Study Reveals New Role Of Vitamin C In Skin Protection

Vitamin C does a lot more than reduce your chances of catching a cold. A new study done by researchers at the University of Leicester in England and the Institute for Molecular and Cellular Biology in Portugal found that vitamin C plays a major role in skin protection.

The study analyzed the effect of sustained exposure of human skin cells to a vitamin C derivative, ascorbic acid 2-phosphate (AA2P).

The researchers investigated the genes activated by vitamin C in these cells, which are responsible for skin regeneration. The results demonstrated that vitamin C might improve wound healing by stimulating inactive fibroblasts (a type of cell in connective tissue) to divide and by promoting their migration into a wounded area. The results showed that vitamin C could also protect the skin by increasing the capacity of fibroblasts to repair potentially mutagenic DNA lesions.

Dr Marcus S. Cooke from the Department of Cancer Studies and Molecular Medicine and Department of Genetics, at the University of Leicester, said, “The study indicates a mechanism by which vitamin C could contribute to the maintenance of healthy skin by promoting wound healing and by protecting cellular DNA against damage caused by oxidation.”1

The researchers concluded that these results will be of great relevance to the cosmetics industry. Free radicals are associated with premature skin aging, and antioxidants such as vitamin C are known to counter these highly damaging compounds. This new evidence suggests that, in addition to quenching free radicals, vitamin C can help reverse DNA damage.

The study has the potential to lead to advances in the prevention and treatment of skin lesions specifically, as well as contributing to the fight against cancer.1

Vitamin C’s Function

Even though vitamin C was discovered more than 70 years ago as the agent that prevents scurvy, its properties are still under debate in the scientific community. But the following is pretty much universally accepted:

  • Vitamin C is also an antioxidant that blocks some of the damage caused by free radicals.
  • Vitamin C is required for the growth and repair of tissues in all parts of your body. It is necessary to form collagen, an important protein used to make skin, scar tissue, tendons, ligaments and blood vessels.
  • Vitamin C is essential for the healing of wounds, and for the repair and maintenance of cartilage, bones and teeth. It also enhances T-cell production, increasing resistance to viral and bacterial infections, and some allergies.

Your body does not manufacture vitamin C on its own, nor does it store it. Since vitamin C is water-soluble, it dissolves in water, and leftover amounts of the vitamin leave your body through urine. That means you need to maintain your vitamin C intake by eating citrus and other fruits and vegetables that are high in vitamin C. It’s also prudent to take a high-quality vitamin C supplement.

Supplemental forms of vitamin C

  • Ascorbic acid—water-soluble
  • Ascorbyl palmitate is a fat-soluble form of vitamin C, which is better absorbed than ascorbic acid, the water-soluble form. It offers all the benefits of ascorbic acid, plus it won’t flush out of the body as quickly as ascorbic acid, and it is able to be stored in cell membranes until the body needs it.

One of the advantages of taking a nutritional supplement that contains ascorbyl palmitate and ascorbic acid is that you may require a smaller dosage because ascorbyl palmitate doesn’t flush out of your system as quickly as water-soluble vitamin C. Additionally, ascorbyl palmitate is a powerful antioxidant,2 is a preventative against stomach and colon cancer,34 and stimulates collagen synthesis at lower doses than ascorbic acid.56



  1. University of Leicester press release (September 9, 2009). Study reveals new role of vitamin C in skin protection; Results will be of great relevance to the cosmetics industry.

  2. Perricone N, Nagy K, Horvath F, Dajko G, Uray I, Zs-Nagy I. The hydroxyl free radical reactions of ascorbyl palmitate as measured in various in vitro models. Biochem Biophys Res Commun 1999 Sep 7;262(3):661-5.

  3. Shimpo K, Takahashi H, Tsuda H, Hibino T, Kawai K, Kimura C, Nagatsu T, Fujita K. Inhibition of hepatocellular carcinoma development and erythrocyte polyamine levels in ODS rats fed on 3′-methyl-4-dimethylaminoazobenzene by hemicalcium ascorbate, 2-O-octadecylascorbic acid, and ascorbyl palmitate. Cancer Detect Prev 1996;20(2):137-45.

  4. Wargovich MJ, Harris C, Chen CD, Palmer C, Steele VE, Kelloff GJ. Growth kinetics and chemoprevention of aberrant crypts in the rat colon. J Cell Biochem Suppl 1992;16G:51-4?

  5. Rosenblat G, Willey A, Zhu YN, Jonas A, Diegelmann RF, Neeman I, Graham MF. Palmitoyl ascorbate: selective augmentation of procollagen mRNA expression compared with L-ascorbate in human intestinal smooth muscle cells. J Cell Biochem 1999 Jun 1;73(3):312-20.

  6. Rosenblat G, Perelman N, Katzir E, Gal-Or S, Jonas A, Nimni ME, Sorgente N, Neeman I. Acylated ascorbate stimulates collagen synthesis in cultured human foreskin fibroblasts at lower doses than does ascorbic acid. Connect Tissue Res 1998;37(3-4):303-11.