In choosing the best vitamin C serum, we’ve stringently compared 15 in-demand brands on the market today through more than 20 hours of intensive research and studies. We reviewed the products for their effectiveness based on the criteria we feel are critical when selecting the right vitamin C serum
A Quick Look at The Best Vitamin C Serums
In terms of potency, we’re ranking Serumtologie as our best brand because of its 22% vit C content. It’s also the only one who have accurately laid out the percentages of its ingredients.
The product is highly praised for the synergistic effects of its Hyaluronic Acid, Vitamin E and Ferulic Acid. While most brands are marketed in amber glass bottles, Serumtologie is packaged in a blue glass bottle.
Oz Naturals has the highest pH level among the brands at 7. This is probably one of the reasons why a few people who used the product reported experiencing dryness on their face.
Cosmetic Skin Solutions Vitamin C+E Serum 15%, on the other hand, is similar to Skinceuticals’ serum in terms of potency, form of vitamin C and added ingredients. Although they have a lot of similarities, Skin Solutions’ product is more favored because of its lower price.
A lot of reviews reflect dissatisfaction about the way the serum smells. There’s also the issue of how watery it is compared with other brands.
Among the top five brands we’ve picked, Skinceuticals CE Ferulic comes with the highest price. However, despite being costly, a lot of consumers are still willing to dip their wallets just to experience the benefits of its L-Ascorbic acid content.
In terms of affordability, Foxbrim has the lowest price tag among the brands in our review. It’s packed with ingredients that can help boost your collagen production to help keep your skin young-looking.
Aside from these positive points, the product is also praised for how well it is packaged. Most users find Foxbrim easy to apply, without the sticky feeling or greasiness.
Here’s a quick look at our top 5 recommended topical vitamin C products:
Our Reviews of The Best Vitamin C Serum
Read on for five vitamin C serums that come personally recommended by dermatologists and beauty editors.
This serum contains the highest percentage of vit C among the five brands we’ve reviewed. Because you get more of the vitamin by applying it on your skin, you can expect faster results.
Containing Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate as its main form of Vitamin C, Serumtologie’s serum is more stable and less irritating.
With a pH of 6.5, this product falls right in the range of the normal pH of the skin which is between 4 to 7. Using any product beyond this range can cause irritation and negative reactions.
It comes packed in a blue glass bottle to prevent oxidation.
The serum is suitable for all skin types. It has a smooth texture that easily glides on the skin.
To achieve its best effect, you may need to use 5 to 6 drops of it. Lightly pat the product on your skin and make sure to include the use of an SPF product in your skincare regimen.
Like most brands, Serumtologie packed 5% Hyaluronic Acid to its product. It also added two extra ingredients to make your skin more beautiful.
Vitamin E is one of the most powerful vitamins and antioxidants you can ever use on your skin. And we’re dead serious about that.
The vitamin can protect you against free radical damage which speeds up the aging process. It also has a complementary effect when used with Vitamin C.
When used together, both vitamins give off a strong antioxidant effect, smoothing benefits and increased rate of cellular repair.
Like vitamin E, Ferulic acid is also a potent antioxidant. It’s an extract of rice bran oil.
Here’s the interesting part:
When added to Vitamin C and E, this ingredient can magnify the photo-protective effects of the vitamins and their antioxidant properties.
Because of the synergistic effects of its ingredients, Serumtologie Vitamin C serum has the potential to improve your skin.
So, you want a serum that can dramatically improve your skin?
Well, this one’s it.
This serum can make cellular turnover faster to keep your skin looking soft and glowing. It can boost your its hydration, too, which translates to plump and more elastic skin.
Now, how impressive is that?
The serum is non-GMO and suited for all skin types. Its consistency isn’t thick, but it’s also not too runny.
This makes it easy to apply and spread on your skin.
One warning, though:
Some users experienced dryness with constant application. To make sure this doesn’t happen to you, always apply a good moisturizer after the serum.
