Anti-aging & Cosmeceutical Corner

The Anti-Aging Power of Topical Vitamins

By Navin M. Geria, Consultant | February 7, 2014

The arrival of a new year can be such a motivating event to make improvements in one’s life. If it’s February, most folks have already forgotten the resolution they made on January 1. But no matter what the calendar reads, it is always a good time to take care of your skin. It is clinically proven that topically applied vitamins are well absorbed through the skin. This column will briefly describe the benefits of using daily skin care products formulated with anti-aging vitamins such as vitamins A, B, C, E and K, and co-enzyme Q-10.

These six vitamins are the most frequently used for healthy skin. Using them regularly is a sure way to prevent skin damage, before it even begins. Baby Boomers continue to seek new and effective ways to slow down the passage of time and this is reflected in the Euromonitor International market research study that predicts the skin care products market will reach $91 billion this year.

Vitamin A: The term “retinoids” refers to vitamin A and all of its natural and synthetic derivatives. Retinoids influence the function of a cell by altering the gene expression pattern. Some of their biologic effects include regulating growth and differentiation of epithelial cells; decreasing inflammation; enhancing the immune system; improving acne, photoaging, psoriasis and skin discoloration; reversing sun damage; and inhibiting collagen and elastin breakdown. A very low level, 0.05%, of retinol provides efficacy by its conversion to intermediate retinaldehyde to retinoic acid that actually is the endogenous active form.

Vitamin B reduces the appearance of wrinkles.
Vitamin B (vitamin B3, niacinamide and nicotinamide): easily penetrates the stratum corneum, providing a variety of beneficial effects to skin such as improvement of dry skin, elasticity, texture and color, decrease in age spots, evening out of overall skin tone, skin-barrier enhancement, moisturization, improvement of lipid barrier component of the epidermis.

As a result, there is a reduction in transepidermal water loss (TEWL), sebaceous lipid excretion and pore size, leading to an overall improvement in skin appearance. Clinical research study results have shown a significant reduction in fine lines, wrinkles, hyper-pigmented spots, red blotchiness and skin sallowness.1,2 Usually 2-5% vitamin B has been used in topical formulations to achieve these effects.

Vitamin C (L- ascorbic acid): fights off free radicals, slows down the aging process and even reverses the signs of aging. Many anti-aging products containing vitamin C are not effective on the skin because of several reasons:
  • The concentration of L-ascorbic acid could be too low;
  • Exposure of the product to air and light compromising the stability of the product; or
  • The L-ascorbic acid is in the form of an ester or a mixture of isomers, which cannot be absorbed or metabolized effectively by the skin.

In high enough concentration (at least 10%) of the non-esterified, optimal isomer vitamin C inhibits UV damage. It is important to know that stabilizing ascorbic acid presents challenges. However, a formulation that has an acid pH of approximately 3.5 may optimize vitamin C absorption. Clinical studies support the use of topical vitamin C to improve fine lines and reduce both pigmentation and inflammation.3

In another clinical research study, vitamin C is formulated with potent antioxidant ferulic acid and vitamin E. This stabilizes the formula and doubles the photoprotection from four- to eight-fold. This combination of actives is featured in Skinceuticals’ CE Ferulic, which contains 15% vitamin C, 1% vitamin E and 0.5% ferulic acid.4

Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol): an excellent moisturizer and an emollient. It inhibits the acute UV damage of erythema, sunburn and tanning as well as chronic UV photo-aging and skin cancer.5 It protects cells from oxidative stress and is primarily used for the treatment of minor burns, surgical scars and wounds.

Vitamin C regenerates oxidized vitamin E when they are used together in the formulation. This combination in a formulation is synergistic, particularly with regard to UV protection. Usually topical preparations contain vitamin E in concentrations ranging from 0.1% to 20%. Because there is no dose-response relationship information available, there is no way of knowing how much vitamin E concentration is required to achieve clinical efficacy. Side effects of topical preparations in some consumers include irritant allergic contact dermatitis.

