Atmospheric Skin Aging and Vitamin C


Atmospheric Skin Aging and Vitamin C

atmospheric pollution aging

Living in NYC exposes me to all sorts of harsh things, like traffic noise, snow, rude people, dog poop everywhere on the sidewalk, etc., but one thing that I’ve found here that actually takes a toll on my skin is pollution. Did you know that rising levels of ambient ozone can cause oxidative stress and aging in the skin? I didn’t either, so I interviewed SkinCeuticals scientist Scott Peterson to learn more about this topic.

Ozone (O3) is a highly reactive gas that is both a natural and man-made product occurring in Earth’s upper atmosphere (the stratosphere) and lower atmosphere (the troposphere). Down on the level that we live, harmful ozone is created when pollutants created by cars, power plants, refineries and more, interact with sunlight. As you can imagine, this problem is concentrated in large cities with higher levels of pollution.

Atmospheric aging is a collective term for skin aging caused by daily exposure to pollution. We know that pollution in general can cause free radical damage in multiple layers of the skin, and atmospheric aggressors can be associated with more manifestations of what we think of as physical aging like brown spots (hyperpigmentation), sagging, rough texture, and fine lines. O3 also depletes our skin’s supply of antioxidants, thus making us even less able to fend off environmental aggressors on our skin.

So what can we do about this problem, given that we can’t stay at home all day?

atmospheric aging

Ozone and Antioxidant Science

Scott shared a few interesting studies with me, one that was done in conjunction with Dr. Valacchi, a researcher in the area of ozone. This clinical study shows that Skinceuticals in vivo helps to reduce the damage from ozone. 15 subjects had their forearms divided into 4 zones: pretreated with C E Ferulic, pretreated with Phloretin CF, no treatment and just exposure to O3, and no treatment and no exposure to O3. Subjects’ forearms were then exposed to 0.8 ppm O3 for 3 hours per day for five consecutive days, and skin biopsies were taken from each zone at the end of 5 days. Measurements of lipid peroxidation through immunohistochemistry were recorded as a proxy for measuring free radical reactions. Byproducts of lipid peroxidation were significantly higher in O3 treated skin samples, but pretreatment with Phloretin CF and CE Ferulic actually helped to significantly lessen the amount of free radical damage. Additionally, O3 exposed skin had higher levels of matrix metalloproteinases (MMP), enzymes that degrade collagen, as well as lower levels of collagen I and III. Pretreatment with Phloretin CF or C E Ferulic significantly prevented the increase in MMP’s and collagen marker loss; specifically, skin treated with C E Ferulic showed 35% less type III collagen degradation and skin treated with Phloretin CF showed 95% less type III collagen degradation.

Bottom Line

By incorporating an antioxidant like Phloretin CF or C E Ferulic into your regimen, you are helping with protection, prevention, and correction of your skin all at the same time. I will be doing a post on the difference between Phloretin CF and C E Ferulic soon, so be on the lookout for that!

Why SkinCeuticals?

Orange beverage

Too bad we can’t drink our way to better skin…

My coresident Dr. Sukhdeo discussed the proper way to formulate vitamin C for topical preparations in a previous blogpost; check that out here! Basically, there are specific ways that you want to prepare vitamin C products for the skin order to stabilize the active ingredients. If you don’t formulate it the right way, the vitamin C will be wasted because it will oxidize and become inactive on top of the skin. According to Scott, SkinCeuticals focuses on having an appropriate level of acidity and appropriate concentration of vitamin C in its antioxidant products. Vitamin C concentration hits the sweet spot around 10-20%; when you hit 25 to 30% vitamin C, the active ingredient is actually going to waste and it negatively affects the penetration of the product. Protip: keep your Vitamin C preparations protected from heat and sunlight, both things that could degrade the product faster. I keep mine in the refrigerator and only take it out when I need to use it!

What has been your experience with pollution and atmospheric aging?

Thank you to SkinCeuticals for providing me product to review and test. All opinions and scientific research are my own.


10 Comments on Atmospheric Skin Aging and Vitamin C

  1. Haley
    June 6, 2017 at 11:36 am (6 months ago)

    Can’t wait to see your post about the differences between C E Ferulic and Phloretin CF! Incorporating an antioxidant as well as using daily sun protection are the two major things that I have done for my skin. Since I’m still in my twenties, I sometimes feel that a lot of the various skincare treatments could be overkill. Its great to know that using a well-formulated vitamin C does have some clear protective benefit!