In dispensing the product, remember to take a small amount first and see how much area you can cover with it. There’s a guide on how much serum you should use in this article.
While most serums almost look the same, we took the extra time to examine what factors could set them apart. For Oz Naturals, it’s the added ingredients in their serum.
Oz Naturals Vitamin C Serum contains 5% Vegan Hyaluronic Acid. It locks in moisture in the skin in the rate of 1000 mL of water per gram of HA.
By improving your skin’s hydration, this serum can make your skin look and feel plump. It can also reduce fine lines and wrinkles since it’s able to penetrate the deeper layers of the skin.
Organic Jojoba Oil
Among most of the known oils for skin care use, jojoba oil is the closest you can find to the human sebum. Sebum is the natural wax secreted by your sebaceous glands that keeps your skin and hair lubricated.
What’s the catch?
Because they are similar, you can expect this serum to take effect easily, particularly in making your skin a lot smoother.
Amino acids can help improve blood circulation in your skin. With better blood flow, your skin will get more of what it needs to remain healthy.
And one more thing.
Amino acid can also facilitate healing. This means that you can use Oz Naturals Vitamin C serum to heal acne and manage scars.
You can also use it to halt wrinkle formation.
This serum is one of the two products on our list that has a lower Vit C percentage at 15%.
In fact, with a pH of 3, this product works well on normal to oily skin type. Its consistency leans more on the watery side which makes it really easy to apply.
In addition to that, its packaging is also something to look forward to. It’s a dark amber glass bottle with a dropper.
It’s great for two reasons:
One, it prevents the product from getting exposed to light (read: oxidation). Two, it’s easy to dispense.
The serum smells a bit strange but it’s not something that will really bother you.
Cosmetic Skin Solution has the same usual ingredients you’d find in most serums. It has 1% Ferulic acid and 1% Vitamin E.
Promising to keep working even after you wash or rub your face (once absorbed), SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic is a really great serum
But, here’s the problem:
It’s expensive. In fact, it’s the most expensive among the brands on this list.
Should you buy it?
Well, if you have the extra cash to spend on luxurious products, then yes. And this serum doesn’t really disappoint for its price.
If you have normal to oily skin, this one will surely work for you. You wouldn’t even have problems applying it since it goes light and smooth.
To get the most out of this serum, you’ll need to use 4 to 5 drops of the product.
SkinCeuticals’ serum has the same added ingredients as that of Cosmetics Skin Solutions. It just has a lower Ferulic Acid content at 1.5%.
Check this out:
Foxbrim Vitamin C Serum for Face is the most affordable serum in this list. Despite costing less, you should not take this product lightly.
It contains 20% vitamin C (Sodium Ascorbate) to lighten your dark spots, heal facial acne and leave your skin with a glow.
Think I’m exaggerating?
Well, no. In fact, most buyers consider it as effective and we do, too.
It works well on all skin types. Yes, even the sensitive type.
What’s nice about this serum is that it doesn’t come with any bothering scent. It’s also tamper-proof for your safety and peace of mind.
Foxbrim Vitamin C serum contains Hyaluronic Acid and Amino Complex to keep your skin youthful and glowing. In addition to these two potent ingredients, it also contains MSM.
Allow me to explain what MSM is.
MSM is a crucial component in collagen production. Because of this, MSM is usually added to skin care products to smoothen fine lines and fight wrinkles.
When added to vit C, this ingredient can help improve your skin’s health. It can also even out your skin tone and make any discoloration less visible.
Do You Really Need a Vitamin C Serum?
If you want clear, younger looking skin, then the answer is yes.
Vitamin C is one of nature’s most potent antioxidant and depigmentation agents. You can find it in most citrus fruits, berries, dark green leafy vegetables and even green tea.
But there's something you must know:
Not all Vitamin C Serum is created equal.
Some forms are very effective, whereas others barely generate any visible benefits.
