As someone with minimal skincare routine, it's hard to convince myself to add a new product or step. But vitamin C is one of those really necessary ingredients. The antioxidant promises everything from fading dark spots to fighting free radicals (which break down collagen) and reducing fine lines and wrinkles. It is incredibly effective in this regard which is why it is used and recommended by so many people. This is also why there are so many products to choose from. But unfortunately nothing is perfect. Despite its potency, vitamin C is notoriously fickle and can go quickly from a wonder drug for removing hyperpigmentation to a smelly $60 bottle of serum.
One To find the best of the best, I spoke to dermatologists, estheticians, and Strategist employees who work as skincare aficionados and tried several. Below you will find our selection, organized by skin needs.
Best overall vitamin-C serum
SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic
Four of our dermatologists recommend SkinCeuticals CE Ferulic, which they (and our editors) call the gold standard vitamin C serum for all skin types. “I think it's the best there is,” Howe says. He says it leaves a light, non-greasy feel while "delivering the maximum of its active ingredients to the skin." I have also used C E Ferulic for the last few years and can attest to its light texture. It goes perfectly with my other skincare products and goes well with my makeup too. It's expensive, but worth the price due to its unique super stable formula. Its main active ingredient is L-ascorbic acid (it makes up 15% of this serum) and despite the high concentration of pure vitamin C, it is stable and easily penetrates the skin. Part of this serum's proprietary formula involves a higher pH than its competitors, meaning it doesn't cause the redness and sensitivity that can occur with lower pH serums. as Dr. Julie Russak, founder of the Russak Dermatology Group states, "This serum delivers vitamin C through the top layer without disrupting the skin's protective barrier."
Whichever vitamin-C serum you choose, Howe recommends applying it in the morning. “During the day, when ultraviolet radiation is strongest, there is an active reserve of vitamin C in the skin,” she explains.
Best less expensive vitamin-C serum
Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum
For a more affordable option, two of our dermatologists recommended Drunk Elephant's C-Signature Day Serum. Because it contains a similar formula to SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic, you get all the skin-lightening benefits at "half the price," according to Mount Sinai Health System dermatologist Dr. Noelani Gonzalez. But unlike SkinCeuticals, Drunk Elephant Serum is cruelty free. Its formula contains L-ascorbic acid, pumpkin yeast extract and pomegranate enzyme, which target dead surface skin cells and help exfoliate, says Dr. Deanne Mraz Robinson, co-founder of Modern Dermatology of Connecticut and a skin care company. Pure Bioderm. Additionally, the packaging of the serum is airtight and completely opaque, which González says is something to look out for when choosing a serum, as packaging like this helps prevent the vitamin C from being exposed to water, light, and weather. oxygen (all factors leading to decomposition). The only thing that makes it a less desirable option than OG SkinCeuticals is the texture – it can be a little sticky, which makes it a bit difficult to combine with other products.
Best budget vitamin-C serum
Maelove Glow Maker
For a cheaper option, there's Maelove's Glow Maker, which was presented as a hoax by C E Ferulic. This serum has been a cult favorite, loved by everyone from Cut's Kathleen Hou to skincare vloggers and Opening Ceremony employee Bettina Cho, who according to Hou has "a knack for discovering beauty products."It is also recommended by Russak, who loves its "simple formula" that nourishes the skin.In addition to L-acid -ascorbic and ferulic acid, contains vitamin E (ideal against hyperpigmentation) and hyaluronic acid, which helps skin retain moisture.According to Hou, it's also a little thinner and less sticky, making it easier to blend and apply more evenly under makeup or other skincare products.
Best extra-strength vitamin-C serum
PCA Skin C&E Advanced Serum
If your skin tolerates high levels of Vitamin C without irritation, then this lightweight serum from PCA Skin is a great next step. Contains 20% L-Ascorbic Acid, plus pure Vitamin E and other antioxidants that help with aging and fight free radicals.Despite the high concentration of active ingredients, it is very light and nourishing.Dermatologist Dr. Elizabeth Tanzi likes PCA Skin C&E Advanced Serum because the light serum" is easy to incorporate in a skincare routine" and is "non-irritating".
