June 15, 2024

DIYClearSkin

Define Beauty Yourself

19 Best Vitamin C Serums For a Brighter Complexion in 2023

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Whether you’re dealing with hyperpigmentation, skin dullness, dark marks, or sagging skin, seeking out the best vitamin C serum can help address all of the above. For many of us, the antioxidant has become a mainstay in a thoughtful beauty regimen. “I look at vitamin C as that little black dress in your closet,” Samantha Mims tells Vogue. “It’s definitely one of those things you must have. It works to boost circulation, amplify the skin’s complexion, and stimulate collagen production.” 

The Best Vitamin C Serums

What to Look For in a Vitamin C Serum

As for Dr. Paula Bourelly, she recommends products with ingredients like arbutin and ubiquinone, as they both have “brightening properties which help to lighten brown spots and, as antioxidants, the ascorbic acid and tocopherol add another layer of defense to traditional sunscreens.” Generally speaking, you’re looking for a formula with a stable form of vitamin C that can deliver sufficient antioxidant protection—of l-ascorbic acid or tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate. Experts say you’re typically looking for a vitamin C in the 10-20% range. Also, the product’s packaging makes all the difference: dark or opaque bottles help reduce the oxidation that could occur when vitamin C gets exposed to sunlight or heat. Your precious formula is best stored in a cool, dark environment for best usage.

With this in mind, we spoke with seven skin-care experts and tested a handful of formulas to curate this edit of the 19 best vitamin C serums out there. Get ready to give your skin the radiance boost it deserves.

SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic with 15% L-Ascorbic Acid

SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic

  • Why We Love It: “Skinceuticals CE Ferulic is the gold standard and works well for those with dry skin,” says Dr. Corey L. Hartman. This Vogue Verified vitamin C serum delivers environmental protection, reduces fine lines and wrinkles, improves firmness, and brightens via a cocktail of vitamin C and the antioxidant properties of ferulic acid and vitamin E. 
  • Key Ingredients: 15% l-ascorbic acid, 1% alpha-tocopherol (a form of vitamin E), and 0.5% ferulic acid
  • How to Apply: According to SkinCeuticals, four to five drops can be applied to a dry face, neck, and chest each morning.

iS Clinical Pro-Heal Serum Advance Plus

iS Clinical Pro-Heal Serum Advance Plus

  • Why We Love It: This iS Clinical Pro-Heal Serum Advance Plus delivers skin protection, as well as treatment of acne, rosacea, contact dermatitis, and insect bites through time-released vitamin C and a blend of botanicals. 
  • Key Ingredients: Vitamin C, olive leaf, vitamin A, vitamin E
  • How to Apply: According to iS Clinical, apply three to four drops across the face and neck.

La Roche-Posay 10% Pure Vitamin C Serum

La Roche-Posay 10% Pure Vitamin C Serum

  • Why We Love It: “La Roche-Posay’s 10% Pure Vitamin C Serum is an affordable option that leaves skin protected and radiant without irritation,” says Hartman. While the price is alluring, what truly sets this apart is its cocktail of pure vitamin C paired with salicylic acid and neurosensine to refine skin texture and tone on the face and neck without harming sensitive skin.
  • Key Ingredients: 10% Pure vitamin C, salicylic acid, neurosensine, glycerin, hyaluronic acid, and thermal spring water
  • How to Apply: According to La Roche-Posay, apply three to four drops to the face and neck in the morning after cleansing.

Beauty Stat Universal C Skin Refiner

BeautyStat Universal C Skin Refiner

  • Why We Love It: Founded by cosmetic chemist Ron Robinson, this serum contains vitamin C in its purest form, with a unique patented formula of stable 20% pure vitamin C and stable epigallocatechin gallate, which is a skin-aiding ingredient found in green tea. The two ingredients work well together to prevent signs of aging, alongside squalane for moisture and tartaric acid, which helps the skin absorb product more easily. Dr. Shereene Idriss is a fan of the formula, too, because “it is a patented version of stabilized 20% L Ascorbic Acid (or vitamin C) that does not oxidize,” though she recommends approaching it with caution because of the high concentration.
  • Key Ingredients: 20% L-ascorbic acid, squalane, green tea active, and tartaric acid
  • How to Apply: According to Beautystat, apply to clean, dry skin morning and night.

Isdin Isdinceutics Flavo-C Ultraglican Ampoules

Isdin Isdinceutics Flavo-C Ultraglican Ampoules

  • Why We Love It: “Although primarily a vitamin C product, the hyaluronic acid in this serum adds to its appeal,” says Dr. Hadley King. “The sealed tinted glass ampules protect the vitamin C from exposure to air and light. And the addition of hyaluronic acid and proteoglicans makes the formulation very hydrating. The texture is light and the subtle fragrance is clean and refreshing.”
  • Key Ingredients: Ascorbic acid, UltraGlycans, and hyaluronic acid
  • How to Apply: According to Isdin, apply half of the ampoule to the face, neck, and neckline.

