As hard as it may be to believe, vitamin C was unknown even 100 years ago. A Hungarian researcher named Albert Szent-Györgyi had observed that there was something in paprika that helped keep sailors from coming down with scurvy, which we now know to be a disease caused by vitamin C deficiency. He isolated a powder called sodium ascorbate (the shelf-stable form of ascorbic acid) that produced immediate remission of symptoms in study volunteers who were otherwise eating a normal diet.
When people did not eat any fruit or vegetables at all, however, vitamin C was not enough. There was some kind of cofactor that was needed either to activate it or to recharge it as it did its work in the human body. Dr. Szent-Györgyi found that co-factor in the paprika he used to make his goulash. He isolated a second mysterious white powder that could ensure that vitamin C worked and called it the “paprika factor,” or vitamin P.
We now would refer to natural vitamin C as vitamin C with bioflavonoids, “bioflavonoids” being a group of chemicals rather than a single chemical once identified as vitamin P. These bioflavonoids in fact activate vitamin C and keep it active so it can stimulate the formation of healthy collagen in the gums, the nose, the eyes, and the skin.
In the skin, vitamin C helps the skin make collagen that assumes a spiral form that has extra strength. This healthy collagen prevents the skin from collapsing when it is broken by an acne infection. It helps prevent the formation of scars, and it helps the skin stay tight so that pimples and cysts stay smaller.
Vitamin C also “gets the red out” from cysts and pimples. Healthier collagen makes health blood vessels. Healthier blood vessels leak less, so cysts and pimples do not look as red. And vitamin C with bioflavonoids also gets rid of blue, yellow, and green.
Some the most noticeable changes in skin tones occur as the skin around pimples bruises. This can happen after unsuccessful attempts to mash or lance pimples or cysts, or it can occur when pimples become infected with Streptococcus bacteria. Purple discoloration of the skin is caused by blood clots. Yellow and green discoloration of the skin occurs as the hemoglobin inside the clots breaks down.
The bioflavonoids hesperidin and diosmin also help repair blood vessels. They prevent some of the blood stasis that can cause the accumulation of purple clots. They also help stabilize hemoglobin so it does not oxidize into its yellow and green variations. The work they do, however, cannot be accomplished by vitamin C alone.
The best juices for getting a combination of vitamin C and bioflavonoids are citrus juices, such as orange, grapefruit, lemon, lime, and tangerine. If you happen to live in the tropics, acerola is the best source of both vitamin C and its cofactors. Citrus juices actually are not the best source of vitamin C. Green peppers, red peppers, chili peppers, litchi fruit, and kale all contain more vitamin C than citrus. Grapefruit juice typically contains more vitamin C and more bioflavonoids than orange.
These vitamin C powerhouses, however, do not contain the bioflavonoids that stabilize collagen and prevent discoloration of the skin. That daily glass of orange or grapefruit juice you make at home with your citrus juice is one of the best ways to keep the color changes caused by acne from changing your skin.