Top 17 Vitamin C Serum (Updated 2021)
We think it’s high time everyone get their daily dose of Vitamin C. We’re not talking about the Vitamin C in your fruits and veggies; we’re talking about the Vitamin C you lather onto your face through a highly concentrated serum. You know, the type that keeps you looking 10 years younger?
In this article we discuss the following:
- What is Vitamin C Serum?
- Vitamin C Serum Benefits
- How to Use Vitamin C Serum
- Vitamin C Serum Side Effects
- Differences Between Vitamin C Serum, Powder, Oil and Lotion
- Best Vitamin C Serum
- Best Vitamin C Serum Brands
What is Vitamin C Serum?
Vitamin C serum is a topically applied product with a high concentration of naturally derived Vitamin C. This beneficial vitamin isn’t always presented in serum form; one can also find highly concentrated versions of Vitamin C as oils, lotions, and even powders.
Consuming high amounts of Vitamin C in your diet is also a way of getting this nutrient-rich compound into your system. However there is no guarantee that an amount significant enough to cause notable changes will ever reach the cells of the skin. This is because the epidermis (outermost layer of the skin) doesn’t contain sufficient blood vessels to carry nutrients to individual cells. Applying it topically becomes the most effective way of achieving your daily skin dose.
In the body, Vitamin C is responsible for repairing body tissue and delivering necessary antioxidants; it is an essential nutrient for growth and development in all humans. In the skin, Vitamin C is naturally present at all times, acting as a promoter of collagen and delivering antioxidants.
“Vitamin C serum is great for skin because helps skin look brighter and gives it a glow by promoting collagen production which is a skin health building block,” says Stacy Caprio from Acne Scar.
Vitamin C Serum Benefits
Vitamin C benefits have been monitored for the better part of the century, with endless research and case studies having been conducted on its effects both with respect to the inside and exterior of the body.
As recently as 2015, a study published in Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology confirmed that Vitamin C, when applied topically, increased the collagen density counts of every participant involved, regardless of age group and skin type. More than this, results become even more pronounced between the 40 days of use and 60 days of use mark.
“Vitamin C is immensely beneficial to skin in promoting our body’s production of collagen and it also acts as a potent antioxidant. Clinical studies show that topical application of vitamin C boosts collagen formation and sustains firm and youthful skin,” says Lorena Balensi, a a clinical esthetician and founder of Balensi’s Institute Skin Care & Spa.
Vitamin C for Skin
The benefits of Vitamin C depend largely on the source of the nutrient, and the levels at which it is present in the serum, oil, or lotion of your choosing. A product containing Vitamin C will always declare the level of the nutrient present in the product; some milder products might contain below 5%, while more concentrated, potent products can exceed even 20%. At present, the highest level of concentration available on the market is 79%.
The beauty of Vitamin C for skin is that it has an excellent safety profile. This means that in general all skin types can use the substance over extensive periods of time, with little to no adverse reactions.
There have been instances where individuals with hypersensitive skin report subtle irritation, but this is a rare occurrence. “For those with sensitive skin and those who are new to vitamin C, it’s best to start with low concentrations and work your way upward gradually,” says Rish Sharma, the CEO and founder of Mallama. Generally, all skin types can expect to see positive results from topical Vitamin C within the first two months of use.
What Does Vitamin C do for Your Skin?
So, what exactly does Vitamin C do for our skin, anyway? A shorter list might be what can’t Vitamin C do for the skin.
To start off, Vitamin C retains the very intriguing ability of stimulating the production of new collagen. Loss of collagen is the main cause of visible aging in both men and women. Young people are able to produce new collagen very quickly, whilst collagen production slows down rapidly in older people.
Collagen is responsible for the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and sagging. When elasticity is lost, the skin of the body tends to succumb to gravity and droop downwards. Stimulating your natural collagen production on a daily basis can firm the skin quite significantly.
Signs of hyperpigmentation can also be treated through religious use of Vitamin C serums. Hyperpigmentation occurs when the levels of melanin in the skin are compromised, making way for sun spots and melasma. Vitamin C works to impede melanin production naturally, making the skin more uniform in color and quality.
