We updated this article in April 2022 to add more information about each featured product, based on extensive research done by our team.
If you want healthy and bright glowing skin, you should probably be reaching for the best vitamin C serum (Halle Berry, for one, has a lot to say about vitamin C serums). It’s an antioxidant that is universal and super beneficial when it comes to adding radiance to all skin tones.
“Vitamin C helps produce collagen (which keeps skin firm and reduces the appearance of wrinkles), and protects skin from sun damage and age spots,” says Ranella Hirsch M.D., a board-certified dermatologist practicing in Boston. “Between these varied functions, the majority of folks can benefit from having vitamin C in their skincare routine.” (One caveat: Super strong serums may be irritating if you have highly sensitive skin or just had a peel.)
“The powerful antioxidant also works wonders on dull skin prone to dark spots and pigmentation,” says Roberta Del Campo M.D., a board-certified dermatologist and medical advisor for BABOR and Cosmetic Dermatologist at Del Campo Dermatology & Laser Institute in Florida.
On top of that, vitamin C has a brightening effect, which leaves your complexion looking radiant. Like all antioxidants, vitamin C works by neutralizing free radicals (a type of molecule in your body) that cause damage and harmful effects to your cells—but unlike other antioxidants, vitamin C is very well studied and, in general, well-tolerated at high potencies, allowing for maximum impact.
“It will not only make the skin look more radiant, but it will also help to improve its overall health,” adds. Dr. Del Campo.
How we chose the best vitamin c serums
We consulted Dr. Hirsch, Dr. Del Campo, Marguerite Germain, M.D., board-certified dermatologist practicing in South Carolina, Meghan Feely, M.D., board-certified dermatologist in New Jersey and New York City who serves as a clinical instructor in Mount Sinai’s Department of Dermatology, Joshua Zeichner, M.D., board-certified dermatologist in New York City, Shari Sperling, M.D., board-certified dermatologist at Sperling Dermatology in New Jersey, Anne Chapas, M.D., board-certified dermatologist of UnionDerm in New York City, and countless customer reviews to find the best vitamin c serums for brighter skin.
Our top picks
- Best overall: TruSkin Vitamin C Facial Serum
- Best value: The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2%
- Best drugstore pick: CeraVe Skin Renewing Vitamin C Serum
- Best splurge: Skinceuticals CE Ferulic
- Best with spf: Supergoop! Daily Dose Vitamin C + SPF 40 Sunscreen Serum
- Best for sensitive skin: L’Oreal Revitalift 10% Pure Vitamin C Concentrate
- Best for firming: Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum
- Best for hyperpigmentation: The Ordinary Ascorbic Acid 8% + Alpha Arbutin 2%
- Best for enhancing your complexion: La Roche-Posay 10% Pure Vitamin C Serum
- Best for acne-prone skin: Paula’s Choice C15 Super Booster
Apply one of these vitamin C serums in the morning after cleansing—but before sunscreen (yes, you still need sunscreen!)—for the best results.
TruSkin Naturals 20% Vitamin C Serum
Packed with 20% vitamin C, nourishing vitamin E (to soothe the skin), and skin-plumping hyaluronic acid, this affordable ($20!) serum contains a bunch of skin-loving ingredients that will make your skin glow, fade dark spots, and reduce redness fast. A fan favorite on Amazon with more than 64,000 raving reviews, testers say this vitamin C serum works effectively with consistent use.
CeraVe Skin Renewing Vitamin C Serum
BEST DRUGSTORE PICK
If your skin is prone to irritation, look no further than this nourishing 10% vitamin C serum, which features essential ceramides, hydrating hyaluronic acid, and vitamin B5 to moisturize and calm the skin. It’s also noncomedogenic (so it won’t clog pores) and fragrance-free for a simple formula that effectively boosts radiance.
