Vitamin C-squalene bioconjugate promotes epidermal thickening and collagen production in human skin

Sci Rep. 2020 Oct 9;10(1):16883. doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-72704-1.


Vitamin C (Vit C) benefits to human skin physiology notably by stimulating the biosynthesis of collagen. The main cutaneous collagens are types I and III, which are less synthesized with aging. Vit C is one of the main promotors of collagen formation but it poorly bypasses the epidermis stratum corneum barrier. To address this challenge, we developed a lipophilic version of Vit C for improving skin diffusion and delivery. Vit C was covalently conjugated to squalene (SQ), a natural lipid of the skin, forming a novel Vit C-SQ derivative suitable for cream formulation. Its biological activity was investigated on human whole skin explants in an ex vivo model, through histology and protein and gene expression analyses. Results were compared to Vit C coupled to the reference lipophilic compound palmitic acid, (Vit C-Palmitate). It was observed that Vit C-SQ significantly increased epidermal thickness and preferentially favored collagen III production in human skin after application for 10 days. It also promoted glycosaminoglycans production in a higher extent comparatively to Vit C-Palmitate and free Vit C. Microdissection of the explants to separate dermis and epidermis allowed to measure higher transcriptional effects either in epidermis or in dermis. Among the formulations studied, the strongest effects were observed with Vit C-SQ.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Ascorbic Acid / metabolism
  • Ascorbic Acid / pharmacology*
  • Collagen / biosynthesis*
  • Drug Compounding
  • Drug Delivery Systems*
  • Epidermis / drug effects*
  • Epidermis / metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Skin / drug effects*
  • Skin / metabolism*
  • Squalene*


  • Squalene
  • Collagen
  • Ascorbic Acid