Looking for the best vitamin C serums? Good: Topical vitamin C is one of the few ingredients that have been shown in many peer-reviewed, independent scientific studies to make a big difference in sunspots, uneven skin texture, and skin dullness. But finding the right vitamin C for your skin can be difficult. This is mainly due to the fact that many companies don’t include enough vitamin C in their formulations to actually make a difference, as well as the fact that some use forms of vitamin C that aren’t proven to do anything when topically applied to the skin.
FutureDerm CE Caffeic 16+2 Serum: Best for Dry to Normal Skin
Yes, of course we are going to say this. But it’s true: We had the advantage of formulating just two years ago, so we ran with the ability to improve upon every other existing serum out there. FutureDerm CE Caffeic 16+2 contains 16% vitamin C (including 8% microencapsulatedL-ascorbic acid and 8% tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate), 2% vitamin E, and the super antioxidant caffeic acid. In studies, caffeic acid has been shown to have greater antioxidant potential than its polyphenol cousin,ferulic acid. Within minutes of application, skin feels softer and smoother. And within 10 days, your skin will appear brighter and more even-toned. For more, read the full review.
Skinceuticals CE Ferulic: Best for Oily Skin
Before I formulated FutureDerm CE Caffeic 16+2, Skinceuticals CE Ferulic was my favorite vitamin CE serum. The base in Skinceuticals CE Ferulic is phenoxyethanol, which I recommend for those with oily skin. The super-low Skinceuticals CE Ferulic pH can also be somewhat exfoliating, giving further relief to those with oily or acne-prone skin. This can also mean a bit more irritation for those with normal to dry skin. Still, with 15% vitamin C as L-ascorbic acid and 1% vitamin E, I still dig it. One caveat: Be sure to only buy the 1 mL size – I used to purchase the 2 mL value size, but the product would turn orange by the time I reached the bottom, indicating that the vitamin C had oxidized and was not as effective. For more, read the full review.
Kleem Organics Vitamin CE Serum: Best Under $40
Though it was a while ago now (how long ago, I’ll never tell!), I refused to spend over $40 for a beauty product until I graduated college. Staples like this affordable vitamin CE serum were mainstream in my beauty routine.
Kleem Organics Intensive Rejuvenating Vitamin C Serum contains a lot of my favorite ingredients, including vitamins C and E, ferulic acid, hyaluronic acid, jojoba oil, and witch hazel. It is perfect for normal to dry and dry skin types for regular use. It is also a 72% organic serum, which is saying a lot, considering that all of the ingredients are quite potent.
Besides the fact that this serum is organic — something I don’t think is much of a benefit anyway — the unique feature I support about Kleem Organics Intensive Rejuvenating Vitamin C Serum is that it contains hyaluronic acid. Like vitamin E, hyaluronic acid is naturally produced within the skin, but its production levels and natural stores will deplete with age. And it’s a shame: As a prominent natural moisturizing factor (NMF), hyaluronic acid can retain up to 1000 times its weight in water (Skin Pharmacology and Physiology, 2004).
Hyaluronic acid also helps for the skin to heal after injury (American Journal of Clinical Dermatology, 2005; Biologicals
Kleem Organics Intensive Rejuvenating Vitamin C Serum is a very lightweight, clear serum. It glides across the skin very easily, and a two to three pumps is enough for the face, neck, and decolletage. It has a very faint smell that I can only describe as reminiscent of orange peel. It drinks into the skin within thirty seconds and has a slight tackiness to it, but not so much so that you cannot apply primer or makeup over it with any issue.
Due to the 20% L-ascorbic acid, you may notice a slight tingling or burning. That is normal.
I used Kleem Organics Intensive Rejuvenating Vitamin C Serum for a week under my favorite sunscreen, and I thought that it made my face smoother. I obviously use vitamin CE serum all of the time, so I wasn’t expecting miracles, but I definitely noticed the acidity of the product helped cell turnover.
Revision Skincare Vitamin C 30% Serum: Best for Experimentalists
If bigger is better, then this serum has it all.
Unfortunately, Revision Skincare Vitamin C 30% is not what it sounds like. Its 30% vitamin C does not contain one ounce of the most proven form of vitamin C, L-ascorbic acid. Instead, Revision Skincare Vitamin C 30% contains a form of vitamin C called THD ascorbate. There is very little research on THD ascorbate, but the reason people get results from Revision Skincare Vitamin C 30% is because some of the THD ascorbate is being converted to L-ascorbic acid within the skin. How much? I’d have to run an experiment applying the serum to people’s skin and then measuring the L-ascorbic acid content within their skin in an assay hours later. So without running a trial on this product, I will go ahead and tell you this: My best estimate is anywhere between 8-18%. Most likely on the lower end. Not all that helpful, I know.
So why am I putting Revision Skincare Vitamin C 30% on the “best” list? A few reasons. First, Revision Skincare Vitamin C 30% contains both vitamin E and ubiquinone (coenzyme Q10). Of all the antioxidants that could potentially “back up” vitamin C when it loses its electrons and is rendered inactive, only vitamin E and ubiquinone (coenzyme Q10) can donate electrons to vitamin C and render it stable once again (Cosmetic Dermatology text, 2009).
I still love FutureDerm CE Caffeic 16+2 Serum, and would choose it over Revision Skincare Vitamin C 30% not only because I designed it (!), but because it is microencapsulated, contains actual L-ascorbic acid, and the powerhouse antioxidant caffeic acid as well. But I’d still give Revision’s version a thumbs-up.
Keep This in Mind: The Best Vitamin C Serums Contain Both Vitamins C and E
As you age and undergo stress, your body produces toxic free radicals. These toxic free radicals are capable of causing nearly every sign of damage there is, including DNA damage within your cells. Antioxidants work by stabilizing free radicals.
After stabilizing toxic free radicals, the antioxidants are usually less effective. This is because antioxidants donate electrons to stabilize free radicals. But after donating the electrons, the antioxidants are depleted of electrons themselves!
Vitamins C and E combat this problem. Vitamins C and E are what are known as “network antioxidants.” When vitamin C donates an electron to stabilize a toxic free radical, vitamin E can donate an electron and replenish vitamin C. Which is awesome, because then you’re getting extra antioxidant strength!
In addition, in research studies, vitamin C has been reported to enhance UVA protection, whereas vitamin E is more effective against UVB radiation. So together, there is strengthened UVA/UVB protection when worn under sunscreen.