Best Vitamin C Serums 2022

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Opening new beauty products is strangely exciting. There’s so much hope and potential wrapped up in that little tub, jar, bar or bottle. Yet that high is often fleeting, and countless products end up collecting dust because they don’t fulfill their promises of magical transformation. Womp, womp. We’ve all been there. But one product that won’t end up in your beauty product graveyard, if chosen well? A good vitamin C serum: The potent antioxidant helps fix hyperpigmentation and even out skin tone, leaving you bright-faced and glowy. No, it’s not mysterious beauty voodoo—it’s science.

“Antioxidants like vitamin C are super important for the skin,” says Dr. Rachel Pritzker, dermatologist at Chicago Cosmetic Surgery and Dermatology. “They eat up free radicals, which are the junk molecules caused by exposure to pollution and UV rays.” Not only do they help protect against environmental stressors and inhibit melanin production, the best vitamin C serums also work to hydrate, brighten and stimulate collagen (translation: fewer unsightly spots, more radiance).

Whether you’ve got dry skin, acne-prone skin, significant hyperpigmentation or another issue you’re most focused on, there’s a version out there that will be the best fit for you. When putting together our list, we considered factors such as price point, effectiveness, ability to cater to different skin types and ease of use. Read on for our expert-approved picks for vitamin C serums.


Best Vitamin C Serum Overall

The Holy Grail That Will Keep The Compliments Coming

Editor’s Pick

“This has been a gold standard in the industry for many years and still is a dermatology favorite,” says Pritzker. “Many companies are doing more research to back up the efficacy of their vitamin C formulations, but this was the first to show us great data.” SkinCeuticals’ version evens pigmentation and fights environmental aging using high concentrations of three dream team antioxidants: vitamin C (15% pure L-ascorbic acid), vitamin E (1% alpha tocopherol), and ferulic acid. They work in conjunction to minimizes dark spots, fight future UVA/UVB damage, alleviate inflammation and neutralize free radicals. The result? The word “youthful” will replace “tired” and “blotchy” when describing your skin.

Reviewers report this was a game changer for improving texture and reducing the appearance of dark patches and acne scars. One user raves about the product. “C E Ferulic should be a staple in everyone’s skincare regimen. Seriously, even if you use nothing else besides a cleanser, this stuff truly is the fountain of youth,” she says. “The potency of this antioxidant proprietary blend has been proven over and over again through peer-reviewed research articles published in medical journals. It truly helps with everything.” One thing to note: Some say this product has a somewhat stinky odor.

What you’ll love:

  • Combats photoaging
  • Stimulates collagen
  • Evens skin tone

Keep in mind:

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Best Vitamin C Serum For Combination Skin

A User-Friendly, Multitasking Serum That Makes Skin Radiant

If your skin feels dull after a long winter, you’re not alone. This popular serum—which glides on like a light moisturizer—brightens skin, targets dark spots and reduces the appearance of fine lines. Its star ingredient is oil-soluble tetrahexyldecyl (THD) ascorbate, a type of vitamin C that absorbs quickly. Other standouts in this cruelty-free formulation: Phytosterols reduce signs of skin sensitivity—such as redness—and make skin supple, and saccharide isomerate acts as a pore minimizer. Think of this as an IRL smartphone filter: it evens tone, smooths skin and boosts radiance.

Unlike some funky vitamin C serums, this one has a subtle, refreshing citrusy scent that users, including myself, love. “I have very sensitive, acne prone skin that is super difficult to treat because most products cause a reaction on my face—and I love this,” says one reviewer. “I love the texture; it’s super hydrating and the glow is real. The smell is so pleasant; it smells like an orange dreamsicle, but it’s very light and doesn’t linger. Absolutely zero burn, sting, tingles or anything.” Some reviewers feel that while this serum brightened their skin immediately, it took time to see additional results.

What you’ll love:

  • No greasy residue
  • Cruelty-free

Keep in mind:

  • Takes time to see results


Best Drugstore Vitamin C Serum

An Affordable Product That Helps Smooth Fine Lines

This formulation features 10% pure vitamin C in conjunction with hydrating hyaluronic acid. Together, they work to reduce wrinkles, even skin tone and make dark spots and pores less noticeable. While some serums leave behind a greasy feel, I am a fan of this one’s powdery finish, which is similar to that of a primer. The lower concentration compared to some competitors’ is sort of a catch-22: It’s less potent than others with higher concentrations of vitamin C, but at the same time it may be better tolerated by new users or those with sensitive skin.

One user says, “I have seen amazing results: Fine lines disappear and dark spots and pores are clearer and much smaller. Just an overall transformation.” Fans also love that it does well underneath other skin products, including moisturizers, SPF and makeup, and it doesn’t have a smelly odor.

