how to choose the best vitamin C “anti-aging” skincare product

by crumpetsandt

hi guys!  hope everyone had a great weekend.  today’s topic is of interest to the older folk (including late twenties and up i guess, lol)…anti-aging skincare!  i know that there’s A LOT of hype out there with “our product will revolutionize wrinkle prevention” etc. etc. and it’s hard to really figure out what is really true and what is just aggressive advertising.  many companies that sell over-the-counter (OTC) potions make all sorts of claims for anti-wrinkle, anti-aging but are not backed up by the fda.  only fda backed products (prescription-based products) are forced to provide scientific proof of their claims that that the products are efficacious.  therefore, we should always approach OTC product claims with caution and really think about whether buying the item is analogous to flushing money down the toilet.

we will learn today about how to look at vitamin C anti-aging products; once again, i will be giving a chemistry (not medical) perspective of how to choose a vitamin c product that won’t lose efficacy/degrade before you get to use it.

so we all know that vitamin c, also know as ascorbic acid, has great health benefits (see here for a general audience tutorial) when ingested.  vitamin c has also been used as a topical agent in cream, lotions, gels, serums, etc. because of its reputed ability to lessen/prevent sun spots and skin discolorations and also stimulate collagen production (for what collagen is, click here).  additionally, vitamin C can act as an antioxidant, as shown in the browning of apples experiment where the sprinkling of vit. c on apples slows down browning,  so logically, all vitamin c skincare products must be good…bring it on, right?

of course, things are not always so simple.  as it turns out, vitamin c degrades, like any other organic molecule, over time and exposure to light (UV usually) or heat.  the time frame in which this degradation happens is accelerated when vitamin c is put into a solution (liquid) versus when vitamin c is stored in its solid form.  many companies, in efforts to market and sell their vitamin c creams/lotions/potions, use chemical “stabilizers” to slow down vitamin c decomposition.  however, usually once you open your cream/lotion jar/bottle and expose the product to air, the decomposition pathway has started and your cream/lotion is losing its vitamin c efficacy.  other companies like nv perricone have used other approaches like chemically joining vitamin c with a fatty acid via an ester bond (it’s okay if you don’t understand the nomeclature) thereby changing the behavioral properties of the new vitamin c-derived compound, but this may not actually make the vitamin c derivative better (see bioavailability of different vitamin c compounds if you’re interested).  i personally never by creams/lotions/gels/etc. with vitamin c mixed in already with the product in mainly because you don’t really know how much you end up really using on your face (is it all decomposed?  partially decomposed?  degraded material that i’m slathering on?  who know?)

if you do want to jump on the anti-aging moisturizers bandwagon and want to use a vitamin c-based product, here is what i would recommend:  a solid form of vitamin c that you can mix into your lotion/cream/gel right before you use it.  that way you know exactly how much your putting on, what you’re putting on, and that you’ve avoided, as much as you can, the decomposition of your vitamin c before use.  philosophy make something called “turbo booster c powder” which is solid vitamin c that you scoop out with the scooper they’ve provided and mix into your moisturizer.  the ingredients are: (comments in parentheses mine) “ascorbic acid (vitamin c), panthenol (provitamin B5), zinc pca (humectant), copper pca (humectant), camellia oleifera leaf juice, dipotassium glycyrrhizinate (licorice extract), arginine (amino acid), cysteine (amino acid), aloe barbadensis leaf juice” in solid form.  the bottle looks like this:

from the sephora website

from the sephora website

i would store this bottle away from heat and light and cap tightly to avoid moisture from getting in.  hopefully this tutorial has been helpful and has taught you a little more about this tricky molecule.  may you be successful in your search for vitamin c skincare products!