Which type of Vitamin C works for our skin?

Vitamin C Skin Care Products

It looks like more and more skincare products are including some form of Vitamin C in their formulations for obvious reasons of attracting customers who believe in their touted merits in skin rejuvenation and wrinkle reduction.  However, which is the true Vitamin C, which are the derivatives and what type of vitamin C really works?

Here, I’ll take a look at the difference types of Vitamin C and find out how well they perform.  

L-Ascorbic Acid
L-Ascorbic Acid is known to be the only natural form of Vitamin C in skin care products.  It is a potent antioxidant proven to stimulate the synthesis of collagen, strengthens the capillaries and cell walls, as well as protect both beta-carotene and Vitamin E from oxidation.  While it is easily absorbed by the skin and can stay for up to 72 hours, L-ascorbic acid can be irritating to those with sensitive skin.  In addition, it is highly unstable and oxidize rapidly.   Hence, it should be prepared and stored properly, otherwise Vitamin C in its oxidized form is of no benefit and actually promotes free radical formation causing damage to collagen and DNA.  Skinceutical’s latest Phloretin CF and Cellex-C High Potency Serum are examples of products containing this ingredient.

Magnesuim Ascorbyl Phosphate
Magnesuim Ascorbyl Phosphate or MAP in short, is a water-soluble Vitamin C derivative that is said to have the same potential as Vitamin C to boost skin collagen synthesis but is effective in significantly lower concentrations.  Because it is a water soluble Vitamin C derivative, which is stable in aqueous solution, and hence, can be easily formulated in skin care products.  In addition, it is non-irritating and is thus, gentler for those with sensitive skin.  However, products containing MAP should still be kept away from sunlight as the ingredient does degrade over time.  The Body Shop Vitamin C Skin Boost is an example of a product containing this ingredient which has received rave reviews.

Ascorbic Acid Polypeptides
Ascorbic Acid Polypeptide complex is a water stable, soluble form of Vitamin C, said to be able to penetrate the outer layers of the skin.  From what I’ve gathered, it’s extremely stable and readily available to convert to Vitamin C when applied to the skin.  The John Masters Organics Anti-Aging Face Serum I’m currently using contains this and I have to say it’s great for skin rejuvenation.

Ascorbyl Methyl Silanol
Ascorbyl Methyl Silanol is a Vitamin C derivative and is known to be more stable.  However, reports have indicated that it cannot be absorbed by the skin nor will it convert into L-ascorbic acid by the skin.  Despite so, I have actually seen visible improvement when I used TDF C Scape Serum which contains 10% of this ingredient.  

Ascorbyl Palmitate 
Ascorbyl Palmitate is the most widely used fat-soluble derivative of Vitamin C in skin care.  From what I’ve read, it is actually a Vitamin C ester (Vitamin C that has been esterified to a fatty acid but not Ester-C®) and supposedly non-irritating and slightly more stable.  While it is said to be as effective as Vitamin E in protecting the skin from free radical damage in the skin, however, there is doubt as to whether the concentrations of Ascorbyl Palmitate achievable in skin care formulas are enough to support collagen synthesis as it takes much higher quantities to get the collagen-producing effects of L-Ascorbic Acid.   In fact, this ingredient seems to be on the list of many natural or organic skin care products.

I’ve seen this around quite a bit in products like Jason Ester-C Skin Care Products.  From what I’ve gathered, Ester-C is a trademarked name and in this formula, calcium ascorbate is added in order to reduce the acidic effects.  Hence, Ester-C is the first non-acidic form of Vitamin C capable of penetrating the epidermis. Since it is non-acidic, I believe it should be less irritating. I’ve used Jason Ester-C Super-C Cleanser and while I did like it, but I didn’t really notice much of a difference in my skin condition since it was just a cleanser.

I think how well a skin care product containing the true or derivative Vitamin C performs really depends on the formulation too.  In some cases, the concentration may not be significant enough to make a difference.  In other instances, it may not be absorbed well in our skin.  But having said that, I have to say that I’ve had fairly good experience with most products that indicates some form of Vitamin C as the key ingredient. I’ll also like to remind the ladies who are using products containing Vitamin C to use sunscreen in conjunction as such ingredients are mostly sun sensitive. Also note that topical Vitamin C especially Ascorbic Acid should not be used together with Copper Peptide because it tends to detach the copper from the latter ingredient.

