What's The Best Form of Vitamin C?

​Vitamin C is one of the most popular ingredients used in skin care and personal care products today but is all Vitamin C created equally?

Credits: Linh Pham at

Vitamin C is one of the most popular ingredients used in skin care and personal care products today. A vitamin that has been popularly branded around citrus fruit and Emergen-C, you might be surprised to learn that vitamin C is also one of your skin’s naturally occurring antioxidants. Unfortunately, our skin’s vitamin C content decreases over time with agesun exposure, and pollution, which is why we need to add it back into our diets and skin care routines. 

When adding vitamin C products to your skin care routine, it’s important to understand that this ingredient comes in many different forms, which can have many different effects

To start, you may have heard that vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant for our skin, but what does that really mean? Well, oxidation is largely caused by the creation of free radicals at the cellular level when our skin is exposed to ultraviolet light and the sun’s rays. Antioxidants, like vitamin C, can help reduce this oxidative stress by neutralizing the free radicals, thereby reducing their damage to our skin. Vitamin C can also help to stimulate collagen production and even out skin tone by reducing the production of melanin pigment.

It’s also important to note that vitamin C is used in both naturally occurring and synthetic (chemically modified) forms. It has be debated that synthetic vitamins lack the proper delivery systems to effectively create the desired change. However, it has also been debated that natural forms of the vitamin may cause adverse reactions, such as inflammation and photosensitivity, due to the acidic formulation needed to keep vitamin C stable. 

One of the key things to look for when using synthetic vitamins, is whether the synthetic vitamin C can be metabolized to release the natural form of vitamin C. The natural form of vitamin C is what provides the most benefits to our skin, and not all synthetic vitamin C products release the natural form. Check out the table below to see which synthetic vitamin C forms release the natural form and which do not. 

As previously noted, there are many forms of vitamin C that have varying abilities to permeate and heal your skin. To be effective, the vitamin C in your skin care product must be able to breach the skin’s oil-rich surface to penetrate the dermal layers of skin. While a water soluble version of the vitamin will not penetrate as easily, an oil-soluble one should do the job (see table below). In particular, if you’re using vitamin C to boost collagen or even out your skin color, then you need to choose a form of vitamin C that can penetrate your skin. For this reason, topical vitamin C products, ones that you apply to your skin rather than ingesting, are often fortified and optimized for penetration.

A final factor in selecting the right vitamin C is its stability, or its ability to withstand breaking down too early. Vitamin C can break down with exposure to air and sunlight and become less effective. In the treatment room, vitamin C penetration can be accelerated with the use of heat, electricity and ultrasound, which can all cause it to break down more quickly. So, when undergoing treatment, it’s particularly important to choose a stable form of vitamin C. 

When the proper form of vitamin C is utilized in your skin care treatments and products, there can be many benefits to this skingredient. Take a look at your favorite vitamin C skin care product and you may be surprised to see multiple forms used in the formulation!

Different Characteristics of the Different Forms of Vitamin C:
Type of Vitamin C Natural or Sythetic? Does It Penetrate The Skin? How Stable Is It? Does It Release Vitamin C In Natural Form Once It Enters The Skin
L- ascorbic acid or ascorbic acid Natural ++ + Already in natural form
Ascorbyl-6 Palmitate Synthetic +++ + Not Clear
Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate (SAP) Synthetic + +++ Yes
Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate (MAP) Synthetic + ++ Yes
3-O-Ethyl Ascorbate (EAC) Synthetic +++ ++ Unknown
Ascorbyl Tetra-Isopalmitate (VC-IP) Synthetic ++ ++ Yes
Ascorbyl Glucoside (AA-2G) Synthetic ++ ++ Yes
Ascorbyl 2-Phosphate 6-Palmitate (APPS) Synthetic + ++ Yes

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