollution, and tobacco smoke. When they accumulate, they can produce oxidative damage to DNA, proteins, and cells including the skin. (known as oxidative stress).

 It has also been shown to replenish other antioxidants within the body, including vitamin E.

And it’s also an important roleplayer in the synthesis of collagen.

How does Vitamin C make the skin better?

1. Brightens the skin and fades dark spots

Melanin cells are designed to protect the skin from UV rays from the sun. However, excess melanin also makes skin darker.

Vitamin C derivatives have been shown to decrease melanin synthesis ( natural skin pigment). So it can be used for skin brightening and treating skin hyperpigmentation such as melisma, or age spots. 

2.  Anti-aging

Oxidative stress due to the overproduction of free radicals is the most significant cause of aging. The antioxidant property of vitamins C is proven to neutralize oxidative stress and prevent premature skin aging.

3.   Firm the skin and smooth wrinkles 

It is thought that loss of collagen, deterioration of collagen, and elastic fibers contribute to wrinkles. Vitamin C acts as a cofactor for lysyl and prolyl hydroxylase: the enzymes which stabilize collagen molecules. It also stimulates collagen synthesis and decreases collagen breakdown.

A well-designed study from Pudmed Central approved lessening wrinkle depth following vitamin C supplementation.

 4.   Promotes wound healing 

The ability of vitamin C to increase collagen synthesis and antioxidant properties also helps with wound healing.

In 2016, the International Journal of Surgery Open pressed that vitamin C deficiency impairs wound healing in surgical patients with case reports.

The vitamin C myth

There is no doubt that vitamin C has good benefits. But contrary to society’s belief, 

  • Vitamin C is not a marker of overall health. It is not a cold medicine despite it can support immune function.
  • Consuming too much vitamin C is not only fruitless but also harmful.
  • Using vitamin C can help protect against free radical damage from the sun but it doesn’t mean the sunscreen can be skipped.
  • Not all vitamin C products are the same. There are a lot of vitamin C supplements on the market. Each differs in the composition of active compounds, source of production, effectiveness, and safety. 

How much vitamin C do you need per day?

Vitamin C is available in some active forms. Among all forms,  L-ascorbic acid is the most researched and the most biologically active (or effective), according to the studies.

 Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) for Vitamin C 

Males: 90 mg/day

Females: 75 mg/day

Pregnant: 85 mg/day; not to exceed 2000 mg/day 

Nursing: 120 mg/day; not to exceed 2000 mg/day

Smokers require 35 mg/day more vitamin C than nonsmokers.

Topical vitamin C solution 

It is recommended to choose the formulation which contains the most active form of vitamin C such as L-ascorbic acid, has a strength of 10% to 20%, and a pH lower than 3.5, as this combination has been studied in clinical trials.

You can apply it once a day as it typically lasts up to 24hrs on the skin.

Eat vitamin C-rich fruits and vegetables 

It’s not all about oral supplements and serums. The vitamin C in food helps promote healthy skin, too. Citrus fruits, kiwis, strawberries, papaya, tomatoes, peppers, cabbage, brussels sprouts, spinach, and broccoli are all packed with vitamin C.

Different routes of Vitamin C administration

Vitamin C Tablets

When we ingest vitamin C, it finds its way to plasma ( blood ), and different tissues including skin. But once plasma vitamin C levels reach their saturation point, it stops further absorption and delivery to the skin. So oral vitamin C tablets are useful in skin conditions if you are deficient.

Vitamin C Serum

Vitamin C serums with good skin penetration can protect the skin and reverse some skin damage. But it is essential to use the most stable and permeable formulation as it needs to pass through the water-impermeable physiological barrier of the skin.

Intravenous Vitamin C infusion

Intravenous vitamin C therapy has gained popularity because of celebrities and beauty influencers. But there is very little scientific data to support the claims. It doesn’t provide any additional benefits, other than the fact that it bypasses the stomach and directly reaches the bloodstream.

Vitamin C iontophoresis

As vitamin C does not easily penetrate the skin, one randomized control trial uses vitamin C iontophoresis to test the results. Iontophoresis is a technique of introducing ionic medicinal compounds through the skin by applying a local electric current. The conclusion is vitamin C iontophoresis may be an effective treatment modality for melasma.

Is it safe to take vitamin C every day?

 Though it has a good safety profile, taking too much is unhealthy.

 A dosage >2000 mg/ day can cause diarrhea, nausea, and abdominal cramps, renal stones,  iron overload in people with hereditary conditions of iron overload (vitamin C enhance iron absorption)

 As for topical preparations, vitamin C may cause skin irritation in concentrations above 20% and in people with sensitive skin.

Insight for supplement consumers 

Nowadays many people forget to eat a well-balanced diet. Instead, they make up for it by popping pills. All the nutrients, vitamins, and minerals provided by balanced nutrition are crucial and they are synergistic with each other in giving health benefits. Vitamins and supplements can’t replace a balanced diet.

Personal advice

Considering vitamin C’s effects on the skin, “the more vitamin C the better “ becomes the new trend. 

My advice is “ The right dose will give a positive effect, but if it is excessive, it’ll disrupt the body’s homeostasis and become toxic”.

And it is important to choose the correct, active and effective form of vitamin C produced from reliable sources and clinically researched.

Don’t be reluctant to discuss with your doctor before using supplements.


Photo of author
Dr Tun Min is s GP working in NHS UK and writing articles about supplements and vitamins based on personal clinical experience and clinical research.

Leave a Comment