I’ve reviewed many vitamin C serums for the FutureDerm site over the years, and have tried even more. I wanted to compile a quick reference guide of some of my favorites!
SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic
This wouldn’t be a vitamin C list without including SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic serum, my longtime favorite, and the antioxidant serum by which all others are measured (okay maybe that is a little dramatic but it’s seriously good). Originally developed as a spin-off of Dr. Sheldon Pinnell’s Cellex-C product, Skinceuticals C E Ferulic is a product that everyone from Hollywood celebrities like Jessica Chastain to top clinical dermatologists like Dr. Leslie Baumann, MD, can get behind.
It was also the first product to use L-ascorbic acid and vitamin E together. Vitamin C and vitamin E are network antioxidants that have been found to synergistically enhance the power of one another. Vitamins C and E as L-ascorbic acid and tocopheryl acetate have also been reported by Djerassi et. al. to prevent the formation of cancerous compounds, called carcinogenic nitrosamines. Vitamin C and vitamin E also enhance the photoprotective effects of sunscreen, as vitamin C has been reported to enhance UVA protection, whereas vitamin E is more effective against UVB radiation.
L-ascorbic acid is notorious for being unstable so be sure to tightly cap it after each use and store it in a cool, dark place to get the most out of your product.
FutureDerm Vitamin CE Caffeic Silk Serum 16+2
Of course, I have to include my own! Not just because I formulated it (together with cosmetic chemists) but I also genuinely love the formula and am very proud of it! The FutureDerm Vitamin CE Caffeic Silk Serum 16+2 is one of our best selling products for good reason. It is an exclusive brightening, tightening serum containing an unprecedented 16% vitamin C, 2% vitamin E, and caffeic acid, all suspended in a state-of-the-art silicone base. We have carefully calculated this formula to improve the appearance of the skin and smooth its texture.
Maelove The Glow Maker
Love the SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic serum, but hate the price tag? Check out The Glow Maker serum from Maelove! They are incredibly similar in terms of active ingredients. Both formulas include 15% vitamin C as L-ascorbic acid, vitamin E as tocopherol, ferulic acid, and Ethyoxydiglycol (a hydrating yet lightweight alcohol). The only difference is that Maelove The Glow Maker antioxidant serum includes a few other ingredients, like soothing aloe, hydrating sodium hyaluronate, magnolia extract, and grape seed extract. But it’s a much closer dupe than those that you’ll find on Amazon for a FRACTION of the price.
iS Clinical Super Serum
iS Clinical Super Serum is a vitamin C serum with a super-high concentration of vitamin C as L-ascorbic acid (I estimate 15-20%), plus a bunch of other proven ingredients for brightening and hydrating the skin like hyaluronic acid, arbutin, kojic acid, mushroom extract, and vitamin B5 — all in fairly high concentration, and all in a pentylene glycol base that enables the serum to reach your skin in the first place. My biggest issue with this serum, though, is that it doesn’t include vitamin E as a network antioxidant. This is an easy fix as you can use a sunscreen or serum that is rich in vitamin E, but at $150 it’s a little frustrating to have to take that extra step. Overall, this is a great serum despite that.
Versed Found the Light Vitamin C Powder
I reviewed this recently, but wanted to include Versed Found the Light Vitamin C Powderin this list because I’m seriously impressed by it! It’s also a great vitamin C option for those skincare fanatics who are on a tighter budget. As I mentioned earlier, vitamin C is notorious for being unstable, so companies have recently started using it in powder form. When you add a serum or moisturizer to the powder, you get fresh, unoxidized vitamin C as L-ascorbic acid, without having to worry about excessive exposure to light, heat, or air.
SkinCeuticals 10 AOX+
Think of the SkinCeuticals 10 AOX+ serum at C E Ferulic’s younger, less intense sister. It’s a great option for those with sensitive skin. While having less L-ascorbic acid than the original, it does contain a significantly higher amount of ferulic acid. Found in the cell walls of grains, fruits, and vegetables as diverse as honey and beer, ferulic acid is a potent antioxidant and UV absorber, protecting the skin from UVB-induced redness and swelling.
Tatcha Violet-C Brightening Serum 20% Vitamin C + 10% AHA
Another great option for those with sensitive skin who are ALSO looking for a natural product is the TATCHA Violet-C Brightening Serum 20% Vitamin C + 10% AHA. It includes Japanese beautyberry as a substitute for vitamin E. Japanese beautyberry has the ability to protect vitamin C and reduce the cell’s reactions to UV light. Therefore, this is a perfect combo because the product contains vitamin C. With a high concentration of 20% vitamin C in this serum, it’s vital to have an ingredient like Japanese beautyberry (or vitamin E, or coenzyme Q10) to stabilize it.
Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum
Another great dupe for SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic is the C-Firma Day Serum by Drunk Elephant. The formula is so close that L’Oreal is suing Drunk Elephant for patent infringement. It includes L-ascorbic acid, vitamin E, ferulic acid, and some new ingredients like pumpkin and a new peptide, Chronocyclin. Most peptides claim to work to repair skin in some way, whether through signaling collagen-producing skin cell activation, pigment skin cell deactivation, or something of that sort. Chronocyclin promises to mimic the patterns of sun exposure on the circadian genes (UL Prospector). Specifically, Chronocyclin activates vitamin D within the skin in a time-oriented, cyclical fashion that is designed to “wake up” your skin at the right times, and strengthen its immunity and cellular defenses (Circadia).
Dr. Brandt Power Dose Vitamin C Serum
Dr. Brandt Power Dose Vitamin C Serum is my favorite serum that includes vitamin C ester. An early study showed that just 2% of the vitamin C ester (3-O-ethyl ascorbic acid) improved skin whitening and radiance after just 28 days of twice-daily application (Cosmetics and Toiletries). This means that 20% (the amount in this serum) could have up to 5-7 times the effect of 15% L-ascorbic acid. However, that is just one study so more research needs to be done but it is very exciting!
Mad Hippie Vitamin C Serum
Mad Hippie Vitamin C Serum has developed a cult following of sorts. Those I’ve spoken to who have used it swear by it! And it’s not hard to see why. It contains all the good stuff — Vitamin C in the form of sodium ascorbyl phosphate, vitamin E, and ferulic acid. It also has some extra stuff that makes it hydrating and soothing like hyaluronic acid and konjac root. I would say it is most comparable to the Maelove serum mentioned earlier, but this one has a few more awards and a cult following under its belt.