Wondering if there's a magical ingredient that resolves all your skin and health problems? Ayurveda, the 5000-year-old ancient Indian practice, recommends vitamin C as a healing ingredient that is irreplaceable. Legendary for a reason, this water-soluble vitamin works wonders when simply added to your ahara (diet) or dincharya (daily routine) as a topical skincare ingredient.
In this article, let's understand the basics of vitamin C, its uses for the skin and body, recommendations for your dosha type, and the best ways to reap its many benefits.
Scientifically speaking, vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is a water-soluble vitamin. This means that it dissolves in water and is not stored in the body's tissues. Therefore, it requires daily intake via food or supplements. Some of the biochemical functions of Vitamin C include the production of collagen, stimulation of certain enzymes, and hormone activation. As a physiological antioxidant, vitamin C also supports the regeneration of other antioxidants such as vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol).
According to Ayurveda, human bodies cannot synthesize vitamin C endogenously. Therefore, it is an essential dietary component. Ayurveda recommends the consumption of food that is high in vitamin C to balance the doshas. The ancient scriptures point out that vitamin C supports almost all bodily functions, right from building immunity to digestion and improving inner as well as skin health. This vitamin is also a key component in the Ayurvedic process of nirmalikarana or cleaning measures.
Some of the most incredible benefits of vitamin C for long-term health are:
Stabilizing blood pressure: A study has revealed that the regular consumption of vitamin C can help reduce blood pressure levels caused by a high salt intake.
Stabilizing cardiac health: Byhelping manage cholesterol, triglyceride, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels, vitamin C helps lower the risk of heart disease significantly.
Maintaining overall immunity: As a powerful antioxidant, vitamin C increases the levelsof phagocytes or lymphocytes in the body, thus helping the body ward off diseases and building immunity while reducing chronic stress.
Prevents iron deficiency: Vitamin C plays a key role in aiding iron absorption from plant-based sources. A scientific study revealed that 100 mg of vitamin C improves iron consumption by over 67 percent.
Treats hyperpigmentation: Rich in excellent antioxidant properties, vitamin C acts as a brightening agent and boosts the enzyme tyrosinase, which prevents the production of melanin, thus reducing dark spots, melasma, and age spots.
Boosts collagen production: Playing an active role in the generation of collagen and elastin in the body, vitamin C help the skin look radiant, firm, and youthful.
Reduces redness: Significant research over the years has shown that the topical use of vitamin C helps reduce redness owing to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. It can give you even-looking, smoother skin.
Helps reduce dark circles: Timely and regular use of vitamin C can help reduce and prevent dark circles by strengthening the thin layer of skin below the eyes. The antioxidant properties in vitamin C help conceal blood vessels and make the skin resilient.
Prevents skin damage caused by free radicals: Scavenging free radicals and reducing oxidative stress, vitamin C helps prevent skin damage and photoaging owing to overexposure to the sun.
Hydrates the skin: By aiding the formation of ceramides on the topmost layer of the skin, vitamin C helps the skin retain water while preventing it from becoming too oily or dry. Itdecreases transepidermal water loss (TEWL), which results in healthier-looking skin with sustained elasticity.
Vitamin C deficiency can take weeks or months to manifest. Some of the key signs to look out for are:
The appearance of rough or bumpy skin that bruises easily
Inflammation of the gums or gingivitis
Chronic pain in the muscle, limbs, or joints
Irritability or mood changes
Ulcers or wounds that take too long to heal
Weak bones, skin, or nails
Re-infections or chronic low energy
Sudden or unexplained weight loss
When it comes to overall health or skincare, there are numerous ways in which vitamin C can be incorporated. Let's deep-dive into them here:
Fresh fruits and vegetables: Raw fruits and vegetables such as red and green peppers, oranges, tomatoes, strawberries, grapefruit, broccoli, spinach, kiwis, and green peas are excellent sources of vitamin C. Since vitamin C is heat-sensitive, it is best consumed raw.
Supplements: If you are not consuming sufficient fruits or vegetables or need to up your intake of this nutrient, you can choose to consume supplements. As per scientific studies, the tolerable upper intake level of vitamin C is 2000 mg/day. Consuming it beyond this limit can result in diarrhoea.
Ascorbic Acid: Known to be the most effective at penetrating the skin barrier, ascorbic acid is water-soluble and oxidizes when exposed to light and air. It is suitable for oily and combination skin, which are Pitta-and Kapha-dominant skin types.
Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate: As a gentle version of vitamin C, it is less active and converts to ascorbic acid only once it’s applied to the skin. This makes it beneficial for all skin types - Kapha, Vata, and Pitta.
Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate: As one of the most stable forms of vitamin C magnesium ascorbyl phosphate works wonders for acne-prone skin owing to its anti-inflammatory properties. This form of vitamin C is aptfor sensitive Pitta-dominant skin types.
Sodium Ascorbate: As a mineral salt, this is mainly added to face scrubs and masks. It converts to ascorbic acid when applied to the skin, thus reducing its potency. This makes it apt for Kapha- and Vata-dominant skin types.
Calcium Ascorbate: Known to aid the production of collagen and repair tissues and wounds while brightening the complexion, it also reduces the appearance of fine lines. With great skin-hydrating effects, it is apt for Vata-dominant dry skin.