To get the most out of this powerful vitamin, you need to apply it directly on your skin. Its topical application is known to be 20 times more effective than taking the vitamin in its oral form.
I'll dive into the details in just a bit, but first let's cover one very important question:
Why do you need vitamin C in the first place?
Top 3 Benefits of Using Topical Vitamin C
1. Protects Against Skin Cancer
Vitamin C offers a certain amount of protection against UV damage. However, unlike your sunscreen, this vitamin doesn’t have the capability to absorb UV lights.
It can only reverse UV damages caused by unstable free radicals. By creating a barrier from within the skin’s layers, it’s able to supplement the effect of your sunscreen.
For best protection against the sun and skin cancer, always make it a habit to apply both sunscreen and the serum whenever you’re going out.
You should apply the serum before any other product. If you put something else before it, your skin won’t be able to fully absorb it.
As for your sunscreen?
We recommend applying it after your facial moisturizer and before your makeup to prevent sun damage.
2. Prevents Wrinkles and Fine Lines
Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant. This is one of the reasons why a lot of skin care products are now loaded with it.
As an antioxidant, it creates a barrier to prevent and neutralize free radicals from causing damage to your skin. Aside from these properties, the vitamin is also essential in the synthesis of two important skin proteins- collagen and elastin.
Collagen and elastin are responsible for the structure of your skin. Once these proteins deplete in amount, the structure and texture of your skin changes and it becomes loose and saggy.
3. Fades Dark Spots and Blemishes
By limiting your skin’s melanin production, the vitamin can help lighten up your skin color. It can also help clear any dark spots and acne scars on your entire body.
Apart from that, vitamin C also helps speed up the process of cell renewal and healing by supplying the skin with collagen.This doesn’t just aid in reducing the appearance of scars but it also helps create a filler for indented acne scars.
Now, this is probably the part where you’re starting to feel excited about buying your own Vit C serum.
But, there’s just one problem...
Vitamin C Oxidizes Quickly!!
Ascorbic acid is a bit tricky to stabilize.
Well, you can think of vitamin C as a happy electron donor. Once compromised, it happily donates electrons to the oxygen in the air.
This forms dehydro-L-ascorbic acid or simply DHAA. And the process doesn’t end there.
As DHAA degrades further, it makes your skin serum a lot more acidic. If you’re stubborn enough to keep on using the serum despite oxidizing…
You’ll end up with facial redness and irritation.
If more oxidation happens, its ring will open and the new molecule, which we’ll now call diketogulonic acid, will now be completely useless.
And you know what’s even more bothering?
These things can happen in just a few hours after exposure.
Now, picture the serums that have been in stores and shelves for a long period of time. By the time they get to your vanity, they could have already oxidized and degraded!
What a waste of money…
So, how do you ensure the stability of your serum? Read on to find out.
The Solution to Vitamin C Oxidation
It sounds simple, but it isn’t.
For a derivative to be effective, it needs to be able to penetrate the skin and stay stable enough to do its job. It needs to be strong enough to boost your skin’s collagen production yet gentle enough to not cause irritation.
Overwhelmed? Allow me to make it simpler.
As far as research is concerned, there are two derivatives that perfectly fit those criteria. One is Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate and the other is Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate.
These two are now more frequently used by manufacturers to make their serums more stable and effective.
Factors To Consider Before Using a Vitamin C Serum
Let me guess:
You’re probably still undecided on which serum to buy. Well, I’m not blaming you.
I’ve been there. We’ve all been there.
With so many options to choose from, picking the right one for you can sometimes feel like pulling teeth. Argh!
So, before you go grab just about any brand, here are some special considerations you need to keep in mind.
I hate to break it to you but…
This serum is not an absolute for everyone.
While it can work wonders on someone else’s skin, it doesn’t mean that it will readily have the same effects on yours.
Topical application of vitamin C can cause redness and a bit of irritation. Although these reactions are considered normal for most people, they aren’t always a good thing.
