Interaction of vitamins C and E as better cosmeceuticals


Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Karen E. Burke, MD, PhD, Rivercourt, 429 East 52nd Street, New York, New York 10022, or email:


ABSTRACT:  Although many cosmeceutical formulations contain vitamin C and/or vitamin E, very few are actually effective in topical application. First because there is only a low concentration, second because the stability is compromised as soon as the product is opened and exposed to air and light, and third because the form of the molecule (an ester or a mixture of isomers) is not absorbed or metabolized effectively by the skin.

However, when a stable formulation delivers a high concentration of the nonesterified, optimal isomer of the antioxidant, vitamins C and E do indeed inhibit the acute ultraviolet (UV) damage of erythema, sunburn, and tanning as well as chronic UV photoaging and skin cancer. Both are highly effective depigmenting agents. Topical vitamin C also increases collagen synthesis in both young and old fibroblasts. Because vitamin C regenerates oxidized vitamin E, the combination in a cosmeceutical formulation is synergistic – particularly in UV protection.