What is the Difference Between Ascorbic Acid and L-ascorbic Acid

Understanding the difference between ascorbic acid and L-ascorbic acid is important for those interested in health and skincare. Although both terms are often used interchangeably to refer to vitamin C, they have different properties and implications.

What is the difference between ascorbic acid and L-ascorbic acid? L-ascorbic acid is the specific molecular structure of vitamin C that our bodies can use and absorb, whereas ascorbic acid consists of other forms of vitamin C besides L -ascorbic acid.

Key Areas Covered

1. What is Ascorbic Acid  
      – Definition, Features, Uses
2. What is L-ascorbic Acid
      – Definition, Features, Uses
3. Similarities Between Ascorbic Acid and L-ascorbic Acid
      – Outline of Common Features
4. Difference Between Ascorbic Acid and L-ascorbic Acid
      – Comparison of Key Differences
5. FAQ: Ascorbic Acid and L-ascorbic Acid
      – Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

Key Terms

Ascorbic Acid, L-ascorbic Acid

Difference Between Ascorbic Acid and L-ascorbic Acid  - Comparison Summary

What is Ascorbic Acid

Ascorbic acid is more commonly known as vitamin C. It is a six-carbon organic compound having the chemical formula C6H8O6. It belongs to the group of organic compounds called enols. Moreover, it contains both an alcohol group and a carbon-carbon double bond. This unique structure allows ascorbic acid to act as both an acid (donating a proton) and an antioxidant (donating an electron). The molecule has a specific spatial arrangement, existing in two mirror-image forms: L-ascorbic acid and D-ascorbic acid.  

Ascorbic acid acts as an antioxidant. It fights free radicals, which are unstable molecules that cause harm to cells, and spread certain diseases. Ascorbic acid’s ability to donate an electron readily neutralizes free radicals, protecting our cells from oxidative stress.

Humans do not have enzymes to synthesize ascorbic acid within the body. Hence, it is essential to take ascorbic acid from the outside environment. It can be obtained from citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruits, lemons, kiwifruit, strawberries, bell peppers, broccoli, and leafy greens.

Ascorbic Acid

There are many physiological functions of ascorbic acid. It is a much-needed cofactor for enzymes involved in collagen production. Ascorbic acid enhances the absorption of iron from plant-based sources. It supports the immune system by participating in the production and function of white blood cells. Ascorbic acid also plays a role in the synthesis of certain neurotransmitters, chemicals that facilitate communication between nerve cells.

Apart from biological uses, it also has many other uses. Ascorbic acid acts as an antioxidant in processed foods, preventing spoilage and preserving freshness. It is often added to beverages like juices and soft drinks to enhance their nutritional value and act as a preservative. Ascorbic acid can also be used as a dechlorinating agent in water treatment, removing chlorine and its byproducts.

What is L-Ascorbic Acid

L-ascorbic acid is the specific form of vitamin C that our body can use and absorb. This is why it’s often referred to specifically as L-ascorbic acid, especially in scientific contexts. Most natural sources of vitamin C, like citrus fruits, vegetables, and even our own skin, primarily contain L-ascorbic acid.

Similarities Between Ascorbic Acid and L-ascorbic Acid

  1. Both ascorbic acid and L-ascorbic acid have the same chemical formula.
  2. They possess the same core molecular structure.

Difference Between Ascorbic Acid and L-ascorbic Acid


  • Ascorbic acid is the general term for vitamin C, which includes all its forms, while L-ascorbic acid is the specific biologically active form of vitamin C.


  • Ascorbic acid can exist in different isomeric forms, while L-ascorbic acid refers to the L-isomer, which is the naturally occurring and active form.


  • Ascorbic acid includes forms that may not be as readily absorbed or used by the body, while L-ascorbic acid is known for its high bioavailability and effectiveness in the body.


L-ascorbic acid is the bioactive form of vitamin C that our bodies can efficiently utilize. It is a potent antioxidant, crucial for neutralizing free radicals and protecting cells from oxidative stress. Naturally found in citrus fruits, vegetables, and various other plant sources, L-ascorbic acid plays a vital role in collagen synthesis, enhancing iron absorption, supporting immune function, and facilitating neurotransmitter production. This is the basic difference between ascorbic acid and L-ascorbic acid.

FAQ: Ascorbic Acid and L-ascorbic Acid

1. What does the L mean in L-ascorbic acid?

The “L” in L-ascorbic acid refers to the orientation of the molecule, specifically how it rotates plane-polarized light. It also indicates the source and natural form of the vitamin C molecule, differentiating it from other isomers that might have different properties.

2. Are ascorbate and ascorbic acid the same?

Ascorbic acid is a water-soluble organic acid commonly known as vitamin C, while ascorbate is its negatively charged anion form. They are closely related, with ascorbic acid converting to ascorbate in solution.

3. Why is L-ascorbic acid the best?

L-ascorbic acid is considered the best form of vitamin C due to its potent antioxidant properties, which help enhance skin tone and lighten blemishes or dark spots. It effectively neutralizes free radicals, promotes collagen production, and improves overall skin health.

4. Who should not use L-ascorbic acid?

People with sickle cell anemia, as well as those with a metabolic disorder called glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) deficiency, should avoid using L-ascorbic acid. These conditions can cause adverse reactions or complications when high doses of vitamin C are introduced.

5. Which ascorbic acid is best?

L-ascorbic acid is regarded as the best form of ascorbic acid because it is the most bioavailable and effective. It is readily absorbed by the body, ensuring maximum antioxidant benefits and improved skin health.


1. “Ascorbic Acid Vitamin C Oral.” WebMD.
2. “L-ascorbic Acid.” Science Direct.

Image Courtesy:

1. “L-Ascorbic Acid” By Yikrazuul – Own work (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia

About the Author: Hasini A

Hasini is a graduate of Applied Science with a strong background in forestry, environmental science, chemistry, and management science. She is an amateur photographer with a keen interest in exploring the wonders of nature and science.

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