The stinging sensation and redness usually go away on their own. But, if these things don’t subside, there’s a good chance your skin can’t tolerate topical Vit C well.
The base ingredient of Vitamin C serums can also cause potential allergic reactions. If you have highly sensitive skin, you’re likely to experience rashes, irritated skin and itching.
Oh, and one more thing.
The vitamin is likely to stay on your skin for a couple of days so it’s important that you know how well your skin can tolerate it. Any allergies or negative reactions can remain until until all of the vitamin you’ve applied wears off.
Vitamin C serum works well whether you have oily or dry skin. You have to be cautious, however, if you have sensitive skin.
- As a general rule, if you have normal to oily skin, you should consider looking for a serum that has L-Ascorbic Acid as its main component.
- If you have dry skin, it’s better if you stick with Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate.
- If you happen to have sensitive skin, choose Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate.
When to Expect Results
Let’s be real here.
Vitamin C serums, although effective, is not an overnight miracle. Repair and renewal can take days, weeks and even months.
Most people are able to see results in as early as two or three weeks of treatment. But, the longest you can expect results is around six months.
There are a lot of factors that can lengthen or shorten that time. Take the following, for example:
- Method of application
- Strength of the formulation
- How religiously you apply the product
- Your skin’s condition
More work that needs to be done means the longer time the serum can can take in reverting your skin back to its best health. Because each person’s skin is different, avoid making comparisons.
How to Choose the Best Vitamin C Serum For Your Face
Serums come in a wide range of prices, formulations and ingredients. They are designed to meet the needs of specific skin types and solve unique skin issues.
Now, here’s the problem:
How exactly do you choose the best one?
You use criteria to narrow down your choices. Let me show you…
Percentage of Vitamin C
Let’s just call this potency.
The potency of a product depends on the amount or concentration of Vitamin C it has. The higher the content means the more potent the serum is.
Ideally, if you want to get the best results, you should pick one with the highest concentration.
Excessively high percentage of vitamin C can spell trouble for your skin. It can leave you with red, inflamed and irritated skin.
Well, the best percentage of vitamin C should be around 15% to 20%. This is because a.) anything that’s too high can hurt your skin and b.) anything that’s too low won’t improve your skin.
The recommended percentage will depend on what type of vitamin C your serum has. But, more on that later.
The percentage mentioned above works well for serums formulated with ascorbic acid. If you choose to go with Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate, pick one with 1% to 20% percentage of the derivative.
To make sure your serum is able to reach the deeper layers of the skin, you should aim for a lower pH.
Go with a pH level of 3.5 or lower.
Remember, however, that lower pH level means it’s highly acidic. If your skin is not able to tolerate the acidity, it may result in sensitivity issues.
For a safer shot at topical vit C, you can choose to use its derivatives. They are equally effective even with a higher pH.
Magnesium Ascorbyl is one good example.
The recommended pH for this derivative is around 5 or 6. This, in theory, is within the range of the skin’s normal pH level of 4 to 7.
And since it’s close to the skin’s pH, irritations and allergic reactions are less likely to happen.
The form of vitamin C in a serum helps determine its shelf life and stability. Here are the most common forms you’re likely to encounter:
L-Ascorbic Acid (LAA)
Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate (MAP)
Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate (SAP)
Ascorbic Acid Polypeptide (AAP)
Ascorbyl Palmitate (AP)
Ascorbyl Glucosamine (AG)
Water-based vs Oil-based
As a rule of thumb, it’s best to stick with water-based serums since they are lighter and easier to work with. They are generally more effective than oil-based, too.
To make sure your skin gets to absorb the product quickly, water-based serums should be applied right after cleansing and washing your face.
Color and Smell
Pure vitamin C serum should be colorless or white. Any alteration to its color should make you think twice.
Cloudiness or a brownish tint is a sign of possible oxidation. When vitamin C has already oxidized, it’s no longer beneficial.
