Which Vitamin C Serum is Best?

I am a dermatologist in Miami who tests skin care products like ascorbic acid serums to see which Vitamin C serums work best for your skin type.  We test these serums on the 16 different Baumann Skin Types. In my 20 years of skin care research, I have found which Vitamin C serums work well for  different ages, skin types, genders, and skin concerns. In this blog I will help you find a Vitamin C serum to treat your skin type and your skin concerns,

The best Vitamin C Serums are expensive - so you want to make sure you choose the right one. This blog will talk about when to splurge on Vitamin C and when to save.  I will tell you which affordable Vitamin C serums are good. Whether you are in your 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s or 60+, Vitamin C might be right for you. I will discuss which Vitamin C serums to use to treat different skin issues such as wrinkles and hyperpigmentation.  If you have acne, rosacea, melasma, dry skin, oily skin, or sensitive skin, this can affect which Vitamin C serum you should use. This blog also talks about the different types of Vitamin C ingredients that are in skincare products and the benefits and downsides of each type.

The easiest way to find a good Vitamin C serum that is right for you is to take the quiz and shop by your Baumann Skin Type.  I used my research to develop software that helps you build the perfect skincare routine for your skin type. Take the quiz to see if Vitamin C should be in your skincare routine - and to see which is best for your skin type.

Best Vitamin C Serums

There are liquid Vitamin C products, serums, gels, lotions and creams.  Serums are the most popular form of ascorbic acid used in skincare routines. Vitamin C in cosmetics such as facial foundations and powders is not effective. We suggest sticking with a serum or liquid formulation. Vitamin C is hydrophilic so it works well in aqueous solutions.

These Vitamin C serums work for most Baumann Skin Types:

However, you really need to know your Baumann Skin Type so we can give you exact brand advice and tell you where in your skin care routine to use Vitamin C. Keep reading to learn more about how to choose a Vitamin C serum.

Characteristics of the best Vitamin C serums

Top dermatologist-recommended Vitamin C Serums

There are many types of Vitamin C skincare products, but Skinceuticals was the first Vitamin C Serum and is still the most popular and top selling. Most dermatologists recommend Skinceuticals C E Ferulic- but there are many good Vitamin C serums on the market.

SkinCeuticals CE Ferulic is the best-selling Vitamin C serum.  It is very stable due to the addition of ferulic acid and Vitamin E and has ascorbic acid in the correct pH to be effective.  It has been the best selling of all the ascorbic acid serums for many years.  However, if you have oily skin, it may feel heavy and sticky to you.  Skinceuticals has several other good Vitamin C serums to choose from.

Skinceuticals Vitamin C Serums

The reason Skinceuticals has different types of Vitamin C is because there are different skin types and you should match your Vitamin C Serum to your budget, skin concerns, and other products that you will layer Vitamin C with in your skincare routine.  Keep reading to see which is best for your skin type.

How do you know if Vitamin C is right for your skin type? Take our skin type quiz!

  • Diagnose your Baumann Skin Type
  • Receive our step by step routine recommendations
  • Choose from a list of Vitamin C serums right for you
  • Read reviews from others with your same Baumann Skin Type

After you take the quiz, look for your Baumann Skin Type octagon that corresponds with your Skin Type.  This allows you to shop by your skin type.

Some Baumann Skin Types need Vitamin C Serums

Vitamin C Serums By Skin Type

Our skin type quiz divides you into 16 Baumann Skin Types and 4 sensitive skin subtypes.  When you take the quiz, we will tell you which products are right for you and help you build a skincare routine. I have also divided up my Vitamin C serum recommendations by skin type below.

Vitamin C for Dry Skin Types

If you have a dry skin type then SkinCeuticals CE Ferulic is suitable for you. It contains 15% pure vitamin C, vitamin E and ferulic acid in a moisturizing gel that sometimes feels greasy but most dry skin types love. Lotions and creams may have Vitamin C in them, but the serums are usually more potent.

