The ABCs of Vitamin C Serums and Our Top 5 Picks

If you’ve dipped your toe into the vast world of skincare, you already know what an overwhelming place it can be. There seems to be a new must-have, buzz-worthy product for us 40+ gals every other day. We’re told we need to add retinol, hyaluronic acid, ceramides, peptides, glycol acid, and a host of other products—ASAP—to our anti-aging routines to reverse fine lines and wrinkles.

There is a place for all these ingredients in your skincare routine, but dermatologists agree that a properly formulated vitamin C serum is incredibly beneficial to your skin. There are a ton of serums out there, all claiming they are the best, so how do you know what to choose? I’ve gone on a quest to find out for myself! I’ve taken on the task of researching the facts behind what makes vitamin C such a sought-after skincare ingredient. I’m excited to share with you what I’ve learned. Here are the ABCs of Vitamin C serums and our top 5 picks to incorporate into your routine.

vitamin c serums, beauty tray with white flowers and serum bottles

Benefits of Vitamin C

According to dermatologists, it’s a powerful antioxidant. That means it can neutralize free radicals in the skin. Free radicals are things that you’re exposed to every day like the sun, pollution, blue light, even stress. All these things damage collagen. Vitamin C serums reduce fine lines and wrinkles by stimulating collagen. It also brightens your complexion by blocking excess pigment creation, protects against sun damage, and reduces dark spots.

In the same way that consuming antioxidant-rich foods helps your body fight off free radicals internally, antioxidants do the same for your skin. While drinking freshly squeezed orange juice or lemonade is healthy, it’s not going to get enough vitamin C out to your face. So, we need to apply it topically. Dermatologists also recommend that the best time to apply vitamin C serums are first thing in the morning. Apply after you have a freshly cleaned face, and before the rest of your skincare and moisturizers.

Types of Vitamin C

There are a dizzying number of different forms of vitamin C on skincare labels. According to independent studies, however, L Ascorbic Acid or Ascorbic Acid are the most effective type of vitamin C for the skin. As we get older, the amount of that rich antioxidant reduces in our skin, and the goal is to supplement it through serums. Other common ingredients are modified versions of Ascorbic Acid so that they can maintain a shelf-life. That isn’t to say they’re bad, they’re just less effective.

What You Need To Know

In order to keep Ascorbic Acid chemically stable (and therefore, effective), these are the things you need to look for: An 8-20% concentration; low pH (between 2.5-3.5) to penetrate the skin; helper antioxidants like vitamin E and Ferulic Acid; dark container to keep the light out; and an airless pump to keep air out and prevent oxidation.

Do you have a favorite vitamin C serum? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!

Curious about retinol? Check out my recommendations for the top 10 retinol products for women over 40 that actually work here.

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Our Top Picks

Keeping in mind the elementary chemistry lesson and research above, here’s my list of recommended vitamin C products. They check all the right ingredient boxes, so you don’t have to worry about it!
Skinceuticals CE Ferulic
Dr. Brenner C Serum
The Glow Maker
Paula’s Choice C15
Timeless Vitamin C + E
Join the Conversation

5 thoughts on “The ABCs of Vitamin C Serums and Our Top 5 Picks

  1. As a 55 year old with oily skin, I use SkinCeuticals Silymarin CF – on of the ingredients is Salicylic Acid- the CE Ferulic is to oily for me at this time but I have used it before and liked it. Thank you for the informative research on Vitamin C serums

    1. My pleasure to do the research, LeAnna! And thanks for your feedback on an alternative SkinCeuticals for oily skin!

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