Dermatologists Agree That This Is the Best Vitamin C Alternative in Skin Care for Sensitive Complexions

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Vitamin C is a long-studied ingredient that's known for brightening, protecting, and nourishing the skin as a potent antioxidant. Despite this, not everyone can reap the many benefits of slathering it onto their skin via a serum or a cream, because it can sometimes be irritating to sensitive skin types. But dermatologists point to vitamin C alternatives in skin care that can give your complexion benefits that are just as good.

If you do have really dry or sensitive skin, chances are you've tried a vitamin C serum only to have your skin flare up with inflammation instead of a bright, even glow that the ingredient is supposed to give you. "Vitamin C can be the source of skin irritation, and people can develop allergic rashes to it," says Mona Gohara, MD, a Danbury, Connecticut-based dermatologist. This is largely because it's very acidic, according to Adarsh Vijay Mudgil, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City. "So it can irritate those with sensitive or sky skin," he says.

What can you do if you want a strong skin-care active that can even out your complexion just as well as vitamin C can? "Niacinamide is a great [vitamin C] alternative and I would say it's just as good," says Dr. Mudgil. Dr. Gohara echoes this advice, noting that niacinamide is "great for fighting acne, inflammation, and aging." If you're not familiar, niacinamide is vitamin B3, and is also known for brightening the skin, combatting dark spots, and supporting healthy collagen production. Plus, it's one of the best skin-care ingredients for protecting your skin barrier so that your complexion stays protected—and it's well-tolerated by all skin types.

Perhaps the best news of all is that both dermatologists we spoke with recommend the very same niacinamide-spiked serum, and it only costs six bucks: The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% Serum ($6). Keep scrolling to shop some other tried-and-true, skin-boosting niacinamide products.

The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% Serum, $6

Photo: The Ordinary

This one's the dermatologist-beloved vitamin C serum alternative to buy. Besides the vitamin B3, the product has zinc, which is great for regulating your skin's oil production.

Skin Inc Supplement Bar Vitamin B3+ Serum, $35

Photo: Skin Inc

Hydrate your skin while reaping the benefits of niacinamide with this serum, which has hyaluronic acid and panthenol to feed your skin moisture as it brightens with the star ingredient.

PCA Skin Vitamin B3 Brightening Serum, $115

Photo: PCA Skin

This serum is particularly good if your concern is hyperpigmentation and dark spots, as it has a blend of niacinamide, plankton extract, and green tea extract, all of which work to make your complexion more even.

Olay Wrinkle Correction Serum Vitamin B3 + Collagen Peptides, $30

Photo: Olay

You can pick up this skin-smoothing serum at the drugstore, and give your skin potent vitamin B3 plus peptides and glycerin for hydration and skin elasticity.

Sobel Skin Rx Niacinamide Gel Serum, $75

Photo: Sobel Skin Rx

This serum is formulated by dermatologist Howard Sobel, MD, and has a potent amount of niacinamide to plump and brighten all skin types.

Learn more about why dermatologists love vitamin C in the video below:

Pro tip: This is how to recover after dealing with facial skin irritation. And this is what to know about acne treatments for sensitive skin if you're dealing with breakouts. 

Our editors independently select these products. Making a purchase through our links may earn Well+Good a commission.

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