Vitamin K: There are several forms of vitamin K. There is no information available on its oxidative stability. Under-eye dark circles are visible because of leaking capillaries under the skin. This is visible because under-eye skin is very thin. Vitamin K is believed to actually constrict capillaries under the skin. However, there is no information available on controlled studies to support this observation.

Coenzyme Q10 (Ubiquinone, or CoQ10): This lipid soluble antioxidant is present in the mitochondria of all living cells and is utilized in the synthesis of adenosine triphosphate. A prolonged oral supplementation of CoQ10 in humans has shown to reduce crow’s feet wrinkle formation. Ubiquinone significantly suppresses the expression of collagenase in human dermal fibroblasts following UVA irradiation.6

Another study showed that ubiquinone inhibits oxidative stress in the skin induced by UVB.7 An effective antioxidant, it  protects skin from intrinsic and extrinsic aging.8

Cosmetic brands such as Nivea and Eucerin are formulated with coenzyme Q10. A decreased wrinkle depth was documented by optical profilometry using 0.3% ubiquinone cream for six months.9 A low molecular weight synthetic analog of coenzyme Q10 with superior skin penetrating properties is called idebenone. Skin care products containing idebenone are available as Prevage MD by Allergan. Prevage Eye Anti-aging Moisturizer is available from Elizabeth Arden and Allergan companies.

Clearly, there is significant data confirming the anti-aging benefits of topically applied vitamins. In a market dominated by older consumers with busy lifestyles and abundant leisure time, it is hard to accomplish all health goals. However, a strict adherence to a disciplined use of anti-aging products could protect the skin from future damage. 

  1. Bissett et al., Int. J. Cosmet. Sci 26(5): 231-8 (2004 Oct.)
  2. Bissett et al., Dermatol. Surg. 31 (7 Pt 2): 860-5 (2005 July)
  3. Gasper LR et al. Int. J. Pharm. 343(1-2): 181-9 (2007 Oct.)
  4. Lin FH et al., J. Invest. Dermatol. 125, 826-32
  5. Burke KE; Dermatol. Ther. 20 (5): 314-21 (2007 Sept-Oct.)
  6. Choi CM, Barson DS. Semin. Cutan Med surg 25(3): 163-8 (2006 Sept.)
  7. Burke KE, Cosmeceuticals, Elsevier Saunders pp 125-32 (2005)
  8. Bissett D, et al. 64th Annual Meeting AAD, San Francisco, CA. March 3-7, 2006, poster p235
  9. Eucerin Q10 Product Compendium, Wilton, CT: Beiersdorf Inc. p11

Navin M. Geria
Senior Technical Advisor and Principal Doctors Skin Prescription

Navin Geria, ex-Pfizer Research Fellow, is senior technical advisor and principal of the dermatological research company, Doctors Skin Prescription (DSP), Boston, founded by dermatologist David J. Goldberg, MD JD and plastic surgeons William P. Adams, MD FACS and Jason Pozner, MD. Geria has more than 30 years of experience in the personal care industry and was previously with Clairol, Warner-Lambert, Schick, Bristol-Myers and most recently, Spa Dermaceuticals. He has earned nearly 20 US patents, has been published extensively and has been both a speaker and a moderator at cosmetic industry events.
  • Supply-Side Innovations

    Supply-Side Innovations

    Tom Branna, Editorial Director||March 1, 2017
    Raw material suppliers roll up their sleeves and roll out their new products for the global cleaning industry.

  • New Faces in Familiar Places

    New Faces in Familiar Places

    Tom Branna, Editorial Director||March 1, 2017
    The American Cleaning Institute officially welcomed its new president.

  • Special Delivery

    Special Delivery

    Tom Branna, Editorial Director||March 1, 2017
    UV protection is important, but what good is that sunscreen if consumers won’t apply it?