Best vitamin C serum | 13 top vitamin C skincare products to try

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A powerhouse ingredient for dark spots and dull skin Cleanser For Oily Skin

Best vitamin C serum | 13 top vitamin C skincare products to try

By now, the beauty benefits of vitamin C have been widely extolled: this powerhouse antioxidant has the ability to brighten skin, neutralise free radicals and fade pigmentation like no other. Consequently, it's safe to say many of us can benefit from incorporating one of the best vitamin C serums, creams or targeted treatments into our daily routines.

And the universal appeal of beauty’s biggest buzzword has not gone unnoticed, with myriad new vitamin-powered products hitting the shelves at a remarkable rate.

Yet reaping the benefits of vitamin C (also known as ascorbic acid), is not quite as easy as slathering on a serum and waiting eagerly for your radiance revival. Here, we reveal everything you need to know about harnessing its potent potential in full, as well as the best vitamin C skincare, from serums to powders, for the job.

Vitamin C is the primary antioxidant in human skin, and is an essential nutrient for good health, explains aesthetic doctor and educator in cosmetic dermatology Dr. Amiee Vyas. “It is required for many bodily functions including the production of collagen – a vital component in many of our tissues, from skin to ligaments and tendons, cartilage and bone, and even the corneas in our eyes.” As vitamin C is water soluble and not stored in the body, we need to obtain it from external sources: through food and topical application.

What’s more, vitamin C has specific benefits for the skin, due to its “photoprotective, antioxidative, anti-pigmentary and overall anti-aging effects,” says Dr. Vyas. One of the biggest benefits of a vitamin C product is the way “it can promote collagen and elastin production, as well as reducing collagen damage in the skin’s dermis,” she adds. The result? Firmer, smoother and more resilient skin.

Vitamin C is also an anti-pollution powerhouse. “It’s a potent antioxidant, which means it can neutralise free radicals from UV radiation, pollution, blue light and other aspects of our daily lives."

Finally, vitamin C can help to fade and prevent dark spots, or hyperpigmentation. “It reduces melanin production through its action as a tyrosinase inhibitor, brightening skin and preventing oxidation of existing pigmentation so it doesn’t become darker,” says Dr. Vyas.

“Non-sensitive skin types with a strong skin barrier can benefit best from vitamin C skincare," says Dr. Vyas. In fact, anyone looking to brighten skin, prevent wrinkles or fade pigmentation should be on board with this brilliant ingredient.

"However, be careful with sensitive skin and fragile skin barriers,” she says, highlighting conditions such as eczema, dermatitis, rosacea and dry skin as potentially problematic. “I always recommend a patch test if you have any of these. It’s better to strengthen your skin barrier using other ingredients first. This is because most topical treatments have a pH of around two (very acidic), which can cause flare-ups of acne and eczema.”

A vitamin C serum should be used daily, and optimally in the morning, says Dr. Ashwin Soni, a leading plastic surgeon, aesthetics expert and founder of The Soni Clinic. "It should be applied after cleansing and prior to your day cream and SPF."

Often, "some new generation vitamin C serums are formulated with other antioxidants, such as niacinamide, for enhanced protection against free radical damage from external stressors such as UV and pollution," Dr. Soni notes – "therefore you really want to use it in the mornings".

Ideally, a vitamin C serum should be used daily, Dr. Soni continues. "As vitamin C is used to boost collagen and elastin, improve fine lines and wrinkles, give us a lovely glow and protect against free radicals that lead to accelerated ageing, we want to use it daily."

Vitamin C is notoriously unstable as an ingredient, meaning heat, light and air can easily degrade its efficacy. For this reason, it pays to delve a little deeper into formulations and packaging, to ensure you’re getting a potent concoction with longevity.

Vitamin C isn’t the easiest ingredient for the skin to absorb either. “It’s water-soluble and therefore repelled by our waterproof skin barrier. It is only absorbed by the skin when the pH level of the formula is below four," says Dr. Vyas.

Thankfully, a host of brands have found ways to side-step vitamin C’s stability and absorption issues, creating innovative formulations and advanced packaging to keep the actives alive until the moment they hit your skin. Dr. Vyas recommends looking for products in airtight, opaque packaging and containing ascorbic acid (often referred to as L-ascorbic acid), which is the term for the chemically active form of vitamin C.

Below, discover the 13 best vitamin C serums, gels, powders and creams for your brightest skin ever.

This cult classic has been praised by beauty editors for years, but new clinical research proves its effectivity when it comes to protecting the skin. A recent study has shown C E Ferulic to neutralise 48 per cent of free radicals that reach the skin before they have a chance to induce inflammatory damage. "The water-light formula contains 15 per cent pure l-ascorbic acid alongside calming vitamin E and ferulic acid, which helps to stabilise the vitamin C, ensuring optimum potency," explains digital beauty director Bridget March. It's praised in particular for its ability to brighten pigmentation in darker skin tones.