These Vitamin C Serums are also good for dry skin types at risk for aging or an uneven skin tone:

Vitamin C for Oily Skin Types

For oily skin types, we recommend ascorbic acid serums rather than creams or lotions.  Oily skin types usually do not like Skinceuticals CE Ferulic because it feels sticky on oil skin.  For this reason I prefer these Vitamin C serums from Skinceuticals for Oily skin types. I also like these other brands of Vitamin C for oily skin types.

Vitamin C for Sensitive Skin Types

There are 4 types of sensitive skin and Vitamin C is not right for all of them. In fact, most sensitive skin types with acne, rosacea, skin stigning, and allergies do not do well with Vitamin C.

Take the quiz before buying ANY Vitamin C serums to see if they are right for your type of sensitive skin. Below is the advice I give my sensitive skin patients about Vitamin C.

Rosacea-Prone Skin and Vitamin C

Rosacea skin types are a type of sensitive skin that do not do well with Vitamin C. The low pH of Vitamin C causes stinging that will irritate rosacea prone skin. When I recommend Vitamin C to my rosacea patients, I choose one that has soothing ingredients and a form of Vitamin C that does not have to be a low pH to work.

Revision C+ Correcting Complex is mild enough for sensitive skin types, rosacea-prone skin, and even skin that stings. It contains Vitamin C in the form of tetrahexyldecyl ascorbateThis Vitamin C serum is unique in that it supports the  microbiome.  The diglucosyl gallic acid has soothing effects.

I often use Jan Marini C-ESTA serum in my rosacea-prone patients.  It has ascorbyl palmitate which is a form of Vitamin C that does not sting.  It is lipid soluble and is more hydrating than other Vitamin C serums.  For very dry skin types with rosacea, this also comes in a cream form.

Acne-prone skin and Vitamin C

In some cases, Vitamin C can make acne worse. It is unknown why this is.However, if you If you have acne-prone skin and pimples cause dark spots on the skin, Vitamin C can help lighten post acne hyperpigmentation.

Acne is a form of inflammation that can stimulate the production of melanin, but using a vitamin C serum can both decrease inflammation and prevent the dark spots that pimples can leave behind. Darker skin types are more prone to getting dark spots on the skin after an acne pimple has cleared.

Our favorite Skinceuticals Vitamin C Serum for acne is SkinCeuticals C + AHA,.

This vitamin C serum that combines the power of alpha-hydroxy acids to exfoliate the skin and keep it clear of blemishes and clogged pores.

This serum contains 15% pure vitamin C (l-ascorbic acid) and a 10% combination of glycolic and lactic acids, which help to break the bonds on the outer layer of the skin, thus breaking up the excess pigmentation.

Not all Baumann Skin Types can tolerate AHA so make sure you take the quiz and see if this product is right for you.

Affordable Vitamin C Serum

Skinceuticals Vitamin C Serums do not go on sale very often so you want to make sure you know which ones you want to buy when the price goes down.

Skinceuticals Serum 10 AOX+ is the most affordable Skinceuticals Vitamin C serum and it works well.

Here are prices of other Vitamin C Serums for comparison:

  1. L'Oreal Paris Revitalift Vitamin C Face Serum at Amazon is priced around $18.
  2. Yes To Grapefruit Brightening Serum at Amazon is priced at $13.
  3. Sephora Collection Super Glow Serum with Vitamin C+E at Sephora is priced around $20.
  4. TruSkin Vitamin C Facial Serum at Amazon is priced at $22.

If you want to save money of Vitamin C make sure you choose one that works. Avoid these worthless prodcuts:

  • Vitamin C in jars
  • Vitamin C serums not stored in temperature controlled rooms (We have an air conditioned warehouse and quick turnover of our inventory)
  • Vitamin C serums left in the sun or heat such as in your car.
  • Expired Vitamin C
  • Vitamin C's not packaged properly
  • Vitamin C exposure to air during the packaging process

Basically- if it's really cheap- you need to be skeptical. Feel free to email us or visit us on social media to ask what affordable Vitamin C serums are best.

