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25 Best Vitamin C Serums for Glowing Skin, According to Dermatologists

Vitamin C serum reduces dark spots, brightens skin, and fights common signs of aging.

best vitamin c serum
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We updated this article in April 2022 to add more information about each featured product, based on extensive research done by our team (and that of our sister team at the Good Housekeeping Institute).


If you want healthy and bright glowing skin, you should probably be reaching for the best vitamin C serum. It’s an antioxidant that is universal and super beneficial when it comes to adding radiance to all skin tones.

Vitamin C helps produce collagen (which keeps skin firm and reduces the appearance of wrinkles), and protects skin from sun damage and age spots,” says Ranella Hirsch M.D., a board-certified dermatologist practicing in Boston. “Between these varied functions, the majority of folks can benefit from having vitamin C in their skincare routine.” (One caveat: Super strong serums may be irritating if you have highly sensitive skin or just had a peel.)

“The powerful antioxidant also works wonders on dull skin prone to dark spots and pigmentation,” says Roberta Del Campo M.D., a board-certified dermatologist and medical advisor for BABOR and Cosmetic Dermatologist at Del Campo Dermatology & Laser Institute in Florida.

On top of that, vitamin C has a brightening effect, which leaves your complexion looking radiant. Like all antioxidants, vitamin C works by neutralizing free radicals (a type of molecule in your body) that cause damage and harmful effects to your cells—but unlike other antioxidants, vitamin C is very well studied and, in general, well-tolerated at high potencies, allowing for maximum impact.

“It will not only make the skin look more radiant, but it will also help to improve its overall health,” adds. Dr. Del Campo.

How we chose the best vitamin c serums

We consulted Dr. Hirsch, Dr. Del Campo, Marguerite Germain, M.D., board-certified dermatologist practicing in South Carolina, Meghan Feely, M.D., board-certified dermatologist in New Jersey and New York City who serves as a clinical instructor in Mount Sinai’s Department of Dermatology, Joshua Zeichner, M.D., board-certified dermatologist in New York City, Shari Sperling, M.D., board-certified dermatologist at Sperling Dermatology in New Jersey, Anne Chapas, M.D., board-certified dermatologist of UnionDerm in New York City, the Good Housekeeping Institute who tests countless products to ensure a fair and accurate representation of each item, and countless customer reviews to find the best vitamin c serums for brighter skin.

Apply one of these vitamin C serums in the morning after cleansing—but before sunscreen (yes, you still need sunscreen!)—for the best results.

Our top picks


    SkinCeuticals
    C E Ferulic
    SkinCeuticals skinstore.com
    $169.00

    • Non-Irritating
    • Ingredient List

    • Pricey

    Skinceuticals C E Ferulic

    BEST OVERALL

    The Good Housekeeping Institute ranked this as the best overall vitamin C serum, and as a a derm favorite, we can see why. Thanks to its antioxidant blend of 15% pure vitamin C, 1% vitamin E, and 0.5% ferulic acid, a medley that boosts the efficacy of vitamin C eightfold, research suggests. “This is far and away the best product and the one I recommend most frequently,” says Dr. Hirsch. “Once absorbed, it can’t be rubbed off, so you can use it with SPF,” she adds. In addition to antioxidant protective benefits, the formula also works to improve signs of aging and photodamage to reduce the appearance of lines and wrinkles while firming and brightening your overall complexion, according to the brand.



    Amazon
    Vitamin C Brightening Serum Capsules
    Neutrogena amazon.com
    $28.29
    $12.99 (54% off)

    • Great for Sensitive Skin Types

    • Customers Note It May Sting Eyes If Applied Too Close

    Neutrogena Rapid Tone Repair 20% Vitamin C Serum Capsules

    BEST VALUE

    This rich serum comes in single-dose, biodegradable capsule to “limit the amount of product being put on the skin at one time” so you apply the perfect amount, explains Dr. Zeichner. The capsule also helps maintain the potency and efficacy of the highly sensitive vitamin C by shielding it from air and UV light.


    Amazon
    Skin Renewing Vitamin C Serum
    CeraVe amazon.com
    $21.99
    $15.69 (29% off)

    • Super Hydrating
    • Strengthens the Skin

    • Some Users Report Peeling After Application

    CeraVe Skin Renewing Vitamin C Serum

    BEST DRUGSTORE FIND

    If your skin is prone to irritation, look no further than this nourishing 10% vitamin C serum, which features essential ceramides, hydrating hyaluronic acid, and vitamin B5 to moisturize and calm the skin. It’s also noncomedogenic (so it won’t clog pores) and fragrance-free for a simple formula that effectively boosts radiance.


