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About the Author:
This is the second of a four-part series about the efficacy and safety of at-home facials, written by the very talented Monica Huynh. (Part One: Aspirin Efficacy in Skin Care and Part Two: Elmer’s Glue have been previously published on August 15 and 16, 2011, respectively.) Born and raised in California, Monica Huynh received her bachelor degree at University of California, Berkeley and is currently a medical student at Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine. Aside from skin and beauty products, Monica loves to travel to new places, scope out delicious restaurants, and experiment with fashion.
UV radiation is largely to blame for the production of free radicals, which cause inflammation and alterations to the skin (hello, damage!). The answer? Antioxidants (ahem, vitamin C) which eliminate these free radicals and maintain the condition of the skin. (Masaki M. Role of antioxidants in the skin: Anti-aging effects Journal of Dermatological Science, Volume 58, Issue 2, May 2010, Pages 85-90)
Vitamin C is a common antioxidant found in skincare products to protect against sun damage, increase collagen production, and reduce wrinkle formation. As plentiful as the benefits to the use of topical vitamin C, the price of such skincare products can be just as big and can easily make a dent in the wallet. To go around this problem, money-savvy people have transformed their home into a laboratory by mixing powdered vitamin C with water or other agents such as glycerin to create their own vitamin C serum. These serums supposedly deliver the same results for a fraction of the price.
Remember when someone said when it sounds too good to be true, it probably is? Well, Lady Luck may be on your side today because this at-home formula seems to hold up to its claim though not without some important considerations. Skincare products are infused with different forms of vitamin C but one particular form, L-ascorbic acid, is commonly found in pure powdered form at health and drug stores. Not only is it water-soluble, L-ascorbic acid may be measured to produce approximate (and if you’re very careful – exact) serum concentrations to fit your skin’s preference. According to younger.com, 1 part L-ascorbic acid powder, 4 parts water, and 4 parts glycerin makes 10% vitamin C serum. Just like store-bought vitamin C products, increasing concentrations of vitamin C may be too irritating for some individuals and concentrated serums should be made and applied with caution.
Unfortunately, luck runs out at stability since L-ascorbic acid changes upon exposure to light, heat, or air. Unless the serum is stored in a tightly sealed dark-colored bottle within the refrigerator, batches of serum are likely to expire very quickly. If you’re particularly adamant about increasing the stability of your serum, a few methods seem to work. A 2006 study claimed ferulic acid stabilizes antioxidants (Ferulic acid stabilizes a solution of vitamins C and E and doubles its photoprotection of skin. The Journal of Investigative Dermatology, 2005 Oct;125(4):826-32.) Anhydrous (without water) mixtures may avoid the water-soluble yet unstable vitamin C problem all together. By mixing L-ascorbic acid into a silicone gel, this not only allows for easy application but moisture from the skin will dissolves L-ascorbic acid so that it may penetrate the skin. (Double-blind, half-face study comparing topical vitamin C andvehicle for rejuvenation of photodamage. Dermatologic Surgery, 2002 Mar;28(3):231-6.) Needless to say, the price in attaining quality products to make the homemade serum may end up costing more than its worth. Still, with diligent measurements and care in storage effective doses of vitamin C is plausible. It may be best to make fresh batches of vitamin C as often as everyday to ensure the best results.
However, if you are in a time crunch and don’t mind investing in a tried-and-true vitamin C product, my personal favorite CellBone C23 High Potency C-Serum is currently priced at a reasonable 31 USD. And of course this wouldn’t be a FutureDerm post without mentioning Nicki’s all-time favorite Skinceuticals CE Ferulic.