From eyelash serums to hyaluronic acid serums, there are a whole lot of serums flooding the shelves of beauty stores and drugstores. But if you only have room in your routine for one, let it be a vitamin C serum.
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that brightens your complexion by blocking excess pigment creation, fights fine lines by stimulating collagen, and protects your skin from damaging free radicals and other environmental stressors. The downside? Compared to most products, it often costs more per ounce.
Once you begin to see the results of a good vitamin C serum, however, you can use less foundation, less concealer, and less highlighter, which ultimately saves you money. Ahead, we’ll tell you what to look out for in vitamin C serums and the best vitamin C serums to invest in.
- What to look for in vitamin C serums
- How to use vitamin C serums in your routine
- Mad Hippie Vitamin C Serum
- SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic
- The Ordinary Ascorbyl Glucoside Solution 12%
- Paula's Choice C15 Super Booster
- Beauty Stat Universal C Skin Refiner
- Tatcha Violet-C Brightening Serum 20% Vitamin C + 10% AHA
- Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum
- Glow Recipe Pineapple-C Brightening Serum
- Kiehl's Powerful-Strength Line-Reducing Concentrate
- Sunday Riley C.E.O. 15% Vitamin C Brightening Serum
- Vichy LiftActiv Vitamin C Brightening Skin Corrector
- La Roche-Posay Pure Vitamin C10 Serum
- Some By Mi Galactomyces Pure Vitamin C Glow Serum
- InstaNatural Vitamin C Serum
- NIOD Ethylated L Ascorbic Acid 30% Network
- Allies of Skin 20% Vitamin C Brighten and Firm Serum
- By Wishtrend Pure Vitamin C 21.5% Advanced Serum
What to look for in vitamin C serums
There are several forms of vitamin C, and not all are created equal. Check the serum’s label for L-ascorbic acid, which is considered to be one of the best forms of vitamin C for the skin. Better yet, tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate, which is a stable, oil-soluble form of vitamin C.
If you can’t find those two in the ingredients list of your vitamin C serum, look for these useful forms of vitamin C:
- Ascorbic acid
- Ascorbic acid sulfate
- Ascorbyl 6 palmitate
- Ascorbyl glucoside
- Disodium isostearyl 2-0 L-ascorbyl phosphate (VCP-IS-Na)
- Magnesium ascorbyl phosphate
- Sodium ascorbyl phosphate
- Tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate
Since vitamin C is also notoriously unstable, especially when it’s exposed to air and light, it’s best to pick a formula that comes in an airtight pump or opaque bottle. To extend its shelf life, you should also remember to store it in a cool, dark place, away from direct sunlight.
You may associate vitamin C with a bright orange colour, but that doesn’t always apply to the best vitamin C serums. Active vitamin C solutions should be almost colourless or bear a champagne tint. However, during the manufacturing process, other ingredients may be whisked in, which can sometimes darken the colour of the vitamin C serum. So even though it looks yellow or orange, it can still contain active vitamin C.
How to use vitamin C serums in your routine
In general, it’s best to cleanse and tone before applying a vitamin C serum on your face. You’ll only need a few drops of serum, which you should pat gently on your skin with your fingertips. After that, you can finish up your routine with a moisturiser and sunscreen. Vitamin C serums can be used once or twice a day, morning and/or night.
To help you cut through the clutter and make it a little less overwhelming for you, we’ve picked out the best vitamin C serums on the market. These are suitable for a wide range of skin types and there’s one to fit every budget.
Mad Hippie Vitamin C Serum
Since vitamin C serums are so active, some of them can cause a tingling or burning sensation upon application. That is why this natural option from Mad Hippie skips out on additives and preservatives, making it gentle for even the most sensitive skin types, yet powerful enough to make a visible difference to your complexion.
With a refreshing citrus smell, this green beauty option will leave your skin feeling firmer and brighter with continued use. Simply apply a few drops all over your face in the morning and evening for a radiant glow.
Mad Hippie Vitamin C Serum retails for RM102.79 at iHerb.
SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic
Few vitamin C serums have gained the fame of SkinCeuticals’ C E Ferulic, and the hype is certainly warranted. The formula contains 15% of pure vitamin C, vitamin E, and ferulic acid to help even out pigmentation.
The potent blend also prevents damage throughout the day by neutralising free radicals caused by UVA/UVB rays, infrared radiation, and pollution. This vitamin C serum is truly in a league of its own – it has won a handful of awards and is a go-to pick for dermatologists everywhere.
SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic retails for RM564.99 at Shopee.
The Ordinary Ascorbyl Glucoside Solution 12%
If you’ve been searching for a way to brighten dull skin or even out your skin tone, this serum by The Ordinary is an affordable solution to look into. With its lightweight texture, this potent blend of 12% ascorbyl glucoside goes on nice and smooth, delivering a shot of antioxidants to your skin.
