Research Article| Volume 19, ISSUE 4, P467-473, July 2001

Antioxidants and vitamins in cosmetics

  • Mary P Lupo
    Address correspondence to Mary P. Lupo, MD, Tulane University School of Medicine, Department of Dermatology, 145 Robert E. Lee Boulevard, New Orleans, LA 70124 USA
    Department of Dermatology, Tulane University School of Medicine, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA
    Search for articles by this author
      Cosmetics are commercially available products that are used to improve the appearance of the skin. Since the late 1980s, consumer demand for more effective products that more substantively beautify the appearance has resulted in increased basic science research and product development in the cosmetics industry. The result has been more ingredients that may actually improve not just the appearance of the skin, but the health of the skin as well. We now have products that renew, restore, and rejuvenate—not just cleanse, protect, and moisturize. There is probably no greater focus of interest currently than the incorporation of vitamins and antioxidants in skin care products. There are considerable data to suggest the benefits of such ingredients in cosmetics. This article reviews the published data that support the usefulness of vitamins and antioxidants in cosmetics. Our job as dermatologists is to digest and assess the data so we can give knowledgeable recommendations to our patients.
      To read this article in full you will need to make a payment

      Purchase one-time access:

      Academic & Personal: 24 hour online accessCorporate R&D Professionals: 24 hour online access
      One-time access price info
      • For academic or personal research use, select 'Academic and Personal'
      • For corporate R&D use, select 'Corporate R&D Professionals'


      Subscribe to Clinics in Dermatology
      Already a print subscriber? Claim online access
      Already an online subscriber? Sign in
      Institutional Access: Sign in to ScienceDirect


