13 Best Vitamin C Serums for Your Face

13 Best Vitamin C Serums of 2019 for Ageless Skin

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What do Gisele Bundchen, Adriana Lima, and Halle Berry all have in common? They all use Vitamin C serums as a part of their skin care routines and credit the serum for their seemingly ageless skin. They aren’t wrong, either. A potent and expertly formulated Vitamin C serum has the potential to transform your skin rapidly. Unlike many skin care ingredient trends, the benefits of Vitamin C serums are proven and well-documented. Vitamin C is naturally found in our skin and it works in three major ways: to protect the skin from UV sun damage, to brighten the skin and reduce pigmentation, and to increase collagen production (thus, reducing wrinkles). There are many additional benefits of topical Vitamin C usage (such as inflammation reduction, increased skin hydration, and increased healing time), but these pale in comparison to the three major benefits previously mentioned. All things considered, just about every skin type can benefit from the addition of Vitamin C in their skin care routines.

The effectiveness of a Vitamin C serum really comes down to choosing the right product. Before purchasing a Vitamin C serum, there are three important things to consider: the type of Vitamin C, the additional ingredients in the formula, and the concentration of Vitamin C.

Types of Vitamin C

While Vitamin C is a wonder ingredient, there are some downsides. Pure natural Vitamin C (known as ascorbic acid) is highly unstable when mixed into a water-based formula. Since just about every product contains water, this creates a problem. Once ascorbic acid degrades, it is no longer effective and can even cause skin irritation. As a result, many skin care manufacturers have turned to synthetic forms of Vitamin C. Typically, the word “synthetic” scares a lot of skin care advocates (especially those use natural + organic products), but in this case synthetic isn’t all that bad. Synthetic Vitamin C types are more stable than ascorbic acid, can be absorbed by the skin, and have not been shown in laboratory tests to cause toxicity or damage to the skin. Common and effective types of synthetic Vitamin C include L-ascorbic acid (the best synthetic form), magnesium ascorbyl phosphate, ascorbyl palmitate, Vitamin C esters, sodium ascorbyl palmitate, and sodium ascorbyl phosphate. Occasionally, a product may also contain ingredients like vitamin E and ferulic acid to help stabilize Vitamin C.

If you want to avoid synthetic forms of Vitamin C, you have another option: whole Vitamin C. Whole Vitamin C contains ascorbic acid plus all of the other natural components of Vitamin C including natural enzymes and bioflavonoids. You can get whole Vitamin C naturally from sources such as rosehips, sea buckthorn berries, amla berries, citrus fruits, marula oil, pomegranate seeds, and similar fruit sources. A serum which contains high quantities of these natural Vitamin C sources doesn’t need fillers, stabilizers, or other ingredients in order to be effective. Some people even argue that whole Vitamin C absorbs better than synthetic versions, has a lower risk of irritation, and offers more nutrients.

Vitamin C Concentration: Does it Matter?

Often, Vitamin C serums will boast about the concentration of Vitamin C contained in the product (anywhere from 10-20%). Studies have shown that the proven effective range of Vitamin C is between .3% and 10%. Higher concentrations of Vitamin C can cause irritation and may not be necessary to achieve results. Additionally, some forms of Vitamin C (like sodium ascorbyl phosphate and whole Vitamin C) are easily absorbed by the skin and can deliver the same results as a 20% solution but at a much lower concentration. On the other hand, some forms (like ascorbic acid polypeptide and ascorbic acid) can be irritating at high concentrations. All in all, concentration isn’t all that it is hyped up to be. Instead, look for a well formulated product with a lower concentration (2%-10%) to start to avoid irritating your skin.

Additional Ingredients: What Else Is In Your Serum?

While the form of Vitamin C is important, you should pay very close attention to the other ingredients used in the formula. It is vitally important to evaluate the entire product before purchasing. Why? Because you could be paying for junk. For example, a product may contain a great form of Vitamin C at a high concentration, but it may also contain cheap and potentially irritating fillers like propylene glycol + butylene glycol (classified as an irritant (source)), alcohols, phenoxyethanol (a preservative that can cause severe allergic reactions and eczema(source)), and host of other not-so-good ingredients. Some of the MOST popular Vitamin C serums on the market today contain propylene glycol and fillers as their first ingredients. Do you really want to pay a premium for fillers and ingredients that do not benefit your skin?

For more information on how to choose the best Vitamin C serums, check out our Simple Guide to Vitamin C Serums at the bottom of this page. We include info on how Vitamin C serums work, what ingredients to look for, and which to avoid. We even break down which Vitamin C types and serum ingredients are best for each skin type.

