How To Build Collagen in the Skin via Key Skincare Ingredients, L-Ascorbic Acid and Vitamin A

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As we grow older, our skin undergoes two types of aging: intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic aging is the natural aging process that starts in our mid-20s. Around this time, collagen production in skin slows down and elastin—the substance that enables skin to snap back into place—becomes less resilient.

Extrinsic aging is caused by external factors we encounter such as sun exposure or pollution, and our lifestyle choices like smoking or a poor diet. These factors accelerate the aging process by generating free radicals that break collagen fibers down faster.

Collagen production can be promoted, however, through the combined topical use of two vitamins: vitamin C in the form of L-ascorbic acid and vitamin A in the form of retinoids.


The Significance of L-Ascorbic Acid

L-ascorbic acid is the most potent and stabilized form of vitamin C. It differs from many common vitamin C serums in its ability to penetrate the skin barrier more effectively when applied topically. Here's how it helps build collagen in the skin to promote its overall health and appearance:

Promotes Collagen Synthesis

Vitamin C is essential for the enzymatic process that synthesizes collagen in the skin. Specifically, it acts as a cofactor for enzymes involved in stabilizing and cross-linking collagen molecules. By providing this support, vitamin C helps to enhance collagen production, which is crucial for maintaining skin firmness and elasticity.

Antioxidant Protection

Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant, meaning it helps to neutralize free radicals in the skin. Free radicals are unstable molecules that can damage collagen fibers and other structures in the skin, leading to premature aging and wrinkles. By scavenging free radicals, vitamin C helps to protect existing collagen and prevent its degradation, preserving the skin's youthful appearance.

Reduces Photodamage

Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun can accelerate collagen breakdown in the skin. Vitamin C has been shown to help mitigate the effects of UV damage by neutralizing free radicals generated by UV exposure and by enhancing the repair mechanisms of the skin. By reducing photodamage, vitamin C helps to maintain collagen levels and overall skin health.

Brightens & Evens Skin Tone

Vitamin C has skin-brightening properties and can help to fade dark spots, hyperpigmentation, and uneven skin tone. By inhibiting melanin production and promoting exfoliation of pigmented cells, vitamin C contributes to a more radiant complexion. This improved skin tone can make the skin appear healthier and more youthful.

Enhances Skin Hydration

Vitamin C is involved in the synthesis of skin barrier lipids, which help to retain moisture in the skin. By strengthening the skin barrier and supporting hydration, vitamin C helps to improve skin texture and suppleness, creating a more youthful and resilient complexion.


The Role of Vitamin A

Vitamin A, specifically in the form of retinoids, also plays a crucial role in stimulating collagen production in the skin and minimizing fine lines and wrinkles through several mechanisms. The main benefits of vitamin A in the form of retinoids are:

Increased Cell Turnover

Retinoids promote cell turnover, which means they encourage the shedding of old, damaged skin cells and the generation of new, healthy ones. This accelerated cell turnover helps to maintain the structural integrity of the skin and supports collagen synthesis.

Stimulation of Fibroblasts

Fibroblasts are the cells responsible for producing collagen in the skin. Retinoids can stimulate these fibroblasts, prompting them to produce more collagen and elastin fibers. This increased collagen production helps to improve skin firmness, elasticity, and overall appearance.

Collagen Gene Expression

Retinoids can also regulate gene expression related to collagen production. They interact with specific receptors in the skin cells, which in turn activate genes involved in collagen synthesis. By upregulating these genes, retinoids promote the production of collagen and other extracellular matrix components.

Reduction of Collagen Breakdown

In addition to stimulating collagen production, retinoids can also help prevent its breakdown. They inhibit enzymes called matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) that degrade collagen fibers. By blocking MMP activity, retinoids help preserve existing collagen in the skin, contributing to its overall strength and structure.

It's important to note that while retinoids are highly effective, they can also be associated with some side effects like dryness, irritation, and increased sensitivity to sunlight. It's essential to start with a lower concentration and gradually increase usage to allow your skin to acclimate, and it's always a good idea to consult with a dermatologist before incorporating retinoids into your skincare routine, especially if you have sensitive skin or specific concerns.


The Combined Power of Vitamins C & A

When vitamin C in the form of L-ascorbic acid and vitamin A in the form of retinoids are used together, they form a powerful combination that helps prevent collagen breakdown and significantly boosts new collagen production in the skin.

By understanding and leveraging the benefits of these two powerful ingredients, skin's collagen production is supported, helping it to stay as healthy and youthful looking as possible.



About Eman Kadhim
Eman Kadhim is the Head of Scientific Communications & Upstream Innovation at Waldencast and works closely with Obagi Medical to communicate the scientific technologies in their formulas, creating best-in-class products that marry function with ingredient innovation. Her past experiences include working closely with major beauty, supplement, and skincare brands in the field of Technical and Regulatory Affairs. Ms. Kadhim holds a master’s degree in Pharmacogenetics and Stratified Medicine and a bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Sciences.