What you’ll love:

  • Low cost
  • Typically well-tolerated

Keep in mind:

  • Lower concentration of vitamin C


Best Vitamin C Serum For Hyperpigmentation

A Potent, All-Star Illuminator

“This is one of my very favorite serums, and it’s a cult favorite,” says Pritzker. “It has 30% THD ascorbic acid which is not only some of the highest percentage on the market, but it’s extremely stable. The airless pump ensures that the vitamin C will not oxidize. It protects against blue light and urban dust and supports the skin’s microbiome.” Revision’s seemingly tireless serum brightens and evens skin tone, improves fine lines, helps correct damage and acts as armor to defend against future free-radical damage. Another plus: it’s a lightweight cream formula, which works well for all skin types, says Pritzker.

What you’ll love:

  • High concentration of vitamin C
  • Lightweight feel

Keep in mind:


Best Vitamin C Serum For Oily Skin

Achieve Noticeable Results With This Real Deal Serum

Cruelty-Free

Many vitamin C serums require some time before you can see results, but this vegan and cruelty-free serum promises brighter, bouncier skin in just one week. It contains a core trifecta of hardworking ingredients: 15% vitamin C to improve elasticity and reduce the look of dark spots, pores and wrinkles; 5% PHAs (polyhydroxy acids) to exfoliate and even skin tone; and hyaluronic acid to hydrate and plump skin. And something else that’s fun: This serum boasts “banana powder-inspired pigments” that promise to instantly illuminate and color correct. So basically, it’s equal parts glowy concealer and a time machine for your skin. Reviewers love the smell, say it absorbs quickly and like that it wears well underneath other products. However, some report that it leaves behind a tacky feel.

What you’ll love:

  • Promises results in as early as one week
  • Multi-tasking formula also color corrects
  • Targets hyperpigmentation and elasticity

Keep in mind:


Best Vitamin C Serum For Sensitive Skin

A Beauty Insider Favorite

Woman-Owned

This is one of those insider-y, cult-favorite serums that beauty experts and enthusiasts love. It’s got several anti-aging key players: It’s made with antioxidants vitamin C (15% L-ascorbic acid), vitamin E and ferulic acid for protection from free radicals, and it’s formulated with hyaluronic acid for hydration. It reduces redness, evens tone and fades dark spots so well that reviewers often describe it as “a magic potion in a bottle.” Other ingredients include a botanical blend (aloe, vitis vinifera, aurantium dulcis and magnolia) that helps nourish and provide a base for flawless makeup application.

What you’ll love:

  • Comparatively low cost
  • Nourishing botanical ingredients

Keep in mind:

  • Some reviewers say it oxidizes quickly


Best Cruelty-Free Vitamin C Serum

Affordable And Vegan-Friendly Care For Your Complexion

Cruelty-Free

Resurrect your complexion with this high-performance blend—featuring vitamin C (sodium ascorbyl phosphate, a water-soluble form), vitamin E, hyaluronic acid, and anti-inflammatory MSM (methylsulfonylmethane). It promises to brighten, reduce hyperpigmentation and promote elasticity to revitalize tired-looking skin. In particular, its five-star reviewers (there are more than 65,000 of them) rave about its ability to reduce dark spots and redness, decrease breakouts and minimize pore size. One fan of the product says, “Since adding this vitamin C serum to my morning and evening skincare routine, I have noticed that my complexion appears clearer and brighter. Discolorations from the sun on my forehead have faded almost completely after four weeks.”

You just need three to five drops of this serum applied after cleansing, and it works well with or without makeup. Another standout feature for TruSkin: reviewers say this company’s customer service is unparalleled.

What you’ll love:

  • Affordable
  • Reduces dark spots
  • Works well under makeup

Keep in mind:

  • Some say it can cause dryness


Best Vitamin C Serum For Darker Skin Tones

Revitalize With This Glow-Inducing Formula For Melanin-Rich Skin

Black-Owned

Core components of this formula include vitamin C (ascorbic acid) to reverse photo-damage, ferulic acid to kick-start cellular turnover and grapeseed extract for additional antioxidant protection. Users frequently use the term “glowy” when referencing this product’s results, and they say it improves dark spots and acne scars. “I have been using this product for six months and I love it,” says one reviewer. “This serum brightens my face and I have a natural glow.” The opaque bottle prevents premature oxidation as well. One con: Some reviewers feel the texture is on the sticky side.

What you’ll love:

  • Stepped-up antioxidant protection

Keep in mind:


Best Vitamin C Serum For Dry Skin

A High-Performance Oil With Intense Hydration Benefits

This is an oil, not a serum, but we felt it worth mentioning. From clean beauty brand Biossance, this product features THD ascorbate, the oil-soluble, stable form of vitamin C that is typically easier to tolerate than straight L-ascorbic acid. Its other star ingredients are sugarcane-derived squalane and chios crystal oil, which work to lock in moisture and increase skin firmness. One issue with many oils and serums is that they leave behind a greasy residue, but this hydrator seems to absorb in just a few minutes. Still, bear in mind, less is more—you only need a few drops to improve skin radiance. Unlike some other vitamin C products, this one has a nice, light rose smell, and it works well under makeup without pilling. Reviewers report that it fades acnes scars and spots and visibly brightens dull skin, leaving you with a youthful glow.

