Best Vitamin C Supplement Chemist Warehouse

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Photo-Illustration: Courtesy of retailers

Vitamin C is a powerhouse skin-care ingredient that can reduce inflammation, fight free-radical damage, brighten skin, diminish fine lines and wrinkles, and reduce the appearance of discoloration and dark spots. But while vitamin C can be quite effective at curing a plethora of skin-care woes, “one should keep in mind that not all vitamin C is created equal,” according to Dr. Tara Rao of Schweiger Dermatology Group.

In fact, the 12 dermatologists we spoke to all agreed that, because vitamin C is an unstable ingredient, finding properly formulated serums is paramount to reaping all the benefits of the antioxidant. Our experts generally recommend looking for serums that contain ascorbic acid, also known as L-ascorbic acid — the most active form of vitamin C — and to store whichever one you buy away from sunlight to prevent oxidation. Below, their favorite vitamin C serums for every skin type.

Best overall vitamin C serum

SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic
SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic
$166

Four of our dermatologists recommend Skinceuticals CE Ferulic, which they (and our editors) hail as the gold-standard vitamin C serum, and is suitable for all skin types. “I think it’s the best out there,” declares Dr. Kenneth Howe of the Wexler Dermatology Group. He says it has a light, non-greasy feel, while still delivering “the maximum amount of its active ingredients to the skin.” It is expensive, but worth the price due to its super-stable, patented formula, according to our experts. That’s because L-ascorbic acid (which comprises 15 percent of this serum) is water soluble, and in less precisely formulated serums, won’t effectively penetrate skin. “A product must be formulated carefully to enable sufficient delivery to the skin,” Howe explains. Part of this serum’s patented formula includes a pH level higher than those of its competitors, meaning it won’t cause the redness and sensitivity that serums with lower pH can. As Dr. Julie Russak, founder of the Russak Dermatology Group, puts it, this serum can “deliver vitamin C through the top layer without disrupting the protective barrier of the skin.”

Whatever vitamin C serum you choose, Howe suggests applying it in the morning. “That way a reservoir of active vitamin C is present in the skin during the daylight hours, when ultraviolet radiation is strongest,” he explains.

$166 AT DERMSTORE
$166 AT SKINSTORE

Best less-expensive vitamin C serum

Maelove Glow Maker
Maelove Glow Maker
$28

For a more budget-friendly option, Russak recommends Maelove Glow Maker. Created by MIT scientists, the antioxidant serum “contains a straightforward formula which has been proven to protect, hydrate, and nourish the skin.” In addition to skin brightening L-ascorbic and ferulic acids, the serum also has a soothing botanical blend of aloe, grape, magnolia, and orange peel to give the skin an added dose of nourishment. The formula is also designed to serve as a makeup primer, so there’s no need to worry about your products pilling under your foundation in the morning.

$28 AT MAELOVE

Best (even-less-expensive) drugstore vitamin C serum

Revitalift Derm Intensives Vitamin C Serum by L’Oreal Paris

Revitalift Derm Intensives Vitamin C Serum by L’Oreal Paris

$20

An even more budget-friendly option is this “effective” vitamin C serum from L’Oréal Paris, which is formulated with 10 percent ascorbic acid. It comes recommended by dermatologist Dr. Joshua Zeichner, the director of cosmetic and clinical research at Mount Sinai Hospital, who says it “has been clinically studied and is available at your local drugstore at a very reasonable price.” It’s also free of fragrance, parabens, mineral oils, and synthetic dyes, so it won’t irritate your skin or cause unwanted breakouts.

$20 AT WALMART
$24 AT TARGET

Best cruelty-free vitamin C serum

Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum
Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum
$78

Another effective, affordable serum is Drunk Elephant’s Day Serum. Because it contains a similar formula to the Skinceuticals CE Ferulic, you get all the skin brightening benefits at “half the cost,” according to Dr. Noelani Gonzalez, a dermatology specialist at Mount Sinai Health System. But unlike Skinceuticals, Drunk Elephant’s serum is also cruelty free. Its formula contains L-ascorbic acid, as well as pumpkin-ferment extract and pomegranate enzyme, which attack dead surface skin cells and help to exfoliate, explains Dr. Deanne Mraz Robinson, a co-founder of Modern Dermatology of Connecticut and skin-care company PURE BioDerm. Plus, the serum’s packaging is both airtight and completely opaque — things Gonzalez says you should look for when choosing a serum, because packaging like this helps to keep the vitamin C from exposure to water, light, or oxygen (all of which degrade it).