    Amazon
    Liftactiv Vitamin C Brightening Skin Corrector
    Vichy amazon.com
    $28.50

    • Helps Smooth Skin Texture

    • Formula Dries Very Quickly

    Vichy LiftActiv Vitamin C Brightening Skin Corrector

    BEST FOR FINE LINES

    This vitamin C serum gets a stamp of approval from Dr. Hirsch. It works to treat fine lines and wrinkles, according to the brand and we love it for what it doesn’t have (irritating fragrances and parabens) almost as much as we love it for what it does have (15% pure vitamin C and hydrating hyaluronic acid). The approachable price tag of just $23 doesn’t hurt either.


    Amazon
    Vitamin C Facial Serum
    TruSkin amazon.com
    $29.99
    $19.99 (33% off)

    • Super Hydrating

    • Users Note It May Take Time to See Results

    TruSkin Naturals 20% Vitamin C Serum

    HIGHEST RATED

    Packed with 20% vitamin C, nourishing vitamin E (to soothe the skin), and skin-plumping hyaluronic acid, this affordable ($20!) serum contains a bunch of skin-loving ingredients that will make your skin glow, fade dark spots, and reduce redness fast. A fan favorite on Amazon with more than 64,000 raving reviews, testers say this vitamin C serum works effectively with consistent use.


    Amazon
    Pure Vitamin C Face Serum
    La Roche-Posay amazon.com
    $39.99

    • Gently Exfoliates the SkIn

    • Some Users Report Difficulty Layer Beneath Other Products

    La Roche-Posay 10% Pure Vitamin C Serum

    BEST FOR ENHANCING COMPLEXION

    “This is an anti-aging face and neck serum that leaves skin looking more radiant, softer, and hydrated,” says Dr. Del Campo. The oil-free, noncomedogenic serum combines the power of vitamin C with a superstar exfoliator: salicylic acid. Together, the powerhouse ingredients visibly brighten, soften, hydrate, and smooth the skin. Bonus: The product sinks in quickly, so no need to worry about that post-application greasy feeling.


    Amazon
    Multi Correxion Revive + Glow Vitamin C Serum
    RoC amazon.com
    $32.99
    $23.09 (30% off)

    • Visibly Firms Skin

    • Some Users Dislike the Scent

    RoC Multi Correxion Revive + Glow Vitamin C Serum

    RoC may be known for its quality OTC retinol cream, but its vitamin C serum lives up to the hype, too. The 10% vitamin C blend firms, brightens, and evens out the skin with little to no irritation. Reviewers swear they can “see the difference” in skin luminosity for a fraction of the price of its high-end competitors.

    “I am 70 years young and try to always buy products that maximize my routine with the best results. This doesn’t disappoint. It really refines fine lines and wrinkles,” added one reviewer.


    Drunk Elephant
    C-Firma Fresh Day Serum
    Drunk Elephant amazon.com
    $78.00

    • Brightens Skin
    • Firms Skin

    • Pricey

    Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum

    BEST FOR FIRMING

    Another pick from Dr. Hirsch, this hydrating and fragrance-free serum contains a highly effective combination of vitamin C, vitamin E (to soothe), and ferulic acid (to firm), along with pumpkin ferment and pomegranate extract to break down dead surface skin cells, minimizing the appearance of pores. The result? An evened-out skin tone that looks firmer and brighter.

    “Love the new formula format! I really appreciate that the brand separated the ingredients in order to maximize potency prior to first,” wrote one satisfied Sephora customer. “It definitely firms and brightens my skin giving me a more even complexion. I have used C-Firma for years and I will continue to be a loyal user.”


    Sephora
    Ascorbic Acid 8% + Alpha Arbutin 2%
    The Ordinary sephora.com
    $11.00

    • Vegan Formula

    • Some Users Report Greasy Feeling After Application

    The Ordinary Ascorbic Acid 8% + Alpha Arbutin 2%

    BEST FOR HYPERPIGMENTATION

    At only $11, this affordable serum packs a punch of 8% vitamin C, which is pretty impressive. It also contains alpha-arbutin, an ingredient that works to reduce the look of spots and hyperpigmentation, and ascorbic acid which helps improve signs of aging, while brightening the skin.

    “My favorite serum for daytime! I’ve tried the alpha arbutin + HA in the past and it seemed to have broken me out. Then I tried this one and it worked perfectly for me! I have oily skin and this does give you a glowy look that I’m not a fan of but my skin looks like that naturally so might as well add some antioxidants to it lol,” added another reviewer.


