We all love Vitamin C and we all seem to want more of it. But when it comes to Vitamin C, more is not necessarily better. 

Vitamin C is an important support for good skin and its benefits are real. Skin cells are naturally exceptionally high in Vitamin C. It plays a role in collagen synthesis and protection against UV-induced photo-damage.

The best way to optimise Vitamin C cellular levels is to eat lots of fruit and vegetables, however, as we age or if we have spent too much time in the sun, the body’s capacity to deliver nutrients to the outermost layers of the epidermis may be compromised. So topically applied Vitamin C is genuinely beneficial in these instances.

However, the skin will only absorb as much Vitamin C as it is depleted in. Using high % Vitamin C serums may irritate the skin and will not force the skin cells to take in more Vitamin C than is needed.

There is no published research that says that a minimum % of Vitamin C applied topically is always optimum as there are a number of variables that impact on absorption and effectiveness, the most significant variable being the Vitamin C status of the skin cells themselves.

Research says that Vitamin C levels are lower in aged or photo-damaged skin. This means that the older we are or the more sun exposure we have had, the more we will benefit from a topically applied Vitamin C Serum, irrespective of its % of active Vitamin C, as the skin cells will absorb from the serum whatever Vitamin C they need to return to stasis.

High % Vitamin C Serums are not necessarily better.

It seems that brands who tote '10%' or ‘25%’ Vitamin C may be responding to consumers' misunderstanding that more must mean better, and not to the science.

The percentage of Vitamin C in the formula is only one variable in how much Vitamin C is actually applied to the skin. For example, if you apply two drops, rather than one, you have just doubled the amount of Vitamin C you have put on your skin. If you apply the serum twice a day or three times a day, you have just doubled or trebled the amount of Vitamin C you have applied that day.

Importantly, a high % Vitamin C in a serum may result in irritation which ironically may cause micro-inflammation that can potentially lead to future pigmentation. And, as an acid, topically applied Vitamin C has the potential to damage the skin barrier.

If you are concerned that your skin needs higher amounts of Vitamin C - for example, it is dull, you are maturing, you have exposed it to sun, your diet has been poor lately, we recommend you use a gentle Vitamin C serum on clean skin more frequently rather than use a higher dose. A Vitamin C Serum applied more often will result in more absorption of Vitamin C in skin that needs Vitamin C than will using a high % Vitamin C Serum only once, and there will be less risk attached.

One study found that Vitamin C in cells has a half life of around four days. This would suggest that, after an initial frequent use to bring Vitamin C levels in the skin cells to the optimum, topping up with just a little each day is probably all that is needed.

Here is why we believe the Founder’s Formula Wild-Harvested Australian Kakadu Plum Vitamin C Serum is best in class:
    • Our Vitamin C is buffered by the insoluble fibre of the fruit that remains in the extract – this has two benefits – 1. The ascorbic acid in the extract is gentler on sensitive skin and 2. It naturally protects the Vitamin C from oxygen and so extends shelf life.
    • We include Waratah Extract (Telopea speciosissima) in the formula because it is also a powerful anti-oxidant and works synergistically with Vitamin C.
    • We also include Australian Finger Lime Caviar Extract (Citrus australasica) which is itself a rich source of Vitamin C but which is also naturally high in Ferulic Acid and helps stabilise Vitamin C in the formulation.
    • Kakadu Plum is the richest source of natural Vitamin C of any known plant.
    • As a natural extract, all the companion micro-nutrients in the fruit, not only the ascorbic acid, remain in the serum. Synthetic Vitamin C serums are denuded of the companion phyto-nutrients that occur in nature. This means that the natural extract is more bio-compatible and that the synergistic micro-nutrients that have multiple benefits for the skin are also still present. Kakadu Plum is also high in gallic acid, for instance, which contributes to reducing DNA damage, sunspots and colour pigmentation such as dark under-eye circles and helps to minimise inflamed skin and redness. Kakadu Plum fruit contains not just ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) but also a mix of bioflavonoids that occur together in nature and combine to enhance the formula's efficacy. Bioflavonoids may affect the transport or activity of vitamin C.
    • Being Wild-Harvested, our plums are exceptionally high in multiple phyto-nutrients. While the Vitamin C levels will vary, depending on the harvest and the season, in general Kakadu Plum extract averages 5% ascorbic acid in university tests.

    Author note: Dr Annie Holden is an anthropologist and the founder of Founder's Formula. Annie lives on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia.

    Leave a comment