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If you want to address the signs of premature aging, or give your skin the natural glow it deserves, then adding topical vitamin C serums is the way to go. Although historically renowned for its involvement in scurvy, a disease characterized by vitamin C deficiency, this essential nutrient has now reached stardom in the cosmetic industry—and for good reasons!
As a potent antioxidant, vitamin C (L-ascorbic acid) works in numerous ways to keep your skin smooth, glowy, and free of blemishes. However, this is saddened by an age-related decrease in plasma vitamin C levels, with older populations displaying lower levels compared to their youthful counterparts. Hence, restoring these concentrations to normal ranges is necessary to prevent premature aging, which develops as fine lines, hyperpigmentation, and an overall dull-looking appearance. Yet a recurrent problem with dietary supplementation is the limited concentration that reaches the skin. This is where vitamin C serums come in. With a topical formulation, these serums can be directly absorbed in their target location, increasing their overall effectiveness.
So how does vitamin C work? Well, you might be shocked to find that vitamin C is pleiotropic, meaning it has multiple biological effects. Mechanistically, vitamin C derivatives have been shown to impart hydration to the skin surface. A 2022 study found a reduction in transepidermal water loss (TEWL), enabling your skin to trap water more efficiently. Further, this essential nutrient acts as a direct inhibitor of melanogenesis—the process of synthesizing melanin, a pigment responsible for determining skin coloration. This helps to reduce hyperpigmentation, heal blemishes, and give your skin a superior glow.
Given its profound antioxidant capacity, it is unsurprising that vitamin C exhibits anti-inflammatory properties. With prolonged exposure to pollutants, ultraviolet (UV) rays, and other external pressures, our skin bears a relevant dose of oxidative damage. If you were wondering, oxidative damage is our body’s reaction to free radical attack—volatile agents that interact with our tissues to regain chemical stability. In doing so, our immune system is notified, and promotes an inflammatory response, leading to redness and skin irritation. Ultimately, vitamin C neutralizes lingering free radicals, minimizing the effect of oxidative damage. As such, this helps to reduce puffiness, discourage redness, and support a smooth skin complexion.
A further avenue that has been explored is the ability of vitamin C to induce collagen synthesis. During the transition to our golden years, collagen production is noticeably reduced, leading to skin laxity and facial wrinkling. Yet studies have shown that vitamin C acts as a collagen promoter, causing increased production of type 1 and 3 collagen (the main variants found in the skin). This helps to tighten the skin and give you a more plump and youthful appearance.
Given the vast selection of vitamin C serums to choose from, it can often be an overwhelming decision to pick the most superior products. But don’t fret, as we are here to help with our curated list of the 10 best vitamin C facial serums.
Have you ever looked at your skincare routine and wondered why no matter what products you try, your skin still seems to be missing something? Well, Blu Atlas’s Vitamin C Serum is the nutrient-dense, miracle product that you (and ultimately your skin) have been craving. Formulated to restore radiance to environmentally damaged skin and fight the signs of premature aging, this serum is the one-way street to achieving healthy, youthful skin.
At the core of this product is, of course, a potent concentration of vitamin C, which, as mentioned above, works to prevent free radical damage, boosts collagen production, and diminishes the signs of aging. However, it wouldn’t be a Blu Atlas product if this serum didn’t also contain a selection of powerful botanical compounds to aid in vitamin C’s action.
Specifically, to increase this serum’s ability to prevent free radical damage following exposure to pollutants and environmental stressors, it has been formulated to include apple extract, an antioxidant-rich humectant. In addition to its anti-aging benefits, this extract creates an environment within your skin barrier that favors moisture retention, making your skin appear plump and hydrated. Mulberry root extract then provides this serum with an extra dose of antioxidants, all while helping to calm signs of skin irritation, which include redness, itching, and dry patches.
One thing we love about this product is that it seamlessly balances modern skincare ingredients with botanical compounds to benefit your skin without including harsh chemicals. Plus, as this serum is free from irritants such as parabens, sulfates, and phthalates, it is safe for use on those of you suffering from dry, sensitive skin! Therefore, whether your skin is suffering from dark patches, hyperpigmentation, fine lines, wrinkles, or dullness, the Blu Atlas Serum is the perfect solution for you.
