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The 11 Best Vitamin C Serums, According To Skincare Experts

Like a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice for your complexion, the best vitamin C serums hydrate and address hyperpigmentation, leaving your face bright and glowy. These potent formulas help protect against environmental stressors and inhibit melanin production, while also working to stimulate collagen (case in point: our top pick overall, SkinCeuticals’ C E Ferulic). If you’re new to vitamin C serums, we recommend TruSkin’s serum because its gentle, beginner-friendly formula contains hyaluronic acid for a boost of moisture.

A vitamin C serum acts not only as a dark spot corrector, but as an all-over face treatment. That’s why we considered all skin types when making our product selections, from sensitive skin to those with significant hyperpigmentation. Because everyone’s budget looks different, we included luxury products as well as more affordable options (like the L’Oreal Revitalift, which costs under $20). Read on for our picks—recommended and reviewed by Vetted’s deputy editor Jane Sung and dermatologist Dr. Rachel Pritzker—for the best vitamin C serums you can get.

Best Vitamin C Serum Overall

The Holy Grail That Helps Keep The Compliments Coming

MOST POPULAR

SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic

Active ingredients: L-ascorbic acid, 1% alpha-tocopherol, ferulic acid | Additional benefits: Improves appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, reduces free radical damage | Consistency: Serum | Cruelty-free: No

A gold standard in the industry for many years and a favorite of Chicago-based dermatologist Dr. Pritzker, SkinCeuticals’ serum evens pigmentation and fights environmental aging using high concentrations of a trio of antioxidants: vitamin C (15% pure L-ascorbic acid), vitamin E (1% alpha tocopherol) and ferulic acid. They work in conjunction to minimize dark spots, fight future UVA/UVB damage, alleviate inflammation and neutralize free radicals. The result? The word “youthful” will replace “tired” and “blotchy” when describing your skin.

What our editors say: “I’ve tried various vitamin C serums in the past and always come back to this one,” says Sung. “It’s great for brightening and evening out my skin tone—and really just making it look healthier overall. It also layers well with skincare and makeup.”

What you’ll love:

  • Combats photoaging
  • Stimulates collagen
  • Evens skin tone

Keep in mind:

  • Unpleasant smell to some
  • Expensive

Best Value Vitamin C Serum

An Affordable Product That Helps Smooth Fine Lines

L'Oréal Revitalift Derm Intensives Vitamin C Serum

Active ingredients: Hyaluronic acid, retinol, vitamin C | Additional benefits: Hydrating, wrinkle-reducing | Consistency: Gel | Cruelty-free: No

This formulation features 10% pure vitamin C in conjunction with hydrating hyaluronic acid. Together, they work to reduce wrinkles, even skin tone and make dark spots and pores less noticeable. While some serums leave behind a greasy feel, this one has a powdery finish, which is similar to that of a primer. The lower vitamin C concentration compared to some competitors’ formulas makes this an ideal option for new users or those with sensitive skin; however, experienced users may seek out a more potent product.

What the reviews say: One Amazon customer says, “I have seen amazing results: Fine lines disappear, and dark spots and pores are clearer and much smaller.” Fans also love that it does well underneath other skin products, including moisturizers, SPF and makeup, and it doesn’t have a smelly odor.

What you’ll love:

  • Low cost
  • Typically well-tolerated
  • Primer-like finish

Keep in mind:

  • Lower concentration of vitamin C

Best Vitamin C Serum For Beginners

An Affordable Skin Brightener

TruSkin Vitamin C Serum

Active ingredients: Vitamin C, vitamin E, sodium ascorbyl phosphate | Additional benefits: Improves skin elasticity, texture smoothing | Consistency: Oil | Cruelty-free: Yes

Revive your complexion with this fully vegan, high-performance blend featuring vitamin C (sodium ascorbyl phosphate, a water-soluble form), vitamin E, hyaluronic acid and anti-inflammatory MSM (methylsulfonylmethane). It promises to brighten, reduce hyperpigmentation and promote elasticity to revitalize tired-looking skin. In particular, its 5-star reviewers (there are more than 90,000 of them) rave about its ability to reduce dark spots and redness, decrease breakouts and minimize pore size. You just need three to five drops of this serum applied after cleansing, and it works well with or without makeup.

