If you want healthy, glowing skin, then you absolutely need to use vitamin C. Without access to the vitamin C that it needs, your skin will look older, duller and more tired than it should, and it will be weaker, less supple and more prone to dryness, spots and acne.
When skin lacks sufficient vitamin C all kinds of skin problems occur, and the typical skin care solutions on offer simply drain your wallet without doing anything to eliminate the root cause of the problem.
By using vitamin C, you actually fix the underlying deficiencies in your skin instead of continually trying to mask the problems.
- 1 What Is Vitamin C?
- 2 What Are Vitamin C’s Benefits For Skin?
- 3 Why You Need Antioxidants for Great Skin?
- 4 Collagen – What You Need To Know
- 5 How Many Kinds Of Vitamin C Are There?
- 6 Is Natural Vitamin C Better Than Ascorbic Acid?
- 7 Why Is Natural Vitamin C So Heavily Promoted?
- 8 GMO and China Sourced Vitamin C
- 9 Pills or Powder?
- 10 How To Make Vitamin C Serum
- 11 How To Supplement With Vitamin C
- 12 So where to begin?
- 13 Best Food Sources Of Vitamin C
What Is Vitamin C?
Vitamin C is a simple nutrient with far-reaching effects. Most mammals (apes and guinea pigs excepted) make their own vitamin C – lucky them – and way back in the mists of time we used to make our own supplies of this nutrient too. But as we evolved, we lost that ability and are now dependent on food sources of vitamin C.
Numerous processes in your body depend on vitamin C and when you don’t have enough available, things begin to go wrong.
Your skin is the largest organ in your body and it most assuredly suffers when vitamin C is scarce.
What Are Vitamin C’s Benefits For Skin?
Your skin needs antioxidant protection to prevent premature aging and combat the sun damage that causes skin cancer, and it needs collagen to stay strong and supple and to heal wounds.
Vitamin C is one of the most effective antioxidants you can use on your skin, and it’s also essential for collagen production.
Lack of vitamin C is one of the reasons why sailors on long sea voyages in the olden days sickened and died. Without vitamin C, their bodies couldn’t manufacture collagen, the main component of body tissue.
An early visible effect of this collagen breakdown was bleeding gums and tooth loss as their gum tissue became weaker and failed to anchor teeth properly.
Why You Need Antioxidants for Great Skin?
Ever minute of every day your body does battle with free radicals – rogue molecules which cause havoc in your system if they aren’t promptly dealt with.
These rogues are the unavoidable byproducts of breathing oxygen, of the metabolic process that turns food into energy, and of your body’s interaction with the environment.
By damaging your skin at the cellular level, free radicals cause wrinkles, dryness, sagging and sensitivity.
Free radicals are molecules with a missing electron. This makes them unstable, leading them to attack other molecules and steal their electrons.
When a healthy molecule loses an electron to a free radical, it becomes a free radical itself, but the former free radical doesn’t become a healthy functioning molecule.
Now, the new free radical grabs an electron from another molecule, continuing the cycle until the entire cell is destroyed or until an antioxidant comes along and breaks the cycle.
Some of these antioxidants are innate, meaning your body manufactures them, and some need to be obtained from food.
Each type of antioxidant works in a different way and vitamin C is a superstar antioxidant.
Vitamin C is an electron donor. This means that it can give one of its electrons to a rogue molecule, rendering it harmless, without becoming a free radical itself.
Because your skin is your body’s interface with the environment, it’s subject to a high degree of free radical formation, so it’s essential to make sure that you have plenty of antioxidants on cleanup duty.
When you apply a vitamin C serum to your skin, you’re mustering your antioxidant army.
Collagen – What You Need To Know
Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body, accounting for as much as 35% of total bodily protein. This protein is used in some form in practically every structure in your body – muscle tissue, tendons, bone, cartilage, organs, blood vessels, skin, teeth, hair, cell membranes, gastrointestinal tract, spinal discs, eyes and more. It’s literally the glue that holds the body together.
Your body builds collagen from a mixture of 19 different amino acids, combining them in a long chain to form a triple helix (rope like structure). Of those 19, the primary amino acids in collagen are proline, lysine and glycine.
Vitamin C performs a vital role in the collagen formation process by enabling proline and lysine to combine and form pro-collagen. Pro-collagen, in turn, is used to produce the various different types of collagen.
Without sufficient vitamin C, you won’t produce enough collagen, and the collagen that you do produce will be weak.
When it comes to your skin, collagen provides strength and elasticity and is vital for repairing wounds and superficial breaks.
As you get older, your body naturally produces less collagen, so from an anti aging perspective, it’s important to support the collagen production process as much as you can.
Applying vitamin C to your skin won’t really help make strong collagen if you don’t have a good supply of vitamin C for the rest of your body.
Your body is smart and it will direct what vitamin C it has to the most important functions. Keeping your heart and blood vessels healthy is a greater priority than keeping skin soft, supple and wrinkle free!
