Dr. Perricone’s Switch From Vitamin C to Vitamin C Ester

Considering the powerful benefits of vitamin C in the body, it’s natural to think that these positive effects would extend to the skin. Using this logic, Dr. Perricone began studying the effects of using vitamin C as a topical ointment on the skin.

Through his studies, he realized he needed to make a change in order to create a truly effective skin care ingredient. This ingredient is vitamin C ester, a compound that provides all of the positive benefits of vitamin C and adds more because of its unique structure.

This article will discuss:

Dr. Perricone’s interest in vitamin C on skin

During Dr. Perricone’s pediatric training at Yale, scientists were researching the effects of vitamin C intake on asthma. Their hypothesis was that vitamin C had anti-inflammatory properties that would calm inflamed lung tissues which often lead to asthma attacks.

Just as they suspected, administering a high dosage of vitamin C decreased the number of acute asthma attacks that patients suffered.

How did Vitamin C reduce lung tissue inflammation?

Vitamin C’s anti-inflammatory effects come from its ability to decrease the body’s production of arachidonic acid, a chemical that plays a role in causing:

  • Inflammation
  • Psoriasis
  • Micro-scarring that leads to wrinkles

Vitamin C is doubly useful in this sense because it also converts existing arachidonic acid into a harmless group of substances.

Armed with this knowledge, Dr. Perricone decided to see if the anti-inflammatory effects of vitamin C would extend to topical usage on the skin.

Studies of vitamin C on the skin

The first study Dr. Perricone performed was to test the effects of vitamin C on reducing sunburn and psoriasis. He asked patients to apply a solution of water and vitamin C to the affected areas. This solution seemed to reduce the redness and pain, but not as much as he thought it would.

The problem was that vitamin C is only water-soluble. It can gain entry to the inside of the cell, which is composed primarily of water, but not the outside of the cell. Because of this property, vitamin C in its natural state, l-ascorbic acid, can only protect against free radicals inside the cell but not in the cell membrane. The cell membrane is a critical defense mechanism of the cell and an effective skin care solution would have to target this area, too.

Why else didn’t the vitamin C solution work as well as Dr. Perricone hoped it would?

  • L-ascorbic acid is very acidic, which can cause irritation to the skin.
  • It breaks down rapidly and loses its effect within 24 hours.
  • It causes a fenton reaction, which occurs when acid combines with iron.

Iron is abundant in the skin, so every time vitamin C is applied the fenton reaction occurs. This causes the production of a dangerous free radical, hydroxl. The fenton reaction is what Dr. Perricone thinks was responsible for the redness and irritation that occurred on the skin when vitamin C was used.

Overall, the use of vitamin C on the skin caused more harm than it did good. There had to be a better way to combine the beneficial effects of vitamin C without causing the pain and inflammation that came with its acidic nature.

Trying to find a solution to this problem led Dr. Perricone to find a new formation of vitamin C; with a few critical chemical changes to vitamin C, he created vitamin C ester.

The switch to vitamin C ester

Vitamin C ester’s chemical composition is what gives it the edge over vitamin C. Vitamin C ester, or ascorbyl palmitate, is composed of l-ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and a fatty acid derived from palm oil called palmitic acid.

Why is it called an ester? Vitamin C contains many alcohol molecules, and the chemical bond between an alcohol and an acid is an ester bond.

What are the benefits of vitamin C ester over vitamin C?

  • Fat soluble: it is more easily absorbed by the skin and can reside in the cell membrane, protecting it from free radical damage.

  • More stable than vitamin C alone: it can be mixed into creams and lotions. It also keeps its potency for much longer and stays fresh for months and even years.
  • Much higher absorption rate than vitamin C does: vitamin C ester is absorbed into the skin at levels as much as 10 times higher than vitamin C.
  • Non-acidic: it doesn’t irritate the skin. It can even be put on an open cut without stinging. This is a major benefit because with regular vitamin C, the anti-inflammatory effects of the nutrient tended to be canceled out by the pro-inflammatory effects of the acid.

Repeating his previous studies on sunburn and psoriasis with vitamin C ester instead of vitamin C, Dr. Perricone found that this substance had a much better effect on healing damaged skin. These findings led to the development of skin care products that include vitamin C ester, such as the Vitamin C Ester Eye Serum.

Dr. Perricone is so confident in the abilities of Vitamin C ester that he includes it in many of his products as a powerful ingredient to heal damaged skin, firm skin, and reduce lines and wrinkles.

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11 Comments • Please comment below


  1. Esters penetrate the skin barrier, but not the cell membrane. Ergo, cell turnover is not increased.

    Multiple studies have shown that palmitate versions of C don’t have any increased benefit, and many have postulated that they have fewer benefits.

    Skin “irritation” is part of the game. If you can’t take the heat, stay out of the kitchen. To be clear: You are intentionally encouraging cell death when you use C products. That’s good. Not bad. When skin cells die they are rapidly replaced with new, fresh, baby cells. Accelerating this process is what rejuvenates skin. An Ester C kills fewer cells, and likewise probably does much less for you.

  2. I have noticed a definite improvement in my skin when I take Vitamin C supplements and use a Vitamin C cream. Dr. Perricone’s takes those results and multiplies them 10 fold. Wonderful stuff.

  3. I would love to be a tester, as I do Secret Shopping and am skilled in detailed commentary. I figure that your products, with the highest quality, will endure and be more effective than anything else I have used!

  4. I have been using l-ascorbic acid
    (complex 31) for 2 years now and it makes my skin look better. Is the ester form really better?

  5. I have Raynauds and Scleraderma which has resulted in wrinkles around mouth – I take Vitamin C orally as recommended by Dr. Perricone and would like to try it topically

  6. I just saw this on QVC, and I would LOVE to test this product! I’m 52 with good skin, but am looking for something to make my skin look beautiful for my daughter’s wedding in June!

  7. I’ve read the Perricone Diet. I am interested in using the products instead
    of the abrasive products I have been using.
    I have a rash for years on the right side
    of my face. I would like to be a tester for the vitamin c ester and ALA products. My face is lacking the glow.

  8. Interested in your products and being a tester

  9. I’d like to try to Ester C product. Will it help my psoriasis? Getting to crisis on feet and hands. Thanks.

  10. I like to be product tester to try them please. Thanks.

  11. I want to try this product to start a prevention program .