Precautions When Using A Vitamin C Serum
While vitamin C is generally considered safe for most skin types and has an excellent safety profile, it does have the slight potential to irritate certain skin types or conditions , so always conduct a patch test first. Select a small area of your skin on your forearm and apply a small amount of product. Make sure not to wash it off for at least 24 hours. If you dont experience any side effects such as redness, hives, or a rash, you can continue to use it on your face. And remember, always apply sun protection during the day.
Best Vitamin C Serums To Fade Dark Spots And Discoloration
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Experts consider vitamin C to be excellent when it comes to skin care given both its functional and aesthetic benefits. Also known as L-ascorbic acid, it is required for proper function of skin because it plays an essential role in collagen production, explained board-certified dermatologist Caren Campbell, MD. The San Francisco-based doctor called vitamin C invaluable and vital in any skin care routine.
SKIP AHEAD Best vitamin C serums
You stand to get the most vitamin C-related benefits from treatments like serums, creams and lotions, which are typically formulated with high concentrations of their respective active ingredients , explained board-certified dermatologist Caroline Robinson, MD. Vitamin C cleansers and other skin care products that you rinse off are not considered treatments and typically include much lower percentages of active ingredients .
How We Choose Our Favorites
Our selections for best vitamin C serums are based on expert recommendations from top dermatologists, estheticians, and plastic surgeons. We then combined their know-how with user reviews and star ratings to develop a comprehensive list of the best vitamin C serums for every skin type, at every price point. So whether youre looking for the best affordable face serums, the best dark spot correctors, or the overall best face serums, weve got you covered.
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Truskin Vitamin C Facial Serum
With more than 63,000 five-star reviews and counting, TruSkins under-$20 vitamin C serum is one of the most popular and affordable face serums on Amazon. Better yet, it works for different skin tones, according to one very satisfied : The results are unbelievable. I was a bit skeptical because all the reviews were from Caucasian women. I was slightly worried that my skin would not respond as well, but I was quite mistaken. With or without makeup, my skin is bright and smooth, and my spots are disappearing. While some reviewers say that this serum doesnt quite hold its own against more expensive products, at this price point, its worth a try.
- Works on different skin tones
How Should A Person Use Vitamin C
People should test a few drops of a new vitamin C serum on their inner arm for a few days to see if the serum causes any irritation.
Vitamin C serum is concentrated, which means a few drops or one pump from the container is usually enough to cover the whole face and neck. People should use caution when applying vitamin C around the eyes.
A facial serum is not a moisturizer. Serum should be applied after cleansing and allowed to dry completely. After it has dried, apply moisturizer.
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Best For Sensitive Skin: Matrescence Rose Glow Brightening Essence
Chamomile, lavender oil, and aloe provide anti-inflammatory properties
Petrochemical-, paraben-, and phthalate-free
Matrescence makes the best option for sensitive skin, with a blend of skin soothers and anti-inflammatories like like chamomile, lavender oil, and aloe.
Benefits: Radiance-boosting, exfoliating, hydrating, refining | Skin Type: Sensitive, dry, inflamed, combination, acne-prone | Dosage: A few drops daily | Size: 4 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Yes
Price at time of publish: $86
The Best Vitamin C Serums
When it comes to high-quality vitamin C serums, there are a few classic go-to products that dermatologists recommend over and over again because theyre proven to work. But theyre also often expensive, and there are cheaper alternatives out there. Check out your options before you splurge and think about whats really important to you in a vitamin C product.
And remember that how you use the product is just as important as the product itself. Using a vitamin C serum consistently and storing it well to preserve its potency can result in noticeable skin improvementsbut not overnight. Even the best products may take weeks to months to have an effect.
Below, check out a few of the best vitamin C serums out there, from retailers like Dermstore, , Ulta, Amazon, and more.
All products featured on SELF are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.
