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Best vitamin C serum 2023: Get bright, even-toned skin

Reduce fine lines, marks and brighten tired skin with our roundup of the best vitamin C serums to suit your skin type and budget

There are few skincare products that can claim as many benefits as the best vitamin C serums. A gentle acid, vitamin C removes the dull top layers of skin to reveal fresher, brighter skin beneath. It also has skin-plumping and collagen-boosting properties, which makes vitamin C a great anti-ageing ingredient.

Aiding skin healing and repair, vitamin c is excellent for treating scars that may result from acne. Finally, in the correct concentration, vitamin C is reported to reduce hyperpigmentation from ageing or sunspots. So, whatever your skin type, the best vitamin C serums will help to make skin smoother, plumper, radiant and more even-toned.

Vitamin C also interacts well with other ingredients: it can be combined with exfoliators such as glycolic acid, hydrators such as hyaluronic acid, smoothers such as retinol, and sun-protection ingredients. As such, you’ll often find vitamin C in the lineup of ingredients of multitasking skincare products.

To help you discover the perfect product for your skin type, we’ve put together a guide to the best vitamin C serums on the market right now, followed by a roundup of our favourites.

READ NEXT: Our selection of the moisturisers available

Best vitamin C serum: At a glance

How to choose the best vitamin C serum for you

What are the benefits of vitamin C and what’s the difference between the different concentrations?

Vitamin C at any concentration will help to freshen, plump and repair skin. Higher concentrations boost the product’s brightening and pigment-reducing effects – so if you especially want to target dark spots and discolouration, you’ll want to work up to a stronger serum containing a higher percentage of the active ingredient. Note our advice below about skin sensitivity when using higher concentrations of vitamin C, though.

What’s the best way to apply my vitamin C serum?

Apply the serum to your face and neck after cleansing, but before moisturising, to allow the product to penetrate the skin. Since vitamin C contains a mild acid, you might experience a tingling or mild stinging sensation on initial application.

Any discomfort should be mild and temporary, although you could introduce the product more slowly, applying a thin layer every other day, say, to reduce the risk of irritation. Go especially easy if you have sensitive skin; it’s wise to start with a lower concentration at first and avoid applying vitamin C on broken skin.

Vitamin C can feel a little gritty or sticky on the skin at first, but this stickiness should disappear once the product has been absorbed.

Can I use vitamin C serum alongside other skincare products?

Absolutely! You’ll often find vitamin C in combination with hydrating hyaluronic acid, or glycolic acid to gently exfoliate the skin and boost vitamin C’s brightening power. As an antioxidant, vitamin C has healing properties, and combines well with vitamin E, which also boosts the skin’s own self-repair processes.

​​If your skincare regime also includes retinol then note that, while both it and vitamin c work well together, their different pH levels means that they’re best used at different times of day, ensuring you receive the full benefits of what each ingredient has to offer while reducing the risk of any irritation. As such, apply vitamin C in the morning (where it will also boost the effectiveness of your SPF) and retinol at night.

Why a serum? Can I just use a lemon on my face instead?

Lemon juice is a traditional skincare ingredient that you might see recommended as a home remedy for dry skin on the elbows or knees, where it can be used in place of scrubbing to dissolve scruffy skin away. We don’t recommend it for use on the face, however – the juice will certainly cause stinging and dryness, while not being as effective at getting the vitamin C into your skin; a specially formulated serum is designed specifically for the purpose. Save your lemons for cocktail hour!

I have sensitive skin – will vitamin C cause irritation?

It’s safe to use vitamin C products on sensitive skin with a few guidelines.

  • Look for products containing sodium or magnesium ascorbyl phosphate, rather than the more potent L-ascorbic acid (which is great for use on oily skins).
  • Start using products with a lower concentration of 10% vitamin C and build up slowly over time.
  • Use your serum every other day to begin with until your skin builds up tolerance. A silicone-based formula will also go on smoother and be less stingy on the skin.