    Sephora
    Banana Bright 15% Vitamin C Serum
    Olehenriksen sephora.com
    $68.00

    • Very Hydrating
    • Boosts Radiance

    • Customers Note It Pills Under SPF

    OLEHENRIKSEN Banana Bright Vitamin C Serum

    This product smooths out rough texture, thanks to its blend of 15% vitamin C and hyaluronic acid. It also packs 5% polyhydroxy acids (PHAs) to gently exfoliate. PHAs have a larger molecule size than alpha hydroxy acids, so they may not sink into the skin as deeply, potentially reducing irritation, says Dr. Feely. The formula also contains Ole’s highest concentration of vitamin C for daily use and its yummy scent is naturally derived from oranges.


    Sephora
    Fresh Pressed Daily Booster with Pure Vitamin C 10%
    Clinique sephora.com
    $22.00

    • Makes Skin Glow
    • Softens the Skin

    • Not Enough Product for The Price

    Clinique Fresh Pressed Daily Booster with Pure Vitamin

    BEST FOR ACNE-PRONE SKIN

    Add a few drops of this fragrance-free vitamin C serum to your soothing moisturizer and slather it on all at the same time, says Dr. Chapas, so it’s easy to incorporate into your skincare regimen. No need to worry about feeling dry, as it contains hydrating glycerin, dimethicone, and squalane. Thanks to its addition of salicylic acid, those with acne-prone skin will love this option.


    L’Oreal Paris
    Revitalift Derm Intensives Vitamin C Serum
    L'Oréal ulta.com
    $32.99

    • Affordable
    • Potent
    • Fragrance-Free

    • Some Users Note an Orange Tint After Application

    L’Oréal Paris Revitalift 10% Pure Vitamin C Concentrate

    BEST FOR SENSITIVE SKIN

    This 10% vitamin C concentrate sinks deeply into the skin to reduce wrinkles and boost overall radiance, making it a great base underneath makeup. Free of fragrances, parabens, dyes, and mineral oil, the sensitive skin-friendly formula will only cost you about $17. The air-tight tube also helps preserve the product.

    “I saw immediate results the first time I used it,” wrote one Amazon user. “I strongly recommend getting this. The box arrived on time, intact, and the tube itself was sealed. I don’t notice any scent, its creamy, slightly sheer formula absorbs and brightens. It’s also very soothing.”


    Ulta
    Powerful Strength Line Reducing Concentrate
    Kiehl's Since 1851 ulta.com
    $70.00

    • Lightweight Formula
    • Reduces Fine Lines

    • Prone to Pilling

    Kiehl’s Powerful-Strength Line-Reducing Concentrate

    This classic concentrate was recently reformulated to include a higher dose of vitamin C (from 10.5 to 12.5%) thanks to the addition of that ascorbyl glucoside (a stable form of vitamin C). Because it contains superstar moisturizers like glycerin and hyaluronic acid, your thirsty skin will instantly feel quenched. Our favorite part? The silky-smooth formula feels like it melts straight into your skin. It’s also formulated for all skin types and works to penetrate deep down into the skin, where it can remain effective for up to six days, according to the brand.


    Amazon
    Universal C Skin Refiner
    BeautyStat amazon.com
    $30.00

    • Shrinks Pores
    • Firms the Skin

    • Pump Design May Be Tricky to Work

    BeautyStat Universal C Skin Refiner

    This potent serum packs 20% vitamin C, moisturizing squalane (derived from olive seeds), and tartaric acid (a natural exfoliant) to stabilize the skin’s pH and help unclog pores for top-notch penetration of the product. Together, these ingredients work to boost collagen production, even tone, soothe inflammation, and leave the skin looking plump and radiant. The formula is also great for mature skin types, as it works to boost collagen to tighten and firm the skin.

    “I love this stuff and the ascorbic acid (it’s one of my favorite ingredients) is the second ingredient listed,” added another Amazon reviewer. “Plus, it has a fairly short list of ingredients that I’m satisfied with. It's one of the few products that I feel makes my pores appear a little smaller when it’s applied (I have very large pores on my nose. It helps to balance my skin tone and makes my skin look a bit more firm, too.”