What our staffers say: “As someone who had never used a vitamin C serum previous to this one, I can say that this is a great option for beginners,” says updates writer Claire Epting. “I use it beneath my eyes and on acne spots, and I’ve definitely noticed a positive change in those areas since using it. I love that it doesn’t cause any stinging or irritation on my sensitive skin.”

What you’ll love:

  • Affordable
  • Reduces dark spots
  • Works well under makeup

Keep in mind:

  • Some say it can cause dryness

Best Vitamin C Serum For Acne-Prone Skin

A Specialized Serum That Keeps Breakouts At Bay

La Roche-Posay Vitamin C Serum

Active ingredients: Vitamin C, hyaluronic acid, salicylic acid | Additional benefits: Minimizes pores, hydrating, exfoliating | Consistency: Serum | Cruelty-free: No

Wake up “blah” skin, achieve a more youthful-looking glow and target uneven texture with this pure 10% vitamin C serum. It also contains hyaluronic acid and salicylic acid, a known acne fighter that helps exfoliate and minimizes pores. Keep in mind that this formula is applied with a dropper, so it has the potential to get a little messy. It also contains fragrance, so it may cause irritation for those with particularly sensitive skin.

What the reviews say: “The serum goes on smooth and leaves your skin feeling soft, rather than tacky like other serums I have tried,” says one Ulta customer. “The smell isn’t overly strong, but there is a scent at application. I will definitely be keeping this in my daily lineup.” However, some users don’t love the dropper and say it’s hard to use, and many report that the product can sometimes pill under makeup.

What you’ll love:

  • No sticky feel
  • Contains acne-fighting ingredients
  • Hydrating

Keep in mind:

  • Dropper can be messy
  • Formula contains fragrance

Best Drugstore Vitamin C Serum

A Natural Formula That Smooths And Tightens

Mad Hippie Vitamin C Serum

Active ingredients: Vitamin C, hyaluronic acid, ferulic acid, konjac root | Additional benefits: Tightens skin, hydrating, calming | Consistency: Serum | Cruelty-free: Yes

This serum from Mad Hippie is formulated with sodium ascorbyl phosphate, a form of vitamin C that’s more stable than L-ascorbic acid—and therefore, less likely to oxidize. (According to the brand, the potency is comparable to a 15% or 20% L-ascorbic acid formula.) Natural ingredients such as konjac root, chamomile and clary sage work to soothe irritated skin, while hyaluronic acid boosts your face’s moisture levels. The bottle’s wallet-friendly price earned it the top spot on our list of the Best Drugstore Vitamin C Serums.

What the reviews say: “This serum is not just gentle and non-irritating, but it’s also quite effective,” says one Ulta customer. “I have noticed significantly fewer breakouts and a brighter, more even complexion. I swear it’s also helping with fine lines.”

What you’ll love:

  • Natural formula
  • Safe for sensitive skin
  • Lightweight feel

Keep in mind:

  • Exact percentage of vitamin C isn’t listed
  • Some skin types may see better results with L-ascorbic acid

Best Vitamin C Serum For Sensitive Skin

An SPF-Infused Multitasker

Supergoop Daily Dose Hydra-Ceramide Boost + SPF 40

Active ingredients: Vitamin C, kakadu plum extract, niacinamide | Additional benefits: UV protection, hydrating, heals acne scars | Consistency: Serum | Cruelty-free: Yes

This SPF-meets-serum formulation is, as the name suggests, a combination of powerhouse SPF and toning vitamin C at a 10% concentration. This two-in-one product works double duty, saving on your beauty budget, time and valuable counter space. The non-comedogenic formula is packed with a slew of natural ingredients like ceramides (for moisture), squalene (for immediate hydration), hyaluronic acid (for long-term hydration) and kakadu plum (for combatting acne scars). It’s also gentle enough for daily use, even on sensitive skin types.

What the reviews say: “I apply it every morning prior to my makeup,” says one Sephora customer. “It’s super lightweight and not greasy at all. I have sensitive skin and this product hasn’t caused any breakouts.”

