The truth about Vitamin C

We ask Belinda Carli, cosmetic chemist and director of the Institute of Personal Care Science (IPCS) her professional opinion on Vitamin C.


Vitamin C xx
Vitamin C protects against free radical damage and UV radiation-induced skin changes, says cosmetic chemist Belinda Carli.


Vitamin C is an enduring ingredient, what makes it so popular?

“Ascorbic acid has been well studied and proven as an anti-oxidant and a cofactor for an enzyme crucial in the synthesis of collagen (prolyl hydrolase),” says Carli. “This means it has the following skin benefits: it protects against free radical damage and UV radiation-induced skin changes. It stimulates collagen synthesis to decrease wrinkles and improve skin elasticity. And it effectively reduces redness [as it] nurtures skin integrity.

Does consuming Vitamin C have the same effect on skin?

“Only limited amounts of ingested Vitamin C, through diet or supplements, are made available to the skin,” says Carli. “So topical application of Vitamin C can be an effective way to provide proven skin benefits.

What are some sources of Vitamin C you might utilise in your formulations?

“While the most direct form is ascorbic acid, it is also the least stable,” says Carli. “Turning formulations brown and no longer active after often only a few months. This makes it the least desirable choice for a formulator to use.

So what are some better options?

“There are more stable alternatives – derivatives of ascorbic acid – that have been modified to make them more stable in formulations,” says Carli. “Common INCI names you will see for such alternatives include Magnesium (or Sodium), Ascorbyl Phosphate, Glyceryl Ascorbates, Ascorbyl Glucoside and Ethyl Ascorbic Acid. You may also find some products naturally rich in Vitamin C content through the inclusion of certain extracts (for example Kakadu Plum, Acerola, Mango and Guava) or oils (such as Rose Hip Oil). When formulated in a stable and readily absorbed base, these derivatives can still provide the benefits of ascorbic acid but with a much better shelf life.”

Are there any side effects?

“There are no side effects to using Vitamin C but remember, if the product you are using has discoloured (turned beige or brown) then the Vitamin C present is no longer stable or effective,” says Carli.



IPCS provides distance and on-site training in cosmetic formulation, brand management and regulatory affairs. For more information, contact Belinda on or visit



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