Key Ingredients: Vitamin C, apple extract, mulberry root extract, and aloe vera
Benefits: Anti-aging, skin-perfecting serum
Suitable Skin Types: All skin types
As one of the biggest names in skincare, La Roche-Posay has been delivering exceptional products formulated for a specific purpose for decades. Their 10% Pure Vitamin C Serum is no exception. Integral to this anti-aging, skin-perfecting serum is a list of ingredients short enough to be counted on two hands—with this simplicity and transparency being something that we absolutely love about this product!
To delve a bit further into this product, as described previously, the 10% vitamin C or L- ascorbate within this formula acts to benefit the skin via its antioxidant and anti-aging properties. To put it simply, vitamin C helps fortify the skin barrier so that the damage caused by exposure to environmental stressors is lessened.
However, where this product differs from others is its inclusion of the well-known beta hydroxy acids (BHA) salicylic acid. While putting an acid-based product on your skin sounds terrifying, if you suffer from acne-prone or oily skin, it might be your new bestie. As a BHA, salicylic acid dives deep into your skin, where it can dissolve debris that suffocates your pores, which in turn prevents the formation of pesky blackheads and whiteheads.
In addition to fighting acne, Salicylic acid works to even out skin texture through its potent exfoliating properties. To balance out this serum, La Roche Posay has included several other key ingredients tasked with calming skin irritation and boosting hydration. Here Neurosensine, a dipeptide involved in pain regulation, helps calm sensitive nerve endings, while La Roche-Posay’s own thermal spring water provides a soothing sensation. Lastly, as humectants, both hyaluronic acid and glycerin help draw moisture from the environment and into your skin cells.
Overall, if you are after a one-stop shop to give your skin barrier a fighting chance against the signs of aging and environmental damage, then La Roche Posay’s 10% Pure Vitamin C Face Serum would have to be our recommendation for you!
Key Ingredients: 10% Pure Vitamin C, salicylic acid, Neurosensine, glycerin, hyaluronic acid, and thermal spring water
Benefits: Anti-aging, antioxidant-rich serum with exfoliating, hydrating, and skin-soothing properties
Suited Skin Types: For those with oily and/or sensitive skin
When it comes to designing skin care products in which Japanese botanicals work in synergy with clinically efficacious ingredients to enhance your skin’s natural beauty and function, the team at Tatcha truly leads the way. The Violet-C Brightening Serum is a testimonial to this, as it combines the properties of vitamin C, Japanese beautyberry, AHAs, and Japanese angelica root to create a luxurious serum that perfects your skin from the inside out.
At the heart of this product is a potent blend of two forms of pure vitamin C, which are stabilized through the inclusion of Japanese beautyberry. On a mechanistic level, once applied to the skin, the fast-acting vitamin C derivative quickly penetrates and is uptaken into your skin cells, enhancing the processes involved in cellular turnover and regeneration. The result is collagen-rich skin cells, which to the human eye, appear as hydrated and plump skin.
Comparatively, while the fast-acting vitamin C improves the appearance of your skin, a secondary long-acting form works against environmentally-induced oxidative damage, forming an additional line of defense to protect those delicate skin cells! To aid in this process and prevent the antioxidant-rich action of vitamin C from being lost over time, the polyphenolic antioxidant Japanese beautyberry has been included within this serum.
Next, a 10% blend of fruit-derived AHAs has been incorporated within this serum to gently exfoliate and rid the skin of unwanted debris or dead skin, ultimately leaving you with radiant, smooth skin. Lastly, to even skin tone and combat hyperpigmentation, Japanese angelica root identifies and diffuses areas of accumulated melanin.
This well-thought-out formulation exemplifies why Tatcha’s Violet-C Brightening Serum truly has earned its spot on our list of the 10 best vitamin C serums for your face and, ultimately, why it deserves a place in your skincare routine.
Key Ingredients: 20% vitamin C, Japanese beautyberry, 10% mild fruit AHAs (derived from apple, grapefruit, orange, lemon, lime, hawthorn, and jujube), and Japanese angelica root
Benefits: Anti-aging vitamin C serum, which visibly improves skin texture, and combats regions of hyperpigmentation
Suited Skin Types: All skin types
After an efficacious, well-formulated vitamin C serum that is as gentle on your face as it is on your wallet? Then the search stops here with the Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2%.
