Vitamin C is third in my list of all-time skincare ingredients, second to only retinoids and sunscreen. Since vitamin C as L-ascorbic has been proven to do everything from lightening sunspots to enhancing collagen production, to evening out skin tone to preventing future UV-induced skin and hair damage (International Journal of Pharmaceutics; Cosmetic Dermatology; British Journal of Dermatology).
Unfortunately, vitamin C as L-ascorbic acid is also very unstable in the presence of light, heat, and air. Anyone who has purchased a 1 oz or larger dropper bottle of vitamin C knows that the product can become yellow, dark, crystallized, or hardened as the vitamin Ctherein oxidizes and is no longer as viable. (Although rumors persist on the internet that vitamin C can become pro-oxidant and thereby harmful to the skin, this has been refuted, see blog post here.)
That said, the following forms of vitamin C currently exist:
- L-ascorbic acid. The original and arguably the best to date at penetrating to deeper layers of the skin. Must be formulated at an acidic pH to have optimal effects.
- Tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate. Like all forms of vitamin C, it must be converted to L-ascorbic acid to have effects in the skin. However, unlike L-ascorbic acid, tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate has been shown to penetrate both the epidermis (the uppermost layer of skin) and dermis (the deepest layer of skin) — whereas L-ascorbic acid is resigned to mostly the uppermost layers of skin. For this reason, I do like using tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate.
- Ascorbyl palmitate. More stable than L-ascorbic acid (International Journal of Pharmaceutics). However, like retinyl palmitate, you need roughly 10-20 times as much ascorbyl palmitate to have the same effects as L-ascorbic acid on the skin, because half of the molecule is fatty acid to begin with, and then it still has to be converted to active L-ascorbic acid.
- Sodium ascorbyl palmitate. An altered form of ascorbyl palmitate that is even more stable than ascorbyl palmitate. Viable in both oil-in-water and water-in-oil emulsions (International Journal of Pharmaceutics)
- Magnesium ascorbyl phosphate. Even more stable than ascorbyl palmitate and sodium ascorbyl palmitate (Journal of Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Analysis). You still need considerably more magnesium ascorbyl phosphate than L-ascorbic acid in a serum to induce the same effects.
- Ascorbyl glucosamine. On the one hand, combining vitamin C with glucosamine should mean greater skin brightening. On the other hand, it just doesn’t hold up: According to a study in Dermatology, 5% ascorbyl glucosamine was not as effective as 20% azelaic acid in lightening and brightening age spots. I personally only use ascorbyl glucosamine as a part of my regimen once I am using 15% or higher L-ascorbic acid first.
- Vitamin C esters like 3-0-ethyl ascorbic acid. Probably the best of the bunch. In a clinical skin lightening test, a solution containing just 2% 3-O-ethyl ascorbic acid was found to improve skin whitening and radiance after just 28 days of twice-daily application (Cosmetics and Toiletries).
Even so, I remain skeptical of many forms of vitamin C, because they need to be formulated at a pH of 2.0 to 2.5 to be absorbed into the upper layer of the skin maximally (Journal of Biochemistry, 1993; Dermatologic Surgery, 2001), and then there’s that concentration and conversion issue — you might need 20% of a vitamin C + fatty acid compound to be equivalent to 10% L-ascorbic acid, plus the former still has to be converted to L-ascorbic acid. Considering that we don’t always metabolize properly, I don’t feel right declaring “a perfect 20% ascorbyl glucosamine converts to 10% L-ascorbic acid” every time.
Is Vitabrid CG the Ideal?
The ideal form of vitamin C would do three things:
- Penetrate the skin as deeply as tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate;
- Convert to L-ascorbic acid quickly, or contain L-ascorbic acid therein, like 3-0-ethyl ascorbic acid;
- Be more stable than early L-ascorbic acid alternatives (like ascorbyl palmitate), in the way magnesium ascorbyl phosphate is.
More research needs to be done (in my mind) to confirm this, but Vitabrid CG thus far has the chops to seemingly hold up to these standards. Developed by world-renowned chemist Dr. Jinho Cho, the main component of Vitabrid C12 products, Vitabrid CG is not so much a new form of vitamin C as a delivery and preservation system. Vitabrid CG delivers active, stable Vitamin C through multiple layers of the skin through a patented Layered Double Hydroxide (LDH) Technology. The parent company states this allows vitamin C to be delivered into the dermis (deepest layer of the skin) continuously for over 12 hours.
How To Use
After cleansing your face, you add 1/2 a teaspoon of powder to either water or your favorite toner/serum. You mix well, and then you apply it all over your face.
It doesn’t specify how much toner/serum to use with the powder. I started with a dime-size amount, and it made my skin feel a bit chalky. The next time, I added the booster to a quarter-size amount of toner/serum, and that felt better on my skin — smoother, and more absorptive.
I personally am not a huge fan of boosters, but I do like the promise of Vitabrid C12. I guess I don’t like boosters because they’re messy. (I’m messy enough on my own without having a powder contributing!) I also don’t like boosters because know all that goes behind formulation, and everything from pH to viscosity to volume of product makes a difference in the potency of an active ingredient. That said, I would only use a vitamin C booster in a vitamin C serum, and never with retinoids (which require slightly higher pH levels for optimal activation) or niacinamide.
Overall, I loved the idea that it was getting vitamin C delivered into the deepest layer of my skin and that it had a heightened level of stability. I would like to try other Vitabrid C12 products that don’t have niacinamide in them, and which weren’t booster powders to begin with. That said, it seems to be a good product, and I’m excited for the future of Vitabrid CG and what products it will be found in next.
*This article was first published in FutureDerm on 15 March 2017, written by Nicki Zevola Benvenuti