Vitamin C Serums: Navigating Your Options

Vitamin C Serums: Navigating Your Options
Image: @youglowgal via Instagram

There are TONS of vitamin C serums on the market, but how do you choose? All antioxidant serums aren’t created equal. Sure, your skin looks brighter and more even-toned but is your serum only working on the surface? You need to educate yourself so you can shop without being at the hand of a sales associate. Or worse, only basing your search on product reviews.

We want to increase the level of vitamin C within our skin by using a topical vitamin C that can be properly absorbed.

What makes a Vitamin C serum effective?

Pure L-Ascorbic Acid: At the beginning of the ingredients list look for L-ascorbic acid, or ascorbic acid. Unlike magnesium ascorbyl phosphate and ascorbyl palmitate, ascorbic acid doesn’t sit on top of your skin.

Percentage: Skin cannot absorb more than 20% vitamin C daily, optimal serums contain between 10-20%. But using a 20% formulation will get the max amount of vitamin C into your skin.

pH: The pH of topical vitamin C must be below 3.5 for skin to absorb it.

I’ve found brands are open and willing to share details on their products with you, just ask! And if they won’t…or can’t, I wouldn’t trust them.

Why should you use an antioxidant serum?

I tell everyone if there’s one product to spend $$$ on it’s an antioxidant serum. There are so many amazing reasons to use one! They’re ideal for creating optimal skin health as they rehabilitate damaged skin and correct sun damage. Antioxidants act as scavengers and hunt down free radicals, preventing both skin cancer and aging. They boost the efficacy of your favorite broad spectrum SPF. And they aid in collagen production, firm and reduce wrinkles, and brighten skin tone.

While vitamin C is pivotal, the synergy of a broad spectrum antioxidant is even better to enhance your skin! I swear by SkinCeuticals antioxidants, they fit the bill and have tons of science-based studies backing their products.

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About Sarah Nicole

Sarah is a Denver based expert esthetician, known for returning abused sensitive skin back to a glowing state without harsh products while boosting her client's skin confidence and self-worth. Sarah has been featured in Allure, New Beauty, Greatist, NBC News, and D Magazine among others. You can follow her on Instagram @sarahnpayne.

11 thoughts on “Vitamin C Serums: Navigating Your Options

  1. Garden of Wisdom make a 23% L Ascorbic Acid with Hyularonic acid and Ferulic. It’s about £15! The texture is brilliant and so far I love it. However I like to use in the morning and it says to use at night. Is that ok or would that be because it’s unstable?

    1. Hi Anna! There could be any number of reasons the brand chose to include those instructions, and I’m unfamiliar with the brand so don’t want to make assumptions. I suggest using it however you see fit xx

  2. Love your Vitamin C articles!

    I’ve never used Vitamin C serums before, I’m still looking for the best options on the market. I’ve heard about the Medik8 C-Tetra serum: do you know the brand? It’s not as expensive as SkinCeuticals, probably not as popular either, but I’ve read lots of positive reviews. It actually contains a different form of Vitamin C, which is Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate. Do you think it’s worth giving it a try? I can’t find the whole ingredient list unfortunately, but I thought I’d reach out to you just in case you know the product 🙂


    1. Hey! Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate is a great form of Vitamin C. I found their full INCI on the brands’ site, they include grapefruit oil, so I would suggest using the serum in the evening to avoid photosensitivity. Hope this helps!

    1. Brands like Obaji, iS Clinical, and Sircuit Skin make great Vitamin C products. But for a quality Vitamin C serum you won’t really find a budget option, you could go for Skinceuticals AOX 10. It’s $69.

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