Acne affects millions of people on the daily. In the USA alone over 23 million people used a product to help with acne in the last 7 days. Nearly 2 million used a product 14 times or more.
Acne is the most common ‘skin disease’ in people aged 14 – 65. That’s a lot of us looking for a way to get rid of acne and the trail of damage that it can leave behind. Such as scaring and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.
There are many products that claim to be an ‘acne cure all’, but don’t belive everything a multi million dollar marketing campaign tells you! There are some ingredients that will help acne and its effects and some that are based on bad science.
When it comes to Vitamin C and acne what’s the deal?
Does Vitamin C help Acne?
Vitamin C has been shown to improve the appearance of acne and its side effects. It can reduce clogged pores, lighten hyperpigmentation and calm down inflammation and redness caused by acne. It also boosts collagen production which helps the skin repair without causing scars.
There is more than one type of ‘acne’ and Vitamin C can help with most of them. To get to grips with Vitamin C and acne we need to first look at what Vitmain C is and then how it helps different types of acne.
By the end of this article you’ll be your own Vitamin C and acne expert!
What Is Vitamin C
Vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, is a vitamin that’s water-soluble and vital to your general health and the health of your skin. Your body doesn’t naturally make its own supply of Vitamin C. This means you have to get it via the foods you eat.
Humanity learnt the hard way that a lack of Vitamin C was very bad for you. In the late 1700s when sailors on long journeys, often spending months at sea began dying gruesome and drawn out deaths something had to be done.
The provisions they took, hard biscuits, salted beef, pork, cheese and fish were lacking one vital component, Vitamin C. The importance of Vitamin C wasn’t known at the time and many thousands of sailors died before it was discovered that adding lime juice (a source of vitamin c) to the daily ration of rum cured scurvy.
Lime not only cured scurvy but gave British sailors the name Limeys.
You’re getting enough Vitamin C, in your diet but science has shown that applying Vitamin C, topically can greatly improve your skin’s levels of the vitamin and that provides benefits in the treatment of acne.
How Vitamin C Serum Helps Acne
Vitamin C can help ‘normalise keratinization‘ – this is science speak for stopping your pores from getting clogged up with too many skin cells. Clogged pores lead to acne breakouts.
Oily skin form overactive sebaceous glands is more prone to clogged pores. Vitamin C helps regulate sebum production from sebaceous glands. Keeping pores clear can stop acne from forming.
Vitamin C has shown promise in reducing the appearance of acne scars and lightening dark spots and pigmentation.
It also helps repair skin and reduces scar tissue formation and is a link in the chain of collagen production. Collagen is a compound that keeps our skin smooth, supple and plump.
Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant, which means it helps to neutralize damaging free radicals in our body. Free radicals refer to unstable compounds capable of damaging your body’s tissues and left unchecked can cause mutations in your DNA.
How Can Vitamin C Affect Acne?
There are different types of acne the most common is Acne Vulgaris. Vulgaris is the latin word for common. So acne vulgaris is the type of ‘acne’ that most people have.
Acne can be divided into:
Acne happens in your hair follicles which contain a sebaceous gland that produces sebum.
Several types of acne spots can occur, often at the same time. You can get inflamed papules, and pustules as well as non inflamed comedones (blackheads and whiteheads).
- Open and closed comedones
- Papules (small, tender to the touch red bumps)
- Pustutles (white or yellow ‘squeezeable’ spots)
- Nodules (large, painful red lumps)
- Cysts (fluid-filled swellings)
Secondary Acne Features
- Excoriations (Squeezed, picked or scratched spots)
- Erythematous Macules (Red marks left by recently headed spots, more visible in fair/pale skin)
- Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (dark patches of skin left by old healed acne)
- Scars – there are three main types of acne scars icepick, boxcar and rolling.
Helps to Reduce Inflammation Associated With Acne
Risk factors that correlate with acne include age (85% of teenagers experience some kind of acne), hormones (puberty and pregnancy often trigger acne), and genetics. P Acnes – a commonly found skin bacterium— causes acne as well.