Vichy LiftActiv Vitamin C Brightening Skin Corrector
BEST FOR FINE LINES
This vitamin C serum gets a stamp of approval from Dr. Hirsch. It works to treat fine lines and wrinkles, according to the brand and we love it for what it doesn’t have (irritating fragrances and parabens) almost as much as we love it for what it does have (15% pure vitamin C and hydrating hyaluronic acid). The approachable price tag of just $23 doesn’t hurt either.
La Roche-Posay 10% Pure Vitamin C Serum
BEST FOR ENHANCING YOUR COMPLEXION
“This is an anti-aging face and neck serum that leaves skin looking more radiant, softer, and hydrated,” says Dr. Del Campo. The oil-free, noncomedogenic serum combines the power of vitamin C with a superstar exfoliator: salicylic acid. Together, the powerhouse ingredients visibly brighten, soften, hydrate, and smooth the skin. Bonus: The product sinks in quickly, so no need to worry about that post-application greasy feeling.
RoC Multi Correxion Revive + Glow Vitamin C Serum
RoC may be known for its quality OTC retinol cream, but its vitamin C serum lives up to the hype, too. The 10% vitamin C blend firms, brightens, and evens out the skin with little to no irritation. Reviewers swear they can “see the difference” in skin luminosity for a fraction of the price of its high-end competitors.
“I am 70 years young and try to always buy products that maximize my routine with the best results. This doesn’t disappoint. It really refines fine lines and wrinkles,” added one reviewer.
Neutrogena Rapid Tone Repair 20% Vitamin C Serum Capsules
This rich serum comes in single-dose, biodegradable capsule to “limit the amount of product being put on the skin at one time” so you apply the perfect amount, explains Joshua Zeichner, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist in New York City. The capsule also helps maintain the potency and efficacy of the highly sensitive vitamin C by shielding it from air and UV light.
Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum
BEST FOR FIRMING
Another pick from Dr. Hirsch, this hydrating and fragrance-free serum contains a highly effective combination of vitamin C, vitamin E (to soothe), and ferulic acid (to firm), along with pumpkin ferment and pomegranate extract to break down dead surface skin cells, minimizing the appearance of pores. The result? An evened-out skin tone that looks firmer and brighter.
“Love the new formula format! I really appreciate that the brand separated the ingredients in order to maximize potency prior to first,” wrote one satisfied Sephora customer. “It definitely firms and brightens my skin giving me a more even complexion. I have used C-Firma for years and I will continue to be a loyal user.”
OLEHENRIKSEN Banana Bright Vitamin C Serum
This product smooths out rough texture, thanks to its blend of 15% vitamin C and hyaluronic acid. It also packs 5% polyhydroxy acids (PHAs) to gently exfoliate. PHAs have a larger molecule size than alpha hydroxy acids, so they may not sink into the skin as deeply, potentially reducing irritation, says Meghan Feely, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist in New Jersey and New York City who serves as a clinical instructor in Mount Sinai’s Department of Dermatology. The formula also contains Ole’s highest concentration of vitamin C for daily use and its yummy scent is naturally derived from oranges.
Clinique Fresh Pressed Daily Booster with Pure Vitamin
BEST FOR ACNE-PRONE SKIN
Add a few drops of this fragrance-free vitamin C serum to your soothing moisturizer and slather it on all at the same time, says Dr. Chapas, so it’s easy to incorporate into your skincare regimen. No need to worry about feeling dry, as it contains hydrating glycerin, dimethicone, and squalane. Thanks to its addition of salicylic acid, those with acne-prone skin will love this option.
Skinceuticals CE Ferulic
This serum is a derm favorite, thanks to its antioxidant blend of 15% pure vitamin C, 1% vitamin E, and 0.5% ferulic acid, a medley that boosts the efficacy of vitamin C eightfold, research suggests. “This is far and away the best product and the one I recommend most frequently,” says Dr. Hirsch. “Once absorbed, it can’t be rubbed off, so you can use it with SPF,” she adds. In addition to antioxidant protective benefits, the formula also works to improve signs of aging and photodamage to reduce the appearance of lines and wrinkles while firming and brightening your overall complexion, according to the brand.