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Truskin Vitamin C Serum
In terms of sheer number of reviews, TruSkin’s vitamin C serum comes out on top. Just over 59,000 people declare it worth a five-star rating on Amazon, where it’s the site’s best-selling face serum, period. The love stems from a formula packed with vitamin C, hyaluronic acid, wrinkle-reducing vitamin E, pore-shrinking witch hazel, and jojoba oil, all of which make for a brightening force to be reckoned with. “Two weeks of using this serum, and my 17-year-old tells me I look like I am in my 20s rather than 30s,” . “Fine lines are going away. Acne scars fading. Pigmentation evening out. Even my neck and jawline are smoother.”
Best Brightening Serum: The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 23% + Ha Spheres 2%
The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2% is a topical form of vitamin C thats rich in antioxidants to target aging and brighten the skin. It uses a high concentration of L-ascorbic acid as well as hyaluronic acid spheres for skin hydration. The brightening serum helps enhance skin smoothness and radiance without being too harsh. However, to test skin sensitivity, it is always recommended to perform a patch test before a full application.
Customer Rating: 4.3 out of 5 stars with over 4,500 Amazon ratings
Why Buy: This vitamin C brightening serum is cruelty-free and vegan and does not contain alcohol, phthalates, gluten, fragrance, nuts, oil, silicone, parabens or sulfates. The moisturizing serum is good for all skin types, including acne-prone skin and dry skin.
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Best Vitamin C Serum For Hyperpigmentation: The Bottom Line
Hyperpigmentation is a common, typically harmless condition that surfaces when patches of skin become darker in color than the normal surrounding skin. This darkening occurs when an excess of melanin, the pigment that produces normal skin color, forms concentrated deposits in the skin.
Skin hyperpigmentation can be challenging but not impossible to get rid of. The three most common forms of hyperpigmentation include melasma, sunspots, and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. Popular treatment methods include over-the-counter lightening creams, retinoids, at-home, and in-office peels, laser treatments, and IPL.
However, vitamin C especially when incorporated in a stabilized serum can be an easy yet effective arsenal because it interrupts the critical steps of melanogenesis. Vitamin C interacts with copper ions at the tyrosinase-active site and inhibits the action of the enzyme tyrosinase, which decreases melanin formation.
Worn underneath a moisturizer, serums deliver high concentrations of various active ingredients deep into the skin. They are formulated with molecules that can penetrate deeper than creams that only work on the surface level. When treating hyperpigmentation, look for a serum formulated with magnesium ascorbyl phosphate , the most stable and preferred ascorbyl ester. Other desirable forms include L-ascorbic acid, ascorbyl palmitate, and magnesium ascorbyl phosphate.
Best Overall: Drunk Elephant C
Ferulic acid and vitamin E boost vitamin Cs efficacy and stability
Long shelf life due to home activation
Non-irritating, pH balancing formula
With an impressive 4.8 out of 5 overall score from our home tester, Drunk Elephant’s C-Firma contains a potent antioxidant blend of vitamin C, ferulic acid, and vitamin E to address discoloration and other signs of photoaging. Ferulic acid and vitamin E boost vitamin Cs efficacy and stability. ensuring your skin reaps all the benefits from using vitamin C.
The formula also calls on pumpkin and pomegranate enzymes to gently exfoliate and smooth dull, uneven texture. Our tester notes the clear gel is super easy to spread and has a nice cooling sensation which feels great on sensitive, inflamed skin. We also like that C-Firma has a 2.5 pH and doesn’t need to be refrigerated.
Benefits: Radiance-boosting, firming, retexturizing, smoothing, exfoliating | Skin Type: All | Dosage: A few drops daily | Size: 1 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Yes
Price at time of publish: $78
What Our Editors Say
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What Is A Vitamin C Serum Exactly And Whats In It
A vitamin C serum is a skin-care product packed with vitamin C. It has the consistency of a liquid or gel, and is applied topically to the skin. Youll find these serums wherever you normally purchase skin-care products at department stores, beauty stores, and some drugstores, too. On the packaging, youll likely see words touting skin benefits like firming, brightening, and collagen boosting. People add vitamin C serum to their skin-care routines to tap into those benefits.