And here’s the surprising part:
Despite how valuable color is, there are brands and manufacturers that sell colored serums.
They add colors to either attract consumers or to prevent people from noticing oxidation.
Color, however, is not the only criteria you can base possible oxidation on. Because the early oxidation stages don’t readily alter a serum’s color, make sure to smell it, too.
Normally, vitamin C serum is odorless. If it starts to smell sour and rancid, it’s time to take them out of your shelf.
Vitamin C is already good for your skin but if you want faster and more dramatic improvements, keep an eye out for added ingredients. They are added in serums to boost the effect of vitamin C or to provide extra benefits.
- Vitamin E is an ingredient you want your Vitamin C serum to have. Studies have shown that Vitamins C and E are more effective together at keeping your skin healthy than relying on one alone.
- Ferulic acid acts as a booster to the benefits of Vitamins C and E. It stabilizes both of these vitamins and protects elastin and collagen in your skin.
It also doubles the blockage of UV rays to protect your skin from photoaging.
Tip: The potency of ferulic acid is actually boosted when exposed to UV light!
- Hyaluronic acid offers a lot of benefits to the skin. Because aging tends to deplete HA level, finding a serum with a good HA content can keep you looking young for a longer time.
Vit C is photosensitive. Light and air easily affect its quality.
So, when you’re buying a serum, stay away from products packed in transparent bottles. They may be a little less expensive but they can affect the shelf life of your serum.
Stick with serums that come in blue or brown bottles instead. Airtight containers are also good.
Ok, I know what you’re probably thinking.
These serums are expensive.
But, is it a guarantee that they’ll work?
No, not all the time. However, price can definitely affect the quality of the serum you’ll get.
Just take SkinCeuticals as an example.
For its price, you’ll get a formula that can work up to 72 hours and an amber glass bottle to keep everything inside potent. But, will it be worth it?
Spending $120 for a bottle of serum is a hard pill to swallow, particularly if you have much more important things to pay for (read: bills!).
Typically, a $20 serum can give you your money’s worth. Brands that advertise quality vitamin C content for $3 or $4 are likely not laying everything on the table.
Mass production of serums is already costly. Aside from manufacturing and packaging, companies spend a big chunk of money in shipping them quickly to consumers.
Extremely low price should make you feel doubtful.
But, you know what else?
Affordable products don’t always mean they’re ineffective.
It has a well-balanced formula that can work really well on all skin types- even the sensitive type. And its powerful additional ingredients are not something you can easily find in serums within its price range.
Where To Buy Your Serum?
Obviously, you wouldn’t want to get your serum from a crappy brand or a retailer with poor customer service. You want to get an authentic and high-quality serum from a reputable brand.
And you’re dead right about that.
In choosing your vitamin C serum, you don’t just focus on the product. You have to pay close attention to the brand or manufacturer, too.
Before you buy, check the following:
- Serums must be processed in an FDA or GMP compliant facilities
- They should be tested for efficacy and safety
- Their ingredients should be selected based on research
- Ingredients should be regulated and allowed by the FDA
If you are buying from Amazon, understand that there’s a possibility for you to run across fake products. But this doesn’t mean that all products sold there are not authentic.
How did we know?
Well, we conducted research and guess what?
You’ll be shocked to hear how many crappy brands we had (in and out of Amazon) to test just to find the best vitamin C serum for you.
But here’s something really interesting.
Taking all the feedback and experiences into account, we decided to put up our own store and launch our own product.
Want to know the best part?
It’s not just any store. And it’s not just any serum.
We have a reliable customer support team and beauty experts who are always one email away from answering your problems. We offer fast shipping, too.
Our serums are manufactured from top-of-the-line facilities and made with high-quality and safe ingredients. They are, in all honesty, carefully formulated to give you the results you’re looking for.
By now, you’re probably wondering what makes us so sure.
Well, there’s only one way to find out.
