The Best Vitamin C Serums for Face - 2017 Reviews and Top Picks
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.
At a Glance: Our Choices for The Best Vitamin C Serums for Face
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.
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.
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.
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.
2017's Reviews of the Best Vitamin C Serums For Face
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. As for the price, it actually isn’t that cheap.
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 serum. It also added two extra ingredients to make your skin more beautiful.
- Vitamin E
Vitamin E is one of the most powerful vitamins that can help your skin fight free radicals and the signs of aging. You’ve probably seen it added to tons of skin care products today.
However, the addition of Vitamin E to Vitamin C forms a complementary effect to each other. When partnered, both vitamins give off a strong antioxidant effect, smoothing benefits and increased rate of cellular repair.
- Ferulic Acid
Ferulic acid is a potent antioxidant. It effectively fights free radicals and their effects on your body.
The acid is an extract of rice bran oil. When added to Vitamin C and E, this ingredient can magnify the photo-protective effects of the said vitamins and other antioxidants.
Because of the synergistic effects of its ingredients, Serumtologie Vitamin C serum has the potential to improve your skin. If it doesn’t, there’s a money back guarantee you can easily turn to.
Things We Liked
- Visible effects in just weeks
- Money back guarantee
- Synergistic effects of the ingredients
- Contains higher percentage of Vit C than most brand
Things We Didn't Like
- Not all people can quickly see any difference in their skin
This serum promises to greatly improve your skin in just the first use. It assists in a faster cellular turnover to protect the skin against free radical damage.
It’s non-GMO and suited for all skin types. For its price, this serum can give you youthful looking skin by greatly improving its hydration.
It comes in an amber bottle which is a good thing. Vitamin C serums are generally photosensitive and any direct exposure to sunlight can cause it to oxidize.
Its consistency isn’t thick, but it’s also not too runny. In dispensing the product, try to take a small amount first and see how much area you can cover with it.
Some users experienced dryness with constant application. If you experience such change in your skin, make sure to apply a good moisturizer after it.
While most vitamin C serums almost look the same, we took extra time to examine what factors could set them apart. For Oz Naturals, it’s the added ingredients in their serum.
- Hyaluronic Acid
Oz Naturals Vitamin C Serum contains 5% Vegan Hyaluronic Acid. It functions to lock in moisture in the skin, in the rate of 1000 mL of water per gram of HA.
By improving hydration, this serum can make your skin look and feel plump. It’s also able to penetrate deep layers of the skin to help reduce fine lines and wrinkles.
- Organic Jojoba Oil
Among most of the known oils that are proven beneficial to the skin, jojoba oil is the closest you can find to the human sebum. Sebum is the natural wax secreted by your sebaceous glands that keep your skin and hair lubricated.
Because they are similar, you can expect this serum to take effect easily. It particularly works to smoothen your skin.
- Amino Blend
The amino acids in this serum help improve blood circulation in your skin area. With better blood flow, your skin gets the nutrition it needs to remain healthy.
Since it facilitates healing, you can use Oz Naturals Vitamin C serum to heal acne and manage its scars. It can also be used to halt wrinkle formation.
Things We Liked
- Isn’t as stingy as other serum
- Not thick or runny
- Absorbs quickly into the skin
Things We Didn't Like
- Maybe drying for some people
This serum is one of the two products on our list that has a lower Vit C percentage at 15%.
With a pH of 3, the product most benefits people with normal to oily skin. Its packaging includes a dark amber glass bottle with a dropper.
Its consistency leans more on the watery side. It smells a bit strange but gets easily absorbed by the skin.
- Cosmetic Skin Solution has the same usual ingredients you’d find in most serums. It has 1% Ferulic acid and 1% Vitamin E.
Things We Liked
- Has L-Ascorbic Acid
- Has low pH
- Highly effective for its price
Things We Didn't Like
- Some people detest its smell
Skinceuticals uses L-Ascorbic acid in its product. Similar to Cosmetics Skin Solutions, it also has a low pH at 2.5.
However, at $109.99, it has the highest price among the brands we’ve reviewed. For this amount, you can expect a product that can keep working even after washing or rubbing your face.
It’s most suited for people with normal to oily skin. For increased effectiveness, you may need to use 4 to 5 drops of the product.
In terms of consistency, this one goes light and smooth. It is sold in an amber glass bottle that comes with its own dropper.
- SkinCeuticals’ serum has the same added ingredients as that of Cosmetics Skin Solutions but with a lower Ferulic Acid content at 1.5%. Because of this similarity, most people consider them as twin products but from different brands.
Things We Liked
- Dries quickly
- Works up to 72 hours even when washed
- Works within weeks
Things We Didn't Like
Suitable for all skin types, this serum has a slightly thick but not watery consistency. It contains 20% vitamin C in the form of Sodium Ascorbate.