L’Oréal Paris Revitalift 10% Pure Vitamin C Concentrate
BEST FOR SENSITIVE SKIN
This 10% vitamin C concentrate sinks deeply into the skin to reduce wrinkles and boost overall radiance, making it a great base underneath makeup. Free of fragrances, parabens, dyes, and mineral oil, the sensitive skin-friendly formula will only cost you about $17. The air-tight tube also helps preserve the product.
“I saw immediate results the first time I used it,” wrote one Amazon user. “I strongly recommend getting this. The box arrived on time, intact, and the tube itself was sealed. I don’t notice any scent, its creamy, slightly sheer formula absorbs and brightens. It’s also very soothing.”
Kiehl’s Powerful-Strength Line-Reducing Concentrate
This classic concentrate was recently reformulated to include a higher dose of vitamin C (from 10.5 to 12.5%) thanks to the addition of that ascorbyl glucoside (a stable form of vitamin C). Because it contains superstar moisturizers like glycerin and hyaluronic acid, your thirsty skin will instantly feel quenched. Our favorite part? The silky-smooth formula feels like it melts straight into your skin. It’s also formulated for all skin types and works to penetrate deep down into the skin, where it can remain effective for up to six days, according to the brand.
BeautyStat Universal C Skin Refiner
This potent serum packs 20% vitamin C, moisturizing squalane (derived from olive seeds), and tartaric acid (a natural exfoliant) to stabilize the skin’s pH and help unclog pores for top-notch penetration of the product. Together, these ingredients work to boost collagen production, even tone, soothe inflammation, and leave the skin looking plump and radiant. The formula is also great for mature skin types, as it works to boost collagen to tighten and firm the skin.
“I love this stuff and the ascorbic acid (it’s one of my favorite ingredients) is the second ingredient listed,” added another Amazon reviewer. “Plus, it has a fairly short list of ingredients that I’m satisfied with. It's one of the few products that I feel makes my pores appear a little smaller when it’s applied (I have very large pores on my nose. It helps to balance my skin tone and makes my skin look a bit more firm, too.”
Olay Regenerist MAX Tone Serum
This unique facial product feels more like a lotion-serum hybrid, and deeply hydrates the skin with a rich, non-greasy formula that leaves the skin visibly glowing and smooth. A stable form of vitamin C brightens and protects, while niacinamide (a form of vitamin B3) soothes irritation, tames oil production, and calms redness. The formula also includes a special energizing complex, that works to brighten up your overall complexion, thanks to its extra dose of vitamin B3.
Obagi Medical Professional-C Serum
This anti-aging vitamin C serum gets a glowing recommendation from Shari Sperling, M.D., a dermatologist at Sperling Dermatology in New Jersey. It sinks deep into the skin, protects from UV damage, and brightens those pesky dark spots. It’s a great pick if your skin is prone to irritation, since the formula is lightweight and has a lower concentration of vitamin C (10% L-ascorbic acid).
SkinMedica Vitamin C + E Complex
If you want to improve the appearance of your skin tone and texture, this pick will be your best bet. It has a rich blend of vitamin C and E, to soothe and provide protection from the sun all day long, according to the brand. Any skin type can also benefit from dabbing on a dose of this fragrance-free treatment from SkinMedica. “In addition to pure vitamin C, it has a time-release effect, so it doesn’t sputter out mid-day,” says Dr. Sperling.
Paula’s Choice C15 Super Booster
This serum packs a punch with 15% pure, stable vitamin C, vitamin E and ferulic acid for an extra dose of antioxidants, smoothing peptides, and hyaluronic acid to hydrate and decrease the risk of irritation. Reviewers note that it works wonders on acne scars, sun spots, and melasma.
“After reading the reviews I decided to purchase this product. I was a little hesitant but I’m so glad I bought this! My skin is GLOWING! A complete overnight difference. I have struggled with dry and dull skin. I have used this product for one week and my skin looks better than it ever has. It’s pricey, but it is worth it to me,” wrote one happy customer.