Ascorbyl glucoside is a stable, water-soluble derivative of vitamin C that’s comfortable to use. By stimulating collagen synthesis and inhibiting melanin production, the serum brightens the skin and reduces signs of ageing.
The Ordinary Ascorbyl Glucoside Solution 12% retails for USD16.50 (RM68.71) at Beauty Bay.
Paula’s Choice C15 Super Booster
Made with a whopping 15% of stabilised L-ascorbic acid, just a drop or two of Paula’s Choice Resist C15 Super Booster added to your daily moisturiser will brighten, tighten, and smooth your skin.
There are vitamin E and ferulic acid in the formula too, which help to nourish and protect your skin from damage caused by free radicals. Peptides in the serum aid in collagen and elastin production to keep your skin smooth and supple too.
Paula’s Choice C15 Super Booster retails for RM240 at Paula’s Choice.
Beauty Stat Universal C Skin Refiner
While some forms of vitamin C are more stable than others, BeautyStat’s Universal C Refiner ensures you’re getting the good stuff with encapsulated 20% L-ascorbic acid that’s delivered at full strength.
There’s an active compound from green tea in the mix to soothe the skin and feed it with antioxidants. On top of that, it contains moisturising squalane and tartaric acid to adjust the skin’s pH levels for easier product absorption. The result is firmer, brighter skin that’s more even in tone and texture.
Beauty Stat Universal C Skin Refiner retails for £96 (RM519.27) at Cult Beauty.
Tatcha Violet-C Brightening Serum 20% Vitamin C + 10% AHA
This popular Tatcha serum may have a hefty price tag on it, but it’s worth every penny. The Violet-C Brightening Serum contains a whopping 20% of vitamin C to help your skin achieve that coveted lit-from-within look.
It also uses fruit-derived AHAs to slough away dead skin cells to restore radiance and even out your skin tone. Japanese angelica root helps to lighten the appearance of stubborn dark spots, discolouration, hyperpigmentation, and post-acne scarring.
Tatcha Violet-C Brightening Serum 20% Vitamin C + 10% AHA retails for RM390 at Sephora.
Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum
From beauty editors to dermatologists, it seems like everyone’s raved about Drunk Elephant’s C-Firma Day Serum. With its list of high-quality ingredients, it’s easy to see why. Pumpkin and pomegranate enzymes help with cellular turnover and gently exfoliate the skin while vitamin C and ferulic acid naturally brighten skin and help protect against damage.
What’s more, the cooling sensation of this clear gel will soothe even the most inflamed, sensitive skin. After cleansing in the morning, spread a pea-sized amount all over your face, neck, and chest. And here’s a fun fact: the C-Firma has a reservoir effect on the skin, which means it continues to work for up to 72 hours, even after you’ve cleansed your skin.
Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum retails for RM345 at Sephora.
Glow Recipe Pineapple-C Brightening Serum
We can’t resist this cute pineapple-shaped bottle of goodness. Glow Recipe’s Pineapple-C Brightening Serum contains 22% of pineapple juice, which is one of the most potent forms of natural vitamin C. On top of that, there’s pure ascorbic acid and stable 3-O-ethyl ascorbic acid to combat acne scars, dark spots, and hyperpigmentation.
The lightweight serum also uses natural AHAs and bromelain enzymes from pineapple to gently exfoliate the skin, while skin soothers like chamomile and aloe vera ensure that your skin stays calm and refreshed.
Glow Recipe Pineapple-C Brightening Serum retails for €49 (RM230.59) at Cultbeauty.
Kiehl’s Powerful-Strength Line-Reducing Concentrate
When Kiehl’s gave one of its bestsellers a facelift, it added a higher concentration of vitamin C to the formula along with hyaluronic acid. Now, this Powerful-Strength Line-Reducing Concentrate boasts a formidable 12.5% of L-ascorbic acid to visibly reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, boost radiance, and refine skin texture.
One of the most popular vitamin C serums around, it’s been said that a bottle sells at a rate of over one per minute around the world.
Kiehl’s Powerful-Strength Line-Reducing Concentrate retails for (RM317) at Kiehl’s.
Sunday Riley C.E.O. 15% Vitamin C Brightening Serum
While most vitamin c serums contain L-ascorbic acid, this one is made with the gold standard tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate. Albeit expensive, we highly suggest adding this mighty vitamin C serum to your lineup if you have acne-prone skin. In addition to its potent form of vitamin C, it also contains glycolic acid, which is known to exfoliate the top layer of your skin.
The unique blend helps lighten discoloured acne scars while also preventing future breakouts. Unlike most liquid vitamin c serums, this one has a thicker, richer consistency, almost like a moisturiser. That said, the formula melts right into the skin and leaves you glowing.