The product is the most affordable serum we’ve reviewed in this list. Despite costing less, you should not take this product lightly.
Most buyers consider it as highly effective. It also doesn’t come with any scent which can annoy your sense of smell.
Its dark amber bottle is also tamperproof which can show you how uncompromised the product is.
- 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
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 decreasing the visibility of any discoloration.
Things We Liked
- Doesn’t contain strong or irritating scent
- Gives skin glowing finish
Things We Didn't Like
- Its consistency might be an issue for some people
Vitamin C Serum Reviews and Comparisons
Top-Rated Vitamin C Serums 2017
Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate
Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate
L Ascorbic Acid
L Ascorbic Acid
Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate
5%Hyaluronic Acid/ 1%Vitamin E/ 1%Ferulic Acid
Hyaluronic Acid/ Vitamin E/ Rose Hips/ Green Tea/ Astaxanthin/ Organic Jojoba Oil
1%Ferulic Acid/ 1% Vitamin E
0.5% Ferulic Acid/ 1% Vitamin E
Hyaluronic Acid/ Amino Complex/MSM
Normal to Oily
Normal to Oily
light and smooth
a bit thick and sticky
light and smooth
light and smooth
Do you really need a Vitamin C Serum?
If you want clear, young looking skin, then the answer is yes.
This Vitamin is one of nature’s most potent antioxidant and depigmentation agents. You can find it in most citrus fruits, berries and dark green leafy vegetables.
However, although potent, vitamin C may have a limited effect on your skin when taken orally. Bioavailability and mechanism transport are some of the factors that can restrict its 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.
Your best option includes applying Vitamin C as a serum on your skin. It’s lightweight, easily absorbed and highly effective.
3 Benefits of Using Vitamin C Serum on Your Skin
Vit C can do a lot of good things to your skin. To narrow down the list, we're presenting its the top 3 benefits you should know:
Protects Against Skin Cancer
This vitamin can help prevent skin cancer by offering a certain amount of protection against UV damage. It supplements the effect of your sunscreen by creating a barrier from within the skin’s layers.
Unlike your sunscreen, Vit C doesn’t have the capability to absorb UV lights. Its work is limited to reversing UV damages caused by unstable free radicals.
For best protection against the sun and skin cancer, always make it a habit to use both sunscreen and Vitamin C serum on your skin whenever you’re going out.
The serum should be applied on your skin before any other product. Putting something else before it can prevent full absorption.
As for your sunscreen, we recommend applying it after your moisturizer and before your makeup.
Prevents Wrinkles and Fine Lines
Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant. This is one of the reasons why a lot of products are including it as one of their main ingredients.
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 of your skin changes and it becomes loose and saggy.
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
Things You Need To Consider Before Using a Vitamin C Serum
Vitamin C serums offer tons of benefits. However, these benefits tend to be different from one person and brand to another.
Before you go grab just about any beand, here are some special considerations you need to keep in mind.
Vitamin C serum is not an absolute for everyone. While it can work wonders on someone else’s skin, it doesn’t mean it will readily have the same effects on yours.
Typically, the application of the serum can cause redness and a bit of irritation. Although these reactions are considered normal, it’s not always a positive thing.
The stinging sensation and redness usually go away on their own. If the irritation does not subside, there’s a good chance your skin can’t tolerate topical Vit C well.
Aside from tolerance, the base ingredient of Vitamin C serums can also cause potential allergic reactions. This happens most commonly to highly sensitive skin.
Because the vitamin is likely to stay on your skin for a couple of days, it’s important that you know how well your skin can tolerate it. Any allergies or negative reactions can stay on your skin until all of the vitamin you’ve applied has been used.
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.
When to Expect Results
Vitamin C serums, although effective, is still 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. The longest you can expect results is around six months.
There are a lot of factors that can lengthen or shorten the time it takes before you see visible changes in your skin. Some of the most common factors include:
- 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 Vitamin C serum can take in reverting your skin back to its best health. Because each person’s skin is different, it might be helpful not to make comparisons.
How to Choose the Best Vitamin C Serum For Your Face
Choosing among the long list of Vitamin C serum today can be overwhelming. To save yourself and your wallet from paying for the wrong product, here are the criteria you should keep in mind:
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.
Although, in general, you do need a serum that has high concentration, you should still be wary of picking the highest one. If you are just starting out, pick one with the lowest concentration to determine your skin’s tolerance.
If there’s no adverse reaction, you can start working your way towards a higher concentration or until you’ve achieved the most beneficial percentage for your skin.
Because of this, taking note of how much vitamin C percentage your skin needs is more important than what percentage works best for most people.