“Vitamin C can be great for elderly women looking to slow down the effects aging has on their skin. It is an anti oxidant and reduces the free radicals that cause skin to age. Vitamin C has been shown to reduce melasma and skin pigmentation,” according to Help And Wellness.
Whilst healing existing sun damage, Vitamin C simultaneously protects the skin from any further damage from taking place. Sun damage occurs from the skin coming into contact with free radicals. Free radicals arise in our external environments and cause damage when coming into contact with unprotected skin. This is because free radicals are essentially just atoms that are missing their electrons. They bind to the human skin and “steal” an electron in the process. This leaves the skin damaged and incomplete. Vitamin C essentially acts as an extra electron, giving itself to the free radicals so that the skin is left unscathed.
“I’ve been using Vitamin C Serum in my skin care routine for years. The anti-aging benefits of Vitamin C include evening out skin tone, smoothing fine lines, hydration and fading under eye circles. I’m 54 and credit Vitamin C with improving the condition of my skin and reversing sun damage from my younger days of laying out in the sun unprotected! I also love that Vitamin C can be safely used with other skin care ingredients like retinol and sunscreen. And last but certainly not least is the healthy glow it leaves on the skin. I will never be without my Vitamin C Serum!” says Susie Truett, Founder & Editor of 40 and Holding.
Vitamin C Serum for Face
Vitamin C can be used anywhere on the body, which is why there are so many different forms of it available on the market. It is usually not financially viable for one to use a serum anywhere other than the face, neck and décolleté, so if you seek Vitamin C for your arms, legs, or stomach, it is better to invest in a lotion or oil.
If you seek the benefits of Vitamin C for your face, it’s a serum you’ll want to opt for. These little bottles contain high concentrations of the nutrient, flooding the pores at every application and sending the multitude of benefits deep into the dermis and epidermis.
The inside of the human body relies quite heavily on the presence of antioxidants in order to achieve tissue rejuvenation. The same apples to the outside of the body, particularly the face.
Our facial skin, in addition to hand skin, comes in contact with the elements of the outside world most frequently. This is where we encounter said free radicals, and regularly applying a Vitamin C serum alongside an active SPF is one of the only ways to protect oneself.
Vitamin C Serum for Acne
Accordingly to some health practicioners, Vitamin C seems to be an all encompassing solution for the symptoms of active acne. Unfortunately, there has been a dearth of studies on the subject, with the result that Vitamin C skincare has a bit more research to conduct before any conclusive claims can be made.
That being said, there are many people around the world who have seen great results in self-prescribing Vitamin C serums as treatments for their acne. Let’s break it down:
Vitamin C treats the epidermis layer of the skin by actively combating free radicals. An example of some free radicals include poor diet, stress, smoking, UV rays, and air pollution. These can damage the skin by stealing the aforementioned electrons.
Acne can be a physically manifested form of damage from any of the above free radicals. It makes sense then that if Vitamin C is combating them anyway, that acne would be positively affected in the process.
Acne is an inflammatory condition that is caused by severely blocked pores. The intensity varies from person to person, and some more severe cases can leave scars and skin damage. Scars, regardless of their source, are a result of damaged collagen. A Vitamin C serum can target and correct the collagen damage before it has a chance to become a permanent feature. Estheticians believe that scarring is most easy to treat within the first five to 10 years of the scaring event, but that after this is becomes increasingly difficult to correct without invasive procedures.
Vitamin C Serum Before and After (Including Photos)
At the end of the day, does Vitamin C serum work? We present you with some compelling before and after imagery that makes the potential benefits more tangible.
How to Use Vitamin C Serum
If you’re looking into Vitamin C serums, it’s likely you’ve already got quite a sound skincare routine in place. Introducing any new serum into an existing regime requires thoughtful planning and perhaps some prior research.
Individuals who use niacinamide products should consult with an esthetician before incorporating Vitamin C into their routine. Niacinamide has been shown to render Vitamin C totally ineffective in certain instances, making it a waste of time and money.