What’s on This List?

We researched hundreds of Vitamin C serums to bring you the 13 most effective products available. Not only did we look for products that actually work, but we also excluded any product that uses ingredients like Parabens, Phthalates, Sulfates, PEG compounds, Petrochemicals & Mineral Oils, Ethoxylated Ingredients, as well as Synthetic Fragrances & Colors. The result? This list of Vitamin C serums is by far the best around. You can rest assured that these products are clean, non-toxic, and very effective at delivering a potent blast of Vitamin C to your skin. You can even filter the list by skin type, price, and ingredient quality.  Enjoy!

Still unsure of which vitamin C serum will work best for your skin? Then, try our Ox Box! It’s a seasonal subscription box filled with the best organic skin care products hand-picked for your specific skin type and needs.

FILTER BY TYPE

Mad Hippie – Vitamin C Serum

A really nice, natural, and gentle Vitamin C serum that is packed with Vitamin C (in the form of sodium ascorbyl phosphate), as well as ingredients which synergize and boost the properties of Vitamin C like vitamin E, ferulic acid, and hyaluronic acid. It's non-sticky, absorbs fast, and leaves skin feeling really moisturized. Additional ingredients include clary sage (balances oil production), chamomile (soothes skin), grapefruit (mild exfoliant), and konjac powder (vitamin rich). A great solution for acne-prone skin, dry skin, discoloration, and those with sensitive skin.

Ox Box: Organic Beauty Subscription Box

Can't decide which yummy organic skin care products to try first? Then let us choose the best skin care products for your skin type with our quarterly organic beauty box! Choose from 3 different boxes (based on your skin type) and get a full skin care routine for 40-60% off retail. Limited quantities each season. Get your favorites while they last!

Orgaid – Organic Vitamin C Sheet Masks ($22)

Made with 70% organic ingredient, this organic Vitamin C sheet mask is a super fun and relaxing way to treat your skin. The mask feels really good on the skin and is easy to apply. It's a totally clean formula made with natural ingredients like lemon, Vitamin C (sodium ascorbyl phosphate), hyaluronic acid, pomegranate extract, rosehip extract, and lavender extract. After cleansing, simply apply the mask for 20-30 minutes, remove the mask, and then massage the remaining serum into your skin (no rinsing). After 30 minutes, you should notice brighter, tighter, and more moisturized skin.

TruSkin Naturals – 20% Vitamin C Serum w/ Hyaluronic Acid

We're typically cautious about products with thousands of reviews on Amazon, but we checked this product out via Fakespot (a tool that identifies fake reviews) and it passed with flying colors. This 20% Vitamin C serum combines a stable and gentle form of Vitamin C known as sodium ascorbyl phosphate along with botanical hyaluronic acid to form a potent anti-aging solution. It's great for treating acne, age-spots, discoloration, and wrinkles. One downside? The product contains a small amount of phenoxyethanol as a preservative which has been linked to allergic reactions and irritation.

Simple Guide to the Best Vitamin C Serums

Shopping for Vitamin C serums can be, well, overwhelming. With so much information and marketing related to what works and what doesn’t, how can you be sure that you’re investing in the right product? Which form of Vitamin C is best for your skin? What’s the deal with unstable Vitamin C? That’s why we put together this Simple Guide to the Best Vitamin C Serums. Our goal was to simplify the process and explain the basics of 1) the different forms of Vitamin C and how they work 2) the best ingredients to look for in a Vitamin C serum for your skin type and 3) which Vitamin C serum ingredients you should avoid.  In addition to these sections, here are some important tips to keep in mind when shopping for a Vitamin C serum:

  • Vitamin C can become unstable when exposed to air + light. Only purchase serums that are packaged in dark, airtight, pump containers.
  • Look for formula’s that include Vitamin E, ferulic acid, and hyaluronic acid. These ingredients work synergistically with Vitamin C and help to stabilize it.
  • If you are worried about skin irritation, try a low-concentration or whole Vitamin C serum to start.

Types of Vitamin C & Their Benefits for Skin

There are many different forms of Vitamin C available. Since natural Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is quite unstable and easily degrades (making it less effective and irritating), many new forms of Vitamin C have been synthetically created in an effect to provide greater stability. While many of them are great, they all have their benefits and downsides. For example, some forms of synthetic Vitamin C can absorb deeper into the skin than others. Additionally, some forms of Vitamin C are better at protecting against the sun’s UV rays than others. Before you purchase a Vitamin C serum, review our guide below to ensure that the type of Vitamin C you are buying is right for your skin type and desired outcome.

