Vitamin C Derivatives

Vitamin C Derivatives

Lemons – a cure for freckles

I’ve written on my blog before about the benefits of vitamin C, and the difficulties of using it in cosmetic products. It is one of the few things that have any real beneficial effects on the skin. It reduces skin pigmentation making the skin look younger and evens out the tone of the skin. People noticed this effect long before anybody knew what vitamin C was, with lemon juice being a folk remedy for freckles.

Cosmetic chemists are keen to take advantage of what is a safe, and as it happens, natural ingredient which has some real effects. Unfortunately its lack of stability makes it very difficult to actually take advantage of those benefits. Light and oxygen both rapidly break down vitamin C when it is dissolved in water.

Various strategies have been adopted to try to solve this problem. For example products have been made under stringent conditions and sealed carefully to prevent oxygen getting at them. This works ok but you really need to use more less completely water free formulations for it to work well.  And these tend not to be very elegant. People have high expectations of how pleasant a cosmetic product should be to use.

A better approach is to use a form of vitamin C where the vitamin C molecule has been linked to another molecule altogether. The best known of these is ascorbyl palmitate, but there are quite a few others usually containing the word ascorbyl somewhere in the name.

Potentially this is a very good approach indeed. It overcomes the stability problem of vitamin C and also provides a steady continuous release of vitamin C. This is just what you need because the vitamin C itself will get used up on the skin.

This trick is used so often it is pretty mainstream now.


But unfortunately the performance is limited by the actual amount of vitamin C that can be released from a relatively small amount of product that is applied to the skin. It is one of those things which makes scientific sense and impressive looking and genuine data can be produced, but it probably doesn’t particularly impress consumers with the results.

Yes vitamin C has some genuine effects that can be scientifically demonstrated. And yes those effects do carry over into the products containing vitamin C releasers rather than vitamin C itself. But the actual amount of benefit you see isn’t all that great. It’s worth having, but it isn’t all that spectacular.

The other disappointing thing is it just doesn’t make for a very interesting blog post. I’d much rather talk about fantastic effects and I’m sure you’d rather hear about the solution to all your skin tone problems in one convenient and easy to use bottle. Sorry about that. I don’t make the rules of biology unfortunately.

5 thoughts on “Vitamin C Derivatives

  1. Colin Post author

    Hello Andrea, this is a good idea and although vitamin C is vitamin C wherever you get it from, most supplements are not pure so might well be even more expensive in terms of how much actual vitamin C you get for your money. Bear in mind not every formulation is compatible with vitamin C.

  2. Charlotte G

    Dear Colin
    I spend a fortune on antioxidant serums and creams containing vitamin C: one product by Clinique is in a squeezey tube, the other by Estee Lauder is in a pump (although they couldn’t tell me if it was airtight) and the other by skinceuticals is in a dark glass bottle with a stopper. Which packaging is the most airtight?

  3. Maria del Mar

    Hello Colin, could I ask you what do you think about put lemon juice on your face as a acne treatment? Thank you so much for your response. Kind regards

  4. Colin Post author

    It might help a little. The fruit acids in the lemon juice might break down the lesions a little. But I wouldn’t expect too much from it.

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