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Vitamin C Skincare: Why L-Ascorbic Acid Doesn't Work?

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is known for its antioxidant activities. It is believed to boost immune system and help fight off infection in the body. As a water-soluble substance, vitamin C is not stored in the body. It needs to be consumed regularly. Any excess will be thrown away from the body.

Contradictory to its antioxidant properties, vitamin C is prone to oxidation. It loses its antioxidant properties upon a contact with the oxygen atom of the water molecule (H2 O).

L-Ascorbic Acid

L-Ascorbic Acid is the standard form of vitamin C that has the highest antioxidant activities compared to the other forms of vitamin C.

Numerous laboratory studies showed that L-Ascorbic Acid helps protect skin against free radical and sun damage. Nevertheless, it needs to be added at high concentration (between 10% to 20%) and in a water-based formula with a ph below 3.5.


Why L-Ascorbic Acid is Not Suitable for Skincare Products?

The optimum environment for L-Ascorbic Acid to perform is in a water-based formula and at ph below 3.5. With these requirements, L-Ascorbic Acid is not suitable for skincare products for the following reasons:

1. Disrupting The Skin's Balance

The ph of healthy skin is around 5.5.

A product that has either a high ph (above 7, alkaline) or low ph (below 4, acidic) disturbs the skin's balance and weakens the skin's barrier function. 

At the optimum ph of 3.5, L-Ascorbic Acid products can be very irritating and easily trigger skin sensitivity.

2. Unstable and Very Short Shelf Life

L-Ascorbic Acid is very useful in the skincare and food production. It is widely used to regulate ph level. I use it at very low concentration to bring the ph of the products to be around the skin's natural ph level. This helps lengthen the shelf life of the products.

However, at high concentration (10% to 20% in water), the exact opposite happens. It is very unstable and shortening the shelf life of the products. Never use vitamin C products when the colour starts to turn to yellow or brown. It is a sign that the oxidation process already happened.

When it is oxidised, the L-ascorbic acid turned to dehydroascorbic acid and no longer has antioxidant properties.


Is There A Way to Stabilise L-Ascorbic Acid?

Some skincare formulators use silicone and its derivatives like cyclomethicone or pentasiloxane, to disperse the L-ascorbic acid in the formula. However, the efficacy of L-ascorbic acid in a non water-based formula is questionable.

Other skincare formulators add vitamin E, Ferulic Acid or zinc sulfate to help stabilise L-ascorbic acid, however, this doesn't seem to be working. Based on my observation, the colour of the products start to turn to yellow or brown within weeks. Due to the presence of oxygen atom in the water molecule (H2O), L-Ascorbic Acid will be oxidised quickly. Even if it is placed in an airless bottle, it won't stop the oxidation process.

Vitamin C Derivatives and Their Efficacy

Due to the instability of L-Ascorbic Acid, many attempts were made to create a more stable form of Vitamin C. There are some forms of vitamin C derivatives;  some are water-soluble and some are oil-soluble ones such as Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Ascorbyl Palmitate, Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate.

    These are more stable forms of vitamin C, however, their antioxidant properties are significantly lower than those of L-Ascorbic Acid.


    Antioxidants in Skincare Products 

    Antioxidant plays a crucial role in preventing skin damage caused by free radicals, oxidative stress and pollution. Found in the skin of red grape, Resveratrol has stronger antioxidant effects than Vitamin C, A, E, Catechin (in teas), Epicatechin (in cocoa), Gallocatechin (in adzuki beans), Gallic Acid (in blueberries), Ellagic Acid (in pomegranates) and Idebenone. 

    Resveratrol protects skin cells from free radical attack and prevents oxidative stress. It helps preserve skin's collagen and elastin. With its cell-renewing properties, Resveratrol helps prevent and reduce the appearance of dark spots, wrinkles, lines and sagging skin. It is also beneficial in reducing hormonal acne breakouts during perimenopause and menopause.

    Resveratrol is one of the bioactives in award-winning Bio-Collagen Serum and Bio-Collagen Ageless Cream. To diminish the look of wrinkles, lines, sagging skin and uneven skin tone; apply this rejuvenating serum underneath the ageless cream on freshly cleansed skin, every morning and evening. With regular daily use, wrinkles and lines appear less visible; and the skin looks and feels more lifted, radiant and firmer. While there isn't any permanent solution yet to de-age our look, Henry Tianus Bio-Collagen Serum and Bio-Collagen Ageless Cream help your skin retain its youthful appearance for longer.



    Henry Tianus is a multi-award-winning Anti-Ageing Scientist based in London, UK. Read >>>



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