So while it is certainly beneficial to apply vitamin C serum to your face, you’ll get better results if you also make sure your dietary intake of foods and/or supplements is adequate.
How Many Kinds Of Vitamin C Are There?
Vitamin C can be divided into two categories.
There’s the vitamin C you find in the food that you eat, and then there’s the supplemental vitamin C that comes in powder or tablet form. And it’s with this supplemental vitamin C that the controversy kicks in.
The majority of supplemental vitamin C on the market is ascorbic acid, which is the scientific name for vitamin C – and it’s very reasonably priced given the many, many health benefits that it brings.
There are other vitamin C products however that claim to be more effective than ascorbic acid and these are more expensive and very heavily promoted.
The most well known of these is acerola cherry. This ‘more natural’ vitamin C comes with the essential bioflavonoid cofactors commonly known as C-Complex, that are missing from ascorbic acid.
Is Natural Vitamin C Better Than Ascorbic Acid?
In a word, no. And here’s why.
All of the research done on vitamin C that proved its necessity for human health didn’t use acerola cherry powder or any other kind of ‘natural with cofactors’ vitamin C. The research was done with plain ascorbic acid.
Nobel Prize winning research chemist Linus Pauling – perhaps the foremost authority on vitamin C – studied and used ascorbic acid for many years, and he said this,
“Ascorbic acid is an essential food for human beings. People who receive no ascorbic acid (vitamin C) become sick and die.”
Orthomolecular physicians who use vitamin C to treat all manner of maladies, use ascorbic acid.
Comatose patients receive infusions of ascorbic acid to keep them alive, they don’t receive the cofactors in cherry powder.
Mammals who manufacture their own vitamin C, don’t manufacture the cofactors made by plants, they manufacture ascorbic acid.
Ascorbic acid is vitamin C and vitamin C is ascorbic acid. It’s the ascorbate ion obtained from the ascorbic acid that matters, not the cofactors.
“The ascorbate ion, the fraction commonly found in ascorbic acid, or one of the salts, e.g., sodium ascorbate or calcium ascorbate, is vitamin C. This is the substance that when missing in the diet causes death by scurvy.
“There is no scientific debate about this fact. The scientific literature is so voluminous that few
would be capable of digesting it. Part of the problem is that today’s dietitians and orthodox nutritionists are taught to ignore much of the early research and medical doctors are not well versed in vitamin C either. Apparently this knowledge vacuum has opened the door to the emotionally appealing idea of a “natural” vitamin C-complex.”
If you follow the link above, you’ll find the entire Vitamin C Foundation report on natural vitamin C versus ascorbic acid. It’s easy to understand, fully referenced, and should leave you in no doubt that ascorbic acid is the real deal when it comes to vitamin C.
Why Is Natural Vitamin C So Heavily Promoted?
Mostly it comes down to money. You can buy an entire kilo (2.2 pounds) of ascorbic acid for less than $20. Acerola cherry powder will cost you around $30 for half as much. What’s more, the cherry powder only contains about 25% vitamin C, whereas the ascorbic acid is 100% vitamin C.
GMO and China Sourced Vitamin C
Ascorbic acid is generally obtained from corn and much of the corn grown today is genetically modified (GMO). If you don’t like the idea of GMO crops, look for vitamin C made from non-GMO corn, this kind of vitamin C isn’t hard to find, although it may cost a little more.
Another concern with vitamin C is its place of origin. Unfortunately the biggest producer by far of the vitamin C on the market today is China, and Chinese companies have a bad reputation for some shady, cost cutting measures.
Not all of the vitamin C from China is bad, but the only way to know for sure that your vitamin C is pure and uncut is to use a reputable brand who test the bulk product they import and who make the certificate of analysis (COA) available to customers. If a product description doesn’t have a link to this data, ask to see it. Don’t buy products without this purity assurance.
Pills or Powder?
To make serums for your face, you need to use the powdered form of vitamin C. If you want to use vitamin C as a dietary supplement you can use either kind – but the powder is far more economical.
To use vitamin C powder as a supplement, you need to dissolve it in water and drink it through a straw. Why through a straw? Well, ascorbic acid is an acid (albeit a very mild one) and as such, it can damage the enamel on your teeth. When you drink it through a straw, the liquid stays safely in the straw until it is well past your teeth where it won’t do any harm.
How To Make Vitamin C Serum
Making your own vitamin C serum is simplicity itself. All you need to do is dissolve the ascorbic acid powder in water. Seriously that’s all there is to it.
The serum you make this way will last for about 2 weeks if you keep it in the fridge. It will lose effectiveness every day though because vitamin C degrades in water, so for best results mix up a little each time you want to use it.
To make your serum last longer, you can add some vegetable glycerine. Serums with glycerine should last for at least one month. Again the vitamin will degrade over time, so it’s best to mix up a small amount.
