Want brighter, tighter, and, overall better-looking skin? There's an ingredient for that: vitamin C. The powerhouse skin-care staple is a potent antioxidant that helps reduce skin inflammation and irregular pigmentation while promoting healthy collagen production, explains Joshua Zeichner, the director of cosmetic and clinical research at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.
"Vitamin C is a key component to many skin-brightening regimens, as it interferes with pigment production and keeps inflammation at bay," he says. Furthermore, he says it may even help protect the skin from pre-cancerous changes from UV light exposure by neutralizing free radicals. Unfortunately, very little vitamin C ever makes it to the skin on its ownI says board-certified dermatologist Laurel Naversen Geraghty, which is why it's so important to topically apply products made with the skin-care ingredient. Read on for the best 21 vitamin C-spiked serums and moisturizers that are sure to leave your skin happy and bright.
SkinCeuticals Silymarin CF
"SkinCeuticals' new Silymarin CF is a great option for those with oily or acne- prone skin as it combines vitamin C as L-ascorbic acid with silymarin, ferulic acid, and salicylic acid," says board-certified dermatologist Marisa Garshick. "Together, these ingredients provide antioxidant protection against free-radical damage while also helping to reduce oil and gently exfoliate." With continued use, Silymarin CF will improve your skin tone and texture, as well as reduce fine lines, wrinkles, and excess sebum production.
Paula's Choice Super Antioxidant Concentrate Serum
"Paula's Choice Super Antioxidant Concentrate Serum contains tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate, which is a very stable form of vitamin C, an ingredient that is notorious for being unstable," says board-certified dermatologist Robert Finney. "It also has other antioxidants, such as vitamin E and peptides, as well as ceramides, to help repair the barrier." Because it contains such a stable form of the ingredient and features soothing agents, it's a solid option for folks with sensitive skin who typically can't tolerate the active.
Ole Henriksen Banana Bright Eye Crème
Ole Henriksen's deliciously named Banana Bright Eye Crème has already earned icon status from fans. The creamy pale-yellow tint (inspired by banana powder, makeup artists' best-kept secret for faking brighter skin) is instant skin-care gratification at its best, while vitamin C works to diminish dark circles over time.
SkinBetter Science Alto Defense Serum
SkinBetter Science's Alto Defense Serum took home a 2020 Honayst Best of Beauty Award — and it's beloved by dermatologists, too. "This formula has a very powerful form of vitamin C that [the brand has] proven stable and effective in clinical trials," says Finney. "It also has a number of other antioxidants that help to keep cells healthy and reduce inflammation and redness, as well as ingredients to help repair the skin barrier."
Some of those reparative ingredients include ceramides and hydrating glycerin. Finney adds that this serum is an ideal formula for acne-prone skin, as it's ultra-lightweight and won't clog pores.
Naturium Vitamin C Complex Serum
"This $20 serum feels like it should be way more expensive," says board- certified dermatologist Angelo Landriscina of Naturium's Vitamin C Complex Serum. "The vitamin C in this formula is stabilized with gold and glutathione to ensure good shelf life, and it has a super-light texture that makes it easy to introduce into an existing skin-care routine." Needless to say, this is a great option for anyone looking for a budget-friendly brightening serum that offers high-end results.
Mara Sea Vitamin C Serum
There's a whole lot of vitamin C happening in Mara's Sea Vitamin C Serum. Inside the beautiful ombré blue bottle, you'll find 15 percent tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate (THD ascorbate), as well as 14 other forms of vitamin C derived from fruits and plants — including, Kakadu plum, papaya, and grapefruit. On top of that, the brand's founder Allison McNamara told Honayst that she added three types of adaptogens (chlorella, reishi, and ginseng) because she wanted the serum to simultaneously brighten and soothe the skin.
Peach & Lily Transparen-C Pro Spot Treatment
Peach & Lily's Transparen-C Pro Spot Treatment is unique in that it's formulated with ascorbyl tetraisopalmitate, which, as Zeichner previously told Honayst, is an oil-soluble form of vitamin C that's "more stable than traditional ascorbic acid in cosmetic formulations." What also sets this product apart from the rest is the fact that it was specifically designed to be a spot treatment, rather than a traditional all-over vitamin C serum. For this reason, the brand formulated it with 20 percent ascorbyl tetraisopalmitate for maximum potency. As the brand's founder, Alicia Yoon, explains, "We decided to include 20 percent because we really wanted to design it to target any discoloration, blemish scarring, and stubborn melasma."
La Roche-Posay Vitamin C Serum
The name of La Roche-Posay's Vitamin C Serum is as straightforward as it gets, unmistakably touting the formula's 10-percent ascorbic acid. But look a little closer and you'll find this rich liquid provides more than just vitamin C's brightening benefits: Salicylic acid helps with skin clarity, and hyaluronic acid ensures a boost of hydration.