        • DiMascio P
        • Wefers H
        • Do-The H.P
        • et al.
        Singlet molecular oxygen causes loss of biological activity in plasmid and bacteriophage DNA and induces single-strand breaks.
        Biochem Biophys Acta. 1989; 1007: 151-157
        • DiMascio P
        • Menck C.F.M
        • Nigro R.G
        • et al.
        Singlet molecular oxygen induced mutagenicity in a mammalion SV 40-based shuttle vector.
        Photochem Photobiol. 1990; 51: 17-20
        • Evelson P
        • Ordonez C.P
        • Llesuy S
        • et al.
        Oxidation stress and in vivo chemiluminescence in murine skin exposed to UVA radiation.
        Photochem Photobiol B:Biol. 1997; 38: 215-219
        • Carraro C
        • Pathak M.A
        Studies on the nature of in vitro and in vivo photosensitization reactions by psoralens and porhyrins.
        J Invest Dermatol. 1988; 90: 260-275
        • Khettab B
        • Amory M.C
        • Briand G
        • et al.
        Photoprotective effect of vitamin A and E on polyamine and oxygenated free radical metabolism in hairless mouse epidermis.
        Biochimie. 1988; 70: 1709-1713
        • Boerman M.H.E.M
        • Napoli J.L
        Cellular retinol-binding protein-supported retinoid acid synthesis.
        J Biol Chem. 1996; 271: 5610-5616
        • Duell E.A
        • Kang S
        • Voorhees J.J
        Unoccluded retinol penetrates human skin in vivo more effectively than unoccluded retinyl palmitate or retinoic acid.
        J Invest Dermatol. 1997; 109: 301-309
        • Counts D.F
        • Skreko F
        • McBee J
        • et al.
        The effects of retinyl palmitate on skin composition and morphometry.
        J Soc Cosmet Chem. 1988; 39: 235-240
        • Saurat J.H
        • Didierjena L
        • Masgruve E
        • et al.
        Topical retinaldehyde on human skin.
        J Invest Dermatol. 1994; 103: 770-774
        • Bailly J
        • Cretaz M
        • Schifflers M.H
        • et al.
        In vitro metabolism by human skin and fibroblasts of retinol, retinal, and retinoic acid.
        Exp Dermatol. 1998; 7: 27-37
        • Kang S
        • Duell E.A
        • Fisher G.J
        • et al.
        Application of retinol to human skin in vivo induces epidermal hyperplasia and cellular retinoid-binding proteins characteristic of retinoic acid but without measurable retinoic acid levels or irritation.
        J Invest Dermatol. 1998; 105: 549-556
        • Connor M.J
        Oxidation of retinol to retinoic acid as a requirement for biological activity in mouse epidermis.
        Cancer Res. 1988; 48: 7038-7040
        • Kligman L.H
        • Do C.H
        • Kligman A.M
        Topical retinoic acid enhances the repair of ultraviolet damaged dermal connective tissue.
        Connect Tissue Res. 1984; 12: 139-150
        • Schwartz E
        • Cruickshank F.A
        • Mezich J.A
        • et al.
        Topical all-trans-retinoic acid stimulates collagen synthesis in vivo.
        J Invest Dermatol. 1991; 96: 975-978
        • Kligman A.M
        • Grove G.L
        • Hirose R
        • et al.
        Topical tretinoin for photoaged skin.
        J Am Acad Dermatol. 1986; 15: 838-859
        • Rafal E.S
        • Griffiths C.E.M
        • Ditre C.M
        • et al.
        Topical tretinoin (retinoic acid) treatment for liver spots associated with photodamage.
        N Engl J Med. 1992; 326: 368-374
        • Weiss J.S
        • Ellis C.N
        • Headington J.T
        • et al.
        Topical tretinoin improves photoaged skin.
        JAMA. 1988; 259: 527-532
        • Griffiths C.E
        • Finkel L.J
        • Ditre C.M
        Topical tretinoin (retinoic acid) improves melasma. A vehicle-controlled clinical trial.
        Br J Dermatol. 1993; 129: 415-421
        • Pepine M.L
        • Calderone D.C
        • Fenske N.A
        The therapeutic role of topical tretinoin in photoaging.
        J Ger Dermatol. 1996; 4: 156-168
        • Shalita A.R
        • Smith J.G
        • Parish L.C
        • et al.
        Topical nicotinamide compared with clindamycin gel in the treatment of inflammatory acne vulgaris.
        Int J Dermatol. 1995; 34: 434-437
        • Griffiths C.E.M
        Nicotinamide 4% gel for the treatment of inflammatory acne vulgaris.
        J Dermatol Treat. 1995; 6: S8-S10
        • Bernstein J.E
        • Lorincz A.L
        The effects of topical nicotinamide, tetracycline, and dapsone on potassium iodide-induced inflammation.
        J Invest Dermatol. 1980; 74: 257-258
        • Burger D.R
        • Vanderbark A.A
        • Daves P
        J Immunol. 1976; 117: 797-801
        • Tonno O
        • Ota Y
        • Kitamura N
        • et al.
        Nicotinamide increases biosynthesis of ceramide as well as other stratum corneum lipids to improve the epidermal permeability barrier.
        Br J Dermatol. 2000; 143: 524-531
        • Binnick S.A
        Pityriasis rubra pilaris responding to aminonicotinamide.
        Arch Dermatol. 1978; 114: 1348-1349
        • Zackheim H.S
        Treatment of psoriasis with 6-aminonicotinamide.
        Arch Dermatol. 1975; 111: 880-882
        • Comaish J.S
        • Felix R.H
        • McGrath H
        Topically applied niacinamide in isoniazid-induced pellagra.
        Arch Dermatol. 1976; 112: 70-72
      1. Draelos, Z. Personal communication.