The form of vitamin C in a serum helps determine its shelf life and stability. To better understand, here are some of the most common forms you should know:
- L-Ascorbic Acid
This is the most potent form of the vitamin. Unfortunately, because ascorbic acid is less stable and more irritating, it’s not what most companies use in their serums.
- Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate
This derivative is less irritating but more stable than ascorbic acid. As such, it’s best suited for people with sensitive skin.
- Ascorbic Acid Polypeptide
This form is highly stable. It can readily do the conversion of Vitamin C on the skin. Aside from this, Ascorbic Acid Polypeptide is also water soluble.
- Ascorbic Palmitate
This is one of the most common derivative of vitamin C you’ll find in skin care products that’s fat soluble. It’s non-irritating but highly effective in protecting your skin against free radical damage.
- Ascorbic Glucosamine
It’s another water-soluble derivative of the vitamin. More often, you’ll find this derivative used as a skin whitening agent with antioxidant properties.
Tons of companies opt to use this derivative in their products because it poses less risk to the skin. Despite the low risks involved, it’s highly effective in giving you the results you want.
The right pH level can help you determine if you’re using a good product or not. To make sure your serum is able to reach the deeper layers of the skin, you should aim for a lower pH.
A 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.
The recommended pH for magnesium ascorbyl to be effective for the skin is around 5 or 6. This, in theory, is within the range of the skin’s normal pH level of 4 to 7.
Because it’s close to the normal skin pH, irritations and allergic reactions are less likely to happen.
Color and Smell
Vitamin C serum should be colorless or white. Any alteration to its color should be a cause for concern.
For one, cloudiness or brownish tint can alert you of possible oxidation. When vitamin C has already oxidized, it’s no longer beneficial.
You should also be wary of brands that sell colored serums. Most of the time, colors are used 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 E is another 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 which protects your skin from photoaging. 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 is helpful in keeping your skin young looking.
HA moisturizes and improves the health of your skin. It also promotes healing and lubrication.
Vitamin C is photosensitive. Light and air easily affect its quality.
This makes packaging an important consideration when buying vitamin C serum. In looking for the best one, stay away from products packed in transparent bottles.
Your good options include bottles that are brown or blue in color. Airtight containers are also good.
Most vitamin C serums are expensive. This, however, doesn’t mean that you can’t find a product that’s both affordable yet effective.
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 vitamin C serum is already costly. Aside from manufacturing and packaging, companies spend a big chunk of money in shipping them quickly to consumers.
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 on your skin. They are generally more effective than oil-based, too.
To make sure your skin gets to absorb the product quickly, consider applying it right after cleansing and washing your face.
How to Store Vitamin C Serum
While it’s tempting to keep your serum in the bathroom, humid places tend to affect its quality. You should also avoid storing the product where direct sunlight exposure is expected, such as any cabinets placed near your windows.
For better storage, always keep in mind to tightly close your serum’s bottle. This is to prevent air from coming in contact with its vitamin C content.
Most people find it useful to keep their bottles inside refrigerators. Other consumers find aluminum covers helpful in keeping their vitamin C serum fresh for longer.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is vitamin C serum?
Vitamin C serum is generally created from derivatives of ascorbic acid. It is considered to have a higher potency compared with ingesting vitamin C orally.
There are a lot of things vitamin C serums can do. It can reduce hyperpigmentation, increase your collagen production and protect your skin against further damage. It can also boost cellular repair and slow down the signs of skin aging.
2. How to use vitamin C serum?
Proper application is important for the serum to be effective. This is our recommendation:
- Wash your face with a gentle cleanser. After rinsing with warm water, pat dry your skin but leave it slightly damp.
- Take an ample amount of the product and apply on your face and neck. Massage the serum until it gets fully absorbed into your skin.
- Wait for it to dry completely. It can take around two to five minutes.
- Once dry, you can follow up with a quality moisturizer and sunblock.
3. How should I store my vitamin C serum?
Vitamin C serums are highly sensitive to light and air. They oxidize quickly and once that happens, they are no longer good to use.
To prolong its self life, you should store your serum in a cool and dry place. Your refrigerator is one of the best places for storage, while your bathroom is the least favorable spot.
When dispensing your serum, make it a point to close it tightly to avoid air from entering the container. Another good trick is to wrap your bottle of serum with an aluminum foil before storing.
4. How to prepare vitamin C serum at home?
Making a DIY vitamin C serum at home is easy. You only need to pick your form of vitamin C, a base and a tinted container.
For a 10% vitamin C serum, you need to prepare:
- 2 teaspoon of distilled water
- ¼ teaspoon of glycerin
- ¼ teaspoon of L-Ascorbic Acid
Dissolve the LAA powder in the distilled water. Once the mixture is homogenous, you can start adding the glycerin. Test it first before transferring the serum to a separate container. Ideally, it should have a pH of 3.5 and lower.
