How to Choose the Best Vitamin C Serum

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Whether you’ve only just started to notice a few troubling changes in your skin, or you’ve been waging war against the ravages of time for a while now, you’ve no doubt noticed 4 key ingredients that have gone beyond simple “buzzwords” and become part of the skincare lexicon, ingredients that are proven to work, time and time again, to produce real and noticeable improvements in the overall appearance and health of your skin; Retinol, alpha hydroxyl acids, SPF, and antioxidants.

Of these, one of the most powerful and versatile is an antioxidant in the form of Vitamin C. And today, in serum form, Vitamin C has opened up a brave new world of skin care. It will be an undisputed weapon in your battle against the effects of Father Time.

Even if you already have glowing skin, the benefits of incorporating this vitamin into your regular skincare routine are necessary to prevent aging and maintain your appearance. In this guide, we want to give you the ins and outs of this antioxidant and connect you with the absolute best vitamin C serum on the market!

Our Top Picks

After extensive research, these represent the 5 best-selling and highest-rated Vitamin C serums across the market. Each has received top marks in performance, effectiveness, and timely results. And, happily, they span a wide range of price points… so you can find one to fit any budget!

So, what is it?

Even though Vitamin C (otherwise known as ascorbic acid) is naturally occurring, and vital to our immune system, our bodies do not produce it, so supplements are needed.

Woman holding lemon

From the outside, Vitamin C helps fight free radicals, while on the inside, it boosts the immune system to help our cells fight off infection. Vitamin C also supports the cardiovascular and nervous systems, strengthens connective tissue, aids in fat metabolism, and helps keep teeth, bones, and skin healthy.

But what does all that mean for your skin?

As it turns out, Vitamin C is a must-have in order for most other ingredients in skin care to be effective at all. Along with its ability to fight free radicals, Vitamin C helps to boost your body’s production of collagen. And as you no doubt know, it’s the very lack of collagen that is the prime culprit in sagging and wrinkled skin.

Contrary to many skin care claims though, the inclusion of collagen in products isn’t enough to magically replace its loss from your skin. Without incorporating the use of Vitamin C, collagen on its own is just not effective.

How does it Rescue Aging Skin?

So obviously, Vitamin C is essential in your fight against the negative, and noticeable, effects of time.

But what specific anti-aging and skin care concerns will it address?

  • Loose, sagging skin – As noted above, Vitamin C helps to increase the production of collagen, which helps combat and supplement the loss of elasticity in the skin. It also works in conjunction with other key ingredients to additionally boost the production of collagen.
  • Fine lines and wrinkles – Free radicals present by the billions in the atmosphere around us attack our skin and break down its strength, texture, and elasticity. Vitamin C fights the daily damage caused by time and these free radicals.
  • Uneven skin tone/pore size – As skin loses elasticity, it also loses the ability to effectively shed dead skin cells, causing the cells to enlarge and clog the pores, and dull the appearance of the skin. The natural acidity in Vitamin C, a powerful yet gentle exfoliant, helps to even out the skin and clear it of dulling dead cells.
  • Sun damage/sun spots/hyper-pigmentation – Vitamin C is a depigmenting agent, meaning that it not only blocks the formation of melanin in the skin during sun exposure, brightening the look of the skin, but it can help decrease the darkened hyper-pigmentation and damage already present.
  • Acne – Vitamin C has anti-inflammatory properties and also helps to increase the speed of wound healing, which makes it perfect for not only acne, but redness, oiliness, and blackheads.
Orange juice and smart phone

As you can see, the benefits are endless. It treats so many different skin conditions, and all of the above are areas many men and women wish to improve. Not only does vitamin C improve them, but it also prevents these conditions from occurring, which is half the battle.

If you don’t necessarily suffer from these but want to prevent these skin conditions, we encourage you to start using a serum. This will help prevent wrinkles, acne, and sun damage, giving you glowing, radiant skin.

Forms Available in Skin Care Serums

There is one other thing you should know before using a vitamin C serum: these skincare products can be found in several different forms. L-ascorbic acid is the most common. However, there are other options out there that may suit your skin better.

Here is a brief overview to help you decide which is right for you:

Ascorbic Acid (Also known as L-Ascorbic Acid) – With a pH of less than 3.5, this is one of the most popular and powerful forms of Vitamin C. However, it might not be suitable for sensitive skin due to its low, acidic pH.

Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate (SAP) – This form has a higher pH of 7, so it is more gentle, but it provides slightly less protection from UV damage and noticeable reduction of hyperpigmentation may take longer to see.

Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate (MAP) – Again, this form also has a pH of 7, so it will take slightly longer to see results.

Ascorbyl Palmitate (AA-PAL) – One of the more unstable varieties of Vitamin C, this form is not often used, and rarely used without other, more stabilizing low pH elements.