What you’ll love:

  • Layers well under makeup
  • Unlikely to cause irritation
  • Oil-based for added moisture

Keep in mind:


Best Vitamin C Serum For Acne-Prone Skin

Keep Breakouts At Bay With This Specialized Serum

Wake up blah skin, achieve a more youthful-looking glow and target uneven texture with this pure 10% vitamin C serum. It also contains hyaluronic acid and salicylic acid, a known acne fighter that also helps exfoliate and minimize the appearance of pores. Some users don’t love the dropper and say it’s hard to use, and many report that it can sometimes pill under makeup.

What you’ll love:

  • No sticky feel
  • Works well on sensitive skin

Keep in mind:

  • Dropper is messy
  • Not ideal for layering


Best Affordable Vitamin C Serum

A Wallet-Friendly Option That’s Effective

The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2%

Founded on the premise that good beauty products should be affordable, The Ordinary’s suspension offers high-impact ingredients at a low cost. With 23% L-ascorbic acid—paired with moisture-boosting hyaluronic acid—this product combats uneven tone, boosts radiance and gives an overall plumping effect. The texture, however, can be divisive. It’s somewhat watery but also has a gritty feel, almost like an exfoliant. The right play here may be to use this one before bed, because when I tried to wear it under makeup, it pilled. Some reviewers say that it tingles when first applied (although this didn’t happen to me), so it may not be ideal for sensitive skin.

What you’ll love:

  • High concentration
  • Low cost

Keep in mind:

  • Texture may bother some users
  • Not ideal under makeup


How We Chose The Best Vitamin C Serums Of 2022

We’ve done extensive research, digging through honest reviews from professional testers and consumers. We’ve also tested (and loved) many of these vitamin C serums ourselves.

This article is routinely updated so that availability, prices, reviewer ratings and quotes stay relevant and up to date. We also re-evaluate our product picks to ensure that they’re still some of the best choices in their categories. This story was last updated in June 2022.


How To Choose A Vitamin C Serum

Vitamin C is one of those antioxidants that’s especially compelling because it has so much potential to deliver complexion-enhancing results. There are many factors to consider when looking for the best vitamin C serum. “Choosing the right one can be tricky,” says Pritzker. “Beyond the efficacy of the [ingredient], it’s important to find a formula that works with your skin.”

Clinical Data

“There are many factors that go into formulating an effective vitamin C because it can be hard to stabilize,” says Pritzker. “These factors include pH, concentration and other ingredients. It’s important to make sure that the manufacturer has clinical data to back up its claims.”

Ingredients

Not all of them are created equal. Certain formulations offer higher concentrations, or they’re coupled with other star ingredients that give major benefits. Companies use various forms of vitamin C in their formulations, and the two most common are L-ascorbic acid and THD ascorbate. L-ascorbic acid is 100% pure vitamin C. It’s water-soluble, well-researched and effective, but extremely unstable. It begins to oxidize and change color over time and can be irritating to some people’s skin.

Tetrahexyldecyl (THD) ascorbate is stable and fat soluble, so it can be used in oil-based products. It tends to be well tolerated and permeates the skin easily. Separately, vitamin E and ferulic acid are ideal antioxidants to be paired with vitamin C, according to Pritzker. Hyaluronic acid and squalane can also be vehicles within various vitamin C serums as well.

Formulation

“Vitamin C products have different vehicles that may or may not agree with your skin. There are creams, serums, oils, and depending on these factors some skin types react differently than others,” says Pritzker. Serums, for their part, are typically characterized by highly concentrated ingredients that penetrate deep within the skin.

Packaging

Because vitamin C is often an unstable ingredient and can start to oxidize in the presence of light, heat and air, it’s a good idea to seek out serums with dark, opaque packaging. If the formula itself has turned brown, it has lost its potency.


Do Vitamin C Serums Actually Work?

The results for vitamin C speak for themselves. “From clinical data as well as anecdotal evidence, we know that it works,” says Pritzker. “You can start to appreciate the results of a topical vitamin C in as little as a month.”

What’s The Best Way To Incorporate Vitamin C Into Your Skincare Routine?

Experts recommend using it as a first step. “As with most actives, I recommend using a vitamin C after cleansing but before non-active topicals,” says Pritzker. “So you should use it before you moisturize and always before SPF, which you should be using every day. We typically recommend using it in the morning.”

Should You Use Vitamin C Every Day?

“Vitamin C can be used every day, as long as it is tolerated well and not irritating the skin or causing an adverse reaction,” says Pritzker. However, if you’re new to the vitamin C serum scene, it may be best to start at a lower concentration or apply it less frequently because it can cause irritation.

When Should You Not Use Vitamin C Serum?

“You should not use vitamin C on compromised skin,” says Pritzker. You also need to be cautious using it with other actives, such as retinol.

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