Want healthy and plump skin? Take a look at what you’re eating. We explore the relationship between skin and vitamin C in food, and why this vitamin is so vital for the health and youthfulness of your complexion.
You may already be aware of why a diet rich in vitamin C is good for your body, as it helps to form and maintain connective tissue, such as bones and blood vessels. It’s also essential for countering fatigue and infection. But did you know it’s also vital in skin health too? Yes, getting enough vitamin C also keeps your skin looking healthy and youthful.
What is vitamin C’s relationship to skin?
Vitamin C, also known as L-ascorbic acid, has a number of vital roles within the skin, and helps to keep it looking fresh and plump. This is because vitamin C is essential for the production of collagen(1), which in turn is responsible for keeping skin firm and resilient. It also facilitates regeneration of cells(2). The process works like this: vitamin C influences collagen synthesis while stimulating its molecule(3). Studies have shown that higher intakes of this vitamin are associated with a lower likelihood of wrinkles(2).
vitamin C is essential for the production of collagen
What does a vitamin C-rich diet for skin?
More vitamin C is found in the epidermis (the outer layer) of the skin than the dermis (the thickest layer)(4).
In order to maintain a glowing and firm complexion, skin requires protection from the harmful external factors that it consistently encounters. These include pollution, smoking and UV damage.
A diet rich in vitamin C can benefit skin in a number of ways, as several studies have pointed to improved protection against sun damage (2) when maintaining a vitamin C-rich diet. In addition, this vitamin also facilitates the skin’s immune system, which helps to keep free radicals and pollutants at bay(5).
When it comes to your skincare routine, topically applied vitamin C also offers numerous benefits for skin. These include anti-aging benefits, anti-pigmentary and photoprotective abilities, keeping your complexion looking bright and fresh. For the most effective results, combine a vitamin C-rich diet with a topical vitamin C serum or cream. Healthy diet, happy skin.
90%of daily vitamin C intake
can be attributed to
fruits and vegetables
What are the best dietary sources for vitamin C?
Vitamin C is not naturally synthesized by the human body, so incorporating Vitamin C-rich foods into your diet is essential to experience its benefits(6). Approximately 90% of daily vitamin C intake can be attributed to fruit and vegetables, which are the richest sources of this vitamin(7).
A total of 5-9 servings of fresh, minimally processed or frozen fruit and vegetables per day equates to about 200 mg of vitamin C, which is the recommended amount prescribed for adults to maximize the vitamin’s health benefits (7).
Sources of vitamin C include:
- Citrus fruits
- Fruits like: blackcurrant, strawberries, guava, melon, kiwi, mango
- Chili pepper
- Vegetables like peppers, broccoli, raw cabbage, potatoes, tomatoes, spinach(8)
What happens to your skin if you’re not getting enough vitamin C in your diet?
A vitamin C deficiency can inhibit the production of collagen, resulting in skin that has an impaired collagen synthesis(6). This puts you at risk of photodamage or premature skin aging(4), in the form of fine lines, wrinkles and dull-looking skin. Commonly, factors like excessive exposure to oxidant stress, caused by pollutants or UV irradiation can deplete vitamin C levels(4).
Without enough vitamin C, free radicals form on the skin and cause a deterioration of cell structures and functions. Interestingly, the signs and symptoms of scurvy, the vitamin C deficiency disease commonly associated with pirates, are due to collagen synthesis that is damaged(3). In addition, a deficiency of vitamin C results in slower wound healing, and leaves bones more vulnerable to breakage(5). All the more reason to eat your greens and fruits every day.
1. Cho, S. 'The Role of Functional Foods in Cutaneous Anti-aging' in Journal of Lifestyle Medicine 4.1 (2014) pp. 8-16 [Accessible at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4390761/]
2. Cosgrove, M.C. et al, 'Dietary nutrient intakes and skin-aging appearance among middle-aged American women.' in American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 86.4 (2007) pp. 1225-31 [Accessible at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17921406]
3. Telang, P.S. 'Vitamin C in dermatology' in Indian Dermatology Online Journal 4.2 (2013) pp. 143-146 [Accessible at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3673383/]
4. Pullar, J.M. et al, 'The Roles of Vitamin C in Skin Health' in Nutrients 9.8 (2017) p. 866 [Accessible at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5579659/]
5. Szyszkowska, B. et al, 'The influence of selected ingredients of dietary supplements on skin condition' in Advances in Dermatology and Allergology 31.3 (2014) pp. 174-181 [Accessible at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4112259/]
6. Schagen, S.K. et al, 'Discovering the link between nutrition and skin aging' in Dermato Endocrinology 4.3 (2012) pp. 298-307 [Accessible at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3583891/]
7. Lykkesfeldt, J. 'Vitamin C' in Advances in Nutrition 5.1 (2014) pp. 16-18 [Accessible at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3884093/]
8. 'Vitamin C Fortification of Food Aid Commodities: Final Report.' in Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on International Nutrition--Vitamin C in Food Aid Commodities Washington (DC), National Academies Press (US), 1997 [Accessible at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK230157/]