Skin-Care Tips

I’ve Tested Hundreds of Vitamin C Serums and These 5 Are the Best Money Can Buy

Zoe Weiner

Photo: Getty Images/ Aja Koska
It’s rare that dermatologists make blanket recommendations about a single ingredient that everyone should be using, but in the case of vitamin C, it’s the truth. It also could be why it’s known as “the little black dress” of your beauty routine. The antioxidant serves up a two-for-one special by offering both short and long-term benefits for your skin.

No matter your age, skin type, or complexion concerns, vitamin C should be a non-negotiable part of your morning regimen, in my opinion. It protects against environmental stressors, like pollution and UV damage, which cause oxidative stress that leads to signs of aging in your skin. In addition to fending off aggressors, it also helps to revive dullness, act as an anti-inflammatory, and even out the appearance of dark spots.

“It’s a superstar skin-care ingredient and antioxidant,” says Mona Gohara, MD, a board-certified dermatologist based in Connecticut. “I love to tell my patients to use it because it scavenges free radicals, resulting in brighter, better functioning skin.”

When searching for a product that you can be sure will do its job properly, derms suggest looking for products that pair vitamin C with a supplemental ingredient. Top contenders include vitamin E or ferulic acid, which will help amp up its efficacy and stabalize the molecules. Since vitamin C is sun sensitive (and can oxidize and become less effective with exposure), you should also opt for something in an opaque bottle that won’t let light in.

As someone who has considered vitamin C as a skin-care staple for the past fifteen years—I’ve tested hundreds of different serums on the market—I can attest that these are best of the best. Oh, and all of them fit with Dr. Gohara’s recommendations.

Photo: SkinCeuticals
Skinceuticals CE Ferulic With 15% L-Ascorbic Acid — $166.00

This medical-grade product is *the* vitamin C serums, and derms don’t go a day without recommending it to their patients. It’s got an exceptionally high concentration of vitamin C, which means it’s packed with all of the usual antioxidants you’d expect from the powerhouse ingredient and offers brightening, skin-tone evening, and all-around anti-aging effects. Plus, the addition of vitamin E not only helps to make the vitamin C work harder, but it’s also ultra-nourishing and helps to fight inflammation.

 

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preventative skin care in your 20s
Drunk Elephant C-Firma™ Vitamin C Day Serum — $80.00

“This serum delivers a trifecta of antioxidants to the skin,” says Joshua Zeichner, MD, a board-certified dermatologist based in New York City. The combination of vitamin C, vitamin E, and ferulic acid work together to maintain stability, as well as enhance the efficacy of the ingredients.” The three ingredients combined also help to nourish and protect skin all day long.

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Photo: Sephora
The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 30% in Silicone — $7.00

At less than 10 bucks a pop, there’s a good reason why this vitamin C serum has been flying off the shelves of late. “It contains 30 percent L-ascorbic acid, which is among the highest concentrations of vitamin C on the market,” says Dr. Zeichner. It’s water-free so goes on smoothly, almost like a primer, and is great to use every morning as an environmental protectant. It’ll target uneven skin tone, dullness, and textural irregularities, too.

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Photo: Ghost Democracy
Ghost Democracy Lightbulb Vitamin C Serum — $34.00

If you want a budget-friendly hybrid serum that contains both vitamins C and E, this potent product is a great pick. It absorbs easily into the skin, and contains a small amount of bakuchiol to help stimulate cellular turnover, leading to a brighter (and more even complexion) overall.

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Hyper Skin Hyper Clear Brightening Clearing Vitamin C Serum — $36.00

Designed with darker complexions in mind, this serum combines vitamin C with kojic acid and fruit enzymes to help dramatically fade dark spots and hyperpigmentation. It’s also got the nourishing and moisturizing properties of vitamin E. Not to mention, it’ll make your skin tone more even and you look like you’re lit from within.

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To learn more about vitamin C (and why you really do need it in your routine), check out the video below.

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