What you’ll love:

  • Built-in UV protection
  • Boosts radiance
  • Combats acne scars

Keep in mind:

  • Chemical SPF
  • Matte finish

Best Vitamin C Serum For Dry Skin

A High-Performance Oil With Intense Hydration Benefits

Biossance Squalane + Vitamin C Rose Oil

Active ingredients: Vitamin C, sugarcane-derived squalane | Additional benefits: Hydrating, improves loss of firmness and elasticity | Consistency: Oil | Cruelty-free: Yes

From clean beauty brand Biossance, this product features THD ascorbate, the oil-soluble, stable form of vitamin C that is typically easier to tolerate than straight L-ascorbic acid. Its other star ingredients are sugarcane-derived squalane and chios crystal oil, which work to lock in moisture and increase skin firmness. One issue with many oils and serums is that they leave behind a greasy residue, but this hydrator seems to absorb in just a few minutes. Still, bear in mind that less is more—you only need a few drops to improve skin radiance. Unlike some other vitamin C products, this one has a nice, light rose smell, and it works well under makeup without pilling.

What the reviews say: Reviewers report that it fades acne scars and spots and visibly brightens dull skin, leaving you with a youthful glow. “It has drastically changed my dry skin for the better,” one Amazon customer says. “I mix it in with my makeup and always look like I’m glowing. I also use it before bed as a deep moisturizer. It’s definitely worth the money spent.”

What you’ll love:

  • Layers well under makeup
  • Unlikely to cause irritation
  • Oil-based for added moisture

Keep in mind:

  • Some find it too greasy

Best Vitamin C Serum For Hyperpigmentation

A Potent, All-Star Illuminator

Revision Skincare C+ Correcting Complex 30%

Active ingredients: THD ascorbic acid, vitamin C, vitamin E | Additional benefits: Protects against blue light and urban dust, supports skin’s microbiome, improves fine lines | Consistency: Cream | Cruelty-free: Yes

Revision’s seemingly tireless serum brightens and evens skin tone, improves fine lines, helps correct damage and acts as armor to defend against future free-radical damage. Another plus: It’s a lightweight cream formula, which works well for all skin types, says Pritzker.

What our experts say: “This is one of my very favorite serums, and it’s a cult favorite,” says Pritzker. “It has 30% THD ascorbic acid which is not only some of the highest percentage on the market, but it’s extremely stable. The airless pump ensures that the vitamin C will not oxidize. It protects against blue light and urban dust and supports the skin’s microbiome.” 

What you’ll love:

  • High concentration of vitamin C
  • Lightweight feel
  • Protects against blue light

Keep in mind:

  • Expensive

Best Vitamin C Serum For Darker Skin Tones

A Brightening Serum That Helps Fight Breakouts

Black-Owned

Hyper Skin Brightening Dark Spot Vitamin C Serum

Active ingredients: Vitamin C, hyaluronic acid, kojic acid | Additional benefits: Smooths skin texture, targets fine lines | Consistency: Serum | Cruelty-free: Yes

Black-owned brand Hyper Skin’s Hyper Even Serum is a vitamin C formula that caters to all skin types and tones, including melanated skin. Fruit enzymes and 1% kojic acid tackle hyperpigmentation while 15% vitamin C and vitamin E work together to brighten skin, target fine lines and smooth rough texture. Finally, anti-inflammatory turmeric and salicylic acid (less than 1%) help heal and prevent future breakouts.

What the reviews say: “It’s lightweight and hydrating, and it doesn’t irritate my sensitive skin,” says one Sephora shopper. “It leaves my skin looking so beautiful, especially on the days I don’t wear makeup. This serum has helped brighten a few of my dark acne scars.”

