Last Updated on August 5th, 2020
If there is any vitamin we have all heard about, it is vitamin C. Most people take vitamin C to boost immunity. For acne, however, vitamin C when it is used to keep immune responses in check.
Vitamin C is the nutrient most people get from orange juice or by taking 1000-mg capsules. 🍊 It turns out that neither orange juice nor 1000-mg capsules of synthetic ascorbic acid is the best way to get vitamin C for fighting acne.
When the famous Hungarian-American scientist Albert Szent-Györgyi was researching treatments for scurvy nearly 90 years ago, he noticed that vitamin C wasn’t enough to treat the red and sore gums, red and sore skin, loose teeth, and connective tissue degeneration caused by this vitamin C deficiency disease. Vitamin C needed some kind of co-factor to regenerate it and to keep it active. Dr. Szent-Györgyi found that if people got their vitamin C from goulash made with paprika (he was Hungarian, after all), then they got better. If they didn’t get this factor he called “vitamin P,” the vitamin C didn’t work.
The term “vitamin P” was used in the medical literature not printed in English until just a few years ago. In the English-speaking world, what Dr. Szent-Györgyi called vitamin P we call citrus bioflavonoids.
What this means is that natural sources of vitamin C are far more effective than synthetic sources of vitamin C.
There is even a standardized product known as Acerola with Vitamin C USP that uses the Caribbean fruit acerola as the source of an intensely concentrated natural vitamin C that has the cofactors that stabilize the collagen in blood vessels. But what does that have to do with acne?
Probably the most dramatic effect of taking a vitamin C supplement if you have acne is clearing up the redness in your skin. Redness is partially the result of inflammation. The immune system releases inflammatory chemicals known as leukotrienes to destroy acne bacteria, but the bacteria have a “decoy” system that redirect those chemicals toward the skin itself. Vitamin C in large doses doesn’t stimulate the immune system. It “tones it down.” That’s a good thing, however, when the immune system is misfiring and destroying healthy skin rather than the acne bacteria in pores.
The other way vitamin C can help take the red out of acne is by strengthening the linings of capillaries. These are microscopic blood vessels that provide oxygen and nutrients to the basal layer of the skin, about the thickness of 25 cells deep. The basal layer generates new skin cells that keep pushing outward to the stratum corneum, where they die and rupture to form a solid protective layer of protein and ceramides over the skin. 🩸 The redness we see in pimples is mostly generated at this lower layer, but it is minimized when vitamin C with its cofactors helps stop leaks of bright red blood.
It used to be standard procedure for nutrition experts to recommend very large doses of vitamin C. Daily doses of 1000, 5000, and even 25,000 mg of vitamin C were supposed to be thing to activate the immune system. Some people (who made their living by selling vitamin C) even tried to persuade their customers that the diarrhea and dehydration that come with taking huge doses of vitamin C was a good thing, a signal that the vitamin C was working. But the old advertising pitch for vitamin C was based on at best a faulty understanding of how the nutrient actually works in the human body.
Getting enough vitamin C to avoid scurvy really only requires an orange or an apple once or twice a week. (In the UK, however, many people don’t get that much.)
Getting enough vitamin C for optimum health of your skin really isn’t especially hard, either. You can be just fine on as little as 100 mg per day if you are sure to get it from natural sources.
Some of these food choices provide more vitamin C than that in a single serving. All serving sizes in this list are 3-1/2 oz, which is roughly 100 grams.
Just one to four (five if you only eat potatoes) servings of the foods on this list provides all the vitamin C you need for the health of your skin.
There are other conditions that require more vitamin C, but 100 mg per day is enough for acne.
Of course, some people just aren’t going to get their vitamin C from fruits and vegetables. If that’s you, then there are two ways you need to get your vitamin C.
Take vitamin C with bioflavonoids or Acerola with Vitamin C USP. One capsule or tablet per day is enough.
Use skin care products that provide the form of vitamin C known as palmitoyl ascorbate. But be sure to buy it in tube form and to close the tube tightly to prevent the oxidation of the palmitoyl ascorbate by exposure to the air.
Great article. How do you explain that the first humans where able to produce between 1 to 20 gr of vit c a day, according to stress levels? And why do goats, for example, use 13 gram of self produced vit c a day? Vit c is underrated, thats just my opinion.
Vitamin C is quite fragile, most food looses its content of Vit.C in some conditions, from Wikipedia: Vitamin C chemically decomposes under certain conditions, many of which may occur during the cooking of food. Vitamin C concentrations in various food substances decrease with time in proportion to the temperature they are stored at and cooking can reduce the Vitamin C content of vegetables by around 60% possibly partly due to increased enzymatic destruction as it may be more significant at sub-boiling temperatures. Longer cooking times also add to this effect, as will copper food vessels, which catalyse the decomposition. Another cause of vitamin C being lost from food is leaching, where the water-soluble vitamin dissolves into the cooking water, which is later poured away and not consumed.
What about vitamin C capsules from the body shop. Do they have any side effects?
"...based on at best a faulty understanding of how the nutrient actually works in the human body. ... You can just fine on as little as 100 mg per day if you are sure to get it from natural sources." Faulty understanding? How is your understanding? Did you know that the RDA for chimpanzees and other higher primates in zoos is far higher than the pathetic 80mg RDA which is basically enough to avoid acute scurvy but not for optimal health. Yes, humans are able to recycle their C, but it's nowhere near the quantity of vitamin C produced by an average 160-lb mammal - some 10g / day, although they can produce 10 times that quantity in case of illness, nor is it near the average quantity eaten by other higher primates in the wild (including our relatively recent ancestors). Higher primates lost the ability to produce vitamin C due to a viral mutation of common ancestors in the nutritionally rich forest some 25 million ya. Ever wonder why animals so rarely exhibit signs of illness? (Or at least they used to, until this era of ubiquitous toxic pollution now covering nearly every inch of the planet.)
"faulty understanding"??? please elaborate, according to studies over 4g of vit C per day has been proven to be a useful tool against cancer, 1000mg is recommended by many health practitioners for general health, did you just pull this 100mg number from your backside?
Your claims about dossage of vit c is so wrong. The scientific research is aboundant, just watch this video and educate yourself https://youtu.be/y0LLX0sgwAU
I watched the video. Suzanne Humphries states the same as this article; you can get your daily requirement of Vitamin C from your diet. Under different circumstances, such as traveling, for example, or during illness, it makes sense to increase dosage depending on the individual and the situation. What exactly do you mean that our 'claims about dosage of vit c is so wrong'? It's not really possible to do any research unless you pin point exactly what you think is wrong.
Author did clearly state that '...There are other conditions that require more vitamin C, but 100 mg per day is enough for acne..' But the preceding text did feel like it condoned not having >100mg p/day on a more general basis rather than making it as clearer that the mg requirement for acne is considerably less than recommended for other health conditions and bodily functions. Admittedly, if I hadn't read the comments I would have left with the impression that I didn't need as much vit c for general health. However, the article isn't just about vit c levels and I found the other points very useful.
Nice post! Vitamin C is one of my favorites. The antioxidant properties of vitamin C and its role in collagen synthesis make vitamin C a vital molecule for skin health. It not only helps in dealing with acne but also deals with wrinkles and fine lines. Thanks for the post.