"If you're looking for something to treat oily and acne-prone skin, the brand's Silymarin CF serum is equally brilliant," she says. "It brightens just as well as the original, but is blended with milk thistle to regulate oil production and bring enlarged pores back to their natural size."

Leading facialist Fatma Shaheen treats some of the most photographed faces in the business, and this summer she has introduced three clinic-strength peels into her own at-home product line, Skin Design London.

A must-try for anyone with sun spots and even melasma, the C-Glow Peel combines stable vitamin C with phloretin and an innovative active called Radianskin, which inhibits melanin production to prevent future pigmentation from coming to the surface. If you're considering a prescription treatment or intensive course of laser to unify your skin tone, try this first.

La Roche-Posay is always a good place to start when you're incorporating a new active into your regime. With a lightweight texture, this gentle serum combines hyaluronic acid, salicylic acid and vitamin C to clear congestion and keep the skin barrier hydrated.

As vitamin C serums can be strong, it's worth investing in a targetted formula for use around your eyes. If you're prone to milia, it's also a good idea to choose something light and watery in texture. Medik8's brightening essence ticks all the boxes: it's gentle, absorbs instantly, and layers well beneath make-up.

A beauty editor favourite, Allies of Skin creates precise products designed to bring about targeted skin changes. This vitamin C serum contains 20 per cent l-ascorbic acid – so may need building up to – but makes light work of fading pigmentation and brightening uneven skin texture.

The milky gel texture feels dense and thick at first pump, but spreads easily on the face and absorbs to leave skin feeling silky and hydrated. If you're not especially sensitive, and looking for a potent product to deliver quick results, this may be the one.

Dr. Dennis Gross' latest launch is focused on tackling skin tone as well as fine lines. The high dose of ascorbic acid is combined with lactic acid, which exfoliates the skin surface, and liquorice, which bolsters the brightening powers. While we wouldn't recommend this one for the extremely sensitive, it's garnering rave reviews for the way it speedily rejuvenates dull, crepey skin.

"Noble Panacea's intensive four-week treatment course delivers highly stabilised L-ascorbic acid at a no-messing 20 per cent concentration," says senior ecommerce editor Roberta Schroeder.

"The brand's signature encapsulation method essentially drip-feeds the active ingredients, ensuring continual improvements without irritation (I'm a chronically sensitive soul and noticed no sensitivity or breakouts). Mix the single-use sachet in with your serum each evening then, once you've completed the course, return the empties back to the brand for recycling."

Sunday Riley's popular CEO Rich Hydration Cream receives a summer-ready sister this season. CEO Afterglow contains the same highly potent derivative of vitamin C, but boasts a gel-like texture that deeply hydrates without overloading skin in the warmer months. The luminous yellow hue is due to the marigold-derived lutein inside: a supporting antioxidant that boots the brightening powers.

A vitamin C serum should work well to reduce the inflamed redness and hyperpigmentation a bout of acne can reap. Dermalogica's potent formula is boosted further with the addition of an alpha-hydroxy-acid, which will aid in smoothing texture, helping bring your skin back to a clear, balanced state in a matter of weeks.

"My preferred vitamin C is the L'oréal Revitalift – for the price point and also the activity of the vitamin C in it, it's probably one of the better ones on the market," says dermatologist Dr Anjali Mahto.

Indeed, this high-street serum is impressively formulated, with 12% L-ascorbic acid alongside salicylic acid to keep blemishes at bay.

Dr. Barbara Sturm's philosophy is based around respecting, not challenging, the skin, and so she's taken her time to formulate a vitamin C serum that works for all skin types, including the very sensitive.

The Good C serum utilises the brightening benefits of stabilised, synthetic vitamin C, in a modest 5 per cent strength that is just enough to gradually improve skin tone while remaining gentle enough for a fragile skin barrier.

It's a thoughtfully formulated product that doesn't resort to extreme potency, and a good indicator of where the industry is headed this year.

In this concentrated booster serum, gentle sodium ascorbyl phosphate is combined with liquorice root, shown to brighten pigmentation, and glutathione, which shows promise in inhibiting melanin, therefore preventing the development of sun spots. Blend it into a simple moisturiser, or apply it neat after cleansing.

This excellent value vitamin C serum contains some stellar supporting ingredients frequently found in the most premium formulas. Alongside the L-ascorbic acid sits brightening peptide glutathione and a cocktail of resurfacing fruit enzymes, all of which work together to brighten dull skin swiftly.

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Best vitamin C serum | 13 top vitamin C skincare products to try

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