Whole Vitamin C

Pure, whole Vitamin C that has not been chemically altered. Derived from natural sources such as plants and fruit. Contains all naturally occurring Vitamin C compounds including phytonutrients, bioflavonoids, and natural enzymes.

Whole Vitamin C is great for all skin types—especially sensitive skin.

PROS

  • Stable
  • Non-irritating
  • Bioavailable (good penetration and absorption)
  • Clinically proven to protect from UV damage, increase collagen, and reduce skin pigmentation.

CONS

  • Not available in super high concentrations.

Ascorbic Acid/ L-Ascorbic Acid

Natural, water-soluble form of the Vitamin C molecule that has been isolated from the other compounds naturally found in whole Vitamin C. Considered the best form of topical Vitamin C if formulated correctly.

Ascorbic acid and L-ascorbic acid should be avoided by sensitive skin types at high concentrations.

PROS

  • Bioavailable (good penetration and absorption)
  • Most researched form of Vitamin C
  • Clinically proven to increase collagen, reduce pigmentation, and protect from UV damage.

CONS

  • Unstable + degrades at high pH (low pH serums can cause irritation)
  • Can cause irritation at higher concentrations

Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate / Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate

Synthetic, water-soluble forms of Vitamin C that is very stable and effective.

Safe and effective for all skin types —including sensitive skin.

PROS

  • Stable
  • Non-irritating
  • Clinically proven to be bioavailable (good penetration and absorption)
  • Converts to ascorbic acid when absorbed
  • Increases collagen
  • Reduces skin pigmentation

CONS

  • No conclusive research on UV damage protection effectiveness

Ascorbyl Palmitate / Sodium Ascorbyl Palmitate

Synthetic Vitamin C. While most forms of Vitamin C are water soluble, ascorbyl palmitate is a fat/oil soluble form of Vitamin C.

Because this form of Vitamin C is usually present in an oil-based formula, it is best suited for dry skin and sensitive skin types.

PROS

  • Stable
  • Non-irritating
  • Protects from UV damage
  • Moderately effective at increasing collagen

CONS

  • May not penetrate as well as other forms of Vitamin C
  • No research indicating that it can reduce pigmentation
  • Not super effective at increasing collagen production

Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate

A fat-soluble, synthetic form of Vitamin C that is very similar to L-ascorbic acid. Because of it’s fat solubility, it is said to easily penetrate to the deeper layers of the skin.

Great for all skin types—especially sensitive skin.

PROS

  • Stable
  • Non-irritating
  • Bioavailable (deeper penetration and absorption)
  • Protects against UV damage
  • Increases collagen production at 2x the rate of ascorbic acid
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Reduces pigmentation

CONS

  • No major downsides

Ascorbic Acid Polypeptide

A synthetic, water-soluble form of Vitamin C that may convert to ascorbic acid once absorbed into the skin.

Should be avoided by sensitive skin types at concentrations above 1%.

PROS

  • Stable
  • May penetrate deeper than other water-soluble forms of Vitamin C
  • Protects against UV damage
  • Increases collagen production

CONS

  • Can be irritating at concentrations above 2%

Other Great Vitamin C Serum Ingredients by Skin Type

In addition to the type of Vitamin C used in a serum, you’ll also want evaluate the entire formula to see if it includes ingredients that are great at treating your particular skin conditions. These additional ingredients work synergistically with Vitamin C to provide greater results.

dry-skin_icon_150px

DRY & MATURE SKIN

  • Hyaluronic acid
  • Ferulic Acid
  • Astaxanthin
  • CoQ10
  • Pomegranate
  • Coconut, Jojoba, Sunflower Oil
  • Aspen Bark
  • Aloe Vera
sensitive-skin_icon_150

SENSITIVE SKIN + ROSACEA

  • Rosehip Seed oil
  • Aloe Vera
  • Green Tea
  • Coconut Oil
  • Chamomile
  • Rose Oil
  • Licorice
acne-prone-skin_icon_150

ACNE-PRONE SKIN

  • Willow Bark (Salicylic acid)
  • Rose Oil
  • Witch Hazel
  • Lavender
  • Turmeric
  • Tea Tree Oil
  • Sage Extract
  • Green Tea
Dark spots_icon_150

HYPERPIGMENTATION / DARK SPOTS

  • Rosehip Seed Oil
  • Tamanu Oil
  • Seabuckthorn Oil
  • Turmeric
  • Lemon & Citrus Oils
  • Almond Oil
  • Licorice

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3 Comments

  1. Kate July 17, 2019
  2. Katia Hartman November 17, 2019
    • skincareox November 22, 2019

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