Halo Beauty Supplements: Vitamin C (Ascorbic acid)

Vitamin C is well known by this point in time as an antioxidant. It has been incorporated into daily multivitamins, single vitamin supplements, cold/flu prevention supplements, and topical skincare.  For this research, I’m not focusing on the health effects of vitamin C.  Many others on the internet and YouTube are doing so; I do not need to be redundant.  Similarly, I’m not going to address topical delivery, because that’s not what the supplements do.  So, what is the evidence that taking supplements of vitamin C can help your skin?  Is there any good data on that?

Honestly, this has an obvious answer of yes.  We discovered long ago that vitamin C is critical for the formation of collagen, which is found in skin, bones, and many other tissues in the body.  In fact, it is the single most common protein in the human (or mammalian) body [1].  Vitamin C deficiency causes scurvy—and that’s just plain unattractive.

I searched for the phrase oral supplementation vitamin c skin and found 138 results from JID, 37 from PubMed, and 117,000 from Google Scholar.  This was a very surprisingly small number of results.  I actually looked at all the titles for the JID and PubMed searches, but I only went through the first three pages of Google Scholar results.  I very quickly understood that very little active research has been done on taking oral supplements of vitamin C and their impact on skin health.  If you need you, you can find out more about how I do the literature search and review.

The best study I saw looked at antioxidant capacity of skin after vitamin C supplementation [2]: that is, how well can the skin break down free radicals.  In this study, participants aged 22-57 took either a 100 mg dose or a 180 mg dose of vitamin C daily. Compared to baseline, both doses of vitamin C improved the antioxidant capacity significantly, but there wasn’t any real difference between the two doses.  These effects became apparent in as little as two weeks.  The placebo group showed no change.  The only limiting factor on this study is that it was a small number of people (n=33).  What impressed me most about this study was the study design: the study participants were about half and half on gender, and this study did not rely on expert grading by people.  It used a non-invasive technique where (short version) the skin was treated with a free radical and then evaluated by spectroscopy.

Honestly, this made me question how long it takes for the vitamin C levels in the body to reach peak levels (pharmacokinetics) and I wanted more information than just the government recommendations.  I only looked at one study.  This one showed that you reach peak levels of vitamin C in the blood and skin after 20-80 days depending on dose [3].  The higher doses of 100 and 200 mg daily took longer, but gave more stable blood levels over time; the current recommended daily value of 60 mg. They tested higher doses, too, but found that above 200 mg didn’t offer any benefit.  That was actually consistent with another study looking at oral vitamin C and UV stress on skin.  This study was very small (n=12 participants), but they measured blood and skin levels of vitamin C using a 500 mg dose.  Both levels increased but then tapered off and stabilized.  However, they found no significant difference in skin reddening with UV exposure in the vitamin C group, but there was some reduction in lipid damage [4].  I guess that makes sense; vitamin C doesn’t prevent you from getting a sunburn, but it is supposed to help reduce the effects.

 

The remaining articles that were pertinent used an antioxidant mixture where vitamin C was one of the components.  This is not ideal, because we cannot determine what effects are due to which components.  However, this is also true of the Halo Beauty supplement, and they help to demonstrate that taking oral antioxidants helps improve skin, so I think they’re still relevant.  The first one that was particularly well done tested n=35 women aged 40-75 over an 8-week period. Before and after photos were taken in a climate-controlled room with the same temperature and humidity, and subjects had to sit in the room 15 minutes prior to photos.  They were not allowed to use skincare products beginning the night before photos were taken.  These photos were then rated by expert graders for coloring, luminosity, brightness, and transparency, all of which were considered significantly improved [5].  Another study looking at a different combination antioxidant treatment prohibited study participants from using anything except facial soap for the 90 days of the study (can you imagine?).  However, again, it was a blend-and in this particular study, it wasn’t even the was being used as a control for the main focus (fermented papaya, yum).  This study also used before-and-after photos with expert skin graders, but they were blinded to which participants received which treatment.  The antioxidant blend group saw a reduction in lipid damage (consistent with the study [4]), but not in terms of skin elasticity or even-ness [6]. They also didn’t see any major changes in gene expression relating to inflammation.  However, they did see an increase in moisturization from about 38% to about 50%, which may be more interesting given that no moisturizers were permitted [6]!