How to Store Vitamin C Serum
A word of caution:
While it’s tempting to keep your serum in the bathroom, it’s one of the worst places for storage as humid places can affect its quality. You should also avoid storing the product where direct sunlight exposure is expected, such as any cabinets placed near your windows.
So, where’s the best hiding spot?
Most people keep their bottles inside refrigerators (which is a brilliant idea!). Other people use aluminum covers to keep their serum fresh for longer.
You can use the same techniques but the most important tip is this:
Always tightly close your serum’s bottle. This is to prevent air from coming in contact with its Vit C content.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can vitamin C serum be used around the eyes?
Vit C serums are formulated to be safe to use on the entire face and that includes your eyes. In fact, the vitamin’s capability to help boost collagen production can actually firm up your under eyes.
And you know what else?
Applying Vit C serum under your eyes can help lighten dark circles, too.
How much vitamin C serum should you use?
Honestly, this depends on you.
Although most brands recommend using 2 to 3 drops, this may not be enough to cover your entire face. If this is the case, you can use up to 5 drops.
But, here’s the thing:
If you decide to use more than what your brand recommends, make sure that there’s no stinging or breakouts.
Can you apply vitamin C serum without washing your face?
Ideally, you should apply your serum on cleansed skin. This way, there’ll be no dirt, makeup residues or oil that can prevent its full absorption.
If you can’t really wash your face, you can clean your face with a toner or a micellar water before applying your serum.
Do you apply vitamin C serum before or after moisturizing?
So, the basic rule is this:
When layering skin care products, the thinnest ones should go first.
In essence, this means your serum should go first before your moisturizer. This is to allow your serum to deliver its active ingredients more efficiently.
Is it normal to have skin peeling?
Vitamin C is an acid which can cause exfoliation. This is actually nice since it helps reduce discolorations and wrinkles.
While your skin is peeling, do not pick off. This is to avoid scarring and bleeding.
Which is better: Niacinamide or vit C serum?
Frankly, you can use both in your routine. However, to avoid any unwanted reactions, make sure you don’t use them at the same time.
When niacinamide gets in contact with an acidic solution, it hydrolyzes and turns into a chemical that causes temporary redness and irritation. To avoid this, you can alternate days or separate them into your morning and night routine.
How do you incorporate a retinol serum with vitamin C serum?
You can use one in the morning and the other serum at night. Or you can alternate the serums in your daily routine.
Retinol can make your skin more sensitive to the sun so it’s best if you use it at night. You can use your vitamin C serum during the day- with your sunscreen.
Is it necessary to use a moisturizer after your serum?
Serums are formulated to deliver potent ingredients to your skin. They are meant to help solve your skin issues.
Moisturizers are different.
They work by boosting your skin’s moisture level and making sure that your skin’s protective barrier remains strong enough.
In short, the answer is yes. You’ll still need to apply your moisturizer even if you’re using a serum.
By now, you’ll have realized that when looking for the best product, it’s not enough that you consider the best-selling or most popular brand. As everyone's skin is different, you have to listen to your own skin to find the right fit.
If your serum doesn’t give you the results you’re looking for or if negative reactions occur, do not hesitate to change the product. There is always a better brand or a better formulation that can sufficiently meet your skin’s need.
And that’s exactly where we’re going to.
After testing so many products and conducting long hours of research, we’re still not happy with the quality of serum the market has to offer.
Although there are great serums with great ingredients and formula (think: Skinceutical), they are so expensive that purchasing them doesn’t seem that practical anymore. And besides, their LAA won’t work on all people.
And then, there are those cheap serums. You wouldn’t believe it, but Amazon has thousands of them.
But there’s one problem:
These serums mostly use low-quality ingredients and their concentration of vitamin C is so low that they can’t really do anything for your skin.
And that’s just sad.
That’s one of the reasons why we worked so hard with the best dermatologists in the last 7 months to create a vitamin C product that’s not only effective but really affordable, too.
Now, don’t get left behind. Go and see for yourself.
Image credits: Amazon.com