To keep vitamin C as antioxidant-rich as can be, the innovative team at The Ordinary has formulated this product without water—an ingredient that can actually break down active vitamin C, rendering it useless for your skin. Therefore, the 23% pure L-Ascorbic Acid can be absorbed into your skin, where it can fight the signs of premature aging, protect it from environmental stressors, and support collagen production to keep your skin looking lush!
As suggested by its name, this product is also packed with wee spheres of hyaluronic acid—a mechanism that enables the hyaluronic acid to penetrate deeper into your skin where it absorbs and retains water that is often lost from the deep dermis. Ultimately, the inclusion of hyaluronic acid within this product helps promote skin hydration and elasticity, which helps to fight off signs of premature aging, such as the appearance of fine lines.
In comparison to other vitamin C serums, you may find this product to be a tad on the grainier side. However, don’t be alarmed, as this simply occurs because the vitamin C incorporated within this product is in powder form and is suspended in an oil-like base as opposed to being an oil itself. While this means you need to give your skin a few seconds to fully absorb the product itself, it is only a small sacrifice for the radiance this product will bring to your skin.
Key Ingredients: 23% pure L-ascorbic acid and 2% hyaluronic spheres
Benefits: Helps combat the signs of premature aging while promoting skin hydration
Suited Skin Types: While this product is suggested for all skin types, due to its high percentage of vitamin C, we would recommend checking in with your dermatologist before trying it out if you suffer from sensitive skin
For those of you who are exposed to environmental stressors such as the harsh sun on your morning beach walks, or general air pollutants found while roaming the city during the day, the team at Drunk Elephant have you covered. With an antioxidant-dense formula, the C-Firma
Fresh Day Serum is the ultimate way to restore photodamaged skin to its former glory!
The blend of 15% L-ascorbic acid, 0.5% ferulic acid, and 1% vitamin E provide this serum with its potent free radical defense properties. So, your skin can spend more time healing and rejuvenating and less fighting off environmental stressors such as UV light! However, also boasting an impressive range of antioxidant actions to keep your skin healthy and protected is the Vitis vinifera (grape juice) extract, Chronocyclin, and Indian gooseberry found within this serum. These ingredients respectively soothe irritated skin, mimic the actions of skin-benefiting vitamin D, and promote firmness, all while helping to boost your skin barrier defense.
We love the plethora of antioxidants infused within this serum, but what we find more impressive is the inclusion of both pumpkin ferment and pomegranate extract. These naturally derived extracts work to gently exfoliate the skin, meaning that this large array of antioxidants can enter the skin to do their job with ease—and that you need less product to achieve a glowy, healthy look!
Plus, just to show off, the team at Drunk Elephant has designed this serum to be mixed by you when you first use it. This ensures that the formula remains fresh until you are ready to incorporate it into your routine and helps maximize the potency of the vitamin C itself.
Key Ingredients: 15% l-ascorbic acid, 0.5% ferulic acid, 1% vitamin E, pumpkin ferment, pomegranate extract, Chronocyclin, grape juice extract, Indian gooseberry, and sodium hyaluronate crosspolymer
Benefits: Antioxidant-dense vitamin C serum that targets photodamaged skins
Suited Skin Types: All skin types
When it comes to Dr. Dennis Gross’s Vitamin C Lactic 15% Firm & Bright Serum, one use a day truly does keep fine lines and dullness away! So, if you’re willing to pay a little extra without compromising on efficacy, this is the perfect fit. The concoction of 15% L-ascorbic and lactic acid works in unison to ease those fine lines and smooth that skin complexion like you could never imagine!
The inclusion of Lactic acid serves to disrupt the intercellular adherence between epidermal cells, thereby gently exfoliating the skin surface. In addition, this alpha hydroxy acid stimulates the production of ceramides and extracellular matrix proteins (glycosaminoglycans), which boosts fluid retention, creating a plump and more-full appearance. Lactic acid also functions as a powerful vehicle for enhancing penetration and, thus, the potency of other ingredients. Therefore, lactic acid is the perfect complement to vitamin C-containing facial serums, as it chemically rids your skin of debris and dead skin cells, improving overall skin tone and radiance.
To top it off, this facial serum is fortified with a blend of plant-based antioxidants, with key ingredients being derived from licorice root and the mulberry tree. Licorice root contains a powerful list of bioactive agents that halt melanin production and freeze the effects of free radical attack. Similarly, compounds extracted from the mulberry tree disperse melanin, giving a smoother and more luxuriant texture to the skin.