How we test vitamin C serums

At Expert Reviews, we know that hands-on testing delivers the most complete information about a product. To examine each of the vitamin C serums in the roundup below, we follow the directions on the packaging and build up usage over time where recommended.

We start by noting all of the active ingredients used in the formula; all the serums included in our roundup list vitamin C as an active ingredient. Using the product as directed for one week, we note the effects of each serum, paying particular attention to any softening or brightening benefits it may bring, plus the impact on skin hyperpigmentation. We consider how comfortable a product feels on the skin immediately after use and throughout the day, and note how it smells, plus any issues with redness or stinging. Finally, we come to a conclusion about ease of use, including the package design, and how long the effects of one application last.

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    The best vitamin C serums you can buy in 2023

    1. La Roche-Posay Pure Vitamin C10 Serum: Best all-rounder vitamin C serum

    Price: £40 (30ml) | Buy now from Boots

    A lightweight and easily absorbed serum, La Roche-Posay’s formula combines a mild 10% concentration of vitamin C with hyaluronic acid to plump skin and reduce fine lines and wrinkles.

    This is a silicone-based serum, which means it’s a good choice for sensitive skins, and it includes salicylic acid to exfoliate dead skin cells, making it a great all-rounder to get your skin glowing, refreshed and ready for the day.

    Key specs – Bottle size: 30ml; Vitamin C concentration: 10%; Vitamin C type: Ascorbic acid

    Buy now from Boots

    2. TruSkin Naturals Vitamin C Serum for Face: Best vitamin C serum for skin recovery

    Price: £15 (30ml) | Buy now from Amazon

    A pleasantly non-sticky formula that blends brightening vitamin C with vitamin E – known for its healing properties – to soften and brighten skin. The vegan, oil-based formula is easily absorbed, and natural witch hazel and aloe vera help to calm puffy, irritated skin.

    The combination of vitamins C and E with jojoba oil and soothing witch hazel makes the TruSkin serum an ideal choice for scarred or more mature skin that needs help to heal. For an even bigger brightening boost, there’s a cleanser and moisturiser in the same range.

    Key specs – Bottle size: 30ml; Vitamin C concentration: 20%; Vitamin C type: Sodium ascorbyl phosphate

    3. L’Oréal Revitalift Clinical 12% Pure Vitamin C Serum: Best vitamin C serum for healing environmental damage

    Price: £30 (30ml) | Buy now from BootsIf environmental damage from sun and air pollution is causing your skin to appear dull and weathered, reach for L’Oreal’s powerful vitamin C serum. Revitalift Clinical uses a high concentration of vitamin C together with salicylic acid to remove dead skin cells and improve the texture of skin; vitamin E helps to soothe and heal.
    The serum feels comfortable on application, with little stinging. It has a pleasant smell, and its dense but non-greasy texture sinks easily into the skin. With skin feeling looking fresher and brighter from the first use, continued use will see improvements in tone and texture, too.

    Key specs – Bottle size: 30ml; Vitamin C concentration: 12%; Vitamin C type: Ascorbic Acid

    Buy now from Boots

    4. Eucerin Hyaluron-Filler Vitamin C Booster: Best vitamin C serum for anti-ageing

    Price: £14 (8ml) | Buy now from Amazon

    This bottle is small but its contents are potent enough to recondition ageing skin in just seven days. The serum brings together moisturising hyaluronic acid and squalane with radiance-boosting vitamin C to improve the skin’s plumpness and luminosity with two to three pumps per day.

    Eucerin’s serum feels smooth and is easily absorbed into the skin, with a pleasant, light fragrance. For best results, follow with a hydrating moisturiser.