    Target
    Regenerist Max Tone Serum
    Olay target.com
    $32.94

    • Ingredients
    • Unscented Formula
    • Generous Amount of Product

    • The Dropper Tool is Inefficient

    Olay Regenerist MAX Tone Serum

    This unique facial product feels more like a lotion-serum hybrid, and deeply hydrates the skin with a rich, non-greasy formula that leaves the skin visibly glowing and smooth. A stable form of vitamin C brightens and protects, while niacinamide (a form of vitamin B3) soothes irritation, tames oil production, and calms redness. The formula also includes a special energizing complex, that works to brighten up your overall complexion, thanks to its extra dose of vitamin B3.


    Skinstore
    Medical Professional-C Serum
    Obagi skinstore.com
    $136.99

    • Noticeable Results
    • Lightweight Formula

    • Users Report It May Sting a Bit After Application

    Obagi Medical Professional-C Serum

    This anti-aging vitamin C serum gets a glowing recommendation from Dr. Sperling. It sinks deep into the skin, protects from UV damage, and brightens those pesky dark spots. It’s a great pick if your skin is prone to irritation since the formula is lightweight and has a lower concentration of vitamin C (10% L-ascorbic acid).


    Nordstrom
    C.E.O 15% Vitamin C Brightening Serum
    Sunday Riley nordstrom.com
    $72.25

    • Treats Dark Spots
    • Results Show Immediately

    • Some Users Report It Feels Greasy After Application

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

    BEST FOR DULL SKIN

    The Good Housekeeping Institute rated this pick as the best for dull skin, thanks to its ultra-potent serum that contains 15% vitamin C to treat the look of dullness, dark spots, and discolorations all over the face. The key ingredient is its unique form of vitamin C called THD Ascorbate, which is a highly stable ingredient that rapidly absorbs into the skin, according to the brand. The benefits also include improving firmness in the skin and reducing the appearance of fine lines. The formula is also packed with Saccharide Isomerate extract, an ingredient that helps to make pores appear smaller and strengthens the skin’s barrier.


    Amazon
    Vitamin C+E Complex
    SkinMedica amazon.com
    $95.40

    • Has a Creamy Texture

    • Can Irritate Some Skin Types

    SkinMedica Vitamin C + E Complex

    If you want to improve the appearance of your skin tone and texture, this pick will be your best bet. It has a rich blend of vitamin C and E, to soothe and provide protection from the sun all day long, according to the brand. Any skin type can also benefit from dabbing on a dose of this fragrance-free treatment from SkinMedica. “In addition to pure vitamin C, it has a time-release effect, so it doesn’t sputter out mid-day,” says Dr. Sperling.


    Amazon
    C15 Super Booster, 15% Vitamin C
    Paula's Choice amazon.com
    $52.00

    • Reduces Fine Lines
    • Contains Skin Smoothing Ingredients
    • Hydrates the Skin

    • Can Oxidize Quickly

    Paula’s Choice C15 Super Booster

    This serum packs a punch with 15% pure, stable vitamin C, vitamin E and ferulic acid for an extra dose of antioxidants, smoothing peptides, and hyaluronic acid to hydrate and decrease the risk of irritation. Reviewers note that it works wonders on acne scars, sun spots, and melasma.

    “After reading the reviews I decided to purchase this product. I was a little hesitant but I’m so glad I bought this! My skin is GLOWING! A complete overnight difference. I have struggled with dry and dull skin. I have used this product for one week and my skin looks better than it ever has. It’s pricey, but it is worth it to me,” wrote one happy customer.


        Tatcha
        Violet-C Brightening Serum
        Tatcha sephora.com
        $114.00

        • Great for Dry Skin
        • Users Report Visible Results

        • Some Users Report Skin Irritation

        Tatcha Violet-C Brightening Serum

        What do you get when you combine a lightweight serum, exfoliating acid, and fast-acting vitamin C blend? This must-have product from Tatcha. Gentle alpha hydroxy acids get to work by breaking down dead skin, while vitamin C helps firm, hydrate, and brighten. The fact that it’s vegan, cruelty-free, and free of oils and fragrances makes it that much better.


        Sephora
        Squalane + 10% Vitamin C Dark Spot Serum
        Biossance sephora.com
        $62.00

        • Improves Skin Texture
        • Adds a Healthy Glow

        • Prone to Pilling

        Biossance Squalane + 10% Vitamin C Dark Spot Serum

        This powerful and lightweight vitamin C for dark spots serum features a rich white shiitake mushroom extract blended with the brand’s unique derivative of vitamin C and delivers faster, longer-lasting results. Not only does it work to lighten dark spots immediately, but it also keeps working every day to prevent new ones from forming. This is probably why Reese Witherspoon loves it, plus, it contains natural squalene oil to keep the skin from drying out.