$78 AT SEPHORA

Best vitamin C serum for acne-prone skin

Clinique Fresh Pressed 7-day System with Pure Vitamin C
Clinique Fresh Pressed 7-day System with Pure Vitamin C
$30

If you’re worried about your vitamin C degrading, Gonzalez also suggests trying a powdered version of it, like the one in this two-product set from Clinique. Vitamin C is more stable as a powder, she explains, and less likely to be degraded by light or oxygen. This set contains two 10 percent L-ascorbic acid-infused products: The first is a powder cleanser that you combine with water, gently massage onto the skin, and then rinse off. The second is a serum designed to be mixed with whatever daily moisturizer you use. The Clinique serum also contains the common acne-fighting ingredient salicylic acid, so it’s “great for acne-prone skin,” says Gonzalez.

$30 AT ULTA BEAUTY

Best vitamin C serum for sensitive skin

PCA Skin C&E Advanced Serum
PCA Skin C&E Advanced Serum
$120

Dermatologist Dr. Elizabeth Tanzi loves the PCA Skin C&E Advanced Serum, formulated with 20 percent L-ascorbic acid, because the lightweight serum can “easily integrate into a skin-care regimen” and doesn’t “cause irritation,” making it a safe bet if you’ve got sensitive skin.

$120 AT DERMSTORE

Best vitamin C serum for oily skin

SkinCeuticals Phloretin CF
SkinCeuticals Phloretin CF
$166

If you’ve got oily skin, Russak recommends trying this often-overlooked sister product of our best-overall serum. Its formula is similar to that of CE Ferulic and contains L-ascorbic acid and ferulic acid, but does not contain pore-clogging vitamin E, “making Phloretin CF the better choice for oily skin types.” Phloretin CF is also an ideal choice for those with melasma, a common skin pigmentation disorder, because the light serum is especially effective at combating “increased pigment production, which usually occurs due to UV exposure,” according to Russak.

$166 AT DERMSTORE
Rodan + Fields Reverse Tone Correcting Treatment

Rodan + Fields Reverse Tone Correcting Treatment

$110

“I only recommend vitamin C products that are oil-free,” says Dr. Rita Linkner of Spring Street Dermatology, “so many patients break out otherwise.” Her patients tend to like Rodan + Fields Reverse Tone Correcting Treatment, which contains ten percent stabilized vitamin C along with two types of retinol. It’s particularly good for brightening skin overall. “It’s a great way to combat hyperpigmentation,” says Linkner.

$110 AT RODAN+FIELDS

Best vitamin C serums for hyperpigmentation

Revision C+ Correcting Complex 30
Revision C+ Correcting Complex 30
$160

Linkner swears by this vitamin C serum from Revision, which has been previously recommended by dermatologists for fading acne scars and combatting hyperpigmentation. Linkner in particular is a fan of its lightweight feel. It has a high concentration of THC ascorbate — a more stable version of L-asorbic acid that has a longer shelf life and is fat soluble, which studies suggest may sink into the skin more quickly. It also uses vitamin E and the brand’s patent-pending MelaPATH technology, which helps with fine lines and protects the skin against free radicals. Linkner cautions that there may be an adjustment period when you introduce it into your routine because it’s so concentrated. “It often takes a few days for skin to calibrate to but is a great product to use in tandem with your SPF every morning.”

$160 AT AMAZON
$160 AT DERMSTORE
BeautyStat Universal C Skin Refiner
BeautyStat Universal C Skin Refiner
$80

This highly concentrated vitamin C serum from BeautyStat is a favorite of board-certified dermatologist Michelle Henry, founder of Skin Aesthetic Surgery. “Vitamin C is very persnickety and while potent, it’s hard to formulate and maintain its potency,” says Henry. “Ron Robinson, the chemist who formulated it, made it very stable.” She also likes the consistency, which she says is non-sticky and easy to apply. In addition to 20 percent L-Ascorbic acid it also contains squalane oil which provides an additional boost of moisture.

