The best vitamin C serums for brighter, clearer and glowing skin

These best vitamin C serums are consistently hailed as one of the most effective skincare ingredients, here's why...

Included in this guide:

A selection of the best vitamin c serums is pictured, from left to right, Mad Hippie, Skinceuticals C E Ferulic and Skin Regimen
(Image credit: Mad Hippie / Skinceuticals / Skin Regimen)

Add one of the best vitamin C serums to your daily skincare routine if you want brighter, glowing skin. With a plethora of skincare options out there promising a host of benefits, it's hard to know where to start which can leave you a little confused at times. But it doesn't have to be that way. It's all about honing the ingredients that you use to ensure that every step is as efficient as it can be.

You're already using one of the best retinol serums and the best moisturizers for dry skin, but adding the powerhouse ingredient, vitamin C could be just the thing you need to completely transform your skin. As well as being scientifically proven to have a positive impact on skin, it’s also hailed as one of the most effective ingredients because it has the ability to visibly improve signs of sun damage. It can help fade dark spots and even out skin tone whilst protecting against pollution and free radicals too.

From vitamin C serums that received tonnes of great reviews to ones that have whipped up a cult frenzy, we put several serums to the test to find the very best. Keep reading for a list of serums that deliver on what they promise—for every type of skincare issue. Naturally, there are some that have risen to the top of our best list, so honorable mentions go to Medik8's Super C 30 because it combines efficacy with an accessible price point. If affordability is your concern look to The Ordinary’s Ascorbyl Glucoside Solution 10% which is a much cheaper option for anybody new to vitamin C. And, if you're a fan of natural products, then Mad Hippie's vitamin C serum could be just the one for you.  

Best vitamin C serums: tried and tested

Mad Hippie vitamin c serum is one of the best vitamin c serums

(Image credit: Mad Hippie)

Best for sensitive skin, this water based serum uses natural ingredients to improve hyperpigmentation

Type of vitamin C: sodium ascorbic phosphate
Strength: 10%
Additional ingredients: Ferulic acid, vitamin E
Reasons to buy
+Natural ingredients+A good option for sensitive skin+Lightweight texture+Free from parabens, synthetic fragrance, dyes, petrochemicals, SLS, or other additives
Reasons to avoid
-Less potent in vitamin C than others on this list (but depending on your skin type, that doesn't have to be a bad thing)-Isn't the best if you have dry skin

For those that prefer natural skincare options, this is best for you as it is free from parabens, synthetic fragrance, dyes, petrochemicals, SLS, or other additives.  The antioxidant ingredients (Ferulic acid, and vitamins C and E) are the stars of this serum super lightweight serum. 

When it comes to application, the jelly-like texture soaks in immediately and doesn't leave your skin feeling tacky. The fact that it’s water-based is good news for oily skin types, as it’s less likely to clog pores, and is undeniably a draw in summer when we’re lightening up our skincare layers. 

It’s also a beneficial serum for oily skin types and for those who normally find their skin becomes riled after using vitamin C.

Read the full Mad Hippie Vitamin C Serum review to find out if this natural-based product delivers glowing skin and reduces pigmentation.

Medik8 Super C30 serum is one of the best vitamin c serums

(Image credit: Medik8)

This oil-based serum is best for all types of skin, is lightweight but packs a potent punch

Type of vitamin C: Ethylated L-ascorbic acid
Strength: 30%
Additional ingredients: Vitamin E for added antioxidant protection
Reasons to buy
+It’s super lightweight +A high-strength+Gentle, vegan and cruelty-free
Reasons to avoid
-It’s more expensive than some-Could make oily skins feel more oily

This lightweight, dry oil sinks into the skin without leaving it feeling greasy or slippery. A couple of drops smoothed all over your skin is all you need, and thanks to its quick absorption, it works perfectly as the first step after cleansing in your AM or PM routines. 

The formula contains 30% ethylated L-ascorbic acid, meaning it’s both potent and incredibly stable. Plus, it’s free of artificial fragrance yet has a refreshing, zesty scent to it which comes from the addition of grapefruit extract (which also acts as an additional, natural antioxidant). It’s oil-based so not only will it help to brighten and protect skin but it’s also incredibly hydrating. Skin looks brighter with a couple of weeks’ consistent use. 