Generally, most other active skincare ingredients have been shown to be safe to use alongside Vitamin C. Users of retinoid or retinol products in their evening skincare ritual need to be sure to wash the product off properly the next morning before applying a Vitamin C serum. Failure to do so will make one hypersensitive to UV rays, causing more harm than good.
How to Apply Vitamin C Serum
If you’ve chosen a high potency Vitamin C serum, conducting a patch test would be highly recommended. Do this before you go ahead and coat your face in the product:
- Select a small patch of relatively thin, sensitive skin. Your forearm, neck or chest make for suitable options.
- Apply the Vitamin C serum over an area no wider than one inch by one inch.
- Let the product dry and leave it there for 24 hours.
- If there appears to be no adverse reaction, you can commence using the product on the rest of your face, neck and décolleté.
Apply the serum to cleansed, dry skin. We find lightly patting the skin causes better absorption of the product. You can follow up your serum application with your regular moisturizer.
How Often to Use Vitamin C Serum
Vitamin C serums have shown their best results when used twice daily. If serums are not already a part of your skincare routine, it will be quite easy for you to apply your Vitamin C once in the morning and once at night, between cleansing and moisturizing.
Some individuals make use of high intensity serums, such as retinol, by night. In these instances, you would simply use your Vitamin C serum once a day; applying it in the morning when your previous-night’s retinol has been washed off.
Vitamin C Serum Side Effects
We mentioned that Vitamin C serums rate relatively low on the risk scale, with a safety profile that is generally suitable for all skin types. Irritation is highly unlikely, but a patch test is a great way of reducing any potential side effects from popping up unannounced.
If your skin is particularly sensitive, or you generally react to impure metals in jewelry, then we recommend a patch test before any new serum is added to your skincare routine.
Does Vitamin C Serum Make Your Face Red?
Redness is generally not a side effect of Vitamin C itself. It’s important to remember that a Vitamin C serum is never straight Vitamin C; it’s a combination of carrying ingredients, and some of these might cause redness when they meet your skin.
Some serums make use of L-ascorbic acid as a carrier, which is known to disrupt some individuals with hypersensitive skin. A product using hyaluronic acid instead will be a more gentle source of Vitamin C. Likewise, products containing magnesium ascorbyl phosphate rarely cause irritation or redness.
Vitamin C serums are actually one of the most effective ways of treating the common condition known as rosacea. It’s reducing redness, not causing it.
Differences Between Vitamin C Serum, Powder, Oil and Lotion
Vitamin C serums are the highest concentration available for this nutrient within the skincare world. They are the most potent form of the vitamin, and deliver the benefits deep into the pores (particularly those of the face). Serums are used once or twice daily and are intended for long-term use before proving sustainable results.
Not everyone is partial to a serum, and there are a few alternatives for those still looking for that Vitamin C fix. Vitamin C oil is a gentle yet effective option, though there is much debate surrounding the use of Vitamin C oil for face.
These contain a blend of oils, either chemical in compound or naturally plant derived. Vitamin C oil is a great way to receive the benefits of Vitamin C across other parts of the body; it is relatively affordable and we recommend using it in place of a body lotion. Apply a Vitamin C rich oil to your arms, legs, back and stomach every time you emerge from the shower.
The thing with oils is that they take hours to be properly absorbed. If an oily body is not something you can tolerate putting clothing onto, you might find a Vitamin C lotion more preferable.
Think regular face or body lotions featuring Vitamin C as an active ingredient. The intensity of the Vitamin C will be low in these products, but it does offer your skin regular contact with the nutrient which can be beneficial over time.
Finally, you might have heard of Vitamin C powders. There are two types of these substances: one that can be ingested, and one that can’t. The one that can’t is the one you want to use topically on the skin.
Essentially, Vitamin C powders give you a way of making serums or lotions of your own. You’ll have to mix a portion of the Vitamin C powder for face into a liquid solution, and then apply it to your face or body. If you’re already a daily user of hyaluronic acid, this would make a great carrier for the powder form of Vitamin C.