        • Gensler H.L
        Prevention of photoimmunosuppression and photocarcinogenesis by topical nicotinamide.
        Nutr Cancer. 1997; 29: 157-162
        • Troll W
        Anticarcinogenic action of protease inhibitors.
        Adv Cancer Res. 1987; 49: 265-283
        • Licastro F
        • Walford R.L
        Modulatory effect of nicotinamide on unscheduled DNA synthesis in lymphocytes from young and old mice.
        Mech Age Devel. 1986; 35: 123-131
        • Darr D
        • Combs S
        • Dunston S
        • et al.
        Topical vitamin C protects porcine skin from ultraviolet radiation-induced damage.
        Br J Dermatol. 1992; 127: 247-253
        • Chan A.C
        Partners in defense, vitamin E and vitamin C.
        Con J Physiol Pharmacol. 1993; 71: 725-731
        • Phillips C.L
        • Combs S.B
        • Pinnell S.R
        Effects of ascorbic acid on proliferation and collagen synthesis in relation to the donor age of human dermal fibroblasts.
        J Invest Dermatol. 1994; 130: 228-232
        • Smart R.C
        • Crawford C.L
        Effect of ascorbic acid and its synthetic, lipophilic derivative ascorbyl palmitate on phorbol ester-induced skin-tumor promotion in mice.
        Am J Clin Nutr. 1991; 54: 1266S-1273S
        • Perricone N.V
        The photoprotective and anti-inflammatory effects of topical ascorbyl palmitate.
        J Ger Dermatol. 1993; 1: 5-10
        • Perricone N.V
        Topical vitamin C ester (ascorbyl palmitate).
        J Ger Dermatol. 1997; 5: 162-170
        • Kobayashi S
        • Takehana M
        • Itoh S
        • et al.
        Protective effect of magnesuim-L-ascorbyl-2-phosphate against skin damage induced by UVB irradiation.
        Photochem Photobiol. 1996; 64: 224-228
        • Geesin J.C
        • Gordon J.S
        • Berg R.A
        Regulation of collagen synthesis in human dermal fibroblasts by the sodium and magnesium salts of ascorbyl-2-phosphate.
        Skin Pharmacol. 1993; 6: 65-71
        • Hata R
        • Senoo H
        L-ascorbic acid 2-phosphate stimulates collagen accumulation, cell proliferation, and formation of a three-dimensional tissuelike substance by skin fibroblasts.
        J Cell Physiol. 1989; 138: 8-16
        • Kurata S
        • Hata R
        Epidermal growth factor inhibits transcription of type I collagen genes and production of type I collagen in cultured human skin fibroblasts in the presence and absence of L-ascorbic acid 2-phosphate, a long acting vitamin C derivative.
        J Biol Chem. 1991; 266: 9997-10003
        • Kameyama K
        • Sakai C
        • Kondoh S
        • et al.
        Inhibitory effect of magnesium-L-ascorbyl-2-phosphate (VC-PMG) on melanogenesis in vitro and in vivo.
        J Am Acad Dermatol. 1996; 34: 29-33
        • Yamamoto I
        • Muto N
        • Murakami K
        • et al.
        Collagen synthesis is human skin fibroblasts is stimulated by a stable form of ascorbate, 2-0-alpha-D-glucopyranosyl-L-ascorbic acid.
        J Nutr. 1992; 122: 871-877
        • Geesin J.C
        • Darr D
        • Kaufman R
        • et al.
        Ascorbic acid specifically increases type I and type III procollagen mRNA levels in human skin fibroblasts.
        J Invest Dermatol. 1988; 90: 420-424
        • Pinnell S.R
        • Murad S
        • Darr D
        Induction of collagen synthesis by ascorbic acid.
        Arch Dermatol. 1987; 123: 1684-1686
        • Geesin J.C
        • Brown L.J
        • Gordon J.S
        • et al.
        Regulation of collagen synthesis in human dermal fibroblasts in contracted collagen gels by ascorbic acid, growth factors and inhibitors of lipid peroxidation.
        Exp Cell Res. 1993; 206: 283-290
        • Darr D
        • Coombs S
        • Dunston S
        • et al.
        Topical vitamin C protects skin from ultraviolet radiation-induced damage.
        Br J Dermatol. 1992; 127: 247-253
        • Vama S.D
        • Beachy N.A
        • Richards R.D
        Photoperoxidation of lens lipids.
        Photochem Photobiol. 1982; 36: 623-626
        • Meydani M
        Vitamin E.
        Lancet. 1995; 345: 170-175
        • Trevithick J.R
        • Xiong H
        • Lee S
        • et al.
        Topical tocopherol acetate reduces post-UVB sunburn-associated erythema, edema, and skin sensitivity in hairless mice.
        Arch Biochem Biophys. 1992; 296: 575-582
        • Roshchupkin D.I
        • Pistosov M.Y
        • Potapenko A.Y
        Inhibition of ultraviolet light-induced erythema by antioxidants.
        Arch Dermatol Res. 1979; 266: 91-94
        • Darr D
        • Dunston S
        • Faust H
        • et al.
        Effectiveness of antioxidants (vitamin C and E) with and without sunscreen as topical photoprotectants.
        Acta Dermatol Venereol. 1996; 76: 264-268
        • Ritter E.F
        • Axelrod M
        • Mina K.W
        • et al.
        Modulations of ultraviolet light-induced epidermal damage.
        Plant Reconstr Surg. 1997; 100: 973-980
        • Lopez-Torres M
        • Thiele J.J
        • Shindo Y
        • et al.
        Topical application of alpha-tocopherol modulates the antioxidant network and diminishes ultraviolet-induced oxidative damage in murine skin.
        Br J Dermatol. 1998; 138: 207-215
        • Yuen K.S
        • Halliday G.M
        Alpha-tocopherol an inhibitor of epidermal lipid peroxidation, prevents ultraviolet radiation from suppressing the skin immune system.
        Photochem Photobiol. 1997; 65: 587-592
        • Jurkiewicz B.A
        • Bissett D.L
        • Buethner G.R
        Effect of topically applied tocopherol on ultraviolet radiation-mediated free radical damage in skin.
        J Invest Dermatol. 1995; 104: 484-488
        • Bissett D.L
        • Chatterjee R
        • Hannon D.P
        Protective effect of a topically applied antioxidant plus an anti-inflammatory agent against ultraviolet radiation-induced chronic skin damage in the hairless mouse.
        J Soc Cosmet Chem. 1992; 43: 85-92
        • Bissett D.L
        • Chatterjee R
        • Hannon D.P
        Photoprotective of superoxide-scavenger antioxidants against ultraviolet radiation-induced chronic skin damage in the hairless mouse.
        Photodermatol Photoimmunol Photomed. 1990; 7: 56-62
        • Bissett D.L
        • Hillebrand G.G
        • Harnon D.P
        The hairless mouse as a model of skin photoaging.
        Photodermatol. 1989; 6: 228-233
        • Ginsler H.L
        • Magdaleno M
        Topical vitamin E inhibition of immunosuppression and tumorigenesis induced by ultraviolet radiation.
        Nutr Cancer. 1991; 15: 97-106
        • Beijersbergen van Henegouwan G.M.J
        • Junginger H.E
        • de Vries H
        Hydrolysis of RRR-alpha-tocopheryl acetate (vitamin E acetate) in the skin and its UV protecting activity (an in vivo study with the rat).
        Photochem Photobiol B:Biol. 1995; 29: 45-51
        • Elson M.L
        Topical phytonadione (Vitamin K1) in the treatment of actinic and traumatic purpura.
        Cosmet Dermatol. 1995; 8: 25-27
        • Elson M.L
        • Nacht S
        Treatment of periorbital hyperpigmentation with topical vitamin K/vitamin A.
        Cosmet Dermatol. 1999; 12: 32-34
      2. Langsjoen P, Langsjoen A, Willis R, et al. Treatment of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy with Coenzyme Q 10. Molecular Aspects of Med 1997;18:S145–S51.

