Skin Lightening Ingredients - Vitamin C

A new product I have been working on – Lighten Up Herbal Skin Lightener – has generated some questions about skin lightening ingredients – both what I am using as well as the ones commonly found in commercial products. There's a bit to cover, so here is the beginning of a new mini-series: all about skin lightening ingredients (and some of the unexpected bonuses they offer).

Skin Lightening – The Plant-Based Way

Let it be known from the start: even though I have been making skin care products for years, working on skin lightening is new to me. I only embarked on this path because

1. One of my favorite suppliers introduced a series of plant-based skin lightening ingredients to their assortment
and shortly thereafter

2. I simultaneously received requests for a skin lightening product from 2 ladies who both agreed to be case studies (see links below).

The skin lightening formula I developed for these ladies uses a cocktail of different plant-based active ingredients. Today it's all about the main active – the big kahuna – the amazing vitamin C.

Vital Vitamin C

You can thank your mom now if she was constantly feeding you vitamin-C rich foods throughout your childhood. Vitamin C is essential for the formation of collagen (the main fibers that make up the connective tissue in skin). This vital vitamin functions as an antioxidant and free radical scavenger. Some animals can produce their own C-vitamin, but we humans need to add it to our systems from external sources.

Limited Time Only

Perhaps you've heard vitamin C described as L-ascorbic acid. You would be right. This is what you get from fresh squeezed oranges, fresh strawberries, fresh kiwi or other vitamin-C rich foods. They're full of all the antioxidant and free radical scavenging goodness you could wish for – until shortly after being squeezed or mushed up when the vitamin C degrades, oxidizes and looses its power (an excellent reason to drink fresh-squeezed orange juice immediately after it has been prepared).

Hold it Right There!

The challenge of capturing the actives of vitamin C and giving them the necessary staying power for use in different skin care products has had many a scientist scratching their heads for years. But now, they've done it. What they've captured is a vitamin C derivative called Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate.

What it Does

On application, Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate splits up after entering the skin and releases active vitamin C right where it can do the most good. It is an effective antioxidant, protecting the cells against damage caused by free radicals. It also promotes collagen formation (making it an ideal anti-aging ingredient). Its rejuvinating properties are excellent, helping to improve the skins overall appearance.

The Lightening Part

Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate also acts on the melanine formation process to prevent hyperpigmentation. With a larger dosage, it will help to lighten the skin. For skin lightening action, my supplier recommends a max dose of 10%. I followed their instructions and added a full 10% to the first 2 batches, but reduced to 7% in subsequent batches – not because there were any adverse effects to the skin, but because I was having trouble with the texture of the formula.

A Bit of a Diva

Although this ingredient delivers on its promises, it is one of the most demanding active ingredients I have ever worked with. Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate needs a specific PH environment, tolerates extremely limited exposure to air (preferrably none, but I can't hold my breath that long) and requires packaging immediately after being added to the base product. Also, it absolutely demands an airless container. (Seriously, can you get any more diva-like?)

But Worth It

Apart from all of the difficulties and challenges in the production process, this ingredient has me sold enough to where I am working on a couple of new non-skin-lightening formulas. One of the 'side-effects' it showed in the skin lightening project was a reduction in wrinkles. (Now that's my kind of side effect!)

If you'd like to read about the development of this product, please see the links below


I've been making a facial serum with 20% L-ascorbic acid plus of course water, alcohol, lecithin and glycerin and titch of grape seed extract. I usually make small batches, just enough for 1,5 week. And I'm delighted how fast and effectively it works. My skin is prone to redness and this lovely serum helps me to keep my skin light and bright. It will definitely stay with me forever
LisaLise said…
Hi Zaczarowany,
Ohh that sounds exciting! Are you using this as a kind of spray on tonic? How long have you been making and using this?
I store it in an amber bottle with a pipette, use a few drops and rub into my face and neck. I've been using it for about 2 months. Since it's very watery it sutiable also for a spray bottle. And actually I'm thinking about using it this way in future as addition to strech marks treatment on my body (

I don't know if you've come across it but vit. C in form of SAP has another very nice side effect - a strong antimicrobial effect, especially on this nasty P. acnes.
LisaLise said…
Thanks so much for sharing this info and these links. I am definitely going to be studying these results to be sure! It seems we both have the same challenge with texture of this raw material- it does indeed love a liquid environment.