This next study was done in mice and looked at skin wrinkling and thickness.  Again, it used an antioxidant blend containing vitamin C.  Mice are not humans… but the study did show that their oral blend reduced both wrinkles and skin thickening caused by UV damage [7], so maybe there’s hope!

Lest you think that I focused only on the positive studies, there was one in 2007 that looked at the long-term risk of skin cancer in 7,876 men and women who took either an antioxidant blend containing vitamin C or a placebo [8].  They found an increased risk of skin cancer in women who took the antioxidants, but not in the men, and not in the placebo group.  The incidence of melanoma was also slightly higher.  This doesn’t tell us why this happened-it may have had something to do with the supplement, or maybe there were other risk factors.

So there’s my update on vitamin C and what we know about what oral supplementation does (and doesn’t do) for skin.  Alone or in combination with other antioxidants, there seems to be some evidence that it’s beneficial for normal, healthy people.  The levels of vitamin C found in Halo Beauty (60 mg) are at the recommended daily intake, but you also get some from food sources (and other vitamins you may take).  This research also tells us that more is okay up to a point, but there’s no benefit to anything above 200 mg or so; that’s well below the toxicity dose, so this is pretty safe.

Next up: Vitamin D3!

References

  1. Collagen, in Wikipedia. 2018.
  2. Lauer, A.-C., et al., Dose-Dependent Vitamin C Uptake and Radical Scavenging Activity in Human Skin Measured with in vivo Electron Paramagnetic Resonance Spectroscopy. Skin Pharmacology and Physiology, 2013. 26(3): p. 147-154.
  3. Levine, M., et al., Vitamin C pharmacokinetics in healthy volunteers: evidence for a recommended dietary allowance. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 1996. 93(8): p. 3704-3709.
  4. McArdle, F., et al., UVR-induced oxidative stress in human skin in vivo: effects of oral vitamin C supplementation. Free Radical Biology and Medicine, 2002. 33(10): p. 1355-1362.
  5. Dumoulin, M., D. Gaudout, and B. Lemaire, Clinical effects of an oral supplement rich in antioxidants on skin radiance in women. Clinical, Cosmetic, and Investigational Dermatology, 2016: p. 315-324.
  6. Bertuccelli, G., et al., Effect of a quality-controlled fermented nutraceutical on skin aging markers: An antioxidant-control, double-blind study. Exp Ther Med, 2016. 11(3): p. 909-916.
  7. Ho-Song, C., et al., Anti-wrinkling effects of the mixture of vitamin C, vitamin E, pycnogenol and evening primrose oil, and molecular mechanisms on hairless mouse skin caused by chronic ultraviolet B irradiation. Photodermatology, Photoimmunology & Photomedicine, 2007. 23(5): p. 155-162.
  8. Hercberg, S., et al., Antioxidant supplementation increases the risk of skin cancers in women but not in men. J Nutr, 2007. 137(9): p. 2098-105.

 

 

Background Research: Halo Beauty Supplements

It seems odd to have to define how I’m doing my research on the ingredients in Halo Beauty, but I prefer to be thorough.  These are the basic rules and procedures that I am using for EVERY active ingredient listed in the product.