What you’ll love:

  • Helps heal acne and blemishes
  • Non-sticky
  • Works on all skin tones

Keep in mind:

  • A little goes a long way

Best Vitamin C Serum For Oily Skin

Achieve Noticeable Results With This Exfoliating Serum

Editor’s Pick

Ole Henriksen Banana Bright 15% Vitamin C Serum

Active ingredients: Vitamin C, PHAs, hyaluronic acid | Additional benefits: Improves skin firmness and elasticity, exfoliating | Consistency: Serum | Cruelty-free: Yes

Many vitamin C serums require some time before you can see results, but this vegan and cruelty-free serum promises brighter, bouncier skin in just one week. It contains a core trifecta of hardworking ingredients: 15% vitamin C to improve elasticity and reduce the look of dark spots, pores and wrinkles, 5% PHAs (polyhydroxy acids) to exfoliate and even skin tone and hyaluronic acid to hydrate and plump skin. And something else that’s fun: This serum features “banana powder-inspired pigments” that promise to instantly illuminate and color correct. So basically, it’s equal parts glowy concealer and a time machine for your skin.

What our editors say: “It’s so hydrating and lightweight; it immediately gives me a supple, radiant look,” says Forbes Vetted sleep and mattress editor McKenzie Dillon. “The serum preps my skin so well in the morning that I don’t use primer before makeup application—it’s a must-have in my skincare routine. Plus, the smell is to die for.”

What you’ll love:

  • Promises results in as early as one week
  • Multitasking formula also color corrects
  • Targets hyperpigmentation and elasticity

Keep in mind:

  • Can feel sticky, according to some reviewers

Best Vitamin C Serum For Combination Skin

A User-Friendly, Multitasking Serum That Makes Skin Radiant

Sunday Riley CEO 15% Vitamin C Brightening Serum

Active ingredients: Glycolic acid, vitamin C | Additional benefits: Fights signs of aging, minimizes redness, supports natural skin turnover | Consistency: Cream | Cruelty-free: Yes

If your skin feels dull after a long winter, you’re not alone. This popular serum, which glides on like a light moisturizer, brightens skin, targets dark spots and reduces the appearance of fine lines. Its star ingredient with a 15% concentration is oil-soluble tetrahexyldecyl (THD) ascorbate, a type of vitamin C that absorbs quickly. Other standouts in this cruelty-free formulation: Phytosterols reduce signs of skin sensitivity—such as redness—and saccharide isomerate acts as a pore minimizer. Think of this as an IRL smartphone filter: It evens tone, smooths skin and boosts radiance.

What the reviews say: Unlike some funky smelling vitamin C serums, this one has a subtle, refreshing citrusy scent that many users love. “The smell is so pleasant; it smells like an orange dreamsicle, but it’s very light and doesn’t linger,” says one Sephora reviewer. “Absolutely zero burn, sting, tingles or anything.” That said, some users feel that while this serum brightened their skin immediately, it took time to see additional results.

What you’ll love:

  • No greasy residue
  • Reduces redness
  • Minimizes pores

Keep in mind:

  • Takes time to see results, according to some reviewers

Why Trust Forbes Vetted

  • Author Molly Calhoun is a regular contributor with experience covering a range of topics across Vetted’s beauty and grooming vertical.
  • Calhoun enlisted the help of dermatologist Dr. Rachel Pritzker of Chicago Cosmetic Surgery and Dermatology for her take on key formulations, ingredients and the most important things to consider in this category.
  • Deputy editor Jane Sung, who reviews product selections and oversees the publishing and updating of this article, has more than a decade of beauty industry experience conducting testing and extensive research.
  • This article is routinely updated so that availability, prices and reviewer ratings stay relevant. Our March 2024 update was executed by beauty writer Claire Epting, who specializes in writing and researching lifestyle content. For this newest iteration, she added answers to popular questions shoppers have about vitamin C serums.


How We Chose The Best Vitamin C Serums

  • Having produced a variety of skincare stories, we tapped into our deep market knowledge to highlight products and brands that offer innovative, effective formulas.
  • We dug into the key ingredients of our top picks to ensure the inclusion of formulas that cater to a variety of skin types and preferences.
  • Sung backs the SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic as a personal favorite, while Pritzker shared her expert insights and also recommends the SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic as well as the Revision Skincare C+ Correcting Complex 30%.
  • Customer reviews were taken into account; we pulled particularly enlightening shopper testimonials for several products to help you make the most informed purchasing decision.