Sunday Riley C.E.O. 15% Vitamin C Brightening Serum retails for £70 (RM377.20) at Cult Beauty.
Vichy LiftActiv Vitamin C Brightening Skin Corrector
Made with only 11 ingredients, Vichy’s LiftActiv Vitamin C Brightening Skin Corrector is a lightweight serum that won’t sting or burn upon application. That said, it still packs a punch, delivering firming and brightening results in as a few as 10 days.
The formula boasts one of the highest concentrations of vitamin C on the derma-skincare market, with an affordable price tag to boot. To combat any dryness, the serum also contains 0.1% of fragmented hyaluronic acid, which draws moisture to your skin and plumps it up. It even has a pH level of 2.5 to ensure that it gets absorbed into your skin efficiently.
Vichy LiftActiv Vitamin C Brightening Skin Corrector retails for RM163.46 at Vichy.
La Roche-Posay Pure Vitamin C10 Serum
The name of La Roche-Posay’s vitamin C serum is as straightforward as it gets. The Pure Vitamin C10 contains 10% of L-ascorbic acid to renew your skin as it targets wrinkles and fine lines, dullness and lack of luminosity, and irregular skin texture.
Look a little closer and you’ll find that this serum does more than just brighten your complexion. It also contains salicylic acid to clarify a congested complexion, while hyaluronic acid keeps your skin soft and smooth. The formula uses La Roche-Posay’s neurosensine to soothe sensitive skin too.
La Roche-Posay Pure Vitamin C10 Serum retails for RM217.14 at Care to Beauty.
Some By Mi Galactomyces Pure Vitamin C Glow Serum
Apart from containing 3% of ascorbic acid, the Some By Mi Galactomyces Pure Vitamin C Glow Serum also contains 75% galactomyces ferment filtrate. For the uninitiated, galactomyces is known for its brightening benefits, but it’s also lauded for its ability to moisturise, smooth out bumpy skin texture, and boost skin elasticity.
Together with vitamin C, the ingredient brightens skin as it fades dark spots and hyperpigmentation for a more even skin tone. If your skin is particularly sensitive, you’ll be pleased to know that it doesn’t contain artificial fragrance, colouring, sulfates, mineral oil, and silicones.
Some By Mi Galactomyces Pure Vitamin C Glow Serum retails for RM65.59 at YesStyle.
InstaNatural Vitamin C Serum
This vitamin C serum from InstaNatural has no shortage of hard-hitting ingredients. To enhance the antioxidant benefits of vitamin C, the serum contains ferulic acid to defend your skin against environmental aggressors.
It uses plant stem cells and sea buckthorn oil to support your skin’s protective barrier too. With continued use, you’ll notice a brighter complexion as well as lightened pigmentation and discolouration.
InstaNatural Vitamin C Serum retails for RM84.77 at iHerb.
NIOD Ethylated L Ascorbic Acid 30% Network
If the name of this product from NIOD gave you dreadful flashbacks of your chemistry lesson, don’t panic. It’s only a science-y way of telling you that it’s vitamin C serum. This potent formula contains 30% of L-ascorbic acid – possibly the highest concentration on our list.
The serum forms protective barrier as soon as you smooth it on your skin, which helps to fight against oxidation while simultaneously reducing discolouration. It supports your skin’s collagen production and revives your skin tone too.
NIOD Ethylated L Ascorbic Acid 30% Network retails for USD75.25 (RM313.57) at Beauty Bay.
Allies of Skin 20% Vitamin C Brighten and Firm Serum
A new product in the Allies of Skin family, the 20% Vitamin C Brighten and Firm Serum is one of a few waterless vitamin C serums out there, which means it won’t oxidise as easily. This next-generation formula harnesses a stable, ethylated form of 20% pure L-ascorbic acid to provide excellent antioxidant protection.
This multi-tasking ingredient also helps to strengthen your skin barrier and encourage cellular renewal, which in turn promotes firmer, brighter skin. The benefits don’t end there. The serum also uses orange extract to boost elasticity and smoothness, as well as a complex of gluthathione and three further antioxidants to protect your skin and diminish dullness.
Allies Of Skin 20% Vitamin C Brighten and Firm Serum retails for USD88 (RM366.70) at Allies of Skin.
By Wishtrend Pure Vitamin C 21.5% Advanced Serum
Made with 21.5% of ascorbic acid, By Wishtrend’s bestselling vitamin C serum is a fast-absorbing formula that helps to fade acne scars, brighten dull skin, and even out your complexion. It also contains 70% of vitamin tree water, which cools your skin and reduces redness, stat.
There’s added sodium hyaluronate in the serum to draw and lock in moisture deep within your skin too, leaving you with plumper, more radiant skin.
By Wishtrend Pure Vitamin C 21.5% Advanced Serum retails for RM137.35 at YesStyle.