    • Joyce
      June 6, 2017 at 12:44 pm (6 months ago)

      Haley, thanks for leaving a comment! I agree that sticking to the basics of sunscreen, moisturizer and antioxidant are the way to go. I really appreciated that this group actually did scientific studies that they published in a peer reviewed journal!

  2. Maria
    June 8, 2017 at 4:01 pm (6 months ago)

    Hello, Joyce,

    I have been following your website for a couple of weeks and find it very useful and fun to read! I bumped into it while researching skin care routines (I’m turning 40) and found your suggestions helpful, and most importantly, evidence based. Which is why I have a question for you. What do you think of dermaplaning? Would you recommend it? Do your attendings do it and endorse it?

    • Joyce
      June 9, 2017 at 11:54 am (6 months ago)

      Hi Maria, good question! I had to look into this myself because I’m not familiar with dermaplaning and we do not offer it at our offices. I found one study that looked at dermaplaning, and basically, there’s no good evidence that it works but patients seem to like it. I personally would probably rely more on methods scientifically proven to work (retinoids, sunscreen, lasers, peels), but if you see good results with dermaplaning and there’s no real harmful effect of dermaplaning in a safe and professional environment, then go for it! I would not suggest dermaplaning with a blade by yourself at home (obviously) because of the risk of infection and scarring.

  3. Susan Morris
    June 18, 2017 at 2:56 pm (6 months ago)

    Enjoy your blog. Looking forward to your findings about the difference between CE Ferulic and Phloretin CF. Be sure and check out Tacha. I love the Camelia Oil, The Essence, and rice enzyme powder. Also face mask.

    • Joyce
      June 18, 2017 at 5:07 pm (6 months ago)

      Thanks Susan! I’ve heard great things about Tacha so would love to check them out

  4. Jenn
    October 4, 2017 at 4:58 am (2 months ago)

    Hi! Thanks for your posts! As a medicine resident, I really appreciate the time you take to research and inform! I’ve been looking out for your post re: difference between Phloretin CF and C E Ferulic as I plan to take the plunge and invest in these products but with the price tag can only pick one. Thanks!

    • Joyce
      October 20, 2017 at 7:44 am (2 months ago)

      Hi Jenn, this is SUCH a great question! I plan to do a more in depth post on this soon. Personally I find that the c e ferulic is thicker and more oily, and it stings my skin more. So if I have a breakout or if my skin is more oily that day I’ll reach for the phloretin. But in terms of efficacy I’ll have to get back to you on that!

  5. Ina
    October 6, 2017 at 8:26 pm (2 months ago)

    Hi Joyce,

    I discovered your blog recently and I’m really enjoying it! It’s great to get reviews of products from a medical professional, who can give a bit more insight into how the skin behaves and what topical products can and can’t do. I have a question about Vitamin C. I’ve been using it for a while and I’ve noticed improvements in my melasma (which is not particularly bad, but it is very persistent). I don’t use any fancy brand (I couldn’t really splurge $170 on a serum), I buy a serum from Timeless which is around $20. I definitely notice a difference when I don’t use it (I do fieldwork in Africa and on my last trip I forgot to bring it. Needless to say, my hyperpigmentation got a bit out of control.), but now I’m wondering if I could get much better results. Since I don’t see myself spending a huge amount of money on this, I was wondering if you knew anything about preparing the serum at home. It could be done every few days, thereby making sure it doesn’t degrade in quality. I’ve been reading a lot about it on K-beauty forums, and I’ve seen lots of recipes, but never thought of trying myself. Any thoughts?

    • Joyce
      November 8, 2017 at 10:13 pm (1 month ago)

      Hi Ina, that’s such a great question! I actually don’t know much about at home DIY vitamin C serums, but I will say that it needs to be prepared in a very specific way in order to be stabilized. It is so hard to make, in fact, that only a few companies out there actually prepare the vitamin C in the correct environment in order for it to last to get to your skin. Check out my post here about how vitamin C is prepared in topical products and how finicky it can be!


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