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Which Vitamin C Skin Serum Is Right for You?

three different bottles of Vitamin C serums, one with drops of serum behind it, one over slices of oranges, and one being held in two hands
Murad/Kiehl’s/Sunday Riley

If there’s one ingredient that you should incorporate into your skin care routine, it’s vitamin C. First, though, you’ll need to figure out which option will work best for your skin type.

Whether trendy skin-care products are worth your hard-earned cash is always debatable, but that’s not true when it comes to vitamin C serums. Highly concentrated vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that can brighten your skin, reduce inflammation, and promote healthy collagen production.

Vitamin C can also protect your skin from UV light exposure, pollution, and smoke, and even reverse existing damage.

The best serums tend to be those with the most highly concentrated amount of vitamin C, which tend to run on the pricier side. We’ll help you choose one that works for both your budget and your skin type.

Best Overall: Skinceuticals CE Ferulic

brown bottle of Skinceuticals serum

The award-winning and extremely popular Skinceuticals CE Ferulic isn’t cheap, but it’s a favorite for a reason. With 15% pure vitamin C, vitamin E, and ferulic acid, it’s an effective antioxidant that works for any skin type.

It enhances your skin’s protection against environmental damage caused by free radials, improves signs of aging, reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and firms and brightens.

Once it’s been absorbed into the skin, this serum can be effective for 72 hours. It doesn’t feel sticky after it’s been applied, and customers notice a difference in their skin after regular use.

Best Budget: L’Oreal Revitalift Derm Intensive Vitamin C Serum

silver tube of L'oreal Paris Revitalist
L’Oreal Paris

Many vitamin C serums are expensive, but you don’t have to spend over $100 to get a good one. A great budget-friendly option is L’Oreal Revitalift Derm Intensive Vitamin C Serum. It offers an impressive 10% pure vitamin C concentrate, and visibly improves radiance, brightens dark spots, and reduces wrinkles. It’s also made with hyaluronic acid for added hydration.

Another advantage of this one is that it’s protectively sealed in an innovative air-tight metal tube, which minimizes UV and oxygen exposure (something that can reduce efficacy). Reviewers rave about how it transforms their skin.

Best Before Makeup: Maelove Glow Maker

bottle of Maelove serum on a pink background

You know how some serums can feel sticky on your skin after they’re applied, which can cause them to pill underneath makeup? Maelove Glow Maker isn’t one of those. This goes on silky smooth and absorbs into your skin almost immediately, making it ideal to use in the morning before applying your makeup.

It’s made with 15% vitamin C, E, and Ferulic acid for antioxidant protection, making it comparable to the Skinceuticals option. It also has hyaluronic acid for extra hydration and is made with a botanical blend that adds nourishment and makes for easy makeup application. You’ll notice a difference in your skin’s texture and brightness quickly once you start using this.

Best for Sensitive Skin: PCA Skin C&E Advanced Serum

white and black tube of PCA skin vitamin C serum
PCA Skin

If you have sensitive skin that needs extra special treatment, opt for PCA Skin C&E Advanced Serum. It’s formulated for all skin types, sensitive skin included, and it’s made with 20% Vitamin C, which is pretty impressive. It’s non-irritating and absorbs easily and quickly into the skin.

Like other vitamin C serums, it promises to brighten skin and help dark spots fade, and it’s a powerful boost of antioxidants.

This one also includes advanced corrective ingredients hexylresorcinol (an age-fighting agent that brightens skin, promotes an even skin tone, and reduces future discoloration) and silymarin (a milk thistle-derived antioxidant that calms and brightens the skin while fighting free radical damage). The stable anhydrous formula also prevents antioxidant degradation.

Best for Acne-Prone Skin: Sunday Riley C.E.O. 15% Vitamin C Brightening Serum

orange bottle of Sunday Riley serum
Sunday Riley

Vitamin C serums aren’t bad for acne, but if you know that you’re prone to breakouts, you might want to go for a serum that will help fight those before they even begin. Sunday Riley C.E.O. 15% Vitamin C Brightening Serum is made with glycolic acid, which is known as an excellent exfoliator and acne fighter.

This one is also made with a super stable form of vitamin C, tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate, which is basically the best when it comes to vitamin C. Phytosterols complex helps reduce redness, while saccharide isomerate extract minimizes the appearance of pores and creates smoother-looking skin as well as a healthy glow.