    Key specs – Bottle size: 8ml; Vitamin C concentration: 10%; Vitamin C type: Ascorbic acid

    5. The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2%: Best vitamin C serum for hyperpigmentation

    Price: £6 (30ml) | Buy now from Cult Beauty

    The Ordinary is known for its no-nonsense approach to the science of skincare plus no-frills packaging. The strong concentration of vitamin C makes this serum effective for tackling dark spots and hyperpigmentation, as well as improving overall skin tone and texture.

    The powerful formula feels a little heavier and stickier than some of the formulas above, and you can expect to feel a moderate tingling-to-stinging sensation on initial use. Stick with it, though, and The Ordinary’s unpretentious formula certainly packs a punch; you should expect to see results within two weeks. A silicon-based version in the same range contains a 30% concentration in a smoother cream base, suitable for more sensitive skin types.

    Key specs Bottle size: 30ml; Vitamin C concentration: 23%; Vitamin C type: Ascorbic acid

    Buy now from Cult Beauty

    6. SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic Antioxidant Vitamin C Serum: Best high-end vitamin C serum

    Price: £150 (30ml) | Buy now from Amazon

    If price isn’t a consideration, this luxury serum inspires something close to devotion among its users. Active ingredients include vitamin C at a 15% concentration, pure vitamin E to promote healing and repair, and the antioxidant ferulic acid to reduce fine lines. We can’t quite promise this high-end product is the fountain of youth in a bottle, but fans swear that it comes very close.

    Expect improved skin texture and brightness almost immediately, combined with softening of fine lines following a few weeks of use.

    Key specs – Bottle size: 30ml; Vitamin C concentration: 15%; Vitamin C type: L-ascorbic acid

    7. Boots No7 Radiance+ 15% Vitamin C Serum: Best high-street vitamin C serum

    Price: £20 (25ml) | Buy now from Boots

    If your pocket doesn’t quite run to the SkinCeuticals serum above, Boots No7 has a very serviceable budget version that brings together a decent concentration of vitamin C with sodium hyaluronate to boost moisture in the skin. The serum’s lightweight texture absorbs quickly into the skin, but the concentration of vitamin C in the product means that there’s a very slight stickiness on application, which passes quickly with the application of a moisturiser. We liked the very light orangey fragrance and the budget-friendly price.

    Key specs – Bottle size: 25ml; Vitamin C concentration: 15%; Vitamin C type: Ascorbic acid

    Buy now from Boots

    8. Clinique Fresh Pressed Daily System with Vitamin C: Best vitamin C serum for brightening

    Price: £26 | Buy now from BootsDesigned to reveal glowing skin in just one week, Clinique’s vitamin C system combines an exfoliating powder cleanser with a brightening serum for really radiant results. The cleanser comes in individual sachets to keep the active ingredients fresh until opened. Mix with water to create a refreshing paste and massage into the face using circular motions to slough off dull outer layers. Follow with the Daily Booster to awaken and freshen your newly revealed skin. Expect noticeable improvements to skin texture and brightness with regular use.

    Key specs – Bottle size: 10ml (plus 7 x 0.5g cleansing powder sachets); Vitamin C concentration: 10%; Vitamin C type: Ascorbic acid

    Buy now from Boots

    9. The Body Shop Vitamin C Glow Revealing Serum: Best vitamin C serum for glowing skin

    Price: £26 (30ml)| Buy now from The Body ShopFor radiant, glowing skin look to The Body Shop’s lightweight serum with 10% vitamin C and bakuchiol, a natural ingredient with similar benefits to retinol. The combination is great for evening the texture and colour of the skin, and gives the face a fresher, brighter look.

    With a citrusy scent, this serum feels quite hydrating on its own; dryer skins will prefer to follow with a moisturiser (for a double dose of vitamin C, The Body Shop has a Glow Boosting moisturiser in the same range). The glass bottle is both recyclable and made of recycled glass, and the vegan formula will give your green credentials a lift, too.

    Key specs – Bottle size: 30ml; Vitamin C type: Ascorbic acid

    Buy now from The Body Shop