When it comes to skincare essentials, few ingredients rank higher than vitamin C. The powerful antioxidant can singlehandedly stimulate collagen production, lift away dark spots, smooth fine lines, and protect the skin from scary free radicals that cause skin cancer and premature signs of aging—all while leaving you with your brightest, glowiest skin yet. Just like SPF, it's one of those ingredients that's non-negotiable no matter your skin type or age. With that in mind, we're bringing you a list of the absolute best vitamin C serums you can buy, but first: a few best practices and need-to-knows.
Using Vitamin C Serums
When To Use Them. One of the biggest FAQs about vitamin C is when it should be applied. Dermatologists have mixed views on this topic. While most believe it's best to use it in the morning when UV radiation is at its highest, others swear by nighttime use as this is when the skin's vitamin C is most depleted. No matter what time of day you choose to squeeze it into your routine, one thing the experts can all agree on is that how you apply your vitamin C serum is most important.
How To Use Them. For best results, vitamin C serum should be applied after cleansing and before moisturizing. But because it's highly unstable and doesn't play nicely with other ingredients, you should avoid using it at the same time as benzoyl peroxide, retinol, and niacinamide. It's totally okay to have one or more of these ingredients in your routine along with a vitamin C serum, but we recommend applying them at different times to avoid affecting the potency. For example, you can use one in the morning and one at night or even alternate days.
How To Store Them. Because vitamin C is so reactive, it can easily lose its antioxidant effect when exposed to heat, light, and air. To prevent it from oxidizing and deactivating, we recommend storing it in a cool, dark place and opting for products that come in airtight, opaque packages. Be sure to close the bottle tightly after each application, as leaving it open is a surefire way to let it go to waste.
How We Found The Best Vitamin C Serums
Now, on to the fun part. We rounded up this list of vitamin C serums using our data-driven algorithm that ranks and scores products based on best-selling buzz, editor recommendations, and rave reviews. In other words, you're only seeing the best vitamin C serums in the biz here. Whether you're looking for something with extra anti-aging power or a formula that works well with oily, acne-prone skin, we're bringing you the best options in every category below. Keep scrolling to shop the Top 10.
Next up, check out the 10 Best Facial Sunscreens. Opening image: beautycounter.com
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Buttah Skin Vitamin C Serum
WHY IT MADE THE LIST: This new-to-the-block formula may have just cracked the vitamin C serum code. It's made with ascorbic and ferulic acids—two potent forms of vitamin C—along with green tea extract and vitamin A. Together, the ingredients tackle fine lines, wrinkles, acne, dullness, dark spots, and large pores. According to Nordstrom reviewers, it's "the best of the best," which is pretty impressive considering its $39 price tag.
AS SEEN ON: It's worth noting that Beyoncé herself is a fan of this brand.
Made In Usa
SkinMedica Vitamin C + E Complex
WHAT IT DOES: This top-rated pick from SkinMedica is unique because it gradually releases its vitamins throughout the day, so the skin stays protected 24/7. And because it contains ascorbic acid, it works extra hard at fading discoloration—think dark spots, acne scars, and UV damage.
USER REVIEW: "I've been using Skinmedica's Vitamin C + E Complex for years, and it is a staple in my routine. I usually use it every other day in the morning, applying before sunscreen. I alternate with Skinmedica's Retinol 1.0. I could probably use both daily, but my skin is a little sensitive, so I prefer to alternate."
Tatcha Violet-C Brightening Serum
WHAT IT DOES: This unique serum not only addresses brightness thanks to a whopping 20% vitamin C, but it also contains mild AHAs derived from apple, grapefruit, orange, lemon, lime, hawthorn, and jujube to improve the skin's texture and radiance too.
FROM THE EXPERTS: You'll see smoother, more radiant skin in one week, a visible improvement in overall tone in four weeks, and an improvement in skin texture and fine lines in eight.
Obagi Professional-C Serum
WHAT IT DOES: Another serum containing a rare 20% concentration of vitamin C, this formula is designed to penetrate deep into the skin to protect against UV damage, fade dark spots and hyperpigmentation, and support collagen and elastin growth. And since it contains hyaluronic acid, it'll leave the skin's hydration levels nice and healthy in the process.
CeraVe Skin Renewing Vitamin C Serum
WHY PEOPLE LOVE IT: Never underestimate drugstore skincare. Developed with dermatologists, this affordable serum contains 10% pure vitamin C, three essential ceramides, hyaluronic acid, and redness-reducing vitamin B5 for brighter, smoother, healthier-looking skin without the high price tag.
HELPFUL TIP: No need to rinse the extra away—rub it on the tops of your hands for extra anti-aging benefits.
Drunk Elephant C-Firma Vitamin C Day Serum
WHAT IT DOES: Packed with brightness-boosting vitamin C, ferulic acid, and powerful fruit enzymes, this serum leaves you with radiant, clear, I-woke-up-like-this skin that's perfect for filter-free selfies.
USER REVIEW: "I've been using this serum for a week now, and I can't believe the results. My face is literally glowing! My pores seem tighter, and my overall complexion looks almost perfect, which I've never experienced with any other product (and I have used a lot of pricey products)."
Revision Skincare C+ Correcting Complex 30%
WHY IT MADE THE LIST: It comes as no surprise that so many derms have this product in their own skincare routines. Infused with patent-pending MelaPATH technology that illuminates, refines, and rejuvenates, C+ Correcting Complex defends and corrects the skin-damaging effects of free radicals generated by urban dust and even HEV light—aka the bright screens on our phones and computers.
FROM THE EXPERTS: "It is the product with the highest percentage of vitamin C in a serum, and it is very useful in brightening the skin and helping to fade sunspots. Since I have been using it for the past several months, even in the midst of summer and sun exposure, I have noticed an impressive and considerable difference in my skin. I'm a fan for life!"—Jennifer Hoi, MD, FAAD
TruSkin Naturals Vitamin C Serum
WHO IT'S FOR: Want brighter skin but don't want to blow your budget? This one's for you. Packed with vitamin E and botanical hyaluronic acid, this vitamin C serum addresses firmness, dullness, discoloration, fine lines, and more—all for $30. Take a look at the 93,000-plus reviews on Amazon for proof.
ADDITIONAL THINGS TO KNOW: In case you need another reason to love this stuff, it's also plant-based and free of synthetic color, additives, and fragrance.
BeautyCounter Counter+ All Bright C Serum
WHAT IT DOES: This unique vitamin C serum contains not one, but two forms of vitamin C: one to address dark spots and the other to protect against environmental stressors. But that's not all—BeautyCounter finished off the formula with turmeric root extract and camu camu fruit extract, both of which help brighten and even the skin tone.
ADDITIONAL THINGS TO KNOW: Like all BeautyCounter products, this vitamin C serum is Leaping Bunny cruelty-free certified and leaves out over 1,800 harmful ingredients like parabens, phthalates, and synthetic flavor or fragrance.
SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic
WHAT IT DOES: Formulated to brighten, firm, and lighten, this cult-favorite serum is clinically proven to reduce damage caused by free radicals. Plus, it combats signs of aging like fine lines, wrinkles, and loss of firmness.
WHY WE LOVE IT: "Trust me when I say that there truly is no vitamin C serum that works better than this. Although it's not affordable, the bottle lasts me a very long time!"—Jamie Chandlee, CEO