Best for Oily Skin: SkinCeuticals Phloretin CF

glass bottle of Skinceuticals serum

The SkinCeuticals CE Ferulic gets all the attention for being the best vitamin C serum, but their other vitamin C option, the SkinCeuticals Phloretin CF, should definitely not be overlooked. This is especially true if you have oily skin. While the formula is quite similar to the CE Ferulic, it doesn’t contain vitamin E, which is also found in a lot of other vitamin C serums.

For all of its benefits, vitamin E can clog pores, so if you have naturally oily skin, you might want to avoid it—and that’s where this option comes in, which is super light. It’s also made with phloretin CF, which neutralizes damaging free radicals, improves cell turnover, and lightens signs of discoloration. Basically, if you’ve found other vitamin C serums to be too oily, give this one a shot.

Best for Anti-Aging: Murad Vita-C Glycolic Brightening Serum

orange bottle of Murad serum

For the best anti-aging protection you can find, go for Murad Vita-C Glycolic Brightening Serum. It’s formulated with three vitamin C technologies that enhance stability and potency, and it’s also packed with glycolic acid. This not only acts as a powerful exfoliator that removes dull skin, but it also helps vitamin C penetrate the skin more effectively.

This one is also made with phyto-luminescent extract, which illuminates the skin by transforming UV energy into a light source. Hydroquinone, a lightening agent, also helps to reduce dark spots and just makes skin appear more youthful.

Murad Vitamin C Glycolic Brightening Serum

Murad's Vita-C Glycolic Brightening Serum is a gold-stabilized vitamin C and glycolic acid serum for dramatically brighter, healthier-looking skin.

Best All-Natural: Drunk Elephant C-Firma Vitamin C Day Serum

orange and white bottle of Drunk Elephant serum
Drunk Elephant

The Drunk Elephant C-Firma Vitamin C Day Serum has a formula that’s almost identical to the SkinCeuticals CE Ferulic serum, except that it comes in at half the price. It’s also a more natural option: Drunk Elephant products are clean, cruelty-free, and free of artificial chemicals and fragrances.

Plus, it’s effective. It’s made of 15% L-Ascorbic Acid (vitamin C) and ferulic acid, and 1% vitamin E, which is a potent mix of antioxidants that firm, brighten, and protect skin. Pumpkin ferment and pomegranate extract work together to dissolve dead surface skin cells, which in turn minimize the appearance of pores and make skin look smoother.

Lastly, chronocyclin is a peptide that mimics the antioxidant benefits of vitamin D to yield more youthful-looking skin.

Best Amazon Find: TruSkin Natural 20% Vitamin C Serum

bottle of TruSkin serum next to the box

The TruSkin Natural 20% Vitamin C Serum is a truly great Amazon find: It really works, and it costs just $20, which is considerably less expensive than many other options on this list. This blend of botanical hyaluronic acid, vitamin E, witch hazel, and jojoba oil help fight signs of aging while also brightening and removing dark spots.

This is also a cruelty-free, plant-based formula made without synthetic colors, fragrances, parabens, phthalates, sulfates, PEGs, or GMOs. Light and easily absorbed into the skin, this can be used day or night. It’s also great for sensitive skin since it’s made with aloe vera, which is calming and hydrating.

Best with Hyaluronic Acid: Kiehl’s Powerful-Strength Line-Reducing Concentrate

glass bottle of Kiehl's serum

Kiehl’s Powerful-Strength Line-Reducing Concentrate is another great pick. Made with 10% pure vitamin C, it improves the texture of skin and reduces the look of fine lines. It’s also made with hyaluronic acid, which smooths out skin and hydrates.

Ascorbyl glucoside is another ingredient that helps with anti-aging here, as it diminishes the look of fine lines. Because of how smooth and youthful it makes skin look, this one is always a popular item.

Jessica Booth Jessica Booth
Jessica Booth is a freelance writer for LifeSavvy. She has been working in the editorial world as a freelance writer for over two years and previously worked as an editor for over eight years.  Jessica writes about travel, beauty, wellness, health, food, home decor, and parenting, and has reviewed and tested out products for all of those verticals over the course of her career. Read Full Bio »
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