Take one look at the vitamin supplement shelves in your local pharmacy, supermarket or online supplement supplier, and what do you see? You’ll probably notice a plethora of different products and brands promising to turn back the clock on your prematurely ageing skin. Then you’ll see others claiming to help combat spots and blemishes and others that restore the plumpness, texture and condition of your skin.
Which is all brilliant. Even we have a skin supplement, our Jump Start Silica Supplements that contains alkalising silica salts designed to improve the health of your skin by encouraging collagen production.
But what about plain old vitamin C? Could this standard supplement that’s usually taken in the winter to help ward off colds and flu bugs, help the skin too?
Here, we look at the role of vitamin C in the health of our skin and how a daily vitamin C supplement could benefit our natural barrier.
What is vitamin C?
Vitamin C is a water soluble, antioxidant vitamin that’s also known as ascorbic acid. Being water soluble, as opposed to vitamins A, D, E and K that are fat soluble (the B vitamins are also water soluble), vitamin C isn’t stored in our fat reserves.
This means that we can’t hold on to vitamin C like we can the fat soluble vitamins and we need to consume it every day to avoid becoming deficient as the body eliminates any excess on a daily basis in the urine.
As it’s an antioxidant vitamin, it helps to protect the body against free radical damage, but more on that later...
We need vitamin C for our immune health as well as for keeping the blood vessels, bones and cartilage (the spongy substance in our joints that helps to keep them lubricated) healthy. We also need vitamin C to help with healthy wound healing, but that’s not the only reason vitamin C benefits the skin…
Vitamin C and collagen
Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body and its main role is to keep the skin plump and youthful looking.
The best way to understand how collagen keeps the skin plump, is to imagine it as a lattice, or criss cross of protein fibres that sit underneath the upper layers of the skin. These collagen fibres form a kind of scaffold that the skin sits on, but as we age, we naturally lose our youthful levels of collagen, and with it, our youthful skin.
This is because when we lose collagen, the protein scaffold loses strength and small holes appear over time, allowing the skin above it to fall into these tiny holes. It’s then that we start to notice the formation of fine lines and wrinkles, and our skin beginning to sag and droop.
However, there are ways we can boost our natural levels of collagen and one of these ways is to make sure we’re eating plenty of vitamin C rich foods and supplementing our diet with a vitamin C supplement.
There is also a high level of vitamin C naturally present in the skin which helps to protect against UV damage from the sun. This helps to slow down the visible signs of premature skin ageing such as the development of fine lines and wrinkles, areas of hyperpigmentation and dehydration.
In fact, a scientific paper published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that women aged 40 to 74 years old who had a higher intake of vitamin C showed fewer wrinkles, less skin dehydration and better overall appearance of their skin.
Vitamin C and the immune system
The immune system is a complex system of cells, molecules, tissues and organs that work tirelessly together to help protect us against disease and infection. Vitamin C helps to support a healthy immune system by stimulating the production of new white blood cells that form an essential part of the immune system.
But what does this have to do with our skin, we hear you cry!
The free radical damage we mentioned earlier is prevented in part by antioxidants such as vitamin C. Free radicals are dangerous molecules that move around the body scavenging for spare electrons to make them stable again. But in doing so, they can cause damage to the cells of the immune system and the skin.
Vitamin C helps to neutralise these free radicals so that they cannot cause cellular damage. This antioxidant action also benefits the skin by helping to strengthen the natural barriers in our skin.
The skin is the largest organ in the body and forms part of the immune system, acting as a barrier against pathogens and damage. The stronger this natural barrier, the stronger the immune system.
Getting vitamin C into your diet
Vitamin C is found most abundantly in brightly coloured fruits and vegetables such as oranges, lemons, kiwi fruits, red, orange and yellow peppers, strawberries, blackcurrants, broccoli and perhaps surprisingly, potatoes including white potatoes and sweet potatoes. Different types of winter squash and dark, leafy greens also contain relatively high levels of vitamin C.
Eating a diet rich in these foods will help to ensure you’re getting the recommended daily amount of vitamin C each day (which incidentally, for an adult living in the UK is 40mg per day).
But if you’d like to supplement your diet, you can buy up to 1,000mg strength vitamin C tablets in most pharmacies, supermarkets and health food stores. These are safe to take by most people, but if in doubt, check with your GP or pharmacist.
So jump start your Jump Start Silica Supplements, and your collagen production and skin appearance by adding a high dose vitamin C supplement into your skin care regime. Your skin truly will thank you for it!
This article is not meant to treat or diagnose. Please visit your doctor for advice about any health concerns you may have.