The benefit of vitamin C is its an antioxidant, so it helps prevent the forming of free radicals, which go on to break down collagen and elastin, Dr. Saedi says. The result, she says, is glowing, youthful skin.
The Best Vitamin C Serums For Glowing Skin
Dr. Suzan Obagi is a renowned Pittsburgh dermatologist whose products have been popular among skincare lovers for more than two decades.
Tara Adashev, APRN, a registered nurse practitioner at Neinstein Plastic Surgery in New York City, says Obagis Medical Professional-C Serum is one reason thats the case. This one is like the little black dress of vitamin C serums, Adashev says. Its a highly concentrated formula that includes the antioxidant L-ascorbic acid to help reduce signs of aging and leave skin smooth and soft.
Dr. Obagis Medical Professional-C Serum gives you the choice between 10, 15, or 20 percent vitamin C concentration levels to suit your skins sensitivity and tolerance.
Debra Jaliman, MD, board-certified NYC dermatologist, assistant professor of Dermatology at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and author of Skin Rules: Trade Secrets from a Top New York Dermatologist, says this vitamin C serum is a great anti-aging product and overall brightener.
Mad Hippie Vitamin C Serum doubles down on skin concerns like hyperpigmentation by combining vitamin C and vitamin Eand investigative dermatological studies have shown that the serums ferulic acid stabilizes these antioxidants, while boosting their sun protection.
This vitamin C serum are Adashevs must-haves. The serum packs a rich punch of vitamin C, alongside plumping ingredients that target redness and pore appearance.
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Loral Revitalift Derm Intensives Vitamin C Serum
At just around $30, LOréals Revitalift Derm Intensives Vitamin C serum is a great product at a great drugstore price. Its nice to know that there are good choices across the board at all price points, says Dr. Day. This serum contains 10 percent pure vitamin C serum with another anti-aging big wig, hyaluronic acid, to visibly brighten skin and reduce wrinkles, she adds. The hyaluronic acid also brings moisture back to your skin. While the overwhelming majority of reviews are positive, some users report breakouts with this serum. If your skin reacts well to it, follow up with the right anti-aging cream for your skin type.
Vichy Liftactiv Vitamin C Serum Brightening Skin Corrector
Another relatively affordable but good quality Vitamin C serum is the Vichy LiftActiv Vitamin C Serum Brightening Skin Corrector. The product is known for its light formula that contains 11 clean ingredients.
It proudly boasts no parabens, silicones, or artificial fragrances. Erin Gilbert, a board-certified dermatologist in NYC, revealed that the product will not sting or burn upon application while delivering potent firming and brightening results.
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What To Watch For With Vitamin C Serum
Finding the best vitamin C serum isnt always a slam dunk, as this antioxidant can be unstable and breaks down quickly when exposed to light. Heres a tip: Choose products with opaque bottles to keep your product fresher longer, such as TruSkin Vitamin C Serum. If the color of the product turns dark or yellow, its time for a new bottle.
Another potential problem? With supplements like vitamin C serum, you dont always know if youre getting the real deal, since theyre not closely regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Heres a trick for your inner science geek: Mix betadine, a golden-brown antiseptic used before surgery, with vitamin C. If the mixture turns clear, theres C in your serum, says New York City dermatologist Doris Day, MD. This simple experiment can tell you if theres actually vitamin C in your serumbut it still cant tell you how well the serum will be absorbed by your skin. This experiment wont give you information on the quality of the vitamin C, its Ph , or the overall efficacy of the formula, Dr. Day explains. Enter our experts picks.