Ascorbyl Palmitate: This derivative of vitamin C is fat-soluble and a brightening superstar. With milder effects than ascorbic acid, it mitigates hyperpigmentation and aids collagen production. It is suitable for Pitta-dominant sensitive and acne-prone skin.
Are you hearing these names for the first time? Confused as to how you can find out what your product contains? These are nothing but different forms of vitamin C; you can look for these in the ingredient list of your products to make informed choices.
Clinical studies and studies have proven that vitamin C is safe to use topically. It is safe for all skin types owing to its antioxidative, photoprotective, anti-aging, and anti-pigmentation properties. This nutrient can be used for a long period without any major side effects.
The only side effect that can sometimes be seen is skin irritation such as tingling upon application, redness, or itching in the case of sensitive skin.
Since Ayurveda believes that the human body is guided by its unique constitution or prakriti, the tridoshas, or vital forces of life play a key role in the body. When in harmony, they function perfectly to help you lead a balanced life. A Vata-, Pitta-, or Kapha-dominant body affects the skin accordingly. Let's understand each skin type and delve into recommendations for each one of them:
The Vata skin type is normally rough and dry and often needs moisturizing. It is prone to fine lines and wrinkles. This skin type needs to be nourished regularly. Vata-dominant people are often susceptible to cold and need to consume warm food.
Health: Vitamin C acts as an antioxidant and protects fat-soluble vitamins from getting oxidized. Therefore, natural sources of vitamins such as Amalaki (Indian gooseberry) and lemons help balance Vata.
Skin: For Vata skin that struggles to retain moisture, vitamin C is perfect as it helps synthesize collagen and stimulate cell repair.
The Pitta skin type is soft, greasy, warm, and susceptible to inflammation, acne, and allergies. This skin type is easily affected by the sun and can often undergo sun damage. People with Pitta-dominant skin must avoid the sun since a high temperature can further impact their bodies and skin.
Health: Pitta-balancing fruits such as limes, melons, and papayas and vegetables such as pumpkins, peppers, and green beans are known to be rich sources of vitamin C.
Skin: Pitta skin type needs protection from the sun to soothe and nurture the skin. Since vitamin C is rich in antioxidants, it can protect Pitta skin from sun damage caused by UV rays and soothe sunburns.
Kapha skin type is similar to Pitta skin - oily and acne-prone. Usually thick, it is prone to the enlargement of pores and cystic acne. This skin type attracts impurities from the environment.
Health: Kapha-balancing foods rich in vitamin C, such as cabbage, Brussels sprouts, grapefruit, broccoli, cranberry, and kale, improve your body’s immune response during a pathogen attack.
Skin: Kapha skin type needs vitamin C to control sebum production and heal acne with its antioxidant properties. Vitamin C is an anti-inflammatory agent that reduces inflammation and redness to create an even complexion.
The human body requires vitamin C daily in the following doses:
Infancy (0-12 months)
Childhood (9-13 years)
Teenage (14-18 years)
65 mg/day (girls)
Adulthood (aged 19 and older)
75 mg/day (women)
85 mg/day (pregnancy)
This Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) considers average daily nutrient intake, including food and supplements.
As a micronutrient, your body needs vitamin C in trace amounts. To maintain an adequate concentration of this water-soluble vitamin in the body, consuming it in the form of fruits and vegetables is recommended. Alternatively, you can also look out for these ingredients in your skin products. Here's a list:
Amalaki (Amla or Indian gosseberry)
This highly potent plant, known for its healing properties, is a superfood enriched in vitamin C. As a strong natural antioxidant, Amalaki strengthens the immune system and cools down the body while balancing the Pitta dosha. Even one or two fresh pieces of amla a day can do wonders for your skin and overall health.
Moringa (Drumstick leaves or horseradish)
Rich in vitamin C and beta-carotene, this drought-resistant tree contains 220 mg of vitamin C per 100 g of leaves. The leaves are a powerhouse of the antioxidantsquercetin and chlorogenic acid. They provide a good amount of protein and dietary fiber as well.
Kakadu Plum (Terminalia ferdinandiana)
Native to Australia, the Kakadu plum makes a powerful antioxidant, with the highest recorded levels of naturally occurring vitaminC, i.e 5300 mg per 100 g. The extracts of this plant contain vitamins E & A and polyphenols (mainly gallic and ellagic acids), making it a multifunctional active ingredient highly recommended in skincare for enhancing radiance and reducing the signs of aging.
This topical, pink-flesh fruit is native to Mexico, South America, and Asia. One medium-sized guava contains about 126 mg of vitamin C, which is higher than the daily recommended dose. This fruit is also rich in the antioxidant lycopene, making it apt for giving you naturally glowing skin.
Oranges, tangerines, lemons, mandarins, or grapefruit are unbeatable sources of vitamin C. They prevent the overproduction of sebum while protecting you from skin infections. Most citrus fruits contain about 53 mg of vitamin C per 100 g.
Apart from these, acerola cherries, kiwis, rose hip, kale, broccoli, tomatoes, papaya, cabbage, blackcurrant, thyme, and peppermint contain the much-needed vitamin C in abundance.
The benefits of this wonder nutrient are endless. Vitamin C plays a key role in boosting your immune system, connective tissue development, and heart health while giving you radiant and glowing skin. Both science and Ayurveda suggest that nature’s intent does not seem to be oriented toward clobbering us with mega doses of vitamin C but adding it judiciously and in the correct form.
Have you added this wonder ingredient to your daily routine yet?
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