If you’ve ever wondered why you should invest in a vitamin C serum, take it from board-certified dermatologist Jennifer Linder, M.D., founder of Linder Dermatology and Skin Cancer Center. “Vitamin C performs a variety of functions within the skin, including stimulating new collagen, reducing fine lines and wrinkles, protecting the skin from environmental pollutants with its antioxidant properties, helping reduce visible discolorations on the skin and providing enhanced protection against UV exposure,” she says. Plus, since your skin doesn’t produce vitamin C on its own, you’ll need a topically applied method of delivery for optimal skin health.
So how do you know which one to choose? “When selecting a vitamin C serum, patients should look for products containing pure L-ascorbic acid, the most bioavailable form of vitamin C, in higher percentages, such as 15 or 20 percent,” Dr. Linder says. And to optimize the benefits of the vitamin C, the product should also be formulated with 5 percent pure vitamin E. For optimal benefits, stay away from products with ascorbyl palmitate, recommends Dr. Linder, which is an ester of vitamin C, but doesn’t offer the unique benefits and potency that pure L-ascorbic acid does.
Make sure to apply every morning to get the best level of protection against oxidative damage from sun exposure during the day. And if the product is turning brown or looking darker, it’s likely not at full potency—it’s time to toss it.
Ready to boost your antioxidant intake? Here are nine vitamin C serums that are actually worth every penny:
Aside from 15 percent pure L-ascorbic acid, this Dermstore bestseller also features vitamin E and ferulic acid, which makes this serum an antioxidant powerhouse, providing as much as 8x the skin’s natural protection! It has all the typical benefits of vitamin C—neutralizes free radicals, enhances collagen production and brightens complexion—plus, its super-concentrated formula makes it effective up to 72 hours. That gives you more bang for your buck!
This serum also combines the age-reversing, UV damage-fighting powers of two potent antioxidants: vitamins C and E. But what makes this serum special is its time-release delivery system, which releases the formula gradually so you get all-day protection from free radicals and premature aging.
This professional-strength anti-aging serum combines vitamin C with hyaluronic acid and other nourishing vitamins, which makes it soothing and compatible with a wide range of other skin care products like glycolic acid treatments, tretinoin and other topical medications.
Another shopper and dermatologist favorite! This serum offers the highest concentration of L-ascorbic acid and said to deliver significantly better penetration into the epidermis and dermis than most vitamin C serums. And the fact that it’s from Obagi—a world-leader in professional skin care—makes it a no-brainer.
Possibly the most buzzed-about vitamin C right now! Enriched with clinically effective vitamin C and ferulic acid, this gel-like serum is cool to the touch and encased in an airless pump packaging, which prevents it from losing its efficacy. It’s also complete with moisture-replenishing botanicals and peptides to nourish and repair your skin.
If you’re struggling with acne, rosacea or just have sensitive or compromised skin, this vitamin C serum is designed for you. It offers iS Clinical’s highest levels of antioxidant protection against free radical damage, plus a blend of soothing botanicals such as olive leaf extract, zinc sulfate, kojic acid and vitamins E and A to calm inflamed or easily irritated skin.
With only six ingredients, it’s a wonder how much power this serum has. It does exactly what every high-profile vitamin C serum out there does: brighten skin, enhance collagen synthesis and slows down the aging process. It also features hyaluronic acid to help your skin retain moisture longer. If you want a no-frills product that works, this is for you.
Aside from ferulic acid and vitamin E, both powerful antioxidants, this serum is powered by wild kakadu plums, which are harvested in Australia and thought to be one of the most concentrated natural sources of vitamin C on earth. In fact, based upon data gathered from Food Chemistry (Nov. 2013) and the US Department of Agriculture (March 2014), an ounce of kakadu plums contains, on average, 55 times the vitamin C of Florida oranges. Dermatologist-tested and approved, this potent serum is non-comedogenic and free of fragrance, dye, paraben and gluten.
This antioxidant serum combines the power of vitamin C with other equally potent ingredients like stem cell extracts, hyaluronic acid and glutathione to minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles while hydrating and strengthening the skin. Also free of potential irritants like synthetic dyes and fragrances, making it safe to use on sensitive skin.