What To Consider In A Vitamin C Serum

Vitamin C has so much potential to deliver complexion-enhancing results, but according to Pritzker, choosing the right one can be tricky. “Beyond the efficacy of the [ingredient], it’s important to find a formula that works with your skin,” she says. With this in mind, here are the main points to consider when picking a vitamin C serum.

Ingredients

Companies use various forms of vitamin C in their formulations, and the two most common are L-ascorbic acid and THD ascorbate. Certain formulations offer higher concentrations for more brightening power, but users with sensitive skin should opt for a lower dose.

  • L-ascorbic acid: This is 100% pure vitamin C. It’s water-soluble, well-researched and effective, but extremely unstable. It begins to oxidize and change color over time and can be irritating to some people’s skin.
  • Tetrahexyldecyl (THD) ascorbate: This ingredient is stable and fat soluble, so it can be used in oil-based products. It tends to be well tolerated and permeates the skin easily.

Additional ingredients found in vitamin C serums assist with hydration, minimizing signs of aging, dark spot correcting and more. Below are some common ones to look for when addressing skin concerns.

  • Vitamin E: An antioxidant that’s ideal to pair with vitamin C according to Pritzker, vitamin E offers a host of benefits including moisturizing, dark spot correcting and healing burns and blemishes.
  • Ferulic acid: Another complementary antioxidant, this ingredient is often paired with vitamin C because it helps strengthen its efficacy and also on its own can calm inflammation and reduce signs of aging.
  • Hyaluronic acid: This is known for moisturizing and plumping skin for a more youthful appearance.
  • Squalane: This emollient is not only hydrating, but it smooths, softens and calms the complexion.

Formulation

“Vitamin C products have different vehicles that may or may not agree with your skin,” says Pritzker. “There are creams, serums and oils, and depending on these factors some skin types react differently than others.” Nearly all of the picks on this list can be characterized as a serum, due to their highly concentrated ingredients that penetrate deep within the skin; however, you may find that your skin prefers a cream or gel formula to an oil-based one.

Packaging

Because vitamin C is often an unstable ingredient and can start to oxidize in the presence of light, heat and air, it’s a good idea to seek out serums with dark, opaque packaging. If the formula itself has turned brown, it has lost its potency. Shelf life varies from brand to to brand, but most vitamin C serums last around 3 to 4 months. Many brands package their formulas in 1-ounce bottles, so you should be able to use up the entire product before it declines in quality.


Which Vitamin C Serum Is Most Effective?

When it comes to skincare, choosing a formula largely depends on your skin type, goals and budget. Identifying the right concentration for your skin will determine how effective your serum will be, and starting slow helps ease you into this new regimen. Consider starting with a lower vitamin C dose of 10% before increasing to 15% or 20%. Additionally, if you have normal or oily skin, consider using L-ascorbic acid, the most potent form of vitamin C (found in our best overall pick the SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic). However, if your skin is on the drier side, opt for the Biossance +Vitamin C Rose Oil, which features the gentler THD ascorbate.

Is There A Really Big Difference In Vitamin C Serums?

While the vitamin C serums above are all designed to brighten skin and reduce hyperpigmentation, each one differs in the additional benefits it provides. It’s rare for a vitamin C treatment to only include this active ingredient; for example, the SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic also includes vitamin E and ferulic acid, making it an effective anti-aging serum. Meanwhile, the Ole Henriksen Banana Bright contains PHAs, which help it act as a face exfoliator while hyaluronic acid boosts skin’s moisture barrier. So while many of these products may look similar, it’s important to pay close attention to the ingredients within each.

How Often Can I Use A Vitamin C Serum?

A vitamin C serum can be used daily, “as long as it is tolerated well and not irritating the skin or causing an adverse reaction,” says Pritzker. However, if you’re new to vitamin C serum, it may be best to start at a lower concentration or apply it less frequently because it can cause irritation. “You should not use vitamin C on compromised skin,” she says. You also need to be cautious using it with other some active ingredients, such as retinol. As far as how long it takes to see a noticeable change in your complexion, Pritzker says, “You can start to appreciate the results of a topical vitamin C in as little as a month.”

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