Vitamin C is an amazing active ingredient with a whole host of fabulous skincare benefits. It can protect your skin from free radical damage and help to brighten your complexion. It also can assist with collagen production and the prevention of dark spots.
But vitamin C comes with a massive list of cons if you don't pick the right product. Vitamin C commonly causes reactions and even breakouts. It's highly unstable so only certain types can be used in skincare. It's prone to breaking down, oxidising and becoming completely ineffective. In fact, some vitamin products Cs only have a shelf life of just three months.
Finding the right one is a minefield of trial and error. I, myself have tried more than a few. While there were a few missteps and breakouts along the way, I discovered a handful of vitamin C serums that are worth their weight in gold. Here are the ones that worked best for me.
This is the only vitamin C serum that I can say has caused absolutely no noticeable sensitivity issues at all. Not even mildly. Not even on a bad skin day. It's the one I recommend to anyone who normally has issues tolerating vitamin C.
At 15%, it is a high enough percentage for you to get the brightening, antioxidative and collagen synthesis benefits of the active. And the added PHA gives a light, very top level exfoliating effect to help your skin stay extra bright. Just know, that because of the added exfoliation, you will need to be diligent with your SPF when wearing this one. Or you could increase your likelihood of sun damage.
I knew this would be a good one even before trying it. Dermatologist Barbara Sturm uses Australian kakadu plum in her formulation, which has one of the highest concentrations of vitamin C and is also one of the most stable. She combines this with a fusion of other types of vitamin to create a potent mix that brightens and protects.
Since this formula uses kakadu plum, it should have a longer shelf life that other vitamin C products - with the caveat that you store it correctly and keep it out of the Sun. The other wonderful thing about this serum in particular is its added zinc. Zinc is the key ingredient in salves for damaged skin owing to its protective properties. The included zinc in this instance helps to heal and protect reactive skin.
This is an odd one because once you rub it in, it has a powdery finish. Unusual but it makes sense since vitamin C starts in powder form. It's one of the few I've tried that you can feel a tingling sensation from. It's not unpleasant but it definitely lets you know that the product is working.
The concentration and percentage isn't listed, but I did get good brightening results from this one when I used it consistently. The powdery finish was also great for my oily skin and helped mattify my complexion. And at the price point, you can't really go wrong.
The key selling point of Biossance products for me is that most of them come infused with the brand's own plant-based and skin-loving squalane. In this formulation, the squalane helps to nourish and protect your skin as the vitamin C gets to work. It's quite a potent formula but it didn't cause any extra reactiveness in my skin. Use it consistently, every day for best results. As with most clean beauty products, it has no chemical preservative so you'll need to keep it out of the Sun and use it within a year.
Kudos to Obagi for managing to create a stabilised 20 percent vitamin C serum. It's no mean feat. If you want the anti-ageing benefits of vitamin C, not just the brightening, get acquainted with this product. This one is designed to trigger collagen synthesis and the growth of skin elastic fibres.
Just know that 20% is a very concentrated percentage and it might take your skin some getting used to. Also, wash you hands after you apply it because it can leave yellow marks on fabric. I learned this the hard way.
I like most Liberty Belle Rx products. The brand was created by plastic surgeon, Dr Chris Moss and each product has been designed as an extension or alternative to surgical intervention. I found I had minimal reactions to this product despite it being one of the most potent in the list. It’s been formulated with three different types of vitamin C, including kakadu plum which is more stable than other kinds of vitamin C. It also includes peptides for an extra punch. You can see the before and afters at the product link. It’s great for fading freckles.
This is a high-percentage serum at 15% pure vitamin C. Like most vitamin Cs, you’ll get the benefit of antioxidant protection, neutralising the free radicals that attack the skin. But at a percentage this high, you can also get the benefit of collagen synthesis, where your skin actually makes more of its own collagen. This results in a lifted and firmer looking appearance in the skin. It’s a great serum for those who want to improve skin elasticity as well as receive environmental protection. However, it may be too strong if you have very sensitive skin. You can try adding a product for skin barrier protection like this to soothe sensitivity.
If you do find that you’re sensitive to vitamin C (like me), this is an excellent serum to start with. I was able to get the brightening effects without the breakouts when I used this product. It’s also very light and sits well under makeup - despite the slightly thicker texture when compared to other serums on this list. It has a 10% concentration of ATIP vitamin C, which is considered one of the most stable forms. It also means the formula is less acidic compared to other vitamin C serums - which is why it’s more tolerable to people who tend to react badly to vit C.
With a winning combination of vitamin C and caffeine, this serum is sure to put some pep in your step. The caffeine aids in depuffing your skin and also soothes and can desensitise your skin - perfect when used in combination with vitamin C to negate the reactiveness it can cause. Given the high percentage, I predicted my skin would hate this serum. So, it was an extremely pleasant surprise to find how tolerable this product is.
This formulation has a concentrated 15 percent which is where you start to get the real benefits of vitamin C beyond brightening and prevention of skin damage. In high enough percentages, vitamin C aids in collagen synthesis - essentially is encourages your skin to make more collagen. So, this serum is an excellent daytime addition to anti-ageing routines. Although the bottle has been designed to filter out all UV light, still keep this one out of the Sun.