Sodium ascorbyl phosphate is a naturally occurring substance that resembles a white powder made of tiny crystals. The ingredient is used widely by the skin care industry and can be listed on products under a number of alternate names. Among these are L-ascorbic acid 2 dihydrogen phosphate trisodium salt and simply l-ascorbic acid trisodium salt.
To understand the benefits of sodium ascorbyl phosphate, it's important to have a preliminary understanding of l-ascorbic acid or vitamin C. This substance is a key essential nutrient that humans need to survive but cannot produce naturally on their own. Instead, vitamin C is obtained from foods, including citrus fruits, bell peppers, brussels sprouts and numerous other fruits and vegetables. Vitamin C is used to produce energy in cells and also helps to shield the body from elements in the environment that can damage it.
Studies have found that supplementing vitamin C levels topically offers a large number of benefits for the skin, and as a result, many skin care companies feature products that contain the nutrient. Unfortunately, molecules of vitamin C are rather unstable, meaning that they can easily break down in products. This degradation of the nutrient results in the loss of a product's ability to provide benefits to the skin. To safeguard against the breakdown of vitamin C, manufacturers must produce, ship and store products carefully, which results in higher costs and leads to higher brand prices.
Sodium ascorbyl phosphate is formed by mixing ascorbic acid with other substances to form a salt. Clinical research has determined that sodium ascorbyl phosphate retains many of the same properties as pure vitamin C, but the molecules of the substance are far more stable. This is because the body splits apart the sodium ascorbyl phosphate molecules and creates pure vitamin C after application. Consequently, sodium ascorbyl phosphate is an ideal alternative to using pure vitamin C in skin care formulations and allows products to be produced, shipped and sold at a lower cost.
One of the largest benefits of sodium ascorbyl phosphate is its ability to limit oxidative stress in the body. Viewed as one of the largest contributors to aging, oxidative stress occurs when the cells of the body sustain permanent damage due to highly reactive particles known as free radicals. Contained in sunlight and in elements in the atmosphere, free radicals are constantly acting on the body, producing microscopic amounts of damage. Over time, this damage accumulates, leading to the development of signs of aging. Oxidative damage or stress has even been shown to cause some types of cancer.
Sodium ascorbyl phosphate functions as an antioxidant, a substance that neutralizes free radicals, reducing the amount of damage that they can do to cells. When applied topically to the skin, sodium ascorbyl phosphate can help slow down the aging process and the formation of fine lines and wrinkles. The vitamin C salt is often added to anti-aging skin care products, including treatments, moisturizers, toners and cleansers. Typically, when utilized for its antioxidative properties, sodium ascorbyl phosphate is found in products in concentrations of 0.2 to 2.0 percent. Because sunlight is one of the chief sources of oxidative damage, sodium ascorbyl phosphate is also added to sunscreens and to before and after sun care products, usually in concentrations of 1.0 to 2.0 percent.
Vitamin C and sodium ascorbyl phosphate are both known to interfere with the production of melanin in the skin tissue. This pigment is responsible for giving skin its natural color, and when produced in excessive amounts, causes age spots, freckles, melasma and other types of hyperpigmentation. Since sodium ascorbyl phosphate disrupts the manufacturing of melanin in the body, it is useful in treating many types of skin discoloration and is used as both an active or supporting ingredient in many skin whitening and brightening products. Usually, sodium ascorbyl phosphate concentrations of 3 percent or more are required to produce skin-lightening effects.
Recent studies have also uncovered that sodium ascorbyl phosphate helps to reduce the amount of sebum produced by the skin. While more research is necessary to definitively prove its effectiveness, this suggests that at a 5 percent concentration, sodium ascorbyl phosphate may be useful in fighting blemishes and preventing future breakouts.