Best less expensive extra-strength vitamin-C serum
Vichy LiftActiv Vitamin C Brightening Face Serum
PCA serum is a bit expensive. So if you want to spend a little less, Vichy is a good option. Contains 15% Vitamin C, which Dr. Lal is a bit stronger. "If you've been using 10% and getting good results, I recommend switching to that," he says. It also contains hyaluronic acid, which helps moisturize the skin.
Best vitamin-C serum for oily skin
Skinceuticals Phloretin CF
If you have oily skin, Russak recommends trying this oft-overlooked sister product with our best serum business suit. He's formula is similar to C E Ferulic, containing L-ascorbic acid and ferulic acid, but without the pore-clogging vitamin E, “making Phloretin CF the best choice for oily skin. Phloretin CF is also good for people with melasma, a common skin pigmentation disorder, as the lightweight serum is particularly effective at combating "the increased pigment production that typically occurs with UV exposure."
Best vitamin-C serum for acne-prone skin
Environ Intense C-Boost Mela-Even Cream
Prominent esthetician Sarah Akram is a fan of Environ's vitamin C serum, which she says is a favorite of her client Angela Bassett. "It helps brighten skin and evens out skin tone" says the serum above, which is formulated with the lipid form of vitamin C and vitamin E. Fat-soluble vitamin-C serum is less irritating and more stable than other forms of vitamin C, making it ideal for acne-prone skin. dark spots and evens out the overall skin tone. According to Akram, it also leaves the skin glowing and dewy. I'm very picky and don't recommend anything," she says. "It's amazing."
Best less expensive vitamin-C serum for acne-prone skin
La Roche-Posay Pure Vitamin C Face Serum
If you want a serum with some extra active ingredients, this serum recommended by Lal from La Roche Posay is a great option. It's marketed as an antiaging product, but it's a great choice for those with acne-prone skin because it contains salicylic acid, which helps unclog pores and prevent future breakouts. As for vitamin C, it contains 10% L-ascorbic acid. At this concentration it is likely effective without being sensitizing, but for safety reasons it also contains neurosensin, a calming ingredient that helps soothe sensitized skin. It also contains glycerin and hyaluronic acid, which provide an extra dose of hydration and plump the skin.
Best vitamin-C serum for sensitive skin
CeraVe Vitamin C Serum with Hyaluronic Acid
Despite all the benefits, vitamin C can have a sensitizing effect due to its active ingredients. This is where low potency formulas or formulas with additional calming ingredients come into play. This CeraVe vitamin C serum comes highly recommended by Lal, who says it's his first choice: "It's good for people with dry or irritated skin." "It's a great product." It contains 10% L-ascorbic acid, which is the minimum recommended for a formula to remain effective. Like all CeraVe products, this serum contains ceramides, which help restore and maintain the skin barrier, as well as vitamin B5, which has a calming effect and helps lock in moisture to the skin.
Best vitamin-C serum for mature skin
Kiehl’s Powerful-Strength Vitamin C Serum
with opacity and wrinkles. This one from Kiehl's is a favorite of Dr. Michel Henri. It contains two types of vitamin C: L-ascorbic acid and ascorbyl glucoside, one of which is a derivative of vitamin C known to be slightly milder. There's also hyaluronic acid, known to retain moisture, which is essential for aging skin.
Best vitamin-C serum for hyperpigmentation
Revision C+ Correcting Complex 30
Dr. Rita Linkner of Spring Street Dermatology swears by this Revision Vitamin C serum, which is recommended by dermatologists to fade acne scars and fight hyperpigmentation. Linkner, in particular, is a fan of the lightweight feel. She has a high concentration of THC ascorbate rather than L-ascorbic acid, which tends to be easier to tolerate. It is highly concentrated at 30%, so your skin may take some getting used to. "Skin usually takes a few days to calibrate, but this product is great to use with your SPF every morning," she says Linkner. She also uses Vitamin E and the brand's patent-pending MelaPATH technology, which helps reduce fine lines and protects skin from free radicals.
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