9 Of The Best Vitamin C Serums And Why You Need To Use One

A friend recently asked me to recommend a good vitamin C serum, so I searched our blog and was surprised (and horrified) I had not yet done a post. What? I have several serum posts, but not one dedicated to vitamin C serums? That changes today.

The Benefits Of Vitamin C Serums

There are several skincare benefits to using a vitamin C serum. Namely, skin brightening (fighting hyperpigmenation), acne treatment and wound healing, sun damage and free-radical defense, and of course, anti-aging, as it regulates collagen synthesis. Should we all be using one? The answer is YES!

Test The Effectiveness

As effective as they are, know this about vitamin C serums…they need to be used properly and vitamin C is notoriously unstable and can quickly degrade rendering it useless. So it’s important to find the right formulation that makes vitamin C as stable as possible while also delivering it effectively to the skin.


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I recommenced using test strips to check how effective your serum still is after you have used it a couple weeks and then every week because opening the container repeatedly compromises the solution. This also means you should look for a serum in an opaque container for the same reasons.

How To Use Vitamin C Serums

In your skincare routine, your serum should be applied after cleanser and toner but before moisturizer. By applying your serum to fresh, product-free skin, the extra-small molecules will be better able to penetrate the outer layer of skin and deliver the important, active ingredients—including vitamin C. I use it every morning so it doesn’t counteract with my nighttime retinol. You do not want to use the two together at the same time.

Always Use A Sunscreen

It is essential that you wear a sunscreen every day, but especially after you have applied a vitamin C serum. Why? Without sunscreen, your vitamin C serum may oxidize quickly, reducing its effectiveness, and you will also experience increased sensitivity to the sun. Combining vitamin C with a broad-spectrum sunscreen protects well against UVA rays and has been shown to be more effective at neutralizing free radical damage from sun exposure than just using sunscreen alone.

How much vitamin C should your serum contain? It depends on what your skin can handle. The lowest you should go if you want it to be effective is 10%, but a few contain up to 20% which is really high and could cause skin sensitivity. 15% is the norm if your skin can handle it.

9 Vitamin C Serums To Try

SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic product shot fountainof30

1. SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic, $182

This is the Mack Daddy of vitamin C serums, but it will cost you a pretty penny. It has been around since 2005 and is the first one I ever tried. This serum contains 15% pure vitamin C (L-ascorbic acid) to provide visible anti-aging benefits, skin brightening and it protects against oxidative stress. It also has 1% vitamin E (alpha tocopherol) to neutralize free radicals and replenishes skin lipids and 0.5% ferulic acid (a plant-based antioxidant) to neutralize free radicals and stabilize the vitamins C and E. It also notoriously smells like hot dog water.

Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum

2. Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum, $78

Here’s another one that smells like hot dogs, but it is beloved. It’s a potent 15% vitamin C day serum that’s packed with antioxidants, nutrients and fruit enzymes to visibly firm, brighten and improve the signs of photoaging. One bottle should last about 3 months, but again, test it periodically. It’s cruelty-free and contains L-ascorbic acid as well as pumpkin-ferment extract and pomegranate enzyme, which attack dead surface-skin cells and help to exfoliate.

3. PCA Skin C&E Advanced Serum, $130

This one has a very high concentration of vitamin C so it’s best for skin that can handle high amounts of vitamin C without irritation. It contains 20% percent L-ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) as well as pure vitamin E and other antioxidants that help with aging and free radicals. Despite the high concentration of active ingredients, it’s very lightweight and nourishing.

4. Revision C+ Correcting Complex 30, $176

There’s not much I don’t love from Revision. In addition to a high concentration of vitamin C, it includes Revision’s patented MelaPATH technology which is an antioxidant blend that helps to combat free radicals. It also contains vitamin E, to help fade dark marks, too. Dermatologists recommend it for fading acne scars and combating hyperpigmentation. It’s also formulated with THC ascorbate rather than L-ascorbic acid, which tends to be easier to tolerate.

5. Vichy LiftActiv Vitamin C Brightening Face Serum, $34.99

Of course I had to find a couple that are cost-effective. This Vichy Vitamin C serum is a great affordable option. It contains 15% vitamin C, which is not as strong as the PCA serum but it’s higher than most. It also contains hyaluronic acid to help moisturize skin. My only hesitation is the bottle. The glass will let light through so I would test this one with the test strips consistently. It will degrade more quickly.

6. La Roche-Posay Pure Vitamin C Face Serum, $28.99

Here is another affordable option, but again the transparent bottle makes me a little cautious about its stability. This serum contains 10% vitamin C and has a few more active ingredients. However it is more sensitive-skin-friendly, as it also contains neurosensine, a soothing ingredient that helps to calm sensitized skin. There’s also glycerin and hyaluronic acid, which add hydration and plump the skin.

7. CeraVe Vitamin C Serum with Hyaluronic Acid, $19.46

This one is a door buster! And the container is opaque. It contains 10% vitamin C and  ceramides, which help restore and maintain the skin’s barrier. This serum also contains vitamin B5, which is soothing and helps the skin hold on to moisture. It’s recommended for those who have dry skin or get irritation from vitamin C and is fragrance free, paraben-free, non-comedogenic, and allergy tested. As with all CeraVe products, it is developed with dermatologists.

8. Kiehl’s Powerful-Strength Vitamin C Serum, $79

If you are a “Kiehl’s Girl” you will LOVE this serum.  It contains two types of vitamin C — L-ascorbic acid and ascorbyl glucoside (a vitamin-C derivative that is gentler) for a total of 12.5%. There’s also hyaluronic acid for added moisture retention which is a must for aging skin.

Sunday Riley C.E.O. 15% Vitamin C Brightening Serum fountainof30

9. Sunday Riley C.E.O. 15% Vitamin C Brightening Serum, $85

Brighten your skin like a boss! I know quite a few women who swear by this vitamin C serum. It contains 15% vitamin C yet is gentle and it contains squalane which deeply hydrates the skin. Results are noticeable and women who use it swear by their newfound glow too.

Vitamin C Honorable Mentions

Do you have a favorite Vitamin C Serum?

Lauren Dimet Waters Signature

Read some of my other anti-aging beauty posts like 11 Beauty Products I Discovered in 2022 That I Will Continue To Use in 2023 and My Top 10 Natural Facial Masks For Aging Skin.

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9 best vitamin c serums to try fountainof30 why you need a vitamin c serum and how to use one fountainof30

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