Dr. Perricone Discusses

Antioxidants & Skincare


People often ask me if only naturally occurring antioxidants work in skin care. The answer is not necessarily.

Some products including mine, actually do use a man-made antioxidants, usually a modification of the actual molecule to enhance its natural function.

For example, I use ascorbyl palmitate in products which is a modification of vitamin c, making this water soluble molecule fat soluble, thus giving it many benefits to the skin. When increased levels of this fat-soluble form of vitamin C are in the dermis, levels of both collagen and elastin increase. This facilitates a more youthful appearance by helping to reverse the thinning of skin seen in both the natural aging process and as a result of sun damage. Ascorbyl palmitate is also highly stable (unlike ascorbic acid, the unstable, irritating and water soluble form of vitamin C) and will maintain its efficacy over long periods of time. Its fat-solubility allow it to rapidly and easily penetrate the skin to deliver the therapeutic levels of vitamin C needed to enable the fibroblasts, which are the cells that make connective tissue, to produce collagen and elastin.

Water-soluble vitamin C (ascorbic acid)
This is the form of vitamin C found in standard vitamin supplements. Although I recommend taking this form of this Vitamin C as a nutritional supplement, ascorbic acid has some serious drawbacks when used as topical ingredient. It is often found in inexpensive mass market products as well as more costly products. However, it cannot protect cell membranes, nor can the skin maintain adequate levels when we experience oxidative stress, either from internal sources such as poor diet and stress, or from external sources such as sunlight.

Ascorbic acid can also create a powerful free radical known as a hydroxylradical, via a Fenton reaction with iron in the body. It is also irritating to skin and unstable when used in topical formulations.

Fat-soluble form of vitamin C ascorbyl palmitate
Unlike the ascorbic acid form, fat-soluble vitamin C ester realizes this essential nutrient's full potential as an anti-aging agent. It displays greater anti-oxidant activity in our cells than ascorbic acid does, and performs this vital work at lower doses. In fact, compared with ascorbic acid, vitamin C ester delivers eight times higher levels of vitamin C activity.

And because vitamin C ester can reside in our cells' fatty membranes, it continuously regenerates the vitamin E depleted by that fat-soluble anti-oxidant's ongoing fight against free radicals.

Vitamin C ester also possesses superior ability to stimulate growth of the cells (fibroblasts) that help produce collagen and elastin: the strands of tissue that give the skin its strength and flexibility.

Last but not least, vitamin C ester is also more stable in topical solutions, maintaining its efficacy while it delivers its incomparable benefits. And it does not produce the negative Fenton reaction that occurs when products containing water-soluble ascorbic acid are applied to skin.

Another example is acyl glutathione wherein the natural antioxidant known as glutathione that is found in our cells is modified so it can be effectively delivered to the cells in a utilizable form.

Another question people ask is:
Do beauty products with antioxidant ingredients need other active ingredients in them to make the antioxidants work harder?

And the answer is yes. Certainly we know that antioxidants work synergistically. Therefore I recommend having more than one in your formulas so that the different functions will work together to enhance the effects. However, the most important factor to consider is the carrier system used to deliver the antioxidants to the skin. If the carrier system in not effective the antioxidants will just sit on the skin and not deliver any benefits. The proper delivery system with penetration enhances is needed to ensure that the skin derives the optimal benefits of each antioxidant.

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