The Backstory to One of Our Best-Sellers: How Vitamins C and E Became Skincare Stars
While doing a little New Year office cleanse, we ran across some interesting notes written by Dr. Fulton himself detailing the breakthrough development of our top-selling Pure C + E Antioxidant Serum (formerly Spin Trap). Here, we share Dr. Fulton’s notes to give some insight into his pioneering work process and the story of how he created one of our best-selling products ever.
When Dr. Fulton developed the original Spin Trap formula (now Pure C + E), he already had an impressive stable of skincare gold standards to his credit: Retin-A® (co-developer), benzoyl peroxide, topical erythromycin, vitamin A propionate, and mandelic acid.
In 2004, studies were showing vitamin C to be particularly adept at neutralizing free radicals, enhancing UV protection, aiding in the synthesis of collagen, and inhibiting tyrosinase production to reduce excess melanin. The problem was stabilization, and no one had yet cracked it. Enter Dr. Fulton.
“I was never a C and E scientist. I was a Vitamin A guy.”
Dr. Fulton: I was never a C and E scientist. I was a vitamin A guy. Vitamin A is still the only skincare molecule that has a direct receptor in the cell to transport it into the nucleus to kick off new cell formation. However, the chemists at my production lab told me that vitamin C was gaining in popularity on my Vitamin A formulations—that it was becoming more and more popular—so I had to take a look at it.
There had never been any scientific studies in humans to prove that vitamin C worked—only test tubes and animal data showing that vitamin C reduced UV damage and generated new collagen. My only real memory was the Caleel-Hayden Vitamin C serum, which was oxidized and discolored brown by the time it got to you.
Since I had done a lot of work stabilizing benzoyl peroxides, Vitamin As, and brightening solutions, I decided to take a look at the problem. Sure enough, vitamin C in water turned brown in a few days—the same with alcohol solutions. But when I got to propylene glycol, the products stayed crystal clear. Propylene glycol is a great preservative. Soon, I had a great formula—stable vitamin C. I could put the solution in a clear beaker in the direct sunlight, and it would not turn amber. The other vitamin C products were amber in color when I first opened the bottle. I ended up with vitamin C and vitamin E together. Vitamin C, water-soluble to protect the cytoplasm of the cell from free radicals, and vitamin E, oil-soluble to protect the cell membranes and mitochondria. (Note: Subsequent studies have shown that vitamin C's photoprotective effects are greatly enhanced when combined with vitamin E.)
I was not prepared for the results of the next experiment. I started applying my concoction—a serum of vitamin C (15%) and vitamin E (1%) to my face, chest, and arms. Within seven days, I had developed a slight rosy-red hue and a warmth to my skin. I began to feel a tightness, and when the fine lines began to puff out, I became a believer. There was more to vitamin C than just test tubes.
When the fine lines began to puff out, I became a believer. There was more to vitamin C than just test tubes.
Since it grabs free radicals that are spinning all around us and through us, I called it Spin Trap.
I made some for my favorite patients and the serum became a bestseller in thirty days. Not only does the serum protect against internal and external free radicals and generate new collagen and elastin, but it also brightens skin. The rate of pigment production is reduced—what a great molecule. Linnus Pauling was right; whatever you are using, double the dose.
Beware of the serums that do not contain authentic vitamin C, the pure molecule. Since most chemists do not know how to stabilize it or do not want to take the time to figure it out, they take the easy way and use a stable derivative such as an ester, for example, magnesium ascorbyl phosphate. These esters have never been shown to be as effective as the pure vitamin. They are also expensive, so they go into the formula at one or two percent less. They have the advantage of being stable. However, a free radical trapper cannot be stable as it must be reactive to grab the dangerous free radical as it passes by.
Additionally, there is a regenerative phenomenon between vitamin C and E. They restore and enhance each other. The derivatives do not.
And finally, Dr. Fulton offered this caveat:
Consumer, beware of all the new stuff. If your skin does not react, develop a rosy red hue and begin to feel tight, you have wasted your money.
Vivant’s formulator and co-founder, Dr. James Fulton, was a scientist, surgeon, and dermatologist. He named Spin Trap after the scientific process of detecting, trapping, and neutralizing spinning free radical molecules. We have recently changed the name to be a bit more user-friendly. Dr. Fulton’s original Spin Trap formula is now Pure C + E. We’ve also updated the packaging with a new airless pump to preserve the formula’s purity.