As far as buzzy skincare ingredients go, vitamin C is one of the most talked about — and for good reason. "Packed with antioxidants, vitamin C has shown to improve dull skin texture and tone, fight free radical damage, reduce signs of aging, dark spots and hyperpigmentation, hydrate, increase collagen production, brighten and provide anti-inflammatory effects," says Geeta Yadav, M.D., a board certified dermatologist and founder of Skin Science Dermatology.
"Also known as ascorbic acid and L-ascorbic acid, vitamin C provides antioxidant protection, as it uses electrons to neutralize the free radicals found on skin from environmental stressors like solar radiation and pollution," says Good Housekeeping Institute Beauty Lab chemist Danusia Wnek. Additionally, vitamin C blocks the enzyme responsible for melanin (or pigmentation) production, which means it can help brighten skin. Dr. Yadav explains that because the vitamin is a water-soluble nutrient, it can be used topically in many different forms, including vitamin C serums.
The Good Housekeeping Institute regularly tests skincare products to find the best ones on the market. When we review vitamin C serums, we look for technology to preserve the vitamin C, unique packaging to protect against light degradation and ingredients with synergistic benefits to improve efficacy. The below picks reflect our Lab picks, Good Housekeeping Seal-holders and top-rated items from our favorite trusted brands, plus favorites from consumers and dermatologist recommendations. Below, you'll find the best vitamin C serums you can buy for your skin type:
Our top picks:
Best Overall Vitamin C SerumMulti Correxion Revive + Glow Daily Serum RoC Read More
Best Vitamin C Serum for HyperpigmentationRevitalift Vitamin C Serum L'Oreal Paris Read More
Best Vitamin C Serum for Acne ScarsFresh Pressed 7-Day System Clinique Read More
Best Vitamin C Serum for BeginnersGrapefruit Daily Brightening Serum Yes To Read More
Best Vitamin C Serum for Dry SkinActive C10 Read More
Yes! When used on a daily basis, a vitamin C serum can help brighten dull skin, diminish acne scars, even out skin tone, hydrate skin and protect it from pollution. Once you find the most effective vitamin C product for your skin type (more on that below), simply apply the vitamin C serum to clean, dry skin twice a day — in the morning and at night — for best results, and follow with your favorite face moisturizer to seal in the serum and further hydrate skin.
In theory, almost everyone can incorporate a vitamin C serum into their skincare routine. However, Ellen Marmur, M.D., a New York based dermatologist and founder of Marmur Metamorphosis Skincare, cautions that too much vitamin C can potentially irritate skin. It depends on your skin type, but she personally recommends products that contain between 10-15% potency for best results.
According to Wnek, vitamin C is highly effective in its pure form, but it is a tricky ingredient to formulate with because it is very unstable and can degrade with exposure to oxygen, light, water and high pH. That means that while it is a hero ingredient, its properties are difficult to stabilize — and because of that, some vitamin C serums and other skincare products work better (and for longer) than others.
✔️ If you have oily skin, look for "ascorbic acid" on the labels rather than the oil soluble "ascorbyl palmitate."
✔️ If you have rosacea, know that your skin is already compromised, so using a vitamin C serum can possibly cause irritation and you may want to steer clear.
Danusia Wnek is a chemist in the Good Housekeeping Institute Beauty, Health & Sustainability Lab. She has a B.S. in chemistry from St. John’s University, an M.S. in pharmaceutical sciences with concentration in cosmetic science from the University of Cincinnati and 10 years of experience in the personal care industry including formulation, product development, claim evaluation and efficacy testing. Since joining the team in 2014, she has been developing and overseeing the testing of anti-aging serums, eye creams, flat irons, hairdryer brushes, moisturizing creams and more utilizing both lab instrumentation and consumer feedback to recommend the best products on the market. She enjoys researching and translating scientific data for consumers so they feel empowered in their purchasing decisions.