        Skinstore
        Pro-Heal Serum Advance Plus
        iS Clinical skinstore.com
        $158.00

        • Non-sticky
        • Heals the Skin

        • Expensive

        iS Clinical Pro-Heal Serum Advance Plus

        This serum is a dream blend of antioxidants: Vitamin C gets a boost from vitamins E and A, and olive leaf extract keeps things smooth and moisturized. Not to mention, kojic acid helps prevent blemishes making it a great all-in-one product.

        “I have combination, oily acne-prone skin. This serum has been a lifesaver for me. I’ve tried everything from prescriptions to OTC. Nothing has worked like this. My doctor thought I may have slight rosacea which led me to try this in the first place. So glad I did,” added one satisfied Skinstore customer.


        Skinstore
        Lifting Rx Comfort Vitamin C Serum
        Babor skinstore.com
        $69.00

        • Helps Build Collagen
        • Soothes the Skin

        • No Physical SPF

        Babor Power Serum Ampoules Vitamin C

        “The Comfort Vitamin C Serum is formulated with a highly effective combination of vitamin C ester, a stable form of vitamin C that stimulates collagen synthesis,” says Dr. Del Campo.
        “It also contains hyaluronic acid and omega-3 fatty acids to help minimize the look of fine lines and wrinkles as it helps to strengthen the skin’s natural protective barrier and combat oxidative skin-aging. This vegan formula is free of fragrances, silicones, parabens, and mineral oils, making it gentle yet effective for even the most sensitive skin.”


        Amazon
        Grapefruit Daily Brightening Serum
        Yes To amazon.com
        $14.99

        • Gentle on the Skin
        • Brightening

        • Users Report You Need to Use a Heavy Amount of Product

        Yes To Grapefruit Daily Brightening Serum

        BEST FOR BEGINNERS

        Ideal for all skin types, Yes To’s brightening treatment serum is formulated with grapefruit (which is loaded with antioxidants), vitamin C, and 5% of polyhydroxy acids (a gentler substitute for AHAs/BHAs) to help exfoliate and smooth the skin. The Good Housekeeping Institute rated this pick the best for beginners thanks to its ingredient list. The serum works to improve your skin tone and texture, while also leaving it super moisturized. Customers love that the product absorbs quickly into the skin and dries down with no sticky residue. The best part? It also works as the perfect base for layering on moisturizer and makeup.


        Sephora
        Advanced Génifique Anti-Aging Face Serum
        Lancôme sephora.com
        $78.00

        • Hydrating
        • Great Consistency

        • Pricey

        Lancôme Advanced Génifique Radiance Boosting Face Serum

        The Good Housekeeping Institute dubbed this the best vitamin C serum for dark spots, and it’s in part because it’s designed to strengthen and create an overall healthy-looking glow. Formulated with bifidus prebiotic (an ingredient that supports good bacteria on the skin’s surface), hyaluronic acid, and vitamin C, the formula works by speeding up the skin’s surface barrier recovery to create a protective moisture barrier. It also improves elasticity which reduces the look of fine lines. The brand notes that it will visibly plump, hydrate, and tone the skin in just seven days of consistent use.

        “This face serum is a staple for me! I have gone through seven bottles already and will need to restock again,” wrote one Sephora customer. “It’s definitely worth the price!! This product makes my skin so soft and hydrated. It doesn’t break me out so this girl who struggles with hormonal acne is happy.”


        How to choose the best vitamin c serum

        blue line

        ✔️ Go for pure vitamin C. “Your product should say ‘L-ascorbic acid’ (a.k.a. pure vitamin C) on the label,” says Marguerite Germain, M.D., a dermatologist practicing in Charleston, SC. L-ascorbic acid mixes well with other forms of vitamin C, too, like ascorbyl glucoside and tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate. “They feed out the vitamin C at different rates, allowing long-term protection with less irritation,” she adds.

        ✔️ Spot standout ingredients. The perfect vitamin C serum has additional antioxidants, like green tea polyphenols, vitamin E, or ferulic acid. “Products that contain L-ascorbic acid along with other antioxidants offer the most protection against skin damage because there are lots of different types of free radicals that break down collagen,” Dr. Germain says. It’s a little like food: “You don’t want to eat only one thing, even if that one thing is healthy.”

        ✔️ Look for A+ packaging. Vitamin C is the diva of the skincare world, meaning it’s super unstable and loses its power if you store it in a well-lit, humid place (like in your bathroom!). “Any vitamin C product that turns brown or discolored is breaking down and should be returned,” says Dr. Germain. This is why you’ll often see vitamin C serums in dark or opaque bottles.

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