Finding the Best Vitamin C Serum
During the winter months, we know that taking vitamin C can be a great supplement to prevent a cold or flu. It’s a great idea to take daily to keep up your immune system all year long.
But did you know that it could do wonders for your skin too?
Vitamin C serums have become very popular lately. With so many people looking for more natural skincare options, vitamin C has come out on top as both environmentally friendly and highly effective. When combined with other ingredients like hyaluronic acid, vitamin C serums can fix a lot of skin problems without irritating the skin like other acids do. Even people with sensitive skin can find a vitamin C serum for them!
Since there are now so many vitamin C serums out there, it can be overwhelming to find the right one. The range in quality and price is staggering, and people can be easily duped into spending more than they need to. So we decided to try out 3 of the best vitamin C serums out there, and figure out if it’s really worth spending a lot to get great results. We found one serum that really came out ahead of the others – read on to find out which one you should add to your skincare cabinet!
Table of Content
- 1 Finding the Best Vitamin C Serum
- 1.1 Why use Vitamin C in my skincare routine?
- 1.2 What should I look for in a Vitamin C serum?
- 1.3 Are there any safety concerns with using Vitamin C serums?
- 1.4 Our Picks for the 3 Best Vitamin C Serums:
- 1.5 Final Recommendations: Is a vitamin C serum worth it?
Why use Vitamin C in my skincare routine?
How it works
We already know that vitamin C is great at boosting our immune system, but what does it do when applied to the skin?
Vitamin C is a very powerful antioxidant that can help protect your skin and speed up the healing process. It helps prevent and repair damage to the skin caused by free radicals, toxins in the air, and daily stress. Vitamin C is also responsible for helping produce collagen in the body, which is why it’s good to take it both as a supplement and add to our skincare routine as we age. It’s also a tyrosinase inhibitor, which means it prevents the body from producing skin pigment – which is why it’s also commonly used to reduce age spots and hyperpigmentation.
Adding a vitamin C serum to your skincare routine is a great way to improve your skin overall, at any age. Dermatologists agree that it’s absolutely safe for most skin types, and can be much less irritating to people with sensitive skin. My own dermatologist recommends vitamin C serums over harsher acids like AHA or BHA.
There are several benefits of adding vitamin C to our skincare routine, and here are just a few!
- Improves skin elasticity and texture
- Reduces fine lines and wrinkles
- Brightens skin tone
- Reduces appearance of age spots and hyperpigmentation
- Prevents and repairs free-radical damage
- Great to use on acne prone or sensitive skin
- Organic, all-natural options easily available
What should I look for in a Vitamin C serum?
Percentage of vitamin C
The first thing to look at when researching vitamin C serums is the percentage of vitamin C. Look for a serum that has 20% vitamin C, since that is the most your skin will be able to absorb. Any higher percentage than that is a waste, and if the percentage is too high, it could be irritating to the skin. If the product tells you the pH level, it should be around 3.5 for optimal effectiveness.
Another thing to look for is what other ingredients are included in your serum. If you have acne-prone skin, look for a water-based gel to prevent clogging pores. If you are choosing this as an anti-aging product, consider one that has oil or a stronger moisturizer in it.
Hyaluronic acid is an ingredient that’s commonly paired up with vitamin C serums. It is an acid that acts more like a super-moisturizer. Hyaluronic acid works with vitamin C to add moisture and softness to the skin while also helping prevent wrinkles. Whether you’re using a vitamin C serum for anti-aging or to get rid of sun damage, it’s a good idea to find one that also uses hyaluronic acid to boost the positive effects!
Vitamin C is a somewhat unstable ingredient that can go bad if it’s not stored properly. In addition to keeping your serum in a cool, dry place, the packaging can greatly affect the product’s shelf life.
Look for packaging that is opaque to prevent damage from light. It’s also a good idea to stick with bottles that use pumps, rather than eyedroppers or nothing at all. A pump keeps excess air out of the bottle, which prevents the serum from oxidizing or picking up bacteria from your hands or the outside air. If you use an open-air container or eyedropper, your product may not last as long – and that’s a waste of money!
Are there any safety concerns with using Vitamin C serums?
As with any skincare product, there are a few things you should know before purchasing a vitamin C serum:
Vitamin C makes skin more photosensitive, so always wear sunscreen when outdoors, even on a cloudy day. When out in the sun, try to keep your face covered with a hat or stay in the shade.
Start slowly by using only 2-3 times each week, and as your skin gets used to it, you can start using it more often. If you find your skin getting itchy or irritated, cut back or take a break for a few days. I also suggest pairing it with a moisturizer to prevent dryness.
You can use your vitamin C serum in the morning or at night, though I would suggest using it only at night at first. I don’t like using mine during the day because it does mean my skin is more sun sensitive, but do what’s comfortable for you!
If your vitamin C serum changes color from clear to yellow or orange, it has gone bad and needs to be replaced. If you purchase an opaque container and keep it away from light and heat, it should last for about a year.
If you experience peeling, burning, or other severe reactions, stop using immediately and make an appointment with your dermatologist to rule out an allergic reaction or other issues.
Be patient! Using a gentler, more natural skincare product may take more time to see results than a more aggressive product. Your skin will feel amazing after only a few uses, but seeing long-term improvement requires long-term use! Stick with it, and you will get better skin without the extra cost or pain of stronger acid peels.
Our Picks for the 3 Best Vitamin C Serums:
Sdara Skincare Vitamin C Serum with Hyaluronic Acid
Price: $19.95 / 1oz.