This facial serum by Dr. Dennis stands out among its competitors and thus warrants a position on our list of the 10 Best vitamin C Facial Serums.
Key Ingredients: Vitamin C, lactic acid, licorice root, and mulberry tree extracts
Benefits: Antioxidant, hydrating, and exfoliating power
Suited Skin Types: All skin types
Where CeraVe is concerned, the appeal behind the brand’s products lies in its reliability, transparency, and simplicity. With entire product lines designated to different skin types and conditions, CeraVe offers a widely available and dermatologically approved solution to the majority of your skin concerns. In line with this, when it comes to their selection of anti-aging products, we simply cannot go past their Skin Renewing Vitamin C Serum!
Formulated with 10% pure vitamin C (L-ascorbic acid in this case), a selection of skin barrier-strengthening ceramides, hydrating hyaluronic acid, and the highly soothing vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid), this serum will truly add more radiance to your skin. By now, we understand how vitamin C protects and nourishes our skin; however, CeraVe’s signature blend of ceramides also restores your skin barrier.
Ceramides are a group of lipids or fats found within the uppermost layer of your skin. They function as sticky cement to help skin cells stay together and, most importantly, strengthen your skin barrier (which is essentially this upper layer of skin). While we produce natural ceramides within our skin, as we age and are exposed to environmental stressors such as the sun, these ceramides weaken and deplete, meaning your skin barrier is not as strong against further damage. Therefore, opting to use a well-formulated serum containing ceramides helps reinforce your skin barrier, ultimately preventing damage and water loss.
Overall, the unique blend of both vitamin C and ceramides found within this serum make it the perfect product to help prevent your skin from environmental damage and aging, all while still treating the visible signs of aging!
Key ingredients: 10% vitamin C, ceramides (ceramide NP, ceramide AP, ceramide EOP), hyaluronic acid, and vitamin B5
Benefits: Anti-aging serum designed to strengthen your skin barrier itself
Suited skin type: All skin types
If you feel that your skincare routine is fully balanced and simply want to add vitamin C alone to help boost radiance or treat hyperpigmentation and fine lines, the Inkey Lists Vitamin C serum is exactly what you are looking for.
Formulated with 30% pure vitamin C, this stable, vegan, cruelty-free, and highly efficacious cream is perfect for your morning routine to protect your skin from the day ahead or treat visible skin concerns. We especially recommend using this product before your beauty routine, as its creamy texture smooths and preps your skin in a way that sits beautifully under any makeup.
If you do suffer from sensitive skin or are new to vitamin C, we highly recommend visiting a dermatologist before adding this serum into the routine—or even diluting it with a hyaluronic acid until it is your skin builds up some tolerance.
Key Ingredients: 30% pure stable l-ascorbic acid (vitamin C)
Benefits: Potent vitamin C serum, which is perfect for hyperpigmentation, scarring, and fine lines
Suited Skin Types: All skin types, however as mentioned, we would suggest checking in with a dermatologist before use on sensitive or eczema-prone skin
Perhaps known best for their Good Genes treatment and popularity with celebrity influences, Sunday Riley has long been one of the biggest names in clean, innovative skincare. While we would say that you should never base your skincare off of the product’s popularity, when it comes to the C.E.O. 15% vitamin C Brightening Serum it is evident that this brand’s popularity has grown for a reason.
Rather than opting to formulate this product with a traditional form of vitamin C, such as the popular l-ascorbic acid, the team at Sunday Riley has instead opted to build this serum around the star ingredient tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate (or THD ascorbate). We can think of THD ascorbate as the oil and lipid-soluble, more stable twin of traditional vitamin C. It’s better at penetrating more deeply into the layers of the skin, where it works with other nutrients, such as vitamin E, to aid and boost the skin’s physiological function.
While THD ascorbate still acts against hyperpigmentation, fine lines, and damage caused by free radicals, the pathway it takes to achieve this is different from water-soluble forms of vitamin C. In addition to this, the Sunday Riley C.E.O 15% Vitamin C Brightening Serum also features glycolic acid, a phytosterols complex, and Saccharide isomerate extract, which respectively refine skin texture, prevent skin sensitivity, and boost your skin’s moisture levels and skin barrier.
