Vitamin C has fast become the go-to ingredient in skincare for brighter and more glowing skin. We know that a good daily allowance of fresh fruit and veggies can provide us with a sufficient amount of vitamin C for optimum health. It also does wonders for our skin by helping the body produce collagen which makes skin appear more youthful. Knowing that citrus fruits like oranges and lemons contain a good amount of vitamin C, we naturally assume that citrus essential oils do too. If so, how much vitamin C is in a lemon essential oil exactly?
Lemons are a good source of vitamin C
According to the National Institutes of Health, most healthy people only need about 90mg of vitamin C daily. The humble lemon is a very good source of vitamin C. A small lemon usually contains about 30mg of vitamin C, while a large one delivers 45mg which gives you 60 % of your Daily Value.
Do essential oils contain vitamin C?
The simple straight answer is that essential oils contain vitamin C, but the amounts are so small that they become insignificant. The fact is that much of the vitamin C is destroyed during the extraction process alone, unfortunately.
Here is how it works
There are two main ways of extracting essential oils from the source. Either through steam distillation or cold extraction. Steam distillation uses temperatures in the region of 100 °C / 212 °F, which is far higher than the temperature at which vitamin C degrades, which is 70 °C.
Remember that vitamin C, just like vitamin B is a water-soluble nutrient. This means that it will dissolve in the steam and none remain in the oil. The steam distillation would therefore render vitamin C amounts in the essential oils obsolete.
Cold-pressed extraction on the other hand does not require heat and one can arguably say that in this case, essential oils contain vitamin C. But even here, through evaporation during the cold-pressing, much of the vitamin C, a volatile compound, will be lost. The amounts of vitamin C remaining in the essential oil remain negligible.
So how much vitamin C is in a lemon essential oil exactly?
As mentioned before, it is highly unlikely that Lemon essential oils contain vitamin C at all post-extraction, however, cold-pressed oil is still your best bet when choosing a Lemon essential oil containing vitamin C, albeit trace amounts of it. If it is a vitamin C you are after in your DIY homemade skincare products then using fine L-ascorbic acid powder is your best bet. Adding lemon essential oil to your moisturizer will help tackle pigmentation, acne as well as give your products a lovely fresh citrus scent. Find a list of our top picks of vitamin C powders for DIY vitamin C serums here.
When using a cold-pressed Lemon essential oil, take note all oils of citrus variety are phototoxic. This means that they may cause skin sensitivity and burns when your body is exposed to direct sun. It is best to only apply cold-pressed essential oils to parts of the body that is covered with clothing.
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Benefits of Lemon essential oils
Even though only trace amounts of vitamin C is in a lemon essential oil it still provides many benefits to the user as a potent plant medicine. Applied topically, inhaled, or ingested, essential oils can play an important role in our sense of wellbeing. Ingestion is not suggested though for the general user, since it requires expert knowledge and training in this field.
Last thoughts on essential oils and vitamin C
Since the amount of vitamin C found in lemon essential oil is negligible, it is best to look elsewhere for your daily dose. If it is good skin you are after, take the time to look for a good quality vitamin C serum. You don’t want to skimp here. Usually, you get what you pay for. If your goal is to boost health or to help aid collagen production then getting your vitamin C intake from organic food sources is still the best way to go.
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