$80 AT AMAZON
$60 AT DERMSTORE
with code: BLACK

Best (less-expensive) vitamin C serum for hyperpigmentation

Glow Recipe Guava Vitamin C Dark Spot Treatment Serum

Glow Recipe Guava Vitamin C Dark Spot Treatment Serum

$45

For a more-affordable-yet-still-effective option, Henry recommends this dark-spot serum from Glow Recipe, which uses five types of vitamin C along with guava extract and tranexamic and ferulic acids to brighten and tone skin. “I like the formulation because it’s light,” says Henry. “I like the inclusion of tranexamic acid because it’s good at breaking up pigment and the guava extract which will give you some light exfoliation. It’s effective.”

$45 AT SEPHORA

Best vitamin C serum for mature skin

Revision Skincare Vitamin C Lotion, 30%
Revision Skincare Vitamin C Lotion, 30%
$122

For mature skin, Russak suggests opting for this vitamin C lotion instead of a serum. Because mature skin tends to be drier, this will give it some much-needed moisture — in addition to “delivering a superior amount of vitamin C to the skin” to fight wrinkles and fine lines, she explains. Unlike the other products on this list that contain L-ascorbic acid, this one contains THD ascorbic acid, a fat-soluble form of vitamin C.

$122 AT AMAZON
$122 AT DERMSTORE

Best less-expensive vitamin C serums for mature skin

Marie Veronique’s Vitamin C+E+Ferulic Serum

Marie Veronique’s Vitamin C+E+Ferulic Serum

$90

According to dermatologist Dr. Keira Barr, “aging is unavoidable, but protecting your skin against environmental stressors that accelerate the aging process is totally in your control.” Collagen, the most essential structural element in your skin, is what helps keep your complexion youthful and firm, she explains. While it naturally decreases with age, UV damage and air pollution “can accelerate its breakdown and interfere with production,” Barr explains. To “bolster mature skin’s protection against the elements,” she suggests “applying a topical vitamin C serum like Marie Veronique’s Vitamin C+E+Ferulic.” Its combination of vitamins C, E, and ferulic acid “work together synergistically to fight free radicals, DNA damage, and increase penetration into the skin cells,” Barr says, noting Marie Veronique’s serum has both L-ascorbic acid and THD ascorbic acid to effectively penetrate the skin.

$90 AT THE DETOX MARKET
Kiehl's Powerful-Strength Line-Reducing Concentrate

Kiehl’s Powerful-Strength Line-Reducing Concentrate

$70

Henry is a fan of Kiehl’s Powerful-Strength Vitamin C Serum, which she has been using daily for the past three months. “I like the simplicity of it,” she says. “Not a lot of fluff. Just vitamin C and hyaluronic acid.” The serum is formulated with two types of vitamin C: L-Ascorbic acid and Ascorbyl Glucoside, the first of which works immediately and second of which doesn’t become active until it penetrates the skin. According to the brand, it’s effective for up to six days after application. Over time, it’ll help with both smoothing skin’s texture and fine lines and wrinkles.

$70 AT SEPHORA
$70 AT KIEHL’S

Best vitamin C serum for dry skin

Obagi Professional-C Serum 20%
Obagi Professional-C Serum 20%
$133

Dr. Rhonda Klein, the other half of Modern Dermatology of Connecticut and PURE BioDerm, suggests the Obagi Professional-C Serum if you’ve got dry skin, as it is formulated with hyaluronic acid to treat and prevent dryness. Its formula also includes 20 percent L-ascorbic acid — making it among the more potent serums on this list — which allows it “to penetrate deeply and provide antioxidant protection from UV damage while brightening areas of hyperpigmentation,” she says.

$133 AT DERMSTORE
$137 AT AMAZON

Best individually packaged vitamin C serum

Isdinceutics Flavo-C Ultraglican Ampoules
Isdinceutics Flavo-C Ultraglican Ampoules
$112

What sets this vitamin C–infused serum apart from all others on this list is the clever packaging: The product is separated into 30 sealed vials that each contain two milliliters of serum, a design meant to protect the finicky vitamin C inside from both air and light exposure. In addition to brightening vitamin C, the serum is formulated with moisturizing hyaluronic acid. It comes recommended by Dr. Hadley King, who adds that “the texture is light and the subtle fragrance is clean and refreshing.”

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