Strengths: A worthwhile line to consider if you want to zero in on topical vitamin C; some effective AHA products that feature a blend of acids within the correct pH range.
Weaknesses: Irritating anti-acne products; lackluster sunscreens; expensive; pervasive use of jar packaging, which completely ignores the stability issues critical to the efficacy of vitamin C; mostly boring moisturizers that, for the money, should be brimming with state-of-the-art ingredients.
As you may have guessed from the name, the story of Cellex-C has to do with vitamin C. The company has a long-held, ongoing belief that the complete form of this vitamin (ascorbic acid) is the key to reducing the signs of aging skin, including wrinkles, loss of firmness, and discolorations from years of sun exposure. Although the folks behind this brand have done their own research to support some of their claims for vitamin C, their studies are not that impressive because the conclusion anticipated was that Cellex-C would come out on top. The effects of ascorbic acid weren't compared with the effects of other beneficial, well-researched ingredients. For example, it would have been interesting to see how Cellex-C compared to a product with retinol, salicylic acid, or even a serum with multiple antioxidants (Source: Archives of Otolaryngology, October 1999, pages 1091–1098).
The good news is that published, peer-reviewed research has proven that topically applied ascorbic acid has benefit for skin. Before we get to the benefits vitamin C can bestow on skin, it needs to be stated up front that vitamin C is not the answer to your skin-care concerns, nor is it the be-all and end-all antioxidant that cosmetics companies such as Cellex-C assert it is. There is no conclusive or even vaguely convincing research indicating that a single antioxidant is the best among the hundreds and potentially thousands that exist. In fact, there are lots and lots of potent antioxidants, and vitamin C is just one of them (Sources: International Journal of Pharmaceutics, July 14, 2005, pages 153–163; Journal of Pharmaceutical Biomedical Analysis, February 2005, pages 287–295; and Journal of Molecular Medicine, August 2000, pages 333–336).
Research shows that vitamin C does have numerous benefits, including the following: It's a potent antioxidant, particularly in regard to protecting skin cells from UV-induced damage. It delays tumor formation after (animal) skin is exposed to extensive UV damage. It has a low risk of skin sensitization at concentrations up to 10% in the form of ascorbic acid (although some Cellex-C products contain more than 10%, increasing the risk of irritation without providing a statistically greater benefit). In addition, vitamin C reduces transepidermal water loss, thus strengthening skin's barrier response; promotes collagen production, and has the potential to thicken the dermis; it also reduces inflammation. Ascorbic acid at levels of 5% and above has been shown to have a positive effect on hyperpigmentation, but in this area the results are not as impressive as those with hydroquinone, suggesting that a combination of the two would be optimal; however, Cellex-C does not use hydroquinone. Vitamin C also improves the appearance of sun-damaged skin by strengthening skin's repair mechanisms, and enhances the effectiveness of dermatologist-performed procedures such as peels and microdermabrasion.
(Sources for the above statements: International Journal of Toxicology, volume 24, supplement 2, 2005, pages 51–111; Experimental Dermatology, September 2005, pages 684–691 and June 2003, pages 237–244; Dermatologic Surgery, July 2005, pages 814–817; Nutrition Reviews, March 2005, pages 81–90; Skin Pharmacology and Physiology, November-December 2004, pages 298–303; BMC Dermatology, September 2004, page 13; International Journal of Dermatology, August 2004, pages 604–607; and Archives of Facial Plastic Surgery, March-April 2003, pages 145–149.)
Despite the benefits of topical vitamin C, it is important not to get hung up on any one antioxidant, regardless of its history. Aging is more complicated than just the loss of or need for vitamin C—or any other vitamin, enzyme, protein, peptide, fatty acid, amino acid, or lipid in the skin. Although vitamin C is clearly an effective ingredient for skin, many other antioxidants are just as good, including beta-glucan, vitamin E, vitamin A, green tea, grape extract, selenium, curcumin, lycopene, superoxide dismutase, and on and on. Moreover, there is extensive research about each of those and lots of others and their benefit for skin. Furthermore, many researchers studying antioxidants and their effects on the human body believe that the best plan of attack is to use multiple antioxidants rather than narrowing your choices to a few well-publicized options, or staying with the mistaken belief that there is a single "best" antioxidant (Sources: Archives of Dermatologic Research, April 2005, pages 473–481; Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, February 2005, pages 515–528; Photochemistry and Photobiology, January-February 2005, pages 38–45; and Mutation Research, April 2005, pages 153–173).
Beyond the information above, it's also important to keep in mind that, for all its posturing, Cellex-C has remained primarily a one-trick pony. In contrast, competitor Skinceuticals has expanded beyond vitamin C to offer their customers a greater variety of effective ingredients in proficient amounts. Skinceuticals products are priced similarly to Cellex-C's, but in the Skinceuticals line you'll find intelligent use of retinol, more intriguing antioxidants, and less jar packaging. Skinceuticals has its drawbacks and blatant similarities to Cellex-C, but at least more of their products take a well-rounded approach, providing your skin with more than just vitamin C.
For more information about Cellex-C, call 1-888-409-9979 or visit www.cellex-c.com.