        • Mohr D
        • Bowry W.W
        • Stocker R
        Dietary supplementation with Coenzyme Q 10 results in increased levels of ubiquinol-10 within circulatory lipid protein and increased resistance of human low-density lipoprotein to the initiation of lipid peroxidation.
        Biochem Biophy Acta. 1992; 1126: 247-254
        • Shindo Y
        • Witt E
        • Han D
        • et al.
        Dose-response effects of acute ultraviolet irradiation on antioxidants and molecular markers of oxidation in murine epidermis and dermis.
        J Invest Dermatol. 1994; 102: 470-475
        • Stoyanovsky D.A
        • Osipov A.N
        • Quina P.J
        • et al.
        Ubiquinone dependent recycling of vitamin E radicals by superoxide.
        Arch Biochem Biophy. 1995; 323: 343-351
        • Hoppe U
        • Bergemann J
        • Diembeck W
        • et al.
        Coenzyme Q 10, a cutaneous antioxidant and energizer.
        Biofactors. 1999; 9 (Review): 371-378
        • Wang Z.Y
        • Agarwal R
        • Bichers D.R
        • et al.
        Protection against ultraviolet B radiation-induced photocarcinogenesis in hairless mice by green tea polyphenols.
        Carcinogenesis. 1991; 12: 1527-1530
      3. Barnes S. Effect of genistein on in vitro and in vivo models of cancer. J Nutr 1995(suppl);125:7779–839.