PCA Skin C-Quench Antioxidant Serum

PCA Skin C-Quench Antioxidant Serum

  • Why We Love It: Combating fine lines and wrinkles is of top priority with this PCA Skin serum rich in antioxidants. The ingredient complex comes together to reduce the look of lines and prevent inflammation, cellular oxidation, and increase hydration in this PCA Skin serum.
  • Key Ingredients: Vitamin C, lilac leaf stem cell extract, and glutathione
  • How to Apply: According to PCA Skin, apply one to two pumps of this serum to the face and neck twice daily.

Sunday Riley CEO 15% Vitamin C Brightening Serum

Sunday Riley CEO 15% Vitamin C Brightening Serum

  • Why We Love It: This serum prevents aging in all of its forms: sensitivity, dehydration, dullness, uneven skin tone, and wrinkles, and replaces it with a radiant, glowing complexion thanks to vitamin C, phytosterols complex to soothe sensitive skin, and saccharide isomerate extract that regulates pore size.
  • Key Ingredients: Vitamin C, a phytosterol complex, saccharide isomerate extract, and glycolic acid
  • How to Apply: According to Sunday Riley, apply two pumps of this serum to the entire face each morning.

Revision Skincare C+ Correcting Complex 30%

Revision Skincare C+ Correcting Complex 30%

  • Why We Love It: If you’re looking for brighter, more even-toned skin, consider adding the Revision Skincare C+ Correcting Complex to your beauty routine. Using the brand’s MelaPATH technology, this product is meant to deliver antioxidant benefits, protect against free radicals, and support your skin’s production of vitamins C and E.
  • Key Ingredients: MelaPATH™ Technology (Revision Skincare’s antioxidant blend, sodium carboxymethyl beta-glucan, diglucosyl gallic acid, and vitamin C
  • How to Apply: According to Revision Skincare, one pump of this serum can be applied to the face twice daily.

Tatcha Violet-C Brightening Serum

Tatcha Violet-C Brightening Serum

  • Why We Love It: Dark spots, uneven skin tone, texture, and fine lines don’t stand a chance against Tatcha’s brightening serum. Through a blend of 20% stabilized vitamin C, Japanese Beautyberry, 10% fruit-derived AHAs, and Japanese Angelica root, this elixir protects against free radicals and combats hyperpigmentation to reveal a radiantly glowing complexion. 
  • Key Ingredients: 20% Vitamin C and Japanese beautyberry, 10% mild fruit AHAs, and Japanese angelica root
  • How to Apply: According to Tatcha, apply one to two pumps of this serum at night.

SkinCeuticals Silymarin CF

SkinCeuticals Silymarin CF

  • Why We Love It: Alongside SkinCeuticals CE Ferulic is another sought-after formulation created especially for oily and acne-prone skin types. In fact, both Hartman and Dr. Karen Kagha namechecked it as essentials in their daily skin-care regimens. The oil-free elixir blends l-ascorbic acid, silymarin, ferulic acid, and salicylic acid to protect against free radical damage, stave off excess oil production, and clarify pores.
  • Key Ingredients: 15% L-ascorbic Acid, 0.5% Silymarin (a plant-based antioxidant), 0.5% Ferulic Acid, and 0.5% Salicylic Acid
  • How to Apply: According to SkinCeuticals, four to five drops can be applied to a dry face, neck, and chest each morning.

Obagi Medical Professional-C Serum 20%

Obagi Medical Professional-C Serum 20%

  • Why We Love It: Packed with antioxidants and 20% L-ascorbic acid, the Obagi Medical Professional-C Serum works overtime to minimize fine lines and protect the skin from damage. And due to the featured hyaluronic acid, it won’t dry out your skin either.
  • Key Ingredients: 20% L-ascorbic acid, 
  • How to Apply: According to Obagi Medical, five to seven drops of this serum can be applied to the face each morning.

InnBeauty Project Slushy Serum Moisturizer

InnBeauty Project Slushy Serum Moisturizer

  • Why We Love It: “Innbeauty’s Slushy is vegan and contains hyaluronic acid and bakuchiol and vitamin C. The texture is super fun—slushy is a perfect description,” says King, who thinks highly of the retinol-alternative. “Bakuchiol seems to be activating the genes that regulate collagen and elastin production—the same ones retinol activates. And it doesn’t seem to irritate and redden skin the way retinol often does, so it appears to be a gentler option.”
  • Key Ingredients: Bakuchiol, hyaluronic acid, and yuzu 
  • How to Apply: According to Innbeauty Project, two to three pumps can be applied to the face morning and night as a serum, moisturizer, or both.

Plantkos Phyto Triple C Serum

Plantkos Phyto Triple C Serum

  • Why We Love It: According to King, the Plantkos Phyto Triple C Serum “contains hyaluronic acid to hydrate, as well as three forms of vitamin C: amla, a plant-based form of vitamin C; tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate, an oil-soluble form of vitamin C; and 3-O-ethyl ascorbic acid.  [It] also contains sunflower seed oil and shea butter to support the skin barrier and lock in moisture.”
  • Key Ingredients: 3-O-Ethyl ascorbic acid, tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate, amla, and hyaluronic acid
  • How to Apply: According to Plantkos, press two pumps of this serum into skin post cleanser and toner.

