Objective: To determine the efficacy of topical ascorbic acid application in treating mild to moderate photodamage of facial skin using an objective, computer-assisted image analysis of skin surface topography and subjective clinical, photographic, and patient self-appraisal questionnaires.
Design: A 3-month, randomized, double-blind, vehicle-controlled study.
Setting: Facial plastic surgery private practice.
Patients: Nineteen evaluable volunteer sample patients aged between 36 and 72 years with Fitzpatrick skin types I, II, and III who were in good physical and mental health with mild to moderately photodamaged facial skin were considered for analysis.
Intervention: Coded, unmarked medications were randomly assigned to the left and right sides of each subject's face, one containing the active agent, topical ascorbic acid (Cellex-C high-potency serum; Cellex-C International, Toronto, Ontario), the other, the vehicle serum (Cellex-C International). Three drops (0.5 mL) of each formulation were applied daily to the randomly assigned hemifaces over the 3-month study period. Treatment assignments were not disclosed to subjects, clinicians, or personnel involved in analyzing skin replicas.
Main outcome measures: Specific clinical parameters were evaluated and graded on a 0- to 9-point scale (0, none; 1-3, mild; 4-6, moderate; and 7-9, severe). Reference photographs were used to standardize grading criteria. Overall investigator scores were compared with baseline and graded as excellent (much improved), good (improved), fair (slightly improved), no change, or worse. Patient self-appraisal questionnaires rated the degree of improvement (much improved, improved, slightly improved, no change, or worse) and reported adverse effects (burning, stinging, redness, peeling, dryness, discoloration, itching, and rash). Standard photographs were taken at baseline, including anteroposterior and left and right oblique views to facilitate subsequent clinical evaluations, and at the end of therapy for comparison. Optical profilometry analysis was performed on the skin surface replicas of the lateral canthal (crow's feet) region, comparing baseline to end-of-study specimens. Using this computer-based system, the resulting image was digitally analyzed, and numeric values were assigned to reflect surface features. The parameters obtained included Rz, Ra, and shadows. These values provided objective data that document pretreatment and posttreatment texture changes proportional to the degree of wrinkling, roughness, and other surface irregularities.
Results: Optical profilometry image analysis demonstrated a statistically significant 73.7% improvement in the Ra and shadows north-south facial axis values with active treatment greater than vehicle control, as well as a trend for improvement in the Rz north-south facial axis parameter, showing a 68.4% greater improvement of active treatment vs vehicle control. Clinical assessment demonstrated significant improvement with active treatment greater than control for fine wrinkling, tactile roughness, coarse rhytids, skin laxity/tone, sallowness/yellowing, and overall features. Patient questionnaire results demonstrated statistically significant improvement overall, active treatment 84.2% greater than control. Photographic assessment demonstrated significant improvement, active treatment 57.9% greater than control.
Conclusions: A 3-month daily regimen of topical ascorbic acid provided objective and subjective improvement in photodamaged facial skin. Skin replica optical profilometry is an objective method for quantification of the skin surface texture changes.