In vitro antioxidant activity and in vivo efficacy of topical formulations containing vitamin C and its derivatives studied by non-invasive methods

Skin Res Technol. 2008 Aug;14(3):376-80. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0846.2008.00288.x.


Background/purpose: Vitamins C and its derivatives, mainly due to their antioxidant properties, are being used in cosmetic products to protect and to reduce the signs of ageing. However, there are no studies comparing the effects of vitamin C [ascorbic acid (AA)] and its derivatives, magnesium ascorbyl phosphate (MAP) and ascorbyl tetra-isopalmitate (ATIP), when vehiculated in topical formulations, mainly using objective measurements, which are an important tool in clinical efficacy studies. Thus, the objective of this study was to determine the in vitro antioxidant activity of AA and its derivatives, MAP and ATIP, as well as their in vivo efficacy on human skin, when vehiculated in topical formulations.

Methods: The study of antioxidant activity in vitro was performed with an aqueous and a lipid system. The in vivo methodology consisted of the application of these formulations on human volunteers' forearm skin and the analysis of the skin conditions after 4-week period daily applications in terms of transepidermal water loss (TEWL), stratum corneum moisture content and viscoelasticity using a Tewameter, Corneometer and Cutometer, respectively.

Results: In vitro experiments demonstrated that in an aqueous system, AA had the best antioxidant potential, and MAP was more effective than ATIP, whereas in the lipid system ATIP was more effective than MAP. In in vivo studies, all formulations enhanced stratum corneum moisture content after a 4-week period daily applications when compared with baseline values; however, only the formulation containing AA caused alterations in TEWL values. The formulations containing MAP caused alterations in the viscoelastic-to-elastic ratio, which suggested its action in the deeper layers of the skin.

Conclusion: AA and its derivates presented an in vitro antioxidant activity but AA had the best antioxidant effect. In in vivo efficacy studies, only the formulation containing AA caused alterations in TEWL values and the formulation containing MAP caused alterations in the viscoelastic-to-elastic ratio. This way, vitamin C derivatives did not present the same effects of AA on human skin; however, MAP showed other significant effect-improving skin hydration, which is very important for the normal cutaneous metabolism and also to prevent skin alterations and early ageing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Topical
  • Antioxidants / administration & dosage*
  • Ascorbic Acid / administration & dosage*
  • Cosmetics / administration & dosage*
  • Dermatologic Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Humans
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism*
  • Skin / drug effects
  • Skin / metabolism*
  • Skin Absorption / drug effects
  • Skin Absorption / physiology*
  • Skin Aging / drug effects
  • Skin Aging / physiology*


  • Antioxidants
  • Cosmetics
  • Dermatologic Agents
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Ascorbic Acid