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Topical vitamin C serum is also great for your skin. Read on to find out why, plus learn about some of the best serums you can buy.
To understand how vitamin C works, you first have to understand free radicals. These natural molecules aren’t bad on their own, but they can become a problem when they build up. In high numbers, they can break cells down over time, contributing to illness and aging.
Antioxidants help fight free radicals, though, keeping everything in balance. Vitamin C is one such antioxidant. When used on the skin, it can combat signs of aging. It decreases hyperpigmentation, evens out your skin tone, reduces wrinkles, and protects your skin from sun damage.
If you’re interested in trying vitamin C serum but aren’t sure how to pick one, don’t worry! We’ve rounded up 10 great options for you.
In selecting our top vitamin C serums picks, we looked at price, customer reviews, potency, and packaging. Vitamin C serum should be packaged in opaque packaging. Otherwise, it can break down when exposed to light, causing it to be less effective.
It’s worth keeping in mind that there are different types of vitamin C, and not all of them are equally effective. We mostly choose products made with L-ascorbic acid, ascorbyl palmitate, tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate, and magnesium ascorbyl phosphate. We also kept an eye out for products that had additional beneficial ingredients.
- $ = under $25
- $$ = $25–$50
- $$$ = over $50
Why we love it: At a reasonable price point, this 10 percent vitamin C serum is free of fragrances and dyes. It also contains hyaluronic acid to hydrate skin. Users say the formula is light and effective, visibly improving wrinkles.
What you should know: While many love that this is more of a cream than a serum, some feel it’s too heavy.
Why we love it: This ascorbic acid vitamin C serum includes ferulic acid, which also helps fight free radicals and reduce the effects of sun damage. Caffeine helps brighten skin, too.
What you should know: This serum has a citrusy peppermint scent. While many reviewers say it smells great, some find it a little too strong.
Why we love it: Designed to deliver the same dose with each pump, even the packaging on this vitamin C serum takes itself seriously. Vitamin C can be a little unstable, breaking down easily when exposed to light, air, or water. Murad uses gold to stabilize the vitamin C in this serum, which the brand says results in a stronger product.
What you should know: The serum also contains glycolic acid, a type of alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) that can work well for hyperpigmentation. It can sometimes be irritating to sensitive skin.
Why we love it: This 15 percent vitamin C formula can be used alone or added to your moisturizer. Just a few drops are all you need for a healthier glow. This is also helpful for reducing the appearance of scars.
What you should know: For some users with dry skin, this caused irritation.
Why we love it: This vitamin C serum contains vitamin C in the form of tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate. At 20 percent potency, it’s a much higher concentration than most of the other available vitamin C serums.
The serum also contains vitamin E and ferulic acid. A 2005 study suggests that ferulic acid is most effective when combined with vitamins E and C, like in this serum.
What you should know: Some reviewers report that this serum has an off-putting smell.
Why we love it: With 20 percent vitamin C, this K-beauty favorite doesn’t disappoint. Users who have acne-prone skin love how quickly this formula absorbs into their skin. They comment that it works just as well as more expensive formulas, and it helps improve the appearance of acne scarring.
What you should know: This product contains vitamin C in the form of sodium ascorbyl phosphate, which is less potent than some other forms of vitamin C.
Why we love it: This serum absorbs quickly into the skin and doesn’t leave a greasy feel. After a few applications, users report fading acne scars and improved appearance.
What you should know: You don’t need a lot of this product for each use, so one bottle goes a long way.
Why we love it: The combination of vitamin C and salicylic acid makes this nongreasy formula great for acne-prone skin. Users who are concerned about aging skin love the improvement in their skin’s appearance.
What you should know: Salicylic acid is tough on acne but may irritate sensitive skin.
Why we love it: This 15 percent vitamin C serum contains L-ascorbic acid, which is the most potent kind of vitamin C. It also contains vitamin E and ferulic acid, as well as glycerin to hydrate dry skin. Users love how bright and smooth their skin is after just a few applications.
What you should know: Some users don’t like the scent.
Why we love it: A vitamin C formula that’s cruelty-free, free of essential oils, and has a fun name. What’s not to love? Drunk Elephant’s formula is designed to stay on your skin for 72 hours.
What you should know: While Drunk Elephant warns that the formula may be sticky because of the lack of silicone, some users didn’t enjoy the texture.
When shopping for a vitamin C serum, it’s important to look for a product made of a potent, stable type of vitamin C. Look for L-ascorbic acid, ascorbyl palmitate, tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate, or magnesium ascorbyl phosphate on the ingredients list. It’s also best to look for a product that’s sold in opaque packaging, as vitamin C can break down when exposed to sunlight.
You can also check out the other ingredients, especially if you’re looking to help several skin concerns at once. For example, hyaluronic acid or glycerin are good additions for dry skin, while AHAs can help slough off dead skin. Some products may also be formulated with retinol to help eliminate the appearance of wrinkles.
Many products are made with 10 to 20 percent vitamin C, and that’s usually potent enough. Older studies show that maximum absorption is achieved at 20 percent.
In general, it’s best to cleanse and tone before applying your vitamin C serum. Then follow with a moisturizer.
You’ll only need a few drops of serum, which you should gently pat into your skin with your fingertips. You can use the serum once or twice a day.
Adding a vitamin C serum to your daily routine will improve your skin’s glow while reducing the damaging effects of the environment and the sun. The longer you use a vitamin C serum consistently, the more you’ll be able to see the difference it makes.
As always, discontinue use if the product irritates your skin.