        • Wang Y
        • Yuping E
        • Zhang X
        • et al.
        Inhibition of ultraviolet B (UVB)-induced c-fos and c-jun expression in vivo by a tyronine kinase inhibitor genistein.
        Carcinogenesis. 1998; 19: 649-654
        • Katiyar S.K
        • Korman N.J
        • Mukhtar H
        • et al.
        Protective effects of silymarin against photocarcinogenesis in a mouse skin model.
        J Nutr Cancer Inst. 1997; 89: 556-566
        • Scott B.C
        • Aruoma O.I
        • Evans P.J
        • et al.
        Lipoic and dihydrolipoic acids as antioxidants. A critical evaluation.
        Free Rad Res. 1994; 20: 119-133
        • Packer L
        • Witt E.H
        • Tritschler H.J
        Alpha-lipoic acid as a biological antioxidant.
        Free Rad Biol Med. 1995; 19: 227-250
        • Podda M
        • Rallis M
        • Traber M.G
        • et al.
        Kinetic study of cutaneous and subcutaneous distribution following topical application of [7,8-14C] rac-alpha-lipoic acid onto hairless mice.
        Biochem Pharmacol. 1996; 52: 627-633
        • Perricone N.V
        • DiNardo J.C
        Photoprotective and anti-inflammatory effects of topical glycolic acid.
        Dermatol Surg. 1996; 22: 435-437
        • Lovaas E
        Medical Hypotheses. 1995; 45: 59-67
        • Minotti G
        • Aust S.D
        The requirement for iron (III) in the initiation of lipid peroxidation by iron (II) and hydrogen peroxide.
        J Biol Chem. 1987; 262: 1098
        • Bissett D.L
        • McBride J.F
        Synergistic topical photoprotection by a combination of the iron chelator 2-furildioxime and sunscreen.
        J Am Acad Dermatol. 1996; 35: 546-549
        • Bangha E
        • Elsner P
        • Kistler G.S
        Suppression of UV-induced erythema by topical treatment with melatonin (N-acetyl-5-methoxytryptamine). Influence of the application time point.
        Dermatology. 1997; 195: 248-252
        • Alaoui Youssefi A
        • Emerit I
        • Feingold J
        Oxyradical involvement in PUVA-induced skin reactions. Protection by local application of SOD.
        Eur J Dermatol. 1994; 4: 389-393
        • Taniguchi S
        • Furukawa M
        • Kono T
        • et al.
        Butylated hydroxyanisole blocks the inhibitory effects of tumor necrosis factor-alpha on collagen production in human dermal fibroblasts.
        J Dermatol Sci. 1996; 12: 44-49
        • Roshchupkin D.I
        • Pistsov M.Y
        • Potapenko A.Y
        Inhibition of ultraviolet light-induced erythema by antioxidants.
        Arch Dermatol Res. 1979; 266: 91-94