Vitamin C is one of the more widely recommended topical skin care products. There are many benefits to the use of topical Vitamin C. It is clear that Vitamin C plays an essential role in collagen synthesis. Creating new collagen is something that our bodies need to reduce the signs of fine lines and wrinkling. Additionally, Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant. Antioxidants help to reduce the skin damage caused by free radicals which is created when the skin is exposed to pollutions, smog, smoke and sun. Another advantage of topical use of vitamin C is that Vitamin C is a brightening agent and will help reduce the appearance of hyperpigmentation or dark sun spots. Vitamin C can be used throughout the day including during the day as it does not produce any photosensitivity or increased redness when exposed to the sun.
Vitamin A and its derivatives should only be used at night. Vitamin A including Retin A and Retinol can make a person’s skin quite photosensitive making them more sensitive to getting sunburned. The advantage of Vitamin A is that Vitamin A and its “big brother” Retin A activate retinoid sensors that are located in the cell. This helps to stimulate collagen. retinoids, again, do have their down side. Use or misuse of retinoids can lead to significant redness and dryness of the skin. When prescribing retinoids, I do so typically for significant fine lines and wrinkles and to enhance the effectiveness of hydroquinine for treatment of age spots. There is a role for both Vitamin A and Vitamin C often within the same person. When I prescribe them together, Vitamin C is used as a second step after cleansing the patient’s skin whereas the Vitamin A or Retin A is used as a second step at night.
Barry J. Cohen, M.D., F.A.C.S., P.C.
Diplomate, American Board of Plastic Surgery