Tatcha Violet-C Brightening Serum
Tatcha is known for creating some of the best skincare products available and this serum is another best seller! What do you get when you combine a lightweight serum, exfoliating acid, and fast-acting vitamin C blend? This must-have product from Tatcha. Gentle alpha hydroxy acids get to work by breaking down dead skin, while vitamin C helps firm, hydrate, and brighten. The fact that it’s vegan, cruelty-free, and free of oils and fragrances makes it that much better.
The Ordinary Ascorbic Acid 8% + Alpha Arbutin 2%
At only $11, this affordable serum packs a punch of 8% vitamin C, which is pretty impressive. It also contains alpha-arbutin, an ingredient that works to reduce the look of spots and hyperpigmentation, and ascorbic acid which helps improve signs of aging, while brightening the skin.
“My favorite serum for daytime! I’ve tried the alpha arbutin + HA in the past and it seemed to have broken me out. Then I tried this one and it worked perfectly for me! I have oily skin and this does give you a glowy look that I’m not a fan of but my skin looks like that naturally so might as well add some antioxidants to it lol,” added another reviewer.
Biossance Squalane + 10% Vitamin C Dark Spot Serum
This powerful and lightweight vitamin C for dark spots serum features a rich white shiitake mushroom extract blended with the brand’s unique derivative of vitamin C, and delivers faster, longer-lasting results. Not only does it work to lighten dark spots immediately, but it also keeps working every day to prevent new ones from forming. This is probably why Reese Witherspoon loves it, plus, it contains natural squalene oil to keep the skin from drying out.
iS Clinical Pro-Heal Serum Advance Plus
BEST FOR DRY AND SENSTITVE SKIN TYPES
This serum is a dream blend of antioxidants: Vitamin C gets a boost from vitamins E and A, and olive leaf extract keeps things smooth and moisturized. Not to mention, kojic acid helps prevent blemishes making it a great all-in-one product.
“I have combination, sensitive, acne-prone skin. This serum has been a lifesaver for me. I’ve tried everything from prescriptions to OTC. Nothing has worked like this. My doctor thought I may have slight rosacea which led me to try this in the first place. So glad I did!,” added one satisfied Skinstore customer.
BaBor Power Serum Ampoules Vitamin C
“The Comfort Vitamin C Serum is formulated with a highly effective combination of vitamin C ester, a stable form of Vitamin C that stimulates collagen synthesis,” says Dr. Del Campo.
“It also contains hyaluronic acid and omega-3 fatty acids to help minimize the look of fine lines and wrinkles as it helps to strengthen the skin’s natural protective barrier and combat oxidative skin-aging. This vegan formula is free of fragrances, silicones, parabens, and mineral oils, making it gentle yet effective for even the most sensitive skin.”
How to choose the best vitamin c serum
Go for pure vitamin C. “Your product should say ‘L-ascorbic acid’ (a.k.a. pure vitamin C) on the label,” says Marguerite Germain, M.D., a dermatologist practicing in Charleston, SC. L-ascorbic acid mixes well with other forms of vitamin C, too, like ascorbyl glucoside and tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate. “They feed out the vitamin C at different rates, allowing long-term protection with less irritation,” she adds.
Spot standout ingredients. The perfect vitamin C serum has additional antioxidants, like green tea polyphenols, vitamin E, or ferulic acid. “Products that contain L-ascorbic acid along with other antioxidants offer the most protection against skin damage because there are lots of different types of free radicals that break down collagen,” Dr. Germain says. It’s a little like food: “You don’t want to eat only one thing, even if that one thing is healthy.”
Look for A+ packaging. Vitamin C is the diva of the skincare world, meaning it’s super unstable and loses its power if you store it in a well-lit, humid place (like in your bathroom!). “Any vitamin C product that turns brown or discolored is breaking down and should be returned,” says Dr. Germain. This is why you’ll often see vitamin C serums in dark or opaque bottles.