What’s great about this DIY Vitamin C option is that with powder you essentially control your own potency. You determine this by observing the percentage of powder in relation to your carrying liquid. For minimum results, the powder should make up no less than 8% of the solution. For maximum results, use no more than 20%. Anything higher than this can cause irritation.
Best Vitamin C Serum
We spend a lot of time looking into natural alternatives to achieving health, wellness, and great skin. For years we’ve marvelled at the use of naturally occurring minerals, such as copper, as a means of healing not only the inside of the body, but the outside as well. In the recent decade, copper peptide products have become a sought after treatment against aging.
We liken Vitamin C serum to copper peptides in that they offer very similar results over long periods of use. Both promote collagen production, both result in firmness, and both deliver valuable antioxidants. The biggest difference between peptides and Vitamin C serums is that Vitamin C, as a nutrient, is far more affordable and accessible.
This might no longer be the case by the time a new decade rolls around, and manufacturers have found ways of making copper peptides less costly. However, for now we are blessed by an abundance of Vitamin C serums available to anyone with access to a department store or the internet. Read on to find your pick of the lot!
Best Korean Vitamin C Serum
Wishtrend Pure Vitamin C 21.5
Wishtrend is a Korean beauty brand to follow closely. Their skincare range is proudly cruelty free and vegan friendly, free of ethanol, silicones, and synthetic colorants & fragrances.
Their serum offers the user an astounding 21.5% Vitamin C content, accompanied by 70% Vitamin Tree Water. Vitamin Tree Water is mostly made of Vitamin E, which is a natural enhancer of the effects of Vitamin C. The two work together symphonically, making this one of the most competitive anti-aging solutions to have come out of Korea.
This potent serum comes with some safety measures. It is essential that you wear sunblock at all times during the day whilst this is on your face. The serum is also not compatible with any forms of retinol or AHA.
Best Organic Vitamin C Serum
One Love Organics Botanical C Facial Serum
This serum is a splurge, but it works! The all natural formula is not made in a market of mass production, so the cost of making it is higher than that of other serums that use chemicals as opposed to botanicals.
This Vitamin C serum is combined with shea butter and green tea. It is non-phototoxic for daytime use.
Best Affordable Vitamin C Serum
Lumene markets this product as an essence, but in our opinion it feels and functions just like some of the best serums out there. Because of this, we consider it one of the most affordable Vitamin C serums on the market.
The Vitamin C content is rich, and is accompanied by hyaluronic acid and the refreshing scent of citrus.
Best Vitamin C Serum for Hyperpigmentation
The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2%
The Ordinary comes in again with a product that is not technically a serum, but works wonders for the purpose of treating hyperpigmentation.
You can use this solution the same way you would any serum. Expect tingling, but see it as the serum getting to work on the compromised melanin residing in your skin. Over time, pigmentation appears lighter, and the overall skin more uniform.
Best Vitamin C Serum for Sensitive Skin
Klairs Freshly Juiced Vitamin C Drop
Klairs formulated their serum with the sole intention of being safe and irritant free. It’s the ideal serum for people with sensitive skin, as the Vitamin C content is only at 5%.
The serum is made in Korea, making it a high quality product albeit extremely affordable. This non-irritating formula actually brightens the facial skin after repetitive use.
Klairs has sold over one million bottles of this versatile product, making it one of the top Vitamin C serums on the market.
Best Drugstore Vitamin C Serum
Kiehl’s Powerful-Strength Line-Reducing Concentrate
Kiehl’s is a household name in skincare and available at most decent drugstores and department stores around the world. Their serum is a high concentration of Vitamin C accompanied by high quality hyaluronic acid.
This product is so highly respected that it is estimated that one bottle is sold every passing minute worldwide.
Best Clean Beauty Vitamin C Serum
If you value skincare products that feature ingredients you can actually pronounce, you’ll find solace in using 100% Pure’s solution on a daily basis.
This clean beauty serum is lightweight and soothing. You might find this particularly gentle on active and inflamed acne. The key ingredient is aloe vera, which also works to hydrate skin.
