Wind back the years and bring back that glow from within with one of these vitamin C serums.
Dermatologists and beauty bloggers rave about vitamin C serums, and it's no wonder it's so popular. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that stimulates collagen production and helps to reduce signs of aging by repairing the damage done by free radicals and the sun. It can even help to protect against future damage (though it's no substitute for sunscreen). The result: brighter and firmer skin, fewer fine lines and wrinkles, and a more even skin tone.
“It’s good for everyone to include [vitamin C] in their regime,” says Arielle Nagler, MD, dermatologist at NYU Langone Medical Center. She recommends applying it daily. “There is some good evidence that long-term use of vitamin C topically, even more so that taking it orally, is associated with improved skin texture and quality,” she continues. Fortunately, it’s potent stuff, so you only need a few drops for each application.
There are a lot of different serums to chose from, each with different concentrations and even variants of vitamin C. This can make finding the right one for you just a little bit confusing. It’s all about finding a compromise between a high level of vitamin C to boost the production of collagen, but not too much that it brings on redness and irritation. Debra Jaliman, MD, assistant professor of dermatology at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, tells Health via email that she recommends serums with concentrations of 10 to 15%.
And if you’re wondering why there are so many different derivatives of vitamin C, it’s because they’ve been produced to make it more stable and less likely to irritate the skin. Common ones to look out for include include absorbic acid, magnesium ascorbyl phosphate, and sodium ascorbyl phosphate.
It’s important to stay consistent with your vitamin C regimen because that’s when you’ll see the best results. And don’t worry if you notice some light tingling or redness upon your first few applications—it’s normal with the potent ingredient. If irritation persists, though, you should let your derm know.
Read on for vitamin C serums that come personally recommended by dermatologists and beauty editors.
Plus: Want more anti-aging recommendations from Health? Here are our favorite over-the-counter retinol creams; the best eye creams that contain retinol; the best niacinamide serums for clearer, firmer skin; and the all-time best anti-aging products you can buy on Amazon that are affordable, too.
This post was originally published on December 5, 2016 and has been updated for accuracy.
SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic
This serum is recommended by Lisa DeSantis, Health assistant beauty editor. It may be on the pricier side, but this powerful antioxidant serum will do wonders for your face. It combines absorbic acid (vol. 15%) and vitamin E with ferulic acid to help brighten the skin and reduce visible signs of aging. Ferulic acid is a good ingredient to look out for—in addition to being a potent antioxidant and containing some impressive anti-aging properties, it can help to stabilize the vitamin C.
Mad Hippie Vitamin C
Get your glow back with this vitamin C serum from Mad Hippie, as recommended by Dr. Jaliman. This gentle formula combines sodium ascorbyl phosphate at 10% with vitamin E to deliver strong results, evening skin tone and minimizing fine lines and wrinkles. It’s also the most wallet-friendly on the list.
Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum
Beat uneven skin tone and dullness with Drunk Elephant’s vitamin C serum, another personal favorite of DeSantis. It contains absorbic acid (15% vol.). The potent formula of antioxidants, essential nutrients, and fruit enzymes brightens, plumps, and moisturizes the skin.
Ole Henriksen Truth Serum Vitamin C Anti-aging Collagen Booster
Say goodbye to fine lines and wrinkles with Henriksen’s vitamin C serum, another recommendation from Dr. Jaliman. In addition to vitamin C (in the form of sodium ascorbyl phosphate at 10%), it contains glycerin and hyaluronic acid to moisturize and aloe to soothe the skin. Green tea extract helps protect the skin against free radical damage. (Not ready to splurge on the large bottle? On Amazon, you can try a .5 oz. bottle first.)
Karuna Vitamin C+ Pearls
Vitamin C is a brightening all-star, but it can be hard to stabilize (read: goes bad quickly). What's cool about this product, though, is that it activates the antioxidant right when you apply. The freeze-dried C pellet is triggered by a drop of serum. Once it melts, apply the combo to your face.
Clinique Fresh Pressed Daily Booster with Pure Vitamin C 10%
Kiehl's Powerful-Strength Line-Reducing Concentrate
This vitamin C serum has been a cult favorite for years (in fact, one bottle sells every minute around the world). But the brand recently updated their formula to include super-hydrating hyaluronic acid and even higher levels of vitamin C to deliver faster, better results.
DERMAdoctor kakadu C 20% Vitamin C Serum with Ferulic Acid & Vitamin E
Sunday Riley C.E.O. Rapid Flash Brightening Serum
If you're a skincare fanatic, you may have already fallen in love with Sunday Riley's bestselling Good Genes serum. But don't overlook the brand's vitamin C serum, which also has a cult following. Vitamin C from 15% tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate brightens, while glycolic acid gently exfoliates to prevent dead skin cells from accumulating. Plus: Want to try both products at once? We recommend their Bright Young Thing kit, which has smaller sizes of C.E.O., Good Genes, and Tidal, Sunday Riley's soothing gel moisturizer.
Paula's Choice BOOST C15 Super Booster 15% Vitamins C & E and Ferulic Acid
This is another great vitamin C booster, meaning you can use it on its own or add a pump into your moisturizer. The formula is highly concentrated with 15% pure vitamin C as well as soothing peptides, ferulic acid, and vitamin E. (We're loving the brand's cheerful new packaging, too.)