How Vitamin C Helps with Collagen Production

Does Vitamin C really help with collagen production and healthier skin?

What’s the connection between collagen and vitamin C for skincare anyway?

Vitamin C and collagen supplements have been having a major popularity surge in the health and wellness realm. 

Brands claim their best vitamin C products and collagen peptides may be able to help improve your skin tone, banish dullness and dryness, and minimize the appearance of wrinkles and pigmentation.

But what does the science actually show? How does vitamin C help skin?

As it turns out, research proves the connection between vitamin C and collagen production is very real. And this quick guide will provide a rundown of everything you need to know about it.

Vitamin C for Collagen Production: The Basics

Before we dive into how these two work together to boost your skincare routine, let’s get to know them individually.

What is Vitamin C, and What Is It Useful For?

Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin and potent antioxidant crucial for your overall health and your skin health. Pure vitamin C also goes by the names l-ascorbic acid and l-ascorbate.

Most people know vitamin C keeps your immune system strong, but it’s also involved in the formation, maintenance, and protection of your bones, blood vessels, neurotransmitters, and much more (1).

So having a vitamin C deficiency can lead to health problems such as scurvy, trouble healing wounds, bleeding gums, achy joints, tiredness, colds/viruses, and even skin issues (2). We’ll get back to that last point soon.

What is Collagen?

Collagen is the most abundant protein found in your body. It’s present in your muscle ligaments, tendons, and connective tissue. It generally helps “hold” your body together. 

Collagen and another protein called elastin are both present in your skin. While collagen is generally responsible for providing firmness and “structure,” elastin gives your skin its elasticity (i.e., its ability to bounce back) (2). 

So How Does Vitamin C Affect Collagen Levels?

Does vitamin C create collagen? How does it work? 

Turns out, without vitamin C, you wouldn’t be able to produce the collagen your body needs to thrive.

See, vitamin C stimulates your body’s natural collagen production and helps keep your body’s collagen network in tip-top shape (2). Technically, vitamin C synthesizes collagen production so your body can turn on its collagen gene expression (i.e., make more collagen) (3).

Why is this important?

Because high collagen levels provide your skin with a more supple, youthful appearance. This anti-aging effect may help “plump” your skin cells so fine lines seem less noticeable.

Bad news? Both collagen and vitamin C levels tend to decrease as you age. Free radicals from pollution and free radical damage from sun exposure and UV light also lower your skin’s vitamin C and collagen levels (2).

However, clinical studies show supplementing with vitamin C may help counteract this decline to boost collagen levels and pave the way for healthy skin.

Collagen and Vitamin C for Skin Health

Your skin’s outer layer (epidermis) and inner layer (dermis) both contain high levels of vitamin C (4). 

Science shows vitamin C helps protect your skin from ultraviolet or UVA/UVB light damage (i.e., sun damage) since it’s a powerful antioxidant. It can actually neutralize and remove oxidative stress from the body, which may help smooth and brighten skin from the inside out (2).

This may help minimize the appearance of dark spots and discoloration (i.e., hyperpigmentation) as a result of being outside too long without sunscreen or skin care products containing SPF.

Vitamin C is also essential for the synthesis of hyaluronic acid, another skincare ingredient having its glow-up in the skincare world. 

Hyaluronic acid may increase dry skin’s hydration levels, which may support it looking healthier and more radiant (5). Studies suggest that increasing your vitamin C levels may also raise hyaluronic acid levels, which may then boost collagen production (6).

How To Stimulate Collagen Production In Skin With Topical Vitamin C

There are now tons of skincare products with vitamin C touting beneficial effects for collagen production. You can find vitamin C in face wash, lotion, toner, and just pure vitamin C serum.

A study looked at how effective topically applied vitamin C was on skin aging in 60 healthy women, compared to a placebo (7). Researchers saw a significant increase in collagen synthesis in the women who applied the topical vitamin C moisturizer (7). They called it an efficient skin rejuvenation therapy with minimal side effects.

But there is a downside to topical applications of vitamin C: it’s not always efficiently absorbed. So supplementing with vitamin C orally might be a better approach.

Vitamin C serum

Benefits of Vitamin C Supplements for Collagen Gains

In a systematic review, researchers found two studies that stood out regarding oral supplementation of vitamin C. Both studies showed taking vitamin C orally lead to a significant increase in collagen (8).

Research presented by Oregon State also demonstrated that supplementing with vitamin C combined with vitamin E may help prevent UV-induced skin damage (4).

With all these benefits, you may be tempted to load up on vitamin C — but more is not necessarily better here.

How Much Vitamin C Should I Take To Build Collagen?

Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, which means your body can’t store it. So you must consume adequate amounts every day to replenish your stores and maintain the right levels.

When you think of vitamin C, which foods come to mind? Oranges and citrus? While that is true, you may be surprised to learn there’s slightly more vitamin C in a red pepper than there is in an orange (9). You can also find vitamin C in elderberry, broccoli, kiwi, strawberries, kale, and brussels sprouts.

However, if you’re not tracking your vitamin C intake, it may be difficult to tell whether you’re getting enough. That’s why it’s probably smarter to take a vitamin C supplement.

So how much vitamin C should you take? 

Healthcare experts say you should aim for one gram or 1,000 milligrams per day, which ensures you’re hitting your vitamin C target without wasting excess amounts through your urine.

See, if you take anything above this threshold, the vitamin’s absorption rate falls to 50%. All the rest will be excreted in your urine (9). And if you’ve ever had neon yellow pee after taking vitamins, that’s what’s going on.

(To learn more about the most effective supplement delivery system available, check out this article on liposomes.)

So Does Vitamin C Help Your Skin and Collagen Levels? Absolutely!

After reading this guide, you now know just how crucial vitamin C is for supporting your body’s production of collagen. This one-two punch of antioxidant properties promotes healthy skin, wound healing, and oxidative stress cleanup.

Combine all these perks, and you may notice the brightening, hydrating, and potential anti-aging effects that lead to glowing, filter-free selfies.

So stick to 1,000mg per day when looking for vitamin C dietary supplements to ensure you achieve your skin health goals without overdoing it.

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Devan is a tea-obsessed health writer and former NASM Certified Personal Trainer and Nutrition Coach who’s currently relishing the process of continuing education in those fields.. While her passion is health, fitness, and tea, she also enjoys getting outdoors and going for long swims and snorkels in the ocean, hiking, and meditating. So if you don’t find her typing away at her computer, she’s probably outdoors soaking up the sun.
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Devan Ciccarelli
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Devan is a tea-obsessed health writer and former NASM Certified Personal Trainer and Nutrition Coach who’s currently relishing the process...