We only recommend products we love and that we think you will, too. We may receive a portion of sales from products purchased from this article, which was written by our Commerce team.
If you chose to do so, vitamin C is one of the most effective ways to reduce the appearance of hyperpigmentation and uneven skin. The best Vitamin C serums for hyperpigmentation should have at least 10% vitamin C, and you can further maximize the serum’s benefits by combining it with other antioxidants, such as vitamins B and E, glutathione, or ferulic acid, says dermatologist Dr. Harold Lancer, who spoke to Elite Daily for this article.
Most people can use vitamin C comfortably, dermatologist Joshua Zeichner tells Elite Daily, but he steers patients with sensitive skin towards vitamin C ester. “This version of vitamin C is generally better tolerated and thought by many to more effectively penetrate through the outer skin layer,” he says. Dr. Zeichner adds that many of the latest generations of vitamin C serums contain other healthy-for-your-skin antioxidants, as well as soothing and hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid. Pair one with your sunscreen, and that’s really all you need for a well-rounded morning routine.
Your serum should come in a dark or opaque bottle because vitamin C is prone to oxidizing, Dr. Lancer says, and skip using glycolic acid, salicylic acid, and benzoyl peroxide at the same time, which can alter vitamin C’s pH. Instead, he suggests using your vitamin C serum in the mornings, then your preferred exfoliators or retinol treatments at night.
1. Expert’s Pick: Best Vitamin C Serum For Hyperpigmentation
Dr. Zeichner likes RoC’s Revive + Glow Daily Serum because it “contains a stabilized 10% vitamin C complex that is well-tolerated even in those with sensitive skin.” He, too, suggests using your vitamin C serums in the morning, layered under sunscreen. “Think of the morning as a time to protect the skin and prevent environmental damage,” Dr. Zeichner says, while evenings are for hydration, repair, and stimulating skin cell turnover (such as with a retinol). Pairing these two products every morning can help prevent hyperpigmentation, too. And at just over $20 on Amazon, this vitamin C serum is a great value.
2. Best Nourishing Vitamin C Serum
CeraVe’s affordable vitamin C serum is made with 10% l-ascorbic acid, a form of vitamin C also referred to as pure vitamin C, which Dr. Lancer prefers. There’s also hyaluronic acid, vitamin E, ceramides, and glycerin in this formula to help keep your skin moisturized and strong, so it’s a great does-it-all product. The opaque tube keeps your vitamin C serum airtight, which is helpful, Dr. Lancer says, because vitamin C is notoriously prone to oxidizing and can break down when it’s exposed to light or air. That’s why he tells his patients to check the expiration dates on their vitamin C serums and creams, and if they notice a sour smell or discoloration, it’s most likely breaking down and should be thrown away.
3. Best French Pharmacy Vitamin C Serum
Made by an iconic French pharmacy brand, Vichy’s fragrance-free LiftActiv Vitamin C Serum comprises just 11 ingredients, including 15% vitamin C, glycerin, hyaluronic acid, and the brand’s mineral-rich volcanic water. It delicately cares for dry, dehydrated skin, helps prevent sun damage and hyperpigmentation, and offers skin brightening benefits as well. Admittedly, this is a very small bottle, but the brand says you should get about 30 days of use out of it.
4. Best Vitamin C Serum With Vitamin E & Ferulic Acid
Paula’s Choice C15 Super Booster is full of ingredients that support healthy skin, including the serum’s star ingredient, 15% l-ascorbic acid, as well as vitamin E. (Studies show combining vitamins C and E together increases the photoprotective ability of your skin care product.) This contains the antioxidant ferulic acid, too, which both dermatologists suggest as a helpful additional ingredient in your vitamin C serum to make it more impactful at targeting unwanted dark spots and uneven skin tone. Ferulic acid also makes vitamin C more stable, and therefore more effective. Rounding out the INCI list in this highly concentrated serum are nourishing peptides, panthenol, and glycerin.
5. Best Splurge
It’s an admittedly pricey pick, but if your budget allows, Perricone MD Vitamin C Serum is worth it. This lightweight, citrus-scented serum is made with vitamin C ester, which Dr. Zeichner says is his preferred form of vitamin C for people with sensitive skin, along with ferulic acid and moisturizing squalene. Ideal for fading unwanted hyperpigmentation and smoothing out unevenly textured skin, this serum comes housed in a dark bottle to prevent it from oxidizing.
Dr. Joshua Zeichner, M.D., F.A.A.D., Associate Professor of Dermatology, Mount Sinai Hospital, New York City
Relevance of vitamins C and E in cutaneous photoprotection, by B Eberlein-König and J Ring; https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17134414/
Antioxidant Properties of Ferulic Acid and Its Possible Application, by Kamila Zduńska, Agnieszka Dana, Anna Kolodziejczak, Helena Rotsztejn; https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30235459/
Ferulic acid stabilizes a solution of vitamins C and E and doubles its photoprotection of skin, by Fu-Hsiung Lin, Jing-Yi Lin, Ravindra D Gupta, Joshua A Tournas, James A Burch, M Angelica Selim, Nancy A Monteiro-Riviere, James M Grichnik, Jan Zielinski, Sheldon R Pinnell; https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16185284/