Best Vitamin C Serum for over 50

If you are 50+, you need more than just Vitamin C in your skincare routine.  Take our quiz to build a routine.  Most people in their 50s need retinoids, growth factors, and exosomes in addition to ascorbic acid.  This is because older skin cells (fibroblasts)do not hear cell signals well, do not make cell signals as well as they did when they were younger, and need help making energy to produce collagen. One reason is there are more senescent cells in older skin.

So if you are over 50, look for Vitamin C serums that combine ingredients like niacinamide, ascorbic acid, retinoids, heparan sulfate, exosomes and growth factors. 

Alastin C-Radical Defense Antioxidant Serum has Vitamin C in the form of sodium ascorbate.  It combines this with ubiquinone (CoQ10) that gives cells energy. It also has antioxidants, anti-inflammatory ingredients and one of my favorite ingredients centella asiatica.

Best Vitamin C Serum for Beginners

If you want to try an inexpensive serum first when beginning Vitamin C serums, there are a few good ones.  If you like them, you can upgrade to a more expensive better Vitamin C.

I suggest these Top 5 Vitamin C Serums for beginners:

  1. Cera Ve Skin Renewing Vitamin C Serum
  2. Derma Made Antioxidant C Serum +
  3. La Roche Posay Vitamin C Serum
  4. Replenix Age Restore Vitamin C Brightening Serum
  5. Skinceuticals Serum 10 AOX+

Take our quiz to find out if these are right for you.

Factors To Consider when Shopping for Vitamin C Serums

Many Vitamin C products, especially the cheap ones, are pretty worthless. But how do you know if a Vitamin C prodcut is good?

There are 5 things that dermatologists like me look at when deciding if a Vitamin C Serum is good:

1. Type of Vitamin C

2. Formulation: serum, lotion, or cream

3. Manufacturing process

4. Packaging

5. pH

These will be discussed below where I discuss different types of Vitamin C in skincare.

Types of Vitamin C In Prodcuts

L-Ascorbic Acid

L-ascorbic acid is the form of Vitamin C that has the most data that shows that it increases collagen production, so this is the type used in the bestselling Vitamin C serums. L-ascorbic acid is hydrophilic so it works best in liquids and serums with water and not a lot of oil.

L-ascorbic acid has a few issues to considering when choosing a good medical grade Vitamin C product. It is very unstable so if it is manufactured and packaged with exposure to air or light, it has no activity. This is why you should never buy a Vitamin C cream in a jar. You need an airless pump or an amber bottle with a small neck.

L-ascorbic acid absorbs best at a low pH, so the best Vitamin C serums may sting when you apply them and can irritate sensitive skin types.

L-ascorbic acid is not right for some sensitive skin types and skin types with hyperpigmentation. There are other forms of ascorbic acid that can be used.

Ascorbic Acid Polypeptide

Ascorbic Acid Polypeptide (15) is a newer form of Vitamin C that's bound to polypeptides. It is claimed that it allows for improved delivery and stability. This form is designed to convert to L-ascorbic acid once absorbed into the skin, offering the benefits of L-ascorbic acid without its instability and irritation. There is not a lot of evidence-based research available to fully confirm its efficacy and benefits compared to more traditional forms of Vitamin C.

Ascorbyl Palmitate

Ascorbyl palmitate is a fat-soluble form of Vitamin C. It's an ester formed from ascorbic acid and palmitic acid, leading to a compound that integrates well into lipid-rich skin layers.

The downside of ascorbyl palmitate is that it is less potent compared to L-ascorbic acid. Its antioxidant capacity is considered weaker, and it may not provide as dramatic results in terms of collagen production and photoprotection. There's also some debate about its stability and efficacy once applied to the skin, with studies suggesting it may not be as effective in penetrating the skin or providing the desired antioxidant benefits. More data is needed to know if this form of Vitamin C is effective.

As far as safety, one study(17)  investigated the effects of Ascorbyl Palmitate (AA6P) on skin exposed to UVB radiation. It found that while AA6P can reduce cellular levels of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and had antioxidant properties, it paradoxically promotes lipid peroxidation (LPO), JNK activation, and cytotoxicity when exposed to UVB. This suggests that, despite its antioxidant capabilities, AA6P may exacerbate skin damage under UVB exposure, indicating a complex interaction between its antioxidant effects and its potential to generate harmful oxidized lipid metabolites.

Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate

Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate, an oil-soluble Vitamin C derivative, offers enhanced stability and deeper skin penetration, making it ideal for sensitive skin. It effectively combats free radicals, supports collagen production, and reduces hyperpigmentation. However, it's costlier than other forms and might be less potent in stimulating collagen compared to L-ascorbic acid, but its gentleness and efficacy in brightening and anti-aging care make it a valuable skincare choice.

Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate (MAP)

Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate is another water-soluble form of Vitamin C, appreciated for its stability and effectiveness in lower concentrations. MAP is particularly known for its ability to hydrate the skin, brighten the complexion, and even out skin tone. It's a great option for those looking to reduce the appearance of dark spots and fine lines without the risk of irritation commonly associated with more potent forms of Vitamin C.

MAP is gentler and less likely to cause irritation than L-ascorbic acid, making it suitable for sensitive skin types. However, it might not provide as dramatic results in collagen production as L-ascorbic acid.

Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate (SAP)

Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate is a water-soluble form of Vitamin C that's known for its stability and gentle nature. It's an excellent choice for those with acne-prone and sensitive skin types because it's less irritating than L-ascorbic acid. SAP has been shown to have antimicrobial properties, making it effective in combating acne-causing bacteria. It also offers antioxidant protection, helping to mitigate the effects of free radicals and potentially reduce the signs of aging.

However, while SAP is effective for acne and gentle on the skin, it may not be as potent in stimulating collagen production or in brightening as L-ascorbic acid. Its benefits are more towards protecting against oxidative stress and less about reversing the signs of aging.

Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate

Tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate is a form of Vitamin C that's fat-soluble, which allows it to penetrate the skin's lipid layers more effectively than some other forms. This characteristic makes it a great option for delivering antioxidant benefits deeper into the skin, potentially improving hydration, elasticity, and the appearance of fine lines. It's also less irritating than L-ascorbic acid, making it suitable for those with sensitive skin.

However, while tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate is more stable and less irritating, it's important to note that the research supporting its effectiveness in stimulating collagen production and brightening skin is less extensive than that of L-ascorbic acid. Additionally, products containing this form of Vitamin C can be more expensive due to the cost of formulation and stability.

Tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate is often used to lighten dark spots but its skin lightening activity has to do with its antioxidant properties.

Are Skinceuticals Serums Worth The Money?

Vitamin C serums by SkinCeuticals are worth the money- but- you may not even need a Vitamin C serum. Vitamin C increases collagen levels and has been shown to brighten skin and reduce fine lines and wrinkles. But is it right for you? There are better ways to lighten dark spots and erase wrinkles. Are there better options to spend your money on? We can help you find affordable Vitamin C that is right for you.  And you can use your accumulated points in our loyalty program to lower the cost. All you need to do is shop for Vitamin C serums with your Baumann Skin Type.

Make sure Vitamin C is the best product for your skin type before spending the money.

Level up your skin care knowledge with medical advice from dermatologists

What is the best liquid Vitamin C for the face?

Skinceuticals C E Ferulic and Skinceuticals AOX10 are the best liquid Vitamin C serums for most skin types.

How long does Vitamin C last after opening?

As with any Vitamin C serum, once you open it- use it up fast before it oxidizes and goes bad! (Sometimes the color will turn darker which tells you it is time to throw it away). You can keep Vitamin C serums and liquids in the refrigerator to make them last longer. If you use it 2 times a day, it should last a month. Throw opened Vitamin C away about 6 weeks after opening it.

Because Vitamin C can go bad so fast, you may want to consider cheaper ascorbic acid alternatives.

What is the best SkinCeuticals vitamin C serum for dark spots from acne on dark skin types?

SkinCeuticals Phloretin CF, is non-comedogenic face serum that contains 10% l-ascorbic acid.

Phloretin is a powerful antioxidant derived from apples that helps to improve uneven skin tone and lighten discoloration on black skin.

This serum helps post inflammatory hyperpigmentation caused by pimples and acne.

