Vitamin C Cream Reverses Skin Damage from Sun Exposure
A cream containing vitamin C is effective in reversing some of the damaging effects of the sun on skin, according to a new study published in Experimental Dermatology (2003;12:237–44).
Rays from the sun and other forms of ultraviolet (UV) radiation can damage skin cells, resulting in a process known as photoageing. Sun and UV radiation exposure create oxidative damage in skin cells, increase the number and activity of pigment-producing cells, and decrease production of the elastic and collagen fibers that are responsible for maintaining suppleness and firmness. The cumulative result of these effects is photoaged skin, characterized by wrinkles, laxity, irregular coloring and appearance of brown spots, and a leathery quality.
Vitamin C is a well-known antioxidant and studies have shown that levels of vitamin C in tissues exposed to UV radiation are reduced. In addition to being an antioxidant, vitamin C is known to stimulate collagen production. Vitamin C creams have consistently demonstrated protective effects against skin damage from UV radiation exposure in animals and humans. Furthermore, two studies found that vitamin C creams improved the quality of photoaged skin in humans.
In the current study, 19 women were randomly assigned to apply a 5% vitamin C cream to one side of the upper chest and forearm and a placebo cream to the other side once per day. Scores for skin quality were calculated using dermatological evaluation and self-assessment at the beginning of the study and after three and six months. The major skin qualities considered were hydration, roughness, laxity, suppleness, fine wrinkles, coarse wrinkles, brown spots, and glare. At the end of the study, dermatological scores for the skin treated with vitamin C cream improved significantly more than scores for the skin treated with placebo cream. Scores from self-assessment also showed significantly more improvement in skin quality in the vitamin C-treated skin than in the placebo-treated skin. In addition, skin biopsies revealed improved collagen structure and reappearance of elastic fibers in vitamin C-treated skin but not in skin treated with the placebo cream.
The results of this study are consistent with those of other studies demonstrating that vitamin C cream reverses some of the cumulative skin damage from sun exposure. The improvement noted in this study was greater after six months than after three months of treatment, suggesting that further improvement might be attained with longer use. A study performed in test tubes found that a cream containing both vitamin C and vitamin E was more beneficial than either alone, an observation that deserves further exploration.
Maureen Williams, ND, received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania and her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Seattle, WA. She has a private practice in Quechee, Vermont, and does extensive work with traditional herbal medicine in Guatemala and Honduras. Dr. Williams is a regular contributor to Healthnotes Newswire.
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