Does Vitamin C Help With Acne?

Clinically reviewed by our Board of Advisors

Beautiful girl in white bra is squeezing acne on her face while looking into the mirror in bathroom

If you’ve ever had acne prone skin, you know how annoying an outbreak can be—your skin becomes a source of discomfort and embarrassment.

While most cases of severe acne go away on their own, there are several things you can do to stop those cantankerous clogged follicles from doing their dirty work.

In addition to proper hygiene, there are other methods that help fight acne.  So does vitamin C help acne? As a matter of fact, a diet rich in vitamin C has been shown to help with severe acne and acne scars by promoting collagen production.

In this article, we’ll dive deep into dermatology to uncover the ways vitamin C can help your sensitive skin look healthy and beautiful.

#1 Reduces Redness and Inflammation

In short, acne is a minor skin condition caused by clogged hair follicles. Hair follicles typically become clogged due to increased oil production and dead skin cells, but inflammation and bacteria can also play a role.

When a hair follicle becomes clogged, the immune system is activated, resulting in redness and inflammation around the infected area.

In most cases, inflammation lasts only as long as it is necessary for the body to heal the sensitive skin tissue around the clogged pore. However, inflammation can occasionally last much longer. This is known as chronic inflammation.1

Acne-related inflammation falls under two categories:

  • Acute inflammation – Acute inflammation can occur when your acne stems from a bacterial source. It usually lasts no more than a few days and involves increased blood flow to the infected area. In these cases, the immune system quickly identifies the infected tissue, sending antibodies to the area until the issue is resolved. Once the tissue is restored, acute inflammation subsides.

  • Chronic inflammation While acute inflammation lasts only a few days, chronic inflammation can last much longer—often weeks or months. Acne-related chronic inflammation typically occurs when the immune system fails to restore the infected tissue back to health. As a result, the immune system continually sends antibodies to the infected area. Cases of acne-related chronic inflammation usually stem from environmental and dietary factors, rather than easily-treatable acne-causing bacteria.

  • The good news is that topical vitamin C can help mitigate both inflammatory responses.

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    How Vitamin C Helps Inflammation

    The chemistry behind inflammation can be complex. However, it’s simple to describe the result: when an acne breakout occurs, the skin enters a state of oxidative stress.

    • Oxidative stress strips the skin’s oxygen particles of their electrons, resulting in unstable molecules called “free radicals.” As they seek to stabilize by bonding with their neighbors, they spread the damage.
    • As a powerful antioxidant, a vitamin C product helps combat free radicals, thus reducing oxidative stress. Once these free radicals are removed, your skin health returns to its normal state.

    Vitamin C’s ability to reduce inflammation has been well-documented. When applied topically, vitamin C can lessen the duration and scale of the inflammatory episode.2

    #2 Fights Pustules, Whiteheads, and Blackheads

    In addition to reducing redness and inflammation, vitamin C may also help prevent and treat the three most common acne types: pustules, whiteheads, and blackheads. 

    Although these three acne types are similar in that they stem from an accumulation of sebum (waxy oil) in a hair follicle, they differ in the following ways:

  • Pustules In this acne type, pus fills an infected hair follicle. The resulting pustules are marked by redness, swelling, and, occasionally, pain. They tend to be larger than whiteheads and blackheads and can become inflamed.

  • Whiteheads – Small and, as their name suggests, white in appearance, whiteheads are formed when a thin layer of skin covers the infected hair follicle. Inflammation doesn’t accompany this type of breakout.

  • Blackheads – Like whiteheads and pustules, blackheads result from clogged hair follicles. However, unlike whiteheads, blackheads aren’t covered by a thin layer of skin. Instead, the hair follicle remains open, resulting in a zit that’s darkened through oxidation.

  • How Vitamin C Helps Fight Pustules, Whiteheads, and Blackheads

    Regardless of the acne type, vitamin C supplements have been shown to impact sebum production, thereby reducing the number of clogged pores.

    Vitamin C specifically helps fight all three common acne types in the following ways:

  • Hydrates the skin As stated above, increased sebum production is largely responsible for all common types of acne. The reason for most of this increased sebum? Dehydrated skin. When the skin is dehydrated, the sebaceous glands produce more sebum to moisturize the skin’s top layer. By moisturizing the skin, vitamin C reduces the need for the sebaceous glands to work overtime. 

  • Strengthens the lipid barrier In dermatology, the lipid barrier refers to the layer of natural fats that form a protective barrier over the skin. When functioning properly, this barrier limits the bacteria and other pollutants that could infect hair follicles. However, when the lipid barrier is weakened, more bacteria can enter the skin, resulting in clogged pores. Vitamin C has been shown to strengthen this line of defense.3

  • Promotes collagen production – An incredibly beneficial protein, collagen is responsible for strengthening skin tissue and turning over dead skin cells. The latter is especially important, as an accumulation of dead skin cells can result in clogged pores. By promoting collagen production, vitamin C can help the skin quickly and efficiently eliminate dead skin cells.

