I have too many serums. Well, I have a lot of skincare full stop, but when it comes to serums, I’m like a magpie with jewels—I want them all. Hoarding serums is no good when you have one face and two times a day when you do your skincare, so recently, I went through my stash and did a massive overhaul, and there was one thing I noticed: When it came to serums, I had multiples (opened and backups) of vitamin C.
I can’t tell you exactly when my apparent obsession started, but what I will say is that of the serum types I’ve tried, the vitamin C ones make the biggest difference to my skin brightness, tone and elasticity pretty immediately. “Vitamin C is one of the most powerful antioxidants. As such, it helps to mitigate against free radical damage caused by exposure to pollution and UV amongst others,” says Justine Hextall, consultant dermatologist and medical director at Tarrant Street Clinic. “By protecting the skin, it plays an important part in skin regeneration and supports the production of collagen and elastin, which can give skin firming benefits. The other major benefit of vitamin C is its skin-brightening properties. It suppresses the production of melanin. As such, it can help to fade unwanted pigmentation.”
I get really deep hyperpigmentation after spots, so much so that I dread the mark left after the spot more than the spot itself. By regularly using a vitamin C serum, I’ve found these marks fade so much quicker, and my skin tone is way more even-toned and textured. As Ole Henriksen, founder of his eponymous skincare brand, says, “Whether your skin type is normal, oily, combination or dry, a daily dose of vitamin C can do wonders for your skin. When added to your skincare routine, this powerhouse ingredient can provide a wide range of benefits that keep your skin looking youthful, glowing and fresh.” It's Ole's Banana Bright Vitamin C Serum that got me hooked on the ingredient.
There are some skin conditions that require caution when it comes to adding this ingredient into a routine, though. “I sometimes recommend using with caution at first with sensitive rosacea-prone skin,” says Hextall. “I do use on blemish-prone skin but, again, with caution at first. For sensitive skin, I would recommend starting at a concentration of 10% and looking for those combined with moisturiser or hyaluronic acid amongst others.”
When it comes to stripping your routine back to just a vitamin C serum, there are so many that combine excellent ingredients to make it a skincare all-rounder, such as hyaluronic acid, salicylic acid or ferulic acid. “There’s no doubt that a vitamin C serum is a smart choice, especially when streamlining a routine, as it’s a radiance multitasker. It’s great for all ages and is also a great pick-me-up and restorer of glow post-illness or a stressful time,” says Abi Cleeve, founder of SkinSense. However, for skin that is showing signs of ageing, she has another choice. “For its proven, cumulative results in improving the texture, fine lines and overall appearance of the skin, retinol would be an equally strong ‘one-pick’ serum for those in their late 30s and above depending on when the signs of ageing become noticeable.”
Here are my picks of some of the best vitamin C serums out there right now.
La Roche-Posay Pure Vitamin C 10 Serum
Allies of Skin 20% Vitamin C Brighten + Firm Serum
SkinSense Reinforcing Vitamin Complex
The Inkey List Vitamin C Serum
This is not for sensitive skin or vitamin C newbies. The 30% concentration of ascorbic acid is extremely high (I normally stick to 15%), so I would only reach for this if you have been using other vitamin Cs for years and you know your skin can tolerate it.
SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic Antioxidant Vitamin C Serum
Pricey, yes. But this is the vitamin C serum I have seen the quickest results from. The blend of 15% vitamin C, 1% vitamin E and 0.5% ferulic acid protects the skin from pollution and environmental damage as well as brightens the appearance.
Rodial Vitamin C Drops
Beauty Bay SkinHit Brightening Serum
Sunday Riley C.E.O. Rapid Flash Brightening Serum
Kiehl's Powerful-Strength Line-Reducing Concentrate
Caudalie Vinoperfect Complexion Correcting Radiance Serum
Okay, this is technically not a vitamin C, but the Viniferine used, which is extracted from grapevine stalks, is reportedly more effective than traditional vitamin C for free radical protection. So if you haven’t found a vitamin C serum that has worked for your skin yet, this might a good option.