Effectiveness of antioxidants (vitamin C and E) with and without sunscreens as topical photoprotectants

Acta Derm Venereol. 1996 Jul;76(4):264-8. doi: 10.2340/0001555576264268.


Considerable interest has been recently generated concerning the use of natural compounds, anti-oxidants in particular, in photoprotection. Two of the best known anti-oxidants are vitamins C and E, both of which have been shown to be somewhat effective in different models of photodamage. Very little has been reported, however, on the effectiveness of a combination of the two (known to be biologically the more relevant situation); nor have there been detailed studies on the ability of these antioxidants to augment commercial sunscreen protection against UV damage. We report that (in swine skin) vitamin C is capable of additive protection against acute UVB damage (sunburn cell formation) when combined with a UVB sunscreen. A combination of both vitamins E and C provided very good protection from a UVB insult, the bulk of the protection attributable to vitamin E. However, vitamin C is significantly better than vitamin E at protecting against a UVA-mediated phototoxic insult in this animal model, while the combination is only slightly more effective than vitamin C alone. When vitamin C or a combination of vitamin C and E is formulated with a commercial UVA sunscreen (oxybenzone), an apparently greater than additive protection is noted against the phototoxic damage. These results confirm the utility of anti-oxidants as photoprotectants but suggest the importance of combining the compounds with known sunscreens to maximize photoprotection.

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Cutaneous
  • Animals
  • Antioxidants / administration & dosage
  • Antioxidants / therapeutic use*
  • Ascorbic Acid / administration & dosage
  • Ascorbic Acid / therapeutic use*
  • Benzophenones / administration & dosage
  • Benzophenones / therapeutic use
  • Cellulose / analogs & derivatives
  • Dermatologic Agents / administration & dosage
  • Dermatologic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Drug Combinations
  • Drug Synergism
  • Male
  • Pharmaceutical Vehicles
  • Propylene Glycol
  • Propylene Glycols
  • Radiation Protection*
  • Skin / pathology
  • Skin / radiation effects
  • Skin Aging / drug effects
  • Skin Aging / pathology
  • Sunburn / etiology
  • Sunburn / pathology
  • Sunburn / prevention & control
  • Sunscreening Agents / administration & dosage
  • Sunscreening Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Swine
  • Ultraviolet Rays / adverse effects
  • Ultraviolet Rays / classification
  • Vitamin E / administration & dosage
  • Vitamin E / therapeutic use*


  • Antioxidants
  • Benzophenones
  • Dermatologic Agents
  • Drug Combinations
  • Pharmaceutical Vehicles
  • Propylene Glycols
  • Sunscreening Agents
  • Vitamin E
  • Propylene Glycol
  • Cellulose
  • oxybenzone
  • hydroxypropylcellulose
  • Ascorbic Acid