Looking at my beauty cabinet (and by cabinet, I mean full-on 5-foot dresser dedicated to my stash) right now, I count about 30 to 40 serums, most of them vitamin C serums, within my line of sight. I hoard the best vitamin C serums like little collectibles, mostly because I have attachment issues, but also because a really good vitamin C serum is sometimes hard to come by. And when you finally find your favorites, you never want to let them go.
While some options out there advertised as "the best" will run upward of over $100, there are tons of vitamin C serums under $100 that'll give you comparable — if not even better — results, including that bright, lit-from-within glow that's trending for fall and protection from free radicals (environmental aggressors) in the atmosphere. A higher price tag doesn't necessarily mean a better vitamin C serum; rather, it's best to consider the concentration of vitamin C and its derivatives in a product, while taking into account your skin type. Typically, a higher percentage of vitamin C (~10% to ~20%) can provide more dramatic results, although someone with sensitive skin may experience irritation with such high concentration. That said, it's important to remember the "best" vitamin C serum can be relative to its user sometimes.
To help you sift through the utter saturation of this product in the beauty market, read on below for the best vitamin C serums I've come across, organized by price.
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Best Vitamin C Serums: $30 Or Under
Now, don't be confused by how utterly confusing "ascorbyl glucoside solution" sounds. This is simply a stable vitamin C derivative to ensure you experience the best, most effective results. And trust me, it's got a cult following for a reason. With a 12% concentration of the vitamin C derivative and just a $13 price tag, consider this product your easy way into the world of vitamin C.
For a while now, I've kept this handy — not to mention, affordable — Sephora Collection serum in my back pocket, and no matter how many new serums I try, I always come back to it. It's also mysteriously found its way to my girlfriend's skincare shelf on a number of occasions. Both of us just can't get enough of the clean ingredients combined with the near-instant glow we experience post-application and long after.
Relatively new to market, Good (Skin) Days' C's The Day Serum was a pleasant surprise for me. The product, one of Soko Glam's 2020 Best Of K-Beauty Winners, not only features a solid 10% concentration of vitamin C, but it also contains niacinamide, a buzzy ingredient also known for its ability to even out skin tone and texture. A win-win, if you ask me.
L'Oréal's entire Revitalift product series is one of my favorite drugstore buys. The Vitamin C Serum, in particular, features a 10% concentration of the ingredient and is gentle enough for sensitive skin. It's also a great preventative option when it comes to wrinkles or maturing skin.
Best Vitamin C Serums: $31 To $50
Picking my favorite out of these serums is like the very real version of picking your favorite child: It sucks, but you know you have one. Suffice it to say Mad Hippie's Vitamin C Serum is my favorite child. The combination of ingredients is just too! damn! good! With ferulic acid, hyaluronic acid, konjac root, and chamomile extract at work alongside the vitamin C, this serum works quickly to lighten any stubborn dark spots, in addition to moisturizing, softening, and soothing the skin. 10/10 would marry this serum if that were legal.
Yet another extremely solid drugstore find, La Roche Posay's Pure Vitamin C Face Serum doesn't play around. It boasts a 10% pure vitamin C concentration alongside salicylic acid, which leaves skin looking and feeling softer and more radiant.
Like Olay's iconic Regenerist Whip Moisturizer, the brand's Tone Perfection Serum with Vitamin B3 and Vitamin C is quickly developing a loyal following. Another option with niacinamide in its formula, this fragrance-free serum is a gentle, yet effective way to brighten the appearance of your complexion both instantly and over time.
Maybe it's weird to say this serum looks so good, I want to drink it (please don't drink this serum), but I stand by it. Jokes aside, Glow Recipe's Pineapple-C Serum is certainly one I always keep within reach. Pineapple is an incredible, natural source of vitamin C. Additionally, the formula is packed with other good-for-you ingredients, like hyaluronic acid, which locks in moisture, and vitamin E, a strong antioxidant and great skin protector.
Ole Henriksen's Truth Serum has rightfully earned its reputation as one of the most reliable vitamin C serums around. As someone with sensitive, finicky skin, this is truly my ride or die. Along with the brand's True-C Complex, a combo a vitamin C stable vitamin C derivatives, the formula combines collagen and aloe juice to improve skin's elasticity and deliver a surge of hydration.
Best Vitamin C Serums: $51 To $80
If it seems like Summer Fridays has just had skincare hit after skincare hit, well, it's because they have. Following the success of the brand's Jet Lag Mask, Lip butter Balm, and Super Amino Gel Cleanser, among others, Summer Fridays' CC Me Serum has racked up hundreds of five-star reviews. Obviously, because it's a vitamin C serum, it'll help in giving you a more radiant, even complexion. But the formula also contains squalane, a powerful moisturizing ingredient that also creates a protective barrier over the skin.
Now, if you're trying to combat darker, uneven under-eye areas, you might think, "Oh, let me just slather my usual serums all up under my eyes." I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but like, don't do that. The skin under your eyes is much more sensitive than the rest of the skin on your face, so you'll want a gentler product formulated specifically for the eye area. Enter: Dermalogica's Biolumin-C Eye Serum, which safely delivers a surge of vitamin C to your eye area to assist with brightening and wrinkles.
Now, we're breaking into powerful territory, people. If you're in search of a product that'll dramatically brighten your skin, thanks to increased cell turnover, consider StriVectin's Super-C Retinol Brighten & Correct Vitamin C Serum. As you might've noticed in the name, this product's formula also includes retinol, a powerful ingredient that helps with sloughing off dead skin cells to reveal the healthy glow hiding underneath. Just make sure you don't forget to wear your SPF over this one. (Actually, just don't ever forget to wear your SPF.)
This serum combines the brightening powers of vitamin C with the exfoliating powers of glycolic acid to instantly give you a noticeable glow that'll increase with regular use. Even better, it's fragrance free to limit any irritation and it's made for use across all skin types — including my fellow sensitive friends out there.
Naturally, this roundup would not be complete without the widely-loved Drunk Elephant Firma-C Serum. The thing is, even with the price tag, it's well-loved for a reason. The formula combines the super potent ingredients L-Ascorbic acid and ferulic acid for noticeable brightening, while other ingredients like pumpkin ferment extract work to rid your skin of the dead cells on the surface. The result? Glow for days.
Best Vitamin C Serums: $81 To $100
I'll be real with you: Normally, I would dead*ss scoff at the idea of ever paying close to $100 for a serum — I've got groceries to buy and expensive hobbies to later abandon. But, reader, believe me when I say this Kate Somerville treasure is worth it. Yes, there are more affordable options here that'll give you similar results, but there was something so addictive about the quality and feel of the brand's +Retinol Vita C Serum that I loved. The serum's silky texture felt like a bedtime treat, and in the morning, I woke up with serious radiance, so much that I almost didn't recognize myself. You really do love to see it.