For a water based serum you will need:
- Half a teaspoon of ascorbic acid
- One tablespoon filtered or distilled water
- Dark glass bottle to store
How to make:
- Simply dissolve the ascorbic acid in the water and store in the bottle in your fridge.
- For a glycerine based serum you will need:
- Half a teaspoon of ascorbic acid powder
- One teaspoon filtered or distilled water
- Two tablespoons vegetable glycerine
- Dark glass bottle to store
How to make:
- Dissolve the ascorbic acid powder in the water, then mix with the glycerine.
- Store your serum in the glass bottle in the fridge.
How To Supplement With Vitamin C
The recommended daily amounts suggested by health bodies are considered by many to be far too low for good health. If you stick with the government approved guidelines you won’t get scurvy, but your body won’t have all of the vitamin C that it needs to function as well as it should.
Government guidelines suggest the following recommended daily amounts:
- Up to twelve months – 40 to 50 mg per day.
- One to three years – 15 mg per day
- Four to eight years – 25 mg per day
- Nine to thirteen years – 45 mg per day
Once puberty hits, males have a higher need for vitamin C than females.
- Fourteen to eighteen years – males 75 mg and females 65 mg per day.
- Nineteen and over – males 90 mg and females 75mg per day.
- Smokers of any age need more vitamin C to cover the damage caused by smoking – males 125 mg and females 110 mg per day.
As already mentioned, these are the minimum amounts necessary to prevent scurvy, they aren’t the optimal amounts for good health.
- The optimal amount of vitamin C to take is a very individual matter because your health status will determine how much you need.
- Your body uses vitamin C to repair damage caused by stress and pollution- two hard to avoid elements of modern life.
- You need vitamin C to repair skin damaged by wind and sun.
- If you’re battling an infection or have tooth decay, you’ll need more vitamin C.
- The same goes for anyone living with a chronic condition like atherosclerosis, heart disease, diabetes and so on.
- And, vitamin C also gets a lot of use when you eat a poor diet.
So where to begin?
A good baseline intake is one gram per day, divided into three or 4 servings. It’s best to spread your daily dose throughout the day because any vitamin C that isn’t used up quickly, is excreted in your urine.
So, if you take an entire gram in the morning, you could waste a lot of your vitamin C and leave your body without sufficient resources for later in the day.
Another reason to split your dose into smaller amounts is the effect that higher doses of vitamin C can have on your bowel. At higher doses, vitamin C is a very effective laxative, and a one gram dose may be enough to send you running for the nearest bathroom half an hour later.
Four, 250 mg doses – one when you get up, another at lunchtime, one at dinner and one more before bed, will remove any risk of a toilet dash and keep your vitamin C levels nice and even all day long.
You can take more than 1 gram a day if you want to, and much higher doses are very beneficial when you’re sick because your body has a greater need for the vitamin when it’s fighting infections.
You’ll find a handy chart compiled by Orthomolecular physician Dr. Robert Cathcart on this page which will show how you how much vitamin C to take when you’re sick.
Best Food Sources Of Vitamin C
While citrus fruits, especially oranges, are usually the first foods that come to mind when you think about vitamin C, there are many other excellent fruit and vegetable sources.
The amounts listed below should be used as a rough guide to vitamin C content. The freshness of the product has an impact on vitamin content, with fresher foods having higher amounts of vitamin C than those which have been in storage for a while.
Canned vegetables are not good sources of vitamin C, the canning process uses high levels of heat and this destroys most of the vitamin C.
Likewise, cooking your vegetables also reduces vitamin C content, so raw or lightly cooked veggies will give you more of this valuable nutrient than boiled or stewed vegetables.
Good vegetable sources of vitamin C:
- One cup bell peppers – 117 mg
- One cup broccoli – 101 mg
- One cup cauliflower – 54 mg
- One cup kale – 53 mg
- One cup cabbage – 51 mg
- Half cup parsley – 40 mg
- One cup tomatoes – 54 mg
- One cup sweet potato – 39 mg
- One cup potato -16g
Good fruit sources of vitamin C:
- One medium papaya – 168 mg
- One cup strawberries – 84 mg
- One cup pineapple – 78 mg
- One medium orange – 70 mg
- One kiwifruit – 64 mg
- Half medium grapefruit – 44 mg
- One cup raspberries – 32 mg
- Quarter cup lemon or lime – 23 mg
- One medium banana – 10mg
- One medium apple 8mg
To wrap up, let’s quickly recap what we’ve learned in this article.
Vitamin C is a crucial nutrient used in numerous processes in your body. It’s a potent antioxidant which helps to protect you from free radical damage, and it’s vital for healthy collagen production.
When you have plenty of vitamin C, you will have better overall health and healthier skin.
Vitamin C is ascorbic acid, plain and simple.
The best type of vitamin C for your face is regular ascorbic acid powder which you mix into a serum using either plain water or water and glycerine.
And finally, supplementing with vitamin C is a really good idea to compensate for dietary inadequacies, making sure you have strong antioxidant protection throughout your body and a good rate of healthy collagen production.