Reference: www.smartskincare.com & www.dermadoctor.com


  1. Dawn says:

    I’ve got some problems with my skin!
    I’ve recently got under a lot of stress and 4 pimple EMERGED >0<”’ *cries* But it has all subsided.
    BUTTT!!! I think maybe because its Winter here, the pore closed before it could expel all the ‘toxins’! So now there’s slight scarring. Do you have any remedy for it?

    Dawn: Personally I’ve tried rose hip oil to reduce such scars and I say it works. The other I have heard but not used is jojoba oil.

  2. Alyssa says:

    I really enjoyed the entry! Great info! keep it up!

    Alyssa: Thanks! Glad you enjoyed it.

  3. Theresa says:

    Great read, you did a wonderful research on this topic.

    I’m using Skinceutical’s Serum 15 and see some improvements at the beginning, after 2 months it turned color & I suspect it loses its potency also…I’d love to give John Master a try.

    Theresa: Thanks! Glad you found the info useful. I’ve read from the forums the same thing about Skinceutical’s. L-Ascorbic Acid is really hard to keep after awhile. John Masters is good for healing scars, but I have yet to see much lightening though.

  4. yanju says:

    can u pls talk abt stretchmarks & the creams that actually WORK!!!! for them
    many thanks.

    yanju: Okay, I’ll try. I haven’t had luck myself but I have to admit I was lazy.

  5. yanju says:

    i ve also heard an antioxidant should be part of one’s beauty routine.apart from my moisturizer which is aveeno.the only thing i use is a sunscreen to protect my skin so i would like to know wat to use,wat u wld recommend that is affordable and available in Nigeria.though a lot of brand names like neutrogena,loreal,clinique and a few good names are available.many thanks!

    yanju: Yes, antioxidant is good. Products with vit c, vit e, green tea are all great. You need to find out which you need as in what’s the major thing you want to improve for your skin. But recommending a product…whoa…you’ve got me stumped there because I’m not familliar with Nigeria’s beauty market. I need to think about this and reply again in a day or two.

    *Update on 2 Aug: Yanju, have you tried The Body Shop. Heard their Vitamin C Boost is very good. Maybe you like to try it. They also have a Vitamin E range which received fairly good feedback.

  6. yanju says:

    ve heard great things abt it too! will try it thanks!

    yanju: Hope it’ll work for you!

  7. slpascual says:

    what about avalon organics vitamin c serum thing? thanks.

    slpascual: If I got it correct, the product uses Magnesium Ascorbal Phosphate which is quite promising in terms of results. It also contains Vitamin E. However, I’ve not tried the product personally so I can’t comment on the effectiveness per se.

  8. sandy says:

    what, if anything, do you know about ascorbyl tetraisopalmitate?

    Sandy: I learnt about it only recently because of some Body Shop products I was checking out. It seems to be a more stable form of Vit C and penetrates better into the skin. But I’ve never tried it…

  9. sylvia says:

    I recently was introduced to antioxidents for the face. I wonder if using the vitc and vite gel caps is ok to squeeze onto the face I tried it and it felt sting! Would that not be ok. In the old days they used vit e caps around the eyes.

    Sylvia: I’m not sure what type of gel caps you’re using but Vit C does sting temporarily when applied topically on the face.

  10. London Virgo says:

    An FYI – Vit E is amazing for skin and its a natural preservative, a good product has Vit E as one of the preservatives as compared to a chemical preservative.

    LV: Yeah, it’s a great natural preservative plus a good antioxidant too!

  11. Jubilee says:

    Hi! Have you tried La Roche’s Active C? It contains L Ascorbic Acid. I’m using that right now and it’s only been a day so wondeirng if you have any experience with it. Thanks!

  12. sesame says:

    Sorry, I haven’t tried anything else from La Roche Posay except for their sunscreens. Perhaps you can check if you can find reviews on forums?

  13. Sharon says:

    Hi Sesame,

    Have you tried The Skin Pharmacy’s 20% Vitamin C Serum? If yes, did you feel there’s any difference? The Vitamin C used is ascorbyl tetraisopalmitate. I was contemplating to get either this or TDF C Scape Serum.

  14. Sesame says:

    No, I haven’t so I can’t comment.

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