If you're like me, you see vitamin C all over the ingredient lists of your favorite skin care products. If this nutrient can give you such an incredible glow through topical application, can consuming foods rich in vitamin C give the skin a similar boost? I reviewed the research to give you the scoop on whether a diet emphasizing citrus and other sources of C can revitalize your complexion.
Skin Benefits of Consuming Vitamin C
These are some of the key benefits of getting enough vitamin C in the foods you eat as well as in your skin care routine.
Supports Collagen Synthesis
Science shows that vitamin C supports skin health by synthesizing collagen, a natural substance that gives us a plump, supple, youthful appearance. This protein makes up most of our connective tissue and appears in muscle and tendon fibers. Collagen naturally decreases as we age, so boosting the body's production can smooth the appearance of fine lines and help blemishes heal more quickly. It's also a critical component of wound healing. When you add extra C to your diet, you may notice that your skin feels firmer and smoother than usual.
Reduces the Appearance of Wrinkles
Speaking of fine lines, studies suggest that oral vitamin C may also have a positive effect on the depth and appearance of facial wrinkles. In research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, people who had higher vitamin C intake and lower intake of carbs and fatty foods showed fewer signs of aging. The study authors noted improvement in age-related wrinkles, dryness and thinning.
Provides UV Protection
As an antioxidant, Vitamin C helps the body fight off the damaging effects of UV rays on the skin. Consuming this vitamin can also help sunscreen work more effectively, boosting its ability to shield your complexion from these disease-causing free radicals. Vitamin C can actually neutralize toxins and environmental pollutants such as cigarette smoke and remove these harmful substances from your body, shielding your skin from damage and reducing the risk of cancer.
Decreases HyperpigmentationAre you distressed by dark spots and patches on the skin? These areas of hyperpigmentation, typically caused by sun damage, can become more pronounced as we age. Research published in the journal Nutrients found that vitamin C can prevent melanin production, which can in turn prevent the appearance of these so-called age spots.
How to Get Enough Vitamin C
Most adults should get at least 1,000 mg of vitamin C per day, with a recommended maximum intake of 2,000 mg daily. Some people need more vitamin C to stay healthy, including individuals who have a limited diet, have chronic health conditions, or smoke or receive exposure to secondhand smoke. You can find this nutrient in a wide variety of fruits and veggies, including oranges, grapefruits, spinach, broccoli and strawberries. You can also take over-the-counter vitamin C supplements.
Although we need more research about exactly how this nutrient can reduce the impact of aging on the skin, we do know getting enough C correlates with a clear, healthy complexion. For best results, most experts emphasize the importance of combining a diet rich in vitamin C with topical application.
In rare cases, people who don't get enough vitamin C develop a deficiency called scurvy that causes fragile skin and slow-healing wounds, along with exhaustion, joint swelling and anemia. Lack of vitamin C can also cause uncomfortable skin problems such as atopic dermatititis, characterized by an itchy rash. Talk to your health care provider if you experience unexplained skin symptoms or have difficulty consuming enough dietary vitamin C.