The best vitamin C serums are among the most potent skin-care products you can have in your collection for tackling some of the most common skin-care concerns — from dullness and discoloration to fine lines and uneven skin texture. Serums contain the highest concentrations of the brightening ingredient (also known as ascorbic acid or L-ascorbic acid) but there are plenty of other ways to find it, too: in fruits like oranges and papaya, of course, but also in a slew of other skin-care products like moisturizers, eye creams, and face masks.
“Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that’s a key component to many skin-brightening regimens, as it interferes with pigment production and keeps inflammation at bay,” explains board-certified dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, MD, the director of cosmetic and clinical research at Mount Sinai’s Department of Dermatology in New York City.
Because of its antioxidant properties, vitamin C-enhanced options are also ideal as day serums, since they’re well-equipped to protect your skin against any environmental aggressors that you’ll experience when you step out of the house. Dr. Zeichner says that vitamin C neutralizes free radicals, which are molecules found in external factors like air pollution and sunlight. This may help protect the skin from pre-cancerous changes due to UV light exposure, he explains. (However, you always still need to wear sunscreen, no matter what you have layered underneath in terms of skin care.) And since free radicals can speed up signs of aging, vitamin C helps with fending off fine lines they cause, too.
Their help for youthful-looking skin doesn’t just stop there though. Because vitamin C is highly acidic, when it’s used topically, “the skin is triggered to heal itself by accelerating elastin and collagen production,” New York City-based dermatologist Howard Sobel, MD, previously explained to us, which helps to plump and firm skin, while preventing premature aging of the skin. Think of it as the ideal daytime counterpart to the retinol or acids you might be using at night to smooth over your skin, speed up cellular turnover, and treat acne scars left over from pesky breakouts.
Another reason why it’s always used in brightening products is that vitamin C contains a property that inhibits your skin’s melanin production, which is what causes skin discoloration like dark spots and hyperpigmentation, New York City-based board-certified dermatologist Patricia Wexler, MD, previously told Allure. Over time, she says that vitamin C can help prevent dark spots from forming in the first place.
Now that you know what it does, we’ve rounded up some of the best topical skin-care products containing vitamin C to help you achieve glowy skin — and all the rest of those feel-good benefits. Read on for the best vitamin C serums for all skin types that are sure to leave you glowing.
Our Top Picks:
- Best Overall: SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic, $182
- Best Drugstore: La Roche-Posay 10% Pure Vitamin C Face Serum, $40
- Best Antioxidant: Paula’s Choice Super Antioxidant Concentrate Serum, $43
- Best with SPF: Supergoop Daily Dose Vitamin C + SPF 40, $46
- Best for Acne-Prone Skin: Glow Recipe Strawberry Smooth BHA + AHA Salicylic Serum, $40
- Best for Dark Spots: Peter Thomas Roth Potent-C Targeted Spot Brightener, $62
- Best for Glowy Finish: Glossier Super Glow Face Serum, $29