I chose to search in three places.  The first is a specific journal-the Journal of Investigative Dermatology (JID).  This journal is published by the Nature Publishing Group and is generally considered to be a very high-quality journal, probably the top journal in the field for dermatology research.  I also searched the PubMed database created and maintained by the National Library of Medicine and the National Institute of Health.  This database generally indexes research of a medical nature and is usually my first stop.  Finally, I searched with Google Scholar, which is the most broadly-based search engine but still focused on journals and patents.  I kept the search terms the same for each component of the Halo Beauty supplement.  Although numbers of results from each search are provided as a guide, they include the results that are not specific (for example, when searching for Vitamin C, many articles were for vitamin D or other unrelated terms).  These articles were not evaluated.  Search results often included research on varying skin conditions, which were also excluded: I wanted to focus on relatively normal, healthy skin and issues that affect everyone: aging and sunburn for example.

I have access to University libraries, including journal subscriptions and databases. If I was not able to obtain the full text of a particular article in a timely manner, I will not discuss that article because I have not been able to actually look at the data and results, so it is not fair for me to draw conclusions based on work I cannot see. I will not provide or discuss results based on reading an abstract alone.

In doing this research, I set a timer for one hour for each ingredient to give each equal time.  This did not include time to write the summaries or record videos.

If I refer to significance, I am specifically referring to statistical significance. I did not take the required time to judge whether the statistical tests were appropriate for the study design.

Product Review: Halo Beauty Supplements Day 1

Yesterday (Day 0), I established the plan for evaluating the Halo Beauty supplements.  Today, I provide the BEFORE video and photos that will be used for evaluation.  I will try to keep lighting conditions, time of day, etc. as consistent as I can with my equipment.

Initial thoughts: the supplements did not upset an empty stomach for me, so one concern has been alleviated!

All photos and videos are unretouched.  The only editing performed on the photos is cropping to a 4×6 ratio for facial images.

Product Review: Halo Beauty Supplements Day 0 (Unboxing)

Initial thoughts

I purchased the Halo Beauty supplements on March 2, 2018 (the day they launched).  They arrived by mail on March 15, and I will begin taking them on March 25.

The intent of this project is to look at the science of skincare behind the ingredients and to evaluate the efficacy of the product (within limits; I’m one person).  I will endeavor to keep many things as consistent as possible throughout this project, including nutrition, hydration, activity, and skincare routine.

There are a few things I cannot evaluate.  For example, I have premature greying so I color my hair at this point.  I will not be able to tell if this has any hormonal impact, as I also have premature ovarian failure and I’m not getting bloodwork done for this.

I will, however, post weekly updates and photos!

What am I worried about?

Two things immediately spring to mind.

  1. I know that I cannot take my daily multivitamin on an empty stomach (i.e. in the morning) so I am concerned that the B vitamins in this supplement might cause some nausea.  Updates on Day 1 after taking the supplement..
  2. I have a known sensitivity to Vitamin D.  Too much, and my skin erupts into pustules.  It’s an actual allergy and it’s uncommon.  This supplement, combined with my daily multivitamin, will double my vitamin D intake.  I guess we’ll wait and see!

The Routine

Nutrition: 1700 kcal/day; no more than 1 alcoholic beverage/day.  Will continue taking magnesium supplement and daily multivitamin as well as 2 prescriptions.

Hydration: monitoring using my Spark 2.0 water bottle (gift from a friend!); this typically seems to vary from 48-72 fl. oz. per day (6-9 glasses).

Activity: 30 min walk + daily Yoga with Adriene (these are generally around 20-40 minutes).

AM Skincare: wash in shower (Philosophy body wash), Shiseido Ultimune serum, Liz Earle Eye Bright, 100% Pure coffee bean caffeine eye cream, Neutrogena Ultra Sheer liquid SPF 70.

PM Skincare: Neutrogena eye makeup remover (as needed), Liz Earle cleanse & polish hot cloth cleanser, Liz Earle Instant Boost skin tonic, Liz Earle Skin Repair Moisturizer.

Weekly: exfoliation with Tatcha Polished gentle rice enzyme powder, face mask (user’s choice), Sunday Riley Tidal brightening enzyme water cream.