True Botanicals Vitamin C Booster

True Botanicals Vitamin C Booster

  • Why We Love It: Wave goodbye to dark spots and dull skin when you incorporate True Botanical’s booster. Powered by vitamin C and ferulic acid, this works to support skin cell turnover and keep skin healthy. Just mix some of the powder with your favorite water-based serum or moisturizer.
  • Key Ingredients: Vitamin C and ferulic acid
  • How to Apply: According to True Botanicals, mix one to two shakes of the powder with two to three pumps of a water-based serum or moisturizer morning and night.

Peach & Lily Transparen-C Pro Spot Treatment

Peach & Lily Transparen-C Pro Spot Treatment

  • Why We Love It: Aesthetician Lily Njoroge recommends this serum for acne-prone clients and those for whom irritation is a concern. “It’s the first vitamin C serum I’ve found that I would recommend for acne-prone skin,” she says, “because it has oils high in linoleic acid, such as sunflower seed oil, and this makes it helpful at reducing inflammation.” 
  • Key Ingredients: 20% Ascorbyl tetraisopalmitate (a stable vitamin C derivative, camellia extract, ferulic acid, hyaluronic acid, and vitamin E
  • How to Apply: According to Peach & Lily, this is best applied to clean, dry skin morning or night directly onto discoloration.

Allies of Skin 35% Vitamin C Perfecting Serum

Allies of Skin 35% Vitamin C Perfecting Serum

  • Why We Love It: “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 [in this serum] 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.
  • Key Ingredients: 25% Ethylated l-ascorbic acid, 10% tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate, superoxide dismutase, glutathione
  • How to Apply: According to Allies of Skin, apply three pumps to the face and neck to damp skin post cleanser and toner. This can be used morning or night.

The Nue Co. Topical – C

  • Why We Love It: The Nue Co.’s powder is powered by a super blend of l-ascorbic acid, ferulic acid, tapioca starch, colloidal oatmeal, and aloe vera to protect against free radical damage, address hyperpigmentation, and fade fine lines. It can be mixed with your moisturizer or water to apply with ease.
  • Key Ingredients: L-ascorbic acid, ferulic acid, tapioca starch, colloidal oatmeal, and aloe vera
  • How to Apply: According to The Nue Co., mix this powder with moisturizer or water, then apply to the face and neck daily.

Hyper Skin Hyper Clear Brightening Clearing Vitamin C Serum

Hyper Clear Brightening Clearing Vitamin C Serum

  • Why We Love It: Hyper Skin is a brand “hyper-focused on treating the needs of people of color,” says founder Desiree Verdejo. The line’s debut product, Hyper Clear, helps to heal hyperpigmentation while simultaneously enhancing glow with its supercharged blend.
  • Key Ingredients: 15% Vitamin C, bearberry, licorice, 1% kojic acid, salicylic acid, turmeric, alpha arbutin, hyaluronic acid, and aloe
  • How to Apply: According to Hyper Skin, once daily, apply one to two pumps across the entire face, followed by SPF before sun exposure.

Biopelle XCP Brightening Serum

Biopelle XCP Brightening Serum

  • Why We Love It: “This serum brightens skin complexion and prevents the breakdown of collagen and elastin fibers in skin, which keeps wrinkles and fine lines at bay,” says Dr. Adeline Kikam. “I also love that it has phytic acid as well to fight hyperpigmentation which brown skin like mine is very prone to. I love using it as part of my melasma treatment plan, and patients love it because they see results.”
  • Key Ingredients: 10% Vitamin C (L-Ascorbic Acid), 2% Phytic Acid, green tea and grape seed extracts
  • How to Apply: According to Biopelle, a half dropper can be applied to the entire face twice daily. 

How to Use a Vitamin C Serum

Mims adds that there’s not necessarily a right or wrong way when it comes to applying the serum– what’s more important is what you do afterward. “Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that protects the skin from environmental factors such as pollution and UV light. So whether you’re deciding to use your serum in the morning, evening, or both, it’s important you’re following up with a layer of broad spectrum sunscreen daily.”

Meet The Experts

  • Dr. Paula Bourelly, board-certified dermatologist at Olney Dermatology Associates
  • Dr. Corey L. Hartman, board-certified dermatologist and founder of Skin Wellness Dermatology in Birmingham, Alabama
  • Dr. Shereene Idriss, New York City-based board certified-dermatologist who specializes in facial rejuvenation
  • Dr. Adeline Kikam, board-certified dermatologist and founder of Brownskinderm
  • Dr. Hadley King, New York City-based board-certified dermatologist and clinical instructor of dermatology at Weill Medical College of Cornell University
  • Samantha Mims, founder of Dermasaa and in-house esthetician at Brooklyn Face & Eye
  • Lily Njoroge, licensed esthetician and acne specialist