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Patients spend big bucks on Vitamin C skin treatments

It's not just for colds anymore

Face In this story: July 28, 1997
Web posted at: 9:59 p.m. EDT (0159 GMT)

From Correspondent Rhonda Rowland

DURHAM, North Carolina (CNN) -- The latest wrinkle in the cosmetics industry is Vitamin C.

Through serums, creams, lotions and patches, patients seeking smoother skin are turning to Vitamin C, a treatment better known for the common cold. The treatments are supposed to help erase fine lines and wrinkles.

Why Vitamin C? "What it does is neutralize the harmful chemical reactions that occur when sun shines on skin," said Dr. Sheldon Pinnell of Duke University.

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That chemical reaction causes aging. At least in rats, large amounts of Vitamin C appear to block the harmful chemical reaction. The tricky part is finding a way to get large amounts of Vitamin C into the skin.

The researchers at Duke solved that, and even patented their special formula. But the question remains: does Vitamin C work against wrinkles?

'You can see benefit'

"I have some customers who come in and say 'people think I've had my eyes done. People think I've had plastic surgery,' so the results are just phenomenal and people are very happy," cosmetics specialist Lawson Patten said.


"I believe, as a critical dermatologist, I would say that you can see benefit," said Dr. Carl Washington of The Emory Clinic in Atlanta.

Just ask Pat Burgess, who's been using Cellex C for four months. She says she has noticed definite results, "as far as the texture of my skin."

But there's more than a fine line between anecdotal reports and scientific proof. There's absolutely no research showing Vitamin C products reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

'There's a lot of consumer enthusiasm'

"There's a lot of consumer enthusiasm for the product," Pinnell said. "The problem is that dermatologists want and expect and deserve the careful kind of clinical studies that show it really does something. Unfortunately, those studies take a lot of time. They're difficult to do. They're very expensive."

In the meantime, consumers are spending a lot of money based on hearsay. A two-month supply of Osmotics Vitamin C skin patches is $125. Most products are available only in high end department stores. Other Vitamin C products are available from plastic surgeons and dermatologists.

If you use Cellex C, there's a good chance your doctor is making a lot of money off it. The consumer price for a bottle of Cellex C serum is $75. The doctor's price: $37.

And that's just the beginning of the expense. Says Dr. Washington of Emory. "It is not permanent and the effect, the beneficial effect is achieved and maintained only as long as the person uses the product."


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