  • Learn more about the advantages of a vitamin C serum.

    #3 Helps With Hyperpigmentation

    One of the most common acne symptoms, hyperpigmentation, refers to the dark spots left behind after acne-induced inflammation subsides and lesions heal. 

    These dark spots are caused by increased melanin production and, while not harmful, can lead to discomfort over physical appearance.

    How Vitamin C Helps With Hyperpigmentation

    Studies have shown vitamin C can greatly reduce hyperpigmentation following breakouts.4

    Vitamin C specifically helps in the following ways:

  • Reduces melanin formation A natural pigment produced through a complex chemical reaction known as melanogenesis, melanin darkens the skin following a breakout. By disrupting the melanogenesis reaction, vitamin C can reduce melanin production. This, in turn, reduces hyperpigmentation.

  • Prevents inflammation – As stated above, vitamin C can help prevent inflammation. Without inflammation, the body is less likely to increase its melanin production. 

  • Yet vitamin C doesn’t just help with hyperpigmentation following acne lesions. It may also help reduce leftover acne scars.

    #4 Treats Acne Scars

    Acne scars can happen after severe bouts of acne. Although constant picking at acne can exacerbate these scars, they’re almost always caused by either an abundance or lack of collagen production as the body tries to repair damaged skin tissue.

    Acne scars fall under three main categories:

  • Atrophic scars Taking their name from the way the skin looks “atrophied” or indented due to scarring, atrophic scars form when the skin tissue fails to heal evenly. As a result, the body doesn’t regenerate enough skin tissue to restore the skin to health. “Icepick” scars and “boxcar” scars are the two main types of atrophic scarring.

  • Hypertrophic scars If atrophic scars result from a loss of skin tissue, hypertrophic scars stem from an overproduction of collagen. This overproduction of collagen results in scarring that typically takes the form of raised bumps.

  • Keloid scars – Keloid scars are the most serious type of acne-related scarring. That’s because, unlike atrophic and hypertrophic scars, keloid scars are occasionally accompanied by pain and itchiness, and may spread outwards from the original damage. 
  • Depending on the type of scarring, vitamin C may be able to help.

    How Vitamin C Helps With Acne Scars

    Does vitamin C help with acne scars? The answer is complicated.

    If you’re suffering from hypertrophic scars, keloid scars, or both, vitamin C may not be able to help, as the issue stems from an overproduction of collagen.

    However, vitamin C can be effective at reducing the size and duration of atrophic scars. That’s because vitamin C helps promote collagen, which, in turn, facilitates skin restoration.5

    Vitamin C Acne Treatments

    While the causes of acne can be complex, treating this common skin condition doesn’t have to be. In most cases, increasing your vitamin C intake can greatly reduce the severity of breakouts.

    Treating your acne with vitamin C typically consists of the following:

  • Diet You may be able to lessen the severity of breakouts simply by opening your fridge and making a immune boosting smoothie recipe. Studies show that diets high in vitamin C can lead to more robust immune systems—and healthy immune systems often lead to more collagen production and healthier skin. To get the most out of your acne-fighting diet, consider eating foods high in Vitamin C such as oranges, broccoli, and peppers.

  • Oral supplements Sometimes, a diet high in vitamin C isn’t enough. That’s where vitamin C supplements come in. You could choose a supplement that’s filled with chemicals you need a Ph.D. in chemistry to understand. Or you could choose immune defense supplements that are plant-based, gluten-free, and give you all the vitamin C you need to maintain beautiful, healthy skin.

  • Topical creams Similar to oral supplements, topical creams boost your vitamin C intake. However, unlike oral supplements, topical creams are applied directly to the skin. As a result, topical creams can be especially helpful when used to treat atrophic scarring.

  • Address Acne The Right Way With Cymbiotika

    From special diets to fancy ointments, the list of acne treatments seems to grow every year. Yet those pesky little pustules persist.

    Wouldn’t it be great if there were a way to reduce (and even prevent) the size and duration of breakouts?

    The good news is, there is: vitamin C. A vitamin essential to immune health, vitamin C has also been shown to help with acne and acne scars.

    Cymbiotika Synergy Vitamin C is chock full of vitamins, antioxidants, and immune-boosting nutrients to help restore your skin back to health.

    Shine with beautiful skin. Shine with Cymbiotika.


    Sources:

    1. NCBI. Role of Antioxidants and Natural Products in Inflammation. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5075620/
    2. NIH. Sodium L-ascorbyl-2-phosphate 5% lotion for the treatment of acne vulgaris: a randomized, double-blind, controlled trial. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20367669
    3. NCBI. The Roles of Vitamin C in Skin Health. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC55796
    4. NCBI. The effect of Vitamin C on melanin pigmentation – A systematic review. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7802860/
    5. NCBI. Role of Vitamin C in Skin Diseases. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6040229/



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