Ascorbyl Tetra-Isopalmitate (VC-IP) – Has a very low pH of 5, but is shown to be more stable than MAP, and effective (gradually) if used with consistency.

Less common forms also include: Ascorbyl Glucoside, Ascorbyl 2-Phosphate 6-Palmitate, Retinyl Ascorbate, and Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate. These have not been researched and tested as frequently or extensively as the others above, but they might be seen in some skin care products.

There are so many on the market…how do I choose?

Once you start looking, you’ll probably notice that Vitamin C products are available in a wide range of prices. Unfortunately, the effectiveness and quality of Vitamin C products can vary just as much, so you need to begin your search armed with information.

Woman choosing among the products available

At the end of this review, you’ll see a list of the best vitamin C serums available. We took the trouble of reviewing dozens of serums to narrow down the search selection to only the top options. We are confident they will work wonders on your skin.

What to consider:

  • Ingredients – Hands-down, the Cadillac of Vitamin C derivatives is Ascorbic Acid. Studies show that not only does Ascorbic Acid address hyperpigmentation and uneven tone and texture, but it has been proven to stimulate and boost production of collagen. Other powerhouse skin performers include Hyaluronic Acid, Ferulic Acid, plant-derived substances (phytonutrients), and other antioxidants like Vitamin E and A.
  • pH Level –Vitamin C in the form of Ascorbic Acid is only stable low pH formulations, so look for products with level 3.5 or lower.
  • Potency – Products with a concentration of 20-25% Vitamin C, especially in the ascorbic acid form, are likely to produce noticeable and excellent results fairly quickly.
  • Skin Type – If your skin is typically sensitive, you should look for a gentler formulation of Vitamin C, specifically, a product containing less than 10-15% Vitamin C. However, remember that this will cut down of the efficacy of the product as well, meaning you may not see results as quickly as you were hoping. Also, since a serum is the most powerful concentrate you can find, you could consider a cream or lotion formulation, or the inclusion of a buffering ingredient such as Niacinamide.
  • Packaging – Vitamin C in all forms is air and light-sensitive and will start to break down upon exposure, so be sure your product is in a dark colored or opaque glass jar, ideally with a pump dispenser. And aim to use all of the product within 3 months of opening.
  • Price – As with most things in life, you need to weigh the results you want, the time it will take to see them, and your budget. The good news is that there are so many worthwhile Vitamin C serums on the market now, addressing a full range of skin care concerns, that you will have no problem finding one to fit both your finances and your face. Take your time, do your homework, and get ready to stop Father Time in his tracks!

How to Get the Best Results from Your Vitamin C Serum

Now, everyone has a different way of applying vitamin C serum. Some people believe that it needs to be applied at night so that the skin can repair itself while you sleep. Others think it’s best to apply during the day to fight off free-radical damage.

The most important part about using this type of serum is not when you apply it, but that you actual remember to use it. Remember that consistency is key with any skincare product. You won’t get the results you want to see unless you use it as instructed.

How Often Should You Use Your Serum?

Experts share that it’s not necessary to use this serum every single day. Doing so may just result in a waste of product since your skin doesn’t need vitamin C every single day. For this reason, the recommended application is every 48-72 hours.

Another important thing to remember is to store bottles away properly. You want to keep your serum stored away in a cool, dark location. This will maintain the stability of certain ingredients such as L-ascorbic acid.

You’ll notice that after a while the serum will begin to turn a brownish color. This is a sign that it’s time for a new serum. If you use it consistently as instructed, by the time it turns brown, your bottle will be nearing empty. A good rule of thumb – replace your bottle every 6 months.

Precautions to Keep in Mind

Using a new product is always exciting. However, you want to pay extra attention to how your skin reacts to it. If you notice negative effects, such as a rash, stop use immediately and speak with your dermatologist.

If you have sensitive skin or usually always break out when using a new product, you can have peace of mind that this won’t be the case with vitamin C. This is a safe antioxidant for even the most sensitive of skins! Of course, this doesn’t mean you don’t need to test it out on a small area of your skin before using it full force.

Now that you know the ins and outs of this powerful antioxidant, let’s cover the best vitamin C serums out on the market. We went through dozens of products to compile this list of our top picks. We are sure they’ll be worth every penny!


We hope this guide has given you a better understanding of why vitamin C is so important to use on your skin. If you haven’t made it a part of your regular skincare routine, now’s the time to start! When you do, please share your feedback with us. We want to hear all about what has worked for you, what you liked/didn’t like, and so on.

Happy time stopping!

Avatar for Megan Foley

Megan has been a freelance writer and editor since 2016. In that time, she’s penned a diverse collection of articles for online publication, with a focus on skincare and beauty. From in-depth product reviews to concise marketing content, Megan is passionate about developing content that informs, entertains, and inspires.