Outcomes are improved when proper skincare is practiced before and after any type of dermatologic procedure. This column reviewsThese are ingredients commonly used before, during, and after procedures.
I will use the first person when I am expressing my personal opinion or experience versus data reported in published studies that I reference.
Ascorbic acid (vitamin C) is an essential cofactor necessary for lysyl hydroxylase and prolyl hydroxylase to produce collagen. Many studies have demonstrated that the use of oral and topical ascorbic acid increases collagen production by fibroblasts.1-3 Several different ascorbic acid products, varying greatly in quality, are available on the market.
Ascorbic acid is very sensitive to light and air exposure and does not penetrate well if not at a pH of 2 or 2.5. There are aqueous and lipophilic formulations. Some are produced from L-ascorbic acid, while others are made from ascorbyl palmitate, or salts such as calcium ascorbate, magnesium ascorbate, magnesium ascorbyl phosphate, sodium ascorbate, and sodium ascorbyl phosphate. Consequently, one must closely evaluate any chosen ascorbic acid preparation and pay close attention to the form used in any studies. I am discussing ascorbic acid in general, but my statements only apply to properly formulated products. Most of the studies I quote used L-ascorbic acid, which is the form studied by the late, who was an expert on ascorbic acid.
Properly formulated L-ascorbic acid products have a low pH. Unless formulated specifically to deter stinging, these low-pH preparations will sting wounded skin. For this reason, most ascorbic acid preparations should be avoided until the skin has completely re-epithelialized. I prefer using it preprocedure and after the procedure once the skin has re-epithelialized. Alster and West showed that use of ascorbic acid – in an aqueous solution formulated not to sting – after laser resurfacing resulted in a significant decrease in post‐CO2 laser resurfacing erythema by the eighth postoperative week when compared with laser‐irradiated skin that had not received topical vitamin C.4
I prefer using ascorbic acid in patients before and after procedures involving fillers, toxins, skin tightening, and nonablative lasers. In my experience, this improves collagen production. Also, I use ascorbic acid before microneedling, but not during or after. Several case reports have cited allergic granulomatous reactions when ascorbic acid is used during microneedling procedures,5 although these reports did not involve aqueous formulations.
Defensins are peptides that play an important role in wound repair. Defensin has exhibited the capacity to activate the leucine-rich repeat-containing G-protein–coupled receptors 5 and 6 (also known as LGR5+ and LGR6+) stem cells.6 This accelerates wound healing by stimulating LGR stem cells to form new keratinocytes that populate the epidermis.7 Using defensins prior to procedures would theoretically speed wound healing, but no studies have been published in this area. Anecdotally, it has been used after microneedling without complication. I have not used defensin in this situation, but when I have asked the audience during lectures, many practitioners have reported using it and found that it accelerates healing.