Best For Hyperpigmentation: Cerave Skin Renewing Vitamin C Serum
Contains the purest form of vitamin C
Includes ceramides to restore your skin barrier
Some say serum may oxidize shortly after use
CeraVe’s Skin Renewing Vitamin C Serum is an effective yet affordable option for hyperpigmentation. Not only is it packed with 10% L-ascorbic acid, it also contains hyaluronic acid to hydrate your skin and ceramides to protect your skins natural barrier. Unlike any other serum on this list, it also includes vitamin B5, which can soothe and hydrate as well as potentially fight acne, according to one 2014 study.
Thanks to its tube-shaped packaging, this vitamin C serum allows you to use it more as a spot treatment, in case you don’t want to apply it to your entire face. The manufacturer recommends avoiding the eye area when applying to prevent irritation.
Key Ingredients: 10% L-ascorbic acid, hyaluronic acid | Usage: Apply evenly to face and neck once per day | Scent: None
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Allies Of Skin 35% Vitamin C Perfecting Serum
Do not be fooled by the name as it is a combination of ethylated ascorbic acid as well as tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate, explains Idriss. The ethylated L-ascorbic is a pure form of vitamin C and one of the most proven forms. The tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate is the stable oil soluble form of vitamin C that also penetrates your skin to help brighten and provide radical protection. Essentially, this serum works to protect your skin from stress, pollution, and even lack of sleep.
The Best Refreshing Vitamin C Serum: Tula Brightening Treatment Drops Triple Vitamin C Serum $48
- Pros: Consistent at brightening and hydrating, works well on sensitive skin, smooth and refreshing
- Cons: None to speak of
Tulas Brightening Treatment Drops are literal drops of ocean-cool refreshment onto your skin. Its the serum I would choose if I need to really wake up in the morning and over time, gives some of the best, glowy results.
- Pros: Has the best consistency we tested good at giving an all-around, sweet glow
- Cons: Has a slightly strong floral scent, but nothing unusable
Rose Inc. shocked me with its ability to produce a natural-looking glow. Seriously, if you happen to skip your cleanser and moisturizer one day and just use the brands Radiant Reveal Clean Brightening Vitamin C Serum, youll be A-OK.
Its not too thick and not too runny, so its the Goldilocks winner of serums. Plus, its packaging is minimal and sealed, anti-bacteria safe.
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Best Budget: The Ordinary Vitamin C 23% + Ha Spheres 2%
Addition of squalane accelerates cellular turnover
Hyaluronic acid hydrates with a matte finish
The Ordinary’s beloved vitamin C serum-lotion hybrid contains a hefty dose of radiance-boosting L-ascorbic acid, a pure form of the antioxidant, plus squalane and hyaluronic acid to hydrate, plump, and smooth.
Benefits: Radiance-boosting, hydrating, smoothing | Skin Type: Dry, oily, mature, combination | Dosage: Small amount nightly | Size: 1 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | No
Price at time of publish: $7
What Our Testers Say
“By the end of the day, my skin still felt soft and glowy.” Jenna Igneri, Product Tester and Editor
Best Overall: Skinceuticals C E Ferulic
Contains vitamin C-boosting ferulic acid
Encourages production of collagen for firmer skin
Some users dislike the texture
We picked this vitamin C serum as our best overall because this antioxidant-rich formula checks off a lot of vitamin C serum boxes: it contains 15% pure vitamin C and 1% vitamin E , which means the Skinceuticals serum can brighten your complexion at the same time as it protects your skin against free radicals .
It also contains 0.5% ferulic acid, an ingredient that Melanie Palm, MD, dermatologist at Art of Skin MD in San Diego, California, says increases the absorption of vitamin C by nearly 90 percentso youll know its reallyworking. This serum is a bit pricier than others on our list, but its a bestseller for a reason its suitable for all skin types and can last you a pretty long time, since you only need a few drops per use.
Key Ingredients: 15% L-ascorbic acid, 1% alpha tocopherol, 0.5% ferulic acid | Usage: Apply four to five drops each morning after cleansing and drying face | Scent: Has a scent
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