“Vitamin C is a great ingredient because it is a multitasker. It’s an antioxidant, so it helps to protect the skin against any UV damage that may have made it through your sunscreen defense,” says Love. “It also helps to regulate pigmentation production, producing a more even skin tone. For this reason, I recommend vitamin C a lot — for its anti-aging protective effects and pigment-regulating function,” says Love.
We curated some of the best vitamin C serums for your skin below based on extensive research, expert recommendations and top-rated and reviewed products online.
Credo Beauty/Marie Veronique
This serum’s star ingredient is vitamin C, but it also contains vitamin E and ferulic acid, an antioxidant. The serum is a best seller on clean beauty retailer, Credo Beauty, and one reviewer raved, “my acne-prone, sensitive, scarred skin has never been clearer or fresher-looking.”
The TruSkin Vitamin C Serum is an Amazon best seller, with a solid 4.5 stars out of 60,000 reviews. The serum contains a blend of Vitamin C, hyaluronic acid and aloe vera for extra hydration support. It also contains vitamin E, which is another antioxidant that works synergistically with the vitamin C to boost the antioxidant effect, as Love noted.
Love recommends Obagi Clinical’s Vitamin C + Arbutin Brightening Serum since “it contains 10% l-ascorbic acid (the purest and most potent form of vitamin C) but is formulated to be gentle on the skin. Although it has a nice slip texture to it, it is also oil-free and non-comedogenic,” says Love, who works with Obaji as an opinion leader and dermatologist source.
Campbell says that this Skinceuticals serum works for most skin types, although it’s indicated for combination or dry skin. “[Skinceuticals] are the original inventors of topical antioxidants — aka vitamin C — for anti-aging. They have done all the clinical trials showing it helps calm inflammation, reduce signs of aging and even repairs DNA damage that can lead to skin cancers,” says Campbell.
Campbell recommends the Skinceuticals Phloretin CF for oilier skin types. Phloretin is an antioxidant that comes from apples and fruit tree bark that can also help with cell turnover, according to the brand.
A best seller on Sephora (4 stars out of 5, 5,000-plus reviews) The Ole Henrikson Truth Serum contains a vitamin C complex, collagen, orange and green tea extracts, and aloe. One Sephora reviewer said “I’ve gotten multiple compliments on how clear and glowy my skin looks! Not only that, but it’s even helped reduce some of my acne scars. It seriously has been a game-changer in my daily routine – it smells great, isn’t sticky, and the results are legit.”
What to look for when shopping for a vitamin C serum
What to look for in a vitamin C serum depends on your personal skin concerns. If you’re concerned about acne, be sure to look for products that are oil-free. “Vitamin C is often formulated with vitamin E for their synergistic antioxidant effects, but vitamin E is an oil and may cause flares on acne prone skin,” says Love.
Keep in mind that vitamin C serums can be irritating to the skin. If you’re concerned about sensitivity, look for brands that advertise “sensitive skin” or note that the product is formulated to reduce irritation when you shop for products.
Sometimes it’s ok to buy skincare products and let them sit on the shelf for a few months before using them. But you don’t want to do that with products that contain vitamin C. “L-ascorbic acid [vitamin C] is difficult to stabilize, which is why a ‘steal’ is probably too good to be true. Both air and sunlight can oxidize vitamin C, causing it to lose some of its efficacy,” says Love.
Besides using the product as quickly as you can, Love also suggests opting for a serum that comes in a container that blocks out light. “Minimize the amount of time the product is exposed to air by applying it quickly to your hands and screwing the top back on the bottle securely. Some products now come in containers that don’t require opening the top, so this is also helpful,” says Love.
How to use vitamin C serum
Dermatologist Dr. Caren Campbell recommends applying vitamin C in the morning. “Apply 2-3 drops in the morning after washing your face. Vitamin C helps your sunscreen work better so it’s best used during the day, [which] is also when you are exposed to oxidative stressors like sun and pollution,” says Campbell.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.