Skinceuticals C E Ferulic is one of the best vitamin c serums

(Image credit: Skinceuticals)

Best for seasoned vitamin C pros, this premium serum was one of the first vitamin C serums ever created and it’s gained cult status for a reason

Type of vitamin C: L-ascorbic acid
Strength: 15%
Additional ingredients: 1% vitamin E and 0.5% ferulic acid for extra added protection against the environment
Reasons to buy
+The water-like serum is easy to apply+It absorbs quickly and has an extremely cult following
Reasons to avoid
-It’s the most expensive of the bunch but some people say that it can oxidise quickly

In just a few weeks into using the SkinCeuticals CE Ferulic serum, the tester's skin was noticeably much more glowy than normal. Unlike other similar serums which tend to be on the slightly more viscous side, this one is like water—making it perfect to press into your face with the palms of your hands. It absorbs quickly and doesn’t leave skin feeling sticky or tacky, instead, it’s the perfect base to apply SPF on top of.

 It’s formulated with ferulic acid, a plant-based antioxidant that helps protect skin against free radicals and other environmental damage, as well as vitamin E which offers additional protection. It left skin looking and feeling plump, hydrated, and glowing. 

The Ordinary Ascorbyl Glucoside Solution 12% is one of the best vitamin c serums

(Image credit: The Ordinary)

4. The Ordinary Ascorbyl Glucoside Solution 12%

Best for first time vitamin C users this serum from the creators of super affordable and highly efficient skincare and doesn’t disappoint

Type of vitamin C: Ascorbyl Glucoside
Strength: 12%
Additional ingredients: This one is just a vitamin with no additional benefits
Reasons to buy
+It’s the most affordable+Comes from a popular, wildly trusted brand
Reasons to avoid
-Doesn't contain additional antioxidants unlike others on this list-It may cause pilling if used with too many other products

The Ordinary has gained cult status by democratizing the skincare industry and as the go-to skincare brand for ingredients-led and results-driven products—its aim is to simplify the overcrowded, often-confusing world of skincare and this serum is yet another great product that does exactly what it says on the bottle. Formulated with ascorbyl glucoside, a type of water-soluble vitamin C that has a longer shelf left in terms of stability than some, it’s a true no-frills serum that glides onto the skin. The non-oily texture absorbs easily but it can be a bit sticky and can ‘pill’ if too much is applied. It can be mixed with other antioxidants, such as resveratrol or ferulic acid, for a full 360 approach—granted, you need to do your research though.

La Roche-Posay Pure Vitamin C10 Serum is one of the best vitamin c serums

(Image credit: La Roche-Posay)

5. La Roche Posay Pure Vitamin C10 Serum

This nourishing vitamin C serums has specifically been formulated for sensitive skin

Type of vitamin C: L-ascorbic acid
Strength: 10%
Additional ingredients: Hyaluronic acid to hydrate and salicylic acid to gently exfoliate
Reasons to buy
+Created by sensitive skin experts+It’s infused with thermal spring water which helps repair and protect the skin’s barrier
Reasons to avoid
-It doesn’t come in a UV-safe bottle-The pipette is slightly too big for the bottle making it harder to apply

La Roche-Posay is the go-to brand for those with sensitive skin so products are developed with that in mind, and this serum is no different. Formulated with 10% vitamin C, it’s the lowest strength of the lot but it still works to even and smooth skin, while the added salicylic acid gently sloughs away surface layers of skin and hyaluronic acid deeply hydrates, leaving it plump and radiant. It’s also infused with La Roche-Posay’s iconic thermal spring water which promises to deliver soothing, barrier-repairing benefits. Its texture sits somewhere between water and a lightweight gel, and it leaves skin looking healthy. 

Clinique fresh pressed daily booster vitamin c is one of the best vitamin c serums

(Image credit: Clinique)

6. Clinique Fresh Pressed Daily Booster with Vitamin Pure Vitamin C 10%

Supercharge your favourite daily moisturiser or serum with a couple of drops of pure vitamin C

Type of vitamin C: L-ascorbic acid
Strength: 10%
Additional ingredients: Glycerin and squalene to intensely hydrate
Reasons to buy
+Individual vials mean it stays fresher for longer+Can be used alone or to boost your moisturiser, good for travelling
Reasons to avoid
-More expensive cost per use-Is quite potent so may be too much for super sensitive skin types

Four individual vials with two compartments—one holds the ready-to-mix pure vitamin C powder and the other houses the serum. Peel the foil away at the base, click and press the powder into the serum, give it a shake and it’s ready to use, either alone or dispense a couple of drops into your favorite daily moisturizer in order to give it a boost. The so-called ‘stay fresh’ packaging is designed to keep the vitamin C powder as fresh and as active as possible, therefore meaning maximum results and impressive efficacy. Each vial is designed to last seven days and is available to buy in boxes of four—to last a month—or one, to see you through a week.

