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Did you ever wonder where you would be without vitamin C? If you’re a fan of trivia, you probably know all about the origin of the word “limey.” To briefly bring the rest of you up to date, “limey” was a nickname given to English sailors stemming from their reliance on limes and lime juice to ward off scurvy, or vitamin C deficiency.
And what, you may wonder, exactly does a vitamin C deficiency look like? In short, people with scurvy lose teeth, bleed easily, and lose strength in their bones. So, to answer the original question, without vitamin C, we would be weak, toothless, bloodless, and most probably, eventually, dead. Why is this? Because Vitamin C contains collagen, which is the framework of our skin and bones and without it, we would quite literally fall apart, skin included. Therefore, it stands to reason that vitamin C might be a good way to prevent that from happening. Here are four ways in which it does just that.
Among the wonderful benefits of vitamin C is its ability to fight damage caused by UV light exposure. However, because it cannot absorb light in the UVA and UVB spectrum, it is not considered a sunscreen. Rather, it is the antioxidant properties of the vitamin that provide protection against damage by free radicals caused by UV light.
Although oral vitamin C supplements alone, may not increase the amount of photoprotection from UV light, studies have found that oral supplementation with a combination of vitamin C and Vitamin E can boost antioxidant protection against radiation. Topical application is the most effective way of getting the benefits of vitamin C to your skin. Mouse studies show that topical application can delay the effects of UVB exposure, and reduce the amount of sun wrinkling and development of skin tumors, while studies on pigs find reduced amount of sunburned cells and less DNA damage. As with oral supplementation, topical applications of vitamin C work most effectively with a little support from vitamin E.
Fighting Photodamage and Wrinkling
Besides its stellar performance as an antioxidant, vitamin C also regulates the synthesis of collagen. By fighting oxidative damage which leads to changes in skin structure, and by playing a role in maintaining structural collagen, vitamin C can fight photodamage and the onset of intrinsic aging.
Two studies showed that higher dietary intake of vitamin C was associated with significant decreases in wrinkling, while the use of 3-10% collagen applied topically for a minimum of ten weeks has been shown to reduce roughness in skin, decrease wrinkling, reduce fiber damage, and increase collagen production.
One of the distinguishing features of scurvy is slow wound healing. Levels of vitamin C decrease significantly at the site of wound and there is an increased need for collagen synthesis, which is where vitamin C may play a major role.
However, although data from laboratory animals show the vitamin C increases collagen production at the wound site and decrease inflammation, there is no evidence that it speeds the time it takes for the wound to heal. This suggests that, while vitamin C is definitely important for wound healing in humans, more research needs to be done to determine the exact role it plays in the process.
Large intakes of vitamin C have been associated with a lower risk of dry skin. This suggests that ascorbic acid may prevent water loss from the skin. However, conflicting studies seem to point in the opposite direction. Thus, the jury is still out on the effects of the vitamin on skin dryness.
How are you using vitamin C to keep you healthy? Let us know what you think about vitamin C for your skin and otherwise!