This serum is the ultimate addition to your skincare routine if you want to transform aging skin to its more radiant, healthy former glory!
Key Ingredients: Tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate, glycolic acid, phytosterols complex, and saccharide isomerate extract
Benefits: Highly potent, deep penetrating vitamin C serum to combat aging skin
Suited Skin Types: All skin types, including those with red-prone and sensitive skin
Last but certainly not least on our list of the 10 best vitamin C serums for your face is Kiehl’s Powerful-Strength Line-Reducing Concentrate! As the first brand to successfully stabilize vitamin C, Kiehls has helped to revolutionize how this superstar nutrient can be incorporated into skincare and paved the way for other brands to follow.
Within this concentrate, the potent blend of 10.5% L-ascorbic acid (pure vitamin C), 2% ascorbyl glucoside (vitamin Cg), and hyaluronic acid act to protect and pump your skin, all while preventing and treating the signs of skin aging. Unlike other serums, this product features ascorbyl glucoside, a derivative of vitamin C that is activated once uptaken into the upper layers of your skin. Here it applies its antioxidant benefits to target fine lines and wrinkles—and is largely responsible for this concentrate’s strong anti-aging properties. To plump your skin, a fast-acting fragmented form of hyaluronic acid helps bring moisture into the surface layer of your skin, giving it a healthy, hydrated appearance.
With this product promising visible differences in your skin after two weeks of use and being approved by both dermatologists and the hoards of individuals who leave this product with glowing reviews, we would say this product is well worth a try!
Key Ingredients: 10.5% L-ascorbic acid (pure vitamin C), 2% ascorbyl glucoside (vitamin Cg), and hyaluronic acid
Benefits: Highly potent concentrate, specifically targeted for those with fine lines and wrinkles
Suited Skin Types: Suitable for all skin types
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I use other serums in concert with my vitamin C serum?
As all skincare lovers do, we love to play around and experiment with our routine, but as vitamin C is a highly active compound, it can, in fact, be incompatible with other ingredients. Therefore, to protect our skin from unwarranted irritation, doing a little research first is always a good decision. Like everything, there are do’s and don’ts when it comes to serum layering, so here are a few guides to follow when incorporating vitamin C into your routine.
Firstly, as an unstable acid itself (ascorbic acid, to be specific), layering a vitamin C serum on top of a BHA/AHA is a big no-no when wanting to get the most bang for your buck. The pH level of ingredients such as glycolic, lactic, and salicylic acids can destabilize vitamin C, rendering it useless once applied to your skin. Therefore, if you want to use one of these products with vitamin C, select a serum from the list above, which is formulated to contain these ingredients already—as these have been formulated for the AHA/BHA to work with the vitamin C and not against it.
Secondly, while you may think it is a grand idea to layer two anti-aging superstars on top of each other, unfortunately, retinol and vitamin C do not get along. As these ingredients are both highly active, once combined, they can result in skin irritation. Instead, utilize retinol-based products in the evening and vitamin C serums in the morning, which gives you the best of both worlds.
At the end of the day, as long as you do your research and check in with a dermatologist when unsure, vitamin C’s benefits outweigh the adjustments you might need to make.
How do I apply my vitamin C serum properly?
It should be common practice for all skincare lovers to conduct a patch test when you are introducing new products, as this assesses your risk of an allergic reaction. Once you’re ready for full coverage, it is in your best interest to follow the instructions detailed on the product. However, there are some general principles that will assist you in getting the most out of your vitamin C serum!
Firstly, you should decide whether your chosen serum will be a part of your morning or nighttime ritual. This decision can be based on the product itself or what other products you want to utilize with your serum; don’t worry, we made sure to mention some of the general rules above to give you a head start.
To get the most out of your vitamin C serum, make sure you are layering it correctly with your other products. For example, in the morning, make sure to pop your vitamin C serum onto your skin once it is cleansed and toned, and follow it with a moisturizer and SPF.
Commit to it! All good things take time, and while vitamin C is a potent ingredient, it needs the best chance possible to help your skin out.
Make sure you know your product and store it properly! It’s an amazing ingredient, but the unstable nature of vitamin C makes it prone to oxidation; prolonged exposure to oxygen makes vitamin C lose its efficacy as it turns into dehydroascorbic acid. To prevent this, store your serum as suggested on the back of the packaging or where it will not be exposed to light.
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