From collagen formation to photodamage protection, vitamin C — a naturally occurring antioxidant — plays an important role in the human body, especially on skin. Vitamin C can help the skin combat many challenges, including degradation by aging and immediate injury.

A vitamin C deficiency can amplify some of the issues the human body works diligently to prevent. Vitamin C assists the human body in overcoming several cosmetic and medicinal complications. 

Vitamin C has several cosmetic implementations. Most notably, supplemental vitamin C provides adequate resistance to skin aging and photoaging induced by UV damage. There are two significant variants of skin aging: natural (extrinsic) aging and intrinsic aging. Natural aging is caused by environmental factors — such as UV radiation — and lifestyle choices. Meanwhile, intrinsic aging is a much slower process, as its resulting physical changes — such as the onset of wrinkles, discoloration and prominent facial lines — are not detectable until old age. 

UV radiation contributes to natural aging by generating free radicals, which are oxygen-containing molecules that are both highly reactive and highly unstable. These free radicals interfere with collagen production. Collagen, the most abundant fibrous protein in the human body, contributes to skin strength and elasticity. 

Vitamin C can combat the effects of free radicals by providing electrons that help them regain stability, activating collagen synthesis and enhancing collagen gene expression. It also increases the synthesis of the MMP-1 inhibitor protein — a protein that reduces collagen degradation. Thus, vitamin C can work to lessen the effects of photoaging.

Scientists examined the effects of vitamin C in a double-blind, placebo-controlled study in which 10 participants were administered 10% topical vitamin C for three continuous months. In comparison to the group that did not receive vitamin C, those treated with vitamin C showed an improvement in wrinkling and fewer signs of photoaging, which was quantified through the utilization of photoaging scores.

In addition to cosmetic benefits, vitamin C also has a positive impact on the wound-healing process, especially when used as a topical ointment or an ingested nutrient. In vitamin C deficient individuals, the wound healing process is severely hindered, as vitamin C is responsible for promoting both collagen synthesis and the generation of dermal fibroblasts. Dermal fibroblasts are cells in the dermal skin layer that produce connective tissue and facilitate wound healing.

From cosmetic applications to medicinal applications, vitamin C proves to be important in an assortment of biological processes. However, despite its essentiality, the issue has been — and continues to be — supplying vitamin C to the human body. 

Since the human body is unable to produce enough of the vitamin C, it must rely on external supplementation or topical application. When ingesting supplements, taking vitamins C and E together proves the most effective because increasing vitamin C and vitamin E levels in the skin yields greater resistance to UV radiation and, in turn, minimizes the effects of photoaging. In addition, medical procedures — such as microemulsions, ultrasound and laser resurfacing — can promote the penetration of active vitamin C into the skin. With the probable employment of these procedures, significant dermatological advancements — particularly within the realm of vitamin C supplementation — can be made. 

Vitamin C has many uses in both cosmetic and medical dermatology but, ultimately, further research is needed to determine the effectiveness of various supplementation and topical treatment methods.

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