Best Vitamin C Serum Brands
In addition to the aforementioned round up, these are some brands that we love within the Vitamin C serum range:
Mad Hippie Vitamin C Serum
Mad Hippe is one of the more recognizable brands thanks to their charming packaging. This is a gentle formula ideal for use twice a day, and Mad Hippie is known for its sun protection properties.
This is a relatively affordable serum. It contains the potent Asian root called Konjac, which is rich in nutrients including copper and zinc.
Cerave Vitamin C Serum
This serum is packaged a little differently relative to its competitors. One might confuse this as a Vitamin C face cream upon first glance.
Cerave’s serum contains 10% pure Vitamin C. In addition, you’ll find three essential ceramides and Vitamin B5. It’s suitable for all skin types and comes highly recommended by dermatologists.
By incorporating just three to five drops of Truskin into your daily skincare routine, you’ll reap the benefits of potent Vitamin C in a very short space of time.
This is one of the most affordable Vitamin C serums on the market; we recommend purchasing directly from the brand as they regularly offer even further discounts to new buyers. We love how long one bottle of Truskin lasts. We also enjoy using this serum on the back of the hands as protection against the elements.
Maelove Glow Maker
If you’re lucky enough to catch this serum in stock — buy it! Maelove’s Vitamin C solution tends to sell out quickly, and is loved by skincare fanatics around the world.
The formula contains both Vitamin C and E, in combination with a potent combination of ferulic acid and hyaluronic acid. It’s an entirely botanical blend and is recommended by holistic dermatologists. It is also relatively affordable.
Mario Badescu Vitamin C Serum
Slightly more expensive (but worth every penny), is Mario Badescu’s Vitamin C formula. This serum is antioxidant-enriched and so potent that it is recommended to be used only every second evening.
Apply just three to four drops of the serum onto clean skin, and follow up with your trusted formula. Skin reveals natural luminosity and glow after a very short period of use. Many users report significant changes to hyperpigmentation. After two years of regular use, users also reported loss of sun spots.
Timeless Vitamin C Serum
Timeless is a UK based skincare brand with a large following of satisfied customers. It seems that the Timeless products are most effective when used in conjunction with one another, so if you regularly make use of any other Timeless products then this is probably the serum for you.
It’s important to wear a broad spectrum SPF when using the Timeless serum during the day. Due to the quality of the ingredients, this product may oxidize over time and will need to be discarded and replaced. Should the serum turn dark yellow, brown, or red, you’re in the market for a new one!
Skinceuticals Vitamin C
A product that delivers everything it claims to will always come with a hefty price tag. If you have the budget, we don’t know a better overall Vitamin C serum than Skinceuticals.
The blend of high potency Vitamins C, E and ferulic Acid not only works to reverse the signs of aging, but also enhances the protective abilities of all other products you coat onto your face. SPF protection is almost doubled by wearing a layer of serum under your moisturizer and make up.
This is one of the most recommended brands by dermatologists, and this specific product has won an array of awards. It’s one of few serums with the ability to neutralize infrared radiation.
Derma E Vitamin C Concentrated Serum
We love just about everything that Derma E comes out with, and their Vitamin C serum lived up to their reputation. As with all Derma E products, this serum is gluten free, vegan, GMO free, soy free and packaged using recycled materials. They also make use of wind energy wherever possible in their production process.
Because of the very recognizable list of ingredients, this has been one of the most effective serums in treating acne and acne scarring.
There are two Vitamin C serums worst mentioning within the Instanatural range. The Multivitamin C serum is an affordable option ideal for daily use for individuals with relatively decent skin as is.
Instanatural also brought out a triple strength serum that is slightly more expensive but is much richer in compound.
Vichy Vitamin C Serum
Vichy claims that one can see noticeable results after just 10 days of use. It gets to work in correcting dull, lifeless skin and then, over long periods of use, works on firming and hyperpigmentation.
For best results use this serum once a day, and always with an SPF. We love how easily it gets absorbed deep into the skin, and find it to be most effective when applied as one gets out of the shower.