For more DIY vitamin C serum recipes, you can check out this link.
5. What kind of vitamin C works best for the skin?
Among the forms of vitamin C, Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate is considered the best to use in skin care products. It is water soluble and less irritating to the skin.
Aside from these properties, SAP is also more stable than other forms of vitamin C. This , however, doesn’t make it resistant against degradation when exposed to light and air.
In case you’re after a fat-soluble form of vitamin C, Ascorbyl Palmitate is one of your best options. Similar with SAP, this one isn’t irritating to the skin as well. But, when it comes to effects, Ascorbyl Palmitate isn’t capable of boosting your collagen synthesis as much as the other forms of vitamin C can.
6. What other ingredients does vitamin C serum react to?
If you are planning on adding vitamin C serum to your beauty arsenal, you have to be cautious about using it together with other skin care ingredients. One of those ingredients is niacin.
Mixing niacin with vitamin C can nullify the effects of both ingredients, which practically renders them useless for your skin. So, instead of applying your niacin-containing skin care product, make sure to wait for your serum to completely dry first.
Aside from niacin, you shouldn’t also use retinoid-based products and your vitamin C serum together. Retinoid is sensitive to light, which means you need to use it before your bedtime. As for the serum, you can apply it in the morning.
7. Are vitamin C serums effective?
Vitamin C in serum have been increasingly popular among beauty enthusiasts for a lot of reasons.
For one, the serum can diminish brown spots and other damages brought about by too much sun exposure. Vitamin C is helpful in treating melasma and it’s even good for soothing sunburn, too.
The serum can also help lighten the skin by magnifying the effects of your sunscreen and providing protection against UV damage. Its vitamin C can fight free radicals, which means it can slow down the signs of skin aging and get rid of wrinkles as well.
If you are wondering if vitamin C is good for the hair, the answer is inconclusive as there are not enough studies that can guarantee the effects of serum when used in such way.
However, one study was able to prove the efficacy of vitamin C, particularly ascorbic acid 2-phosphate, in treating androgenic alopecia or hair loss.
8. Can vitamin C serum cause acne?
It’s a common idea that all vitamin C serums are safe for the skin. Unfortunately, however, that isn’t always the case.
When Vitamin C oxidizes, it loses more than half of its potency. Aside from decreased effectiveness, a vitamin C serum that has already oxidized can cause stinging and even skin breakouts.
9. Can vitamin C serum irritate skin?
In general, Vitamin C serums have low pH levels to be able to penetrate the skin. Unfortunately, the same property that increases their effectiveness is the same reason why such serums are considered irritating to the skin.
Being acidic in nature, vitamin C serums can cause itching and redness. In some cases, they can even cause chemical burns, particularly when used on extra sensitive skin. They can also result to peeling, bleeding and can even leave small nasty scars.
10. What is the best vitamin C serum for oily and acne-prone skin?
Vitamin C serums are helpful when it comes to banishing acne. However, not all serums are created equal. For your acne-prone skin, you can try Cosmetics Skin Solution Vitamin C+E Serum 15%. It contains no oil and leans more on the watery side. Since the serum is oil-free, it’s less likely to trigger breakouts. Plus, it has ferulic acid which can help prolong its shelf life.
11. What is the best vitamin C serum for combination skin?
Combination skin can be tricky to address since you can have areas on your face that are really dry and areas that are oily. If you’re looking for the best serum for this skin type, InstaNatural Vitamin C Serum with Hyaluronic Acid and Vitamin E is a good choice. It has 22 age-defying ingredients that are safe to use on any skin type.
12. What is the best vitamin C serum for dry skin?
Ascorbic acid naturally has exfoliating properties, which are considered bad news if you already have dry skin. Because of this, it’s best if you can invest in a serum that contain Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate or Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate. One of your best options is Serumtologie Vitamin C Serum 22%.
13. What is the best vitamin C serum for sensitive skin?
If you have highly sensitive skin but still want to give topical vitamin C a try, your best bet is TruSkin Naturals 20% Vitamin C Serum. It’s organic and free from chemicals and parabens that can harm your skin.
Aside from those properties, it can also penetrate the deepest layers of your skin. It can give you a healthy and younger looking skin without having to worry about the serum causing any adverse reactions.
When looking for the best vitamin C serum, it’s not enough that you consider the best selling or most popular brand. As every one’s skin is different, you have to listen to your own body 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.
Because we know how frustrating it can be to spend your money on the wrong product or to develop breakouts and allergic reactions, we’ve created this guide to help you easily find the perfect match.
Through our in-depth research, we found Serumtologie to be the best vitamin C serum for your face. With such a low price and a handful of potent ingredients, this serum can give you the best bang for your buck.
Image credits: Amazon.com