References for Best Ascorbic Acid Serums:

  1. Baumann L. Chapters 40 and 55 in Cosmeceuticals and Cosmetic Ingredients (McGraw Hill 2015).
  2. Baumann L. Chapters 37 and 39 in Baumann’s Cosmetic Dermatology 3rd Edition (McGraw Hill 2022)
  3. Baumann, Leslie. “Cosmeceuticals in skin of color” Seminars in Cutaneous Medicine and Surgery 35 (2016): 233-237.
  4. Baumann, L. (2020). 14 A Scientific Approach to Cosmeceuticals. The Art of Aesthetic Surgery, Three Volume Set: Principles and Techniques.
  5. Baumann, L. (2013). Nonsurgical skin care and rejuvenation. Gurtner GC, Neligan PC. Plastic Surgery (3rd and 4th ed). China: Elsevier, 25.
  6. Baumann, L. (2018). How to Use Oral and Topical Cosmeceuticals to Prevent and Treat Skin Aging. Facial Plastic Surgery Clinics, 26(4), 407-413.
  7. Pinnell, Sheldon R., et al. “Topical L-Ascorbic Acid: Percutaneous Absorption Studies” Dermatol Surg 27 (2001): 137-142.
  8. Baumann, L. (2005). How to prevent photoaging?. Journal of Investigative Dermatology125(4), xii.
  9. Baumann, L. (2007). Skin ageing and its treatment. The Journal of Pathology: A Journal of the Pathological Society of Great Britain and Ireland211(2), 241-251.
  10. Baumann, L. (2018). How to use oral and topical cosmeceuticals to prevent and treat skin aging. Facial Plastic Surgery Clinics26(4), 407-413.
  11. Pinnell, S. R. (1985). Regulation of collagen biosynthesis by ascorbic acid: a review. The Yale journal of biology and medicine58(6), 553.
  12. Pinnell, S. R., Murad, S., & Darr, D. (1987). Induction of collagen synthesis by ascorbic acid: a possible mechanism. Archives of Dermatology123(12), 1684-1686.
  13. Tajima, S., & Pinnell, S. R. (1996). Ascorbic acid preferentially enhances type I and III collagen gene transcription in human skin fibroblasts. Journal of dermatological science11(3), 250-253.
  14. Tajima, S., & Pinnell, S. R. (1982). Regulation of collagen synthesis by ascorbic acid. Ascorbic acid increases type I procollagen mRNA. Biochemical and biophysical research communications106(2), 632-637.
  15. Choi, H. I., Park, J. I., Kim, H. J., Kim, D. W., & Kim, S. S. (2009). A novel L-ascorbic acid and peptide conjugate with increased stability and collagen biosynthesis. BMB reports42(11), 743-746.
  16. Khan, H., Akhtar, N., & Ali, A. (2017). Assessment of combined ascorbyl palmitate (AP) and sodium ascorbyl phosphate (SAP) on facial skin sebum control in female healthy volunteers. Drug Research67(01), 52-58.
  17. Meves, A., Stock, S. N., Beyerle, A., Pittelkow, M. R., & Peus, D. (2002). Vitamin C derivative ascorbyl palmitate promotes ultraviolet-B-induced lipid peroxidation and cytotoxicity in keratinocytes. Journal of investigative dermatology119(5), 1103-1108.
  18. Janesirisakule, S., Sinthusake, T., & Wanichwecharungruang, S. (2013). Nanocarrier with self-antioxidative property for stabilizing and delivering ascorbyl palmitate into skin. Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences102(8), 2770-2779.
  19. Khan, H., Akhtar, N., & Ali, A. (2018). Fortification of facial skin collagen efficacy by combined ascorbyl palmitate and sodium ascorbyl phosphate. Acta Pol Pharm-Drug Res75(1), 129-140.
  20. Khan, H., Akhtar, N., Khan, H. M. S., Arshad, A. I., Naeem, M., Sohail, M., ... & Nawaz, Z. (2016). Synergistic effects of ascorbyl palmitate and sodium ascorbyl phosphate loaded in multiple emulsions on facial skin melanin and erythema content. Biomed Res27(2), 570-576.

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