Since Vitamin C is a natural anti-inflammatory, when used topically, it helps by reducing swelling and redness—all symptoms associated with acne.
There have been studies showing with the use of micro-needling—a process whereby a needle is repeatedly rolled over the skin to facilitate healing and increase collagen production— is done in conjunction with 15% Vitamin C topical cream once per week can improve the appearance of acne by 40% over 12 weeks.
Vitamin C Improves Acne Scars
Directly after a breakout, your skin needs time to repair itself. If your skin doesn’t have the proper time to heal, scars are likely to develop.
Generally associated with cystic acne, acne scars can be caused by mild cases of acne as well. What’s more, genetics, prolonged acne, and squeezing or picking at the acne will increase the chances of scarring.
Atrophic (thin), hypertrophic (thick), and keloid (large and raised) scarring are the three prominent types of scarring.
Atrophic scars contribute to a loss of collagen and skin tissue and form indentations in the skin. On the other hand, keloid and hypertrophic scars stem from the overproduction of collagen and become raised, thick scar tissue.
The way that Vitamin C helps the healing and appearance of acne scars is through increasing collagen synthesis. Collagen is a protein known for the structure of your skin; it plays an integral role in reconstructing healthy skin. Therefore, Vitamin C has the potential to accelerate healing for acne wounds. It also regulates collagen production so the chances of ‘over production’ is also reduced.
Reduces Dark Spots (Hyperpigmentation)
Hyperpigmentation refers to dark spots on the surface of the skin, directly resulting from acne, injuries, and UV rays. It can affect your self-esteem, but it is actually not harmful to your skin.
Topical Vitamin C into the skin can reduce hyperpigmentation by interfering with tyrosinase. Tyrosinase is an enzyme responsible for your natural skin pigment and melanin production.
Since Vitamin C is a brightening agent, it reduces the appearance of dark spots without the risk of changing your skin’s natural tone. Hydroquinone, for example, can lighten dark spots but you also run the risk of lightening the rest of your skin, this is called ghosting.
Human studies involving the combination of Vitamin C and iontophoresis (electrical current that is applied on your skin) have demonstrated an appreciable reduction in hyperpigmentation.
These promising results are tempered with the fact that iontophoresis raises Vitamin C absorption through the skin. Using Vitamin C alongside an oil such as Rosehip will double the benefits to your skin.
What Is The Best Kind Of Vitamin C For Acne?
Vitamin C is notorisuly unstable and oxiidises when expised to light and air. The most stable form of viatmin C used in skin care fomulations is L-ascrobic acid.
Vitamin C can also be very irritating to the skin so it is often formulated with Ferulic Acid and vitamin E. In Fact the cult skincare product by SkinCueticals C E Ferulic serum has this exact formula with the L-ascorbic acid as its Vitamin C.
When looking to introduce Vitamin C into your skincare routine make sure that it contains the right kind of stablised Vitamin C and also has Vitamin E and Ferulic Acid if possible.
Vitamin C is best used in the morning as it helps boost the ingredients in sunscreen to make it more effective and it is a free radical scavenger.
Your skin is exposed to more free radicals from the sun and environmental pollution during the day, so it makes sense to apply it in the morning under your sunscreen.
In a nutshell, Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin that acts as a potent antioxidant capable of protecting your skin and other cells within your body from harmful free radicals. Topical Vitamin C can help reduce scars caused by acne and acne-related conditions such as hyperpigmentation and inflammation.
There are many brands and Vitamin C formulations on the market and price doesn’t mean quality. The SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic is the gold standard and one that I love and use everyday. But Mad Hippie, Paula’s Choice and The Ordinary also make great stabilized Vitamin C products.
If you have active moderate to severe acne it is best to consult with your dermatologist before adding Vitamin C into your skincare routine.
And as always wear sunscreen.