Description: This is by far my favorite vitamin C serum! It has everything you need in a serum, and is safe for every skin type. My biggest complaint with vitamin C serums is they’re usually sticky – which is why I hate using them during the day. This one isn’t sticky at all, and works well under makeup – no sliding or flaking! It’s also worked well to reduce my hyperpigmentation while keeping my skin glowing!
Sdara Skincare products are also produced in an FDA-approved facility, they don’t ever test on animals, and they use organic ingredients whenever possible – a huge plus for those of us looking to clean up our skincare routines!
With the addition of hyaluronic acid, this is a great anti-aging serum that will leave your skin feeling soft and smooth in no time. It also includes ingredients like witch hazel extract and vitamin E, both of which are great if you have acne and need a product that won’t clog pores. I also prefer this serum to others we tried because it comes in an opaque bottle with a pump, which keeps it safe from bacteria and light/heat damage.
At under $20, it is an affordable serum that works better than most $100+ versions I’ve tried in the past!
- Affordable (under $20/oz.)
- 90-day, money back guarantee
- Packaging is opaque and prevents contamination
- 1 year shelf life
- 20% vitamin C (prescription strength)
- Hyaluronic acid; adds extra moisture to skin
- Non-sticky formula; feels great on skin
- Organic ingredients
- No animal testing
- Made in U.S.A.
- Be careful when using the pump for the first time – it can shoot the product pretty far if you’re not paying attention!
- Because this is an all-natural product, you may need to use it for a couple months to see effects. I don’t think this a negative, but if you’re looking for instant results, you may need a stronger product.
Mario Badescu Vitamin C Serum
Price: $45.00 / 1oz.
Description: I’ve used Mario Badescu products for years with varying results. This vitamin C serum was by far the most disappointing product I’ve used so far. I found this serum a lot more irritating than the Sdara version, probably due to the addition of lavender oil.
While this serum also includes hyaluronic acid, it only contains 7.5% vitamin C, which isn’t a lot. Given this serum costs more than double the Sdara serum, I was expecting it to at least contain similar potent ingredients. I also didn’t like that it comes with an eyedropper, which leaves it susceptible to contamination from my hands or the air.
- Trusted brand in skincare since 1967
- Serum contains hyaluronic acid for better moisturizing
- Comes in opaque container to prevent light/heat damage
- Simple ingredient list is good if you want a simple, clean skincare product
- Only 7.5% vitamin C; not as potent
- Contains lavender oil (irritating to sensitive skin)
- Expensive; paying for the famous name/reputation
- Leaves skin feeling greasy/oily
- Clogs pores; not good for acne-prone skin
- Eyedropper could contaminate serum if exposed to bacteria
DERMADoctor Kakadu Vitamin C Serum
Price: $95.00 / 1oz.
Description: When looking for a comparable vitamin C serum to our Sdara serum, I came across an old favorite of mine from DERMADoctor. This serum also contains 20% vitamin C, hyaluronic acid, in addition to other beneficial ingredients like vitamin E and ferulic acid. It’s a lightweight formula that doesn’t clog pores like the Sdara serum, and is dermatologist tested and approved.
DERMADoctor also donates a portion of their profits to the Kimberley Training Institute of Western Australia, a group that promotes economical growth by training aboriginal communities to grow crops used in their serums. This is a great benefit to using any product – knowing that some of the proceeds go toward helping others.
My main problem with this serum is that it costs almost $100 for an ounce! The serum itself contains most of the same ingredients as the Sdara serum, at the same potency levels – but at over 5 times the price. I can’t imagine this is worth it – even if they are donating some of that money to a nonprofit. This is definitely a case of “paying for the name,” and frankly it’s not worth it. You can find plenty of vitamin C serums that are just as effective for a fraction of the cost!
- Uses organic ingredients
- 20% vitamin C with hyaluronic acid
- Also uses vitamin E
- Non-comedogenic (won’t clog pores); great for acne-prone skin
- Smooth, non-sticky formula; works well under makeup
- Donates portion of profit to nonprofit organization
- Unsure of shelf life; shipped from Australia
- Eyedropper could contaminate serum if exposed to hands or air
- Expensive; almost $100/oz. (over 5x cost of Sdara serum)
- Paying for prestigious brand name; “luxury” product
- Smell is off-putting for some people
- Potency of vitamin C isn’t guaranteed; site says it depends on the potency of a “food product,” which can change drastically due to sun exposure, soil, air, etc.
- Some users found it irritating to the skin
Final Recommendations: Is a vitamin C serum worth it?
Vitamin C is a great multi-dimensional skincare product. It repairs damage, lightens pigmentation spots, prevents wrinkles and fine lines, and leaves skin smoother. There are so many things this one product does – why bother with anything else? It’s also a great anti-aging product to use if you have sensitive or acne-prone skin, since it’s non-irritating and typically not pore clogging.
Doing our research, we found out that not all vitamin C serums are created equal. Some of them will skimp on vitamin C, leaving you with a product that doesn’t work as well. Others will be potent, but so expensive that they’re not realistic for most peoples’ budgets.
We highly recommend that you try out the Sdara Vitamin C Serum with Hyaluronic Acid because it’s the best in both potency and price! At around $20, you can get a vitamin C serum that is just as effective (if not better) as a $100 serum. If you’re looking for brighter, smoother, healthier skin, grab this vitamin C serum before it’s sold out!