BeautyStat Universal C Skin Refiner
There are several forms of vitamin C, and some are more stable than others. BeautyStat's Universal C Refiner ensures you're getting the good stuff with encapsulated, 20 percent L-ascorbic acid that's delivered at full strength. The result, BeautyStat promises, is more even tone and texture, plus firmer and brighter skin — even if you're prone to sensitivity.
L'Oréal Paris Revitalift Derm Intensive Vitamin C Serum
Remember that thing we said earlier about vitamin C being prone to oxidation? Well, a few things can prevent that from happening: an anhydrous composition (aka made without water) and a UV-blocking metal tube can help keep the formula stable and in its most effective state. For those reasons, L'Oréal's Revitalift Derm Intensive Vitamin C Serum is a true drugstore gem.
Tatcha Violet-C Brightening Serum
Everything you love about the brand's beloved lavender mask, in serum form. Tatcha launched this Violet-C Brightening Serum, which has 20 percent vitamin C + 10 percent alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), making it a formidable force against dark spots and dullness.
SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic
The SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic serum didn't win an Honayst Best of Beauty Award three years in a row for no reason. Editors and dermatologists alike love it for its wrinkle- and fine line-fighting powers, along with its ability to dramatically lighten dark spots caused by sun damage. It's expensive, for sure, but you only need to use a couple of pea-size drops for your entire face, so it should last a decent amount of time. Plus, when you start waking up to brighter, smoother skin every day, you'll realize it's well worth the price.
Neogen Real Vita C Powder Lemon
If you've ever used a vitamin C serum and the color or scent has changed over time, then there's a good chance that oxidation (deterioration as a result of being exposed to air) is to blame. The good news? That annoyance won't happen with a dry formula like Neogen's Real Vita C Powder Lemon, which you can mix into your favorite essence, toner, or moisturizer for an instant ascorbic acid boost.
PCA Skin C&E Advanced
Digital beauty editor Devon Abelman swears by PCA Skin's C&E Advanced for the ultimate glass-skin glow. As the name suggests, it features vitamins C and E (as L-ascorbic acid and tocopherol, respectively), along with complexes hexylresorcinol and silymarin, which possess brightening and anti-inflammatory properties.
Biossance Squalane + Vitamin C Rose Oil
The Squalane + Vitamin C Rose Oil — an editor-loved facial oil from Biossance — nourishes skin like a dream, thanks to a beyond-luxurious base of rose-infused squalane. With continued use, the luxe oil promotes an even tone and gives skin a smooth, renewed appearance.
Lancôme Visionnaire Skin Solutions 15% Vitamin C Correcting Concentrate
Just as its name suggests, Lancôme's Visionnaire Skin Solutions 15% Vitamin C Correcting Concentrate is made with 15 percent vitamin C and hyaluronic acid to give you glowier skin in just 10 days. The lightweight texture instantly absorbs with a non-greasy feel, making it an extra step you won't mind adding to your daily routine.
Drunk Elephant's C-Tango Multivitamin Eye Cream
Drunk Elephant's C-Tango Multivitamin Eye Cream contains not one, but five different forms of vitamin C, plus eight different peptides, making it an under- eye brightening powerhouse. And as with all Drunk Elephant products, it's free from artificial chemicals, fragrances, parabens... you get the gist.
Dermadoctor Kakadu C Serum
"Studies show that vitamin C's effects are more potent when it's combined with vitamin E or ferulic acid," says Geraghty. The Dermadoctor Kakadu C 20% Vitamin C Serum with Ferulic Acid and Vitamin E formula does just that, offering vitamin C, E, and ferulic acid in each drop. And as for the dark bottle? That's a bonus when it comes to storing vitamin C. "Vitamin C is a tricky ingredient because it's notoriously unstable. It breaks down quickly if it's exposed to light or air," she says. "That's why it helps when it comes in a dark or opaque dropper bottle."
Vichy LiftActive Vitamin C Brightening Skin Corrector
Vichy's LiftActive Vitamin C Brightening Skin Corrector is spiked with 15 percent pure vitamin C, plus a healthy dose of hydrating hyaluronic acid. Translation: It's a fast track to skin that's brighter and more hydrated — and it's significantly lower in price than similar products out there.
Peter Thomas Roth Potent-C Targeted Spot Brightener
We've already waxed poetic about vitamin C's ability to fade dark spots. Peter Thomas Roth's Potent-C Targeted Spot Brightener takes those properties and adds antioxidant vitamin E, plus ferulic acid. Meaning, hyperpigmentation hardly stands a chance. Better yet, the nozzle on this super-concentrated spot treatment delivers juuust the right amount to drop onto those pesky ghosts of pimples past.