Murad vitamin c glycolic brightening serum is one of the best vitamin c serums

(Image credit: Murad)

7. Murad Vita-C Glycolic Brightening Serum

This powerhouse of a vitamin C serum is perfect for targeted and rapid results

Type of vitamin C: L-ascorbic acid
Strength: 5%
Additional Ingredients: Glycollic acid, Phyto-Luminescent Extract
Reasons to buy
+Created by skin experts+Leaves skin feeling radient
Reasons to avoid
-Can be strong for sensitive skin-Slightly heavy formula

Glycolic acid slews away dead skin cells, which clears the way for vitamin C to really get to work thus supercharging the effects.  This serum, from Murad, is perfect for targeted treatment. This formula works with most skin types from normal to dry and combination. 

Skin Regimen vitamin c serum is one of the best vitamin c serums

(Image credit: Skin Regimen)

8. Skin Regimen Vitamin C Booster

Perfect for an instant boost

Type of vitamin C: Sodium Ascorbate, Ascorbic Acid
Strength: 15%
Additional Ingredients: Longevity ComplexTM.
Reasons to buy
+Soaks into the skin perfectly+Great for dark spots
Reasons to avoid
-Is pricey—but it ACTUALLY works

Suitable for all skin types, you only need a few drops as it’s not very viscous. The texture is quite loose and can be compared to that of the Skin Ceuticals C E Ferulic. That being said, it soaks into the skin like a dream. 

To activate this product, you have a separate sachet of vitamin C powder which you carefully add to the bottle. You then need to shake it for 30 seconds to ensure the product is completely mixed through and leave for 2 minutes before application. But, you only have to do this once. 

Skin was definitely noticeably brighter after the first use, and this continued with solid use, both in the morning—followed by SPF, of course—and at night. 

They say the product is at its most efficacious up to one month after using, so in terms of price, it is definitely at the top bracket of products. But even so, if you're looking for an instant boost, this is the one to try. It does have a tendency to sell out quite quickly, so definitely one to add to your wishlist so that you can snap it up asap. 

How to choose the best vitamin C serum for you

Whilst we can acknowledge that Vitamin C is undoubtedly an incredible addition to any skincare routine—the vitamin C serum benefits are seriously impressive—it's worth noting that not all products were made equal. If you're wondering how to fade dark spots, vitamin C can do this and it also works to help even out skin tone while improving the appearance of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. It can also help to protect against pollution and free radicals, both of which can cause premature aging. 

Despite being considered one of the best antioxidants by almost all dermatologists and skin experts, vitamin C is notoriously difficult to formulate because it’s extremely unstable in water-based products. That means it’s always best to choose a vitamin C serum that’s oil-based to ensure maximum efficacy for the longest possible time.

Vitamin C serums tend to come in different strengths and can range anywhere from 2% through to 20 or 30%—the optimum is around 10-20%. The higher the number, the more potent the product will be. However, there’s no need to choose something higher for the sake of it. If you have sensitive skin, it's always advisable to start lower and gradually work your way up. That way, your skin is able to adapt and is less likely to react.

There are also various types of vitamin C, and while they will all have the same end result, some are easier for brands to formulate with than others. The most popular and most common form of vitamin C is L-ascorbic acid—it’s the most potent but it’s also the most unstable. Other forms include tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate, which is the most gentle and least likely to cause irritation; and ascorbyl glucoside, which is a stable form of vitamin C that’s been combined with glucose, making it more tolerable in sensitive skin.

As well as being a powerhouse brightening ingredient, vitamin C also helps encourage and stimulate collagen production in the skin. And if you're wondering whether you should use your vitamin C serum morning or night, you can. It's suitable to use both morning and night—or one or the other, depending on your skin’s needs. 

Lucy Partington
Lucy Partington

Lucy Partington has been a beauty journalist for eight years, writing for titles including Stylist and Cosmopolitan. She’s a true skincare nerd who’s on a lifelong quest for a glowing complexion and loves nothing more than learning about new ingredients and products. She’s obsessed with having perfect eyebrows and collecting eyeshadow palettes she’ll probably never use.