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Best vitamin C serum 2022: Get bright, even-toned skin from £5

Lise Smith
4 May 2022
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Reduce fine lines, marks and brighten up 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. As it’s a gentle acid, vitamin C will remove dull top layers of skin to reveal fresher, brighter skin beneath. It also has skin-plumping and collagen-boosting properties, which makes it a great anti-ageing ingredient.

Vitamin C aids skin healing and repair, meaning it’s a good product to treat scarring from acne-prone skin. 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, brighter and more even-toned.

Vitamin C also plays 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. So you’ll often find vitamin C in combination with other ingredients to create multitasking skincare products. We’ve put together a guide to the best vitamin C serums on the market right now, followed by a roundup of our favourites.


Best vitamin C serum: At a glance


How to choose the best vitamin C serum for you

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. As vitamin C contains a mild acid, you might experience a tingling or mild stinging sensation when applying your serum.

The discomfort should be mild and temporary – to avoid more painful stinging, apply a thin layer every other day at first until your skin becomes used to the product. Go especially easy on 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 is absorbed. If your skincare regime also includes retinol, it’s best to not use these at the same time as they can each cause mild irritation – apply your vitamin C in the morning and your retinol at night.

READ NEXT: The best face masks

What are the benefits of vitamin C and what do the different concentrations do?

Vitamin C at any concentration will help to freshen up, plump and repair skin. Higher concentrations of vitamin C 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. Always note our advice above about skin sensitivity when using higher concentrations of vitamin C, though.

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 as a specially formulated serum designed 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 smoother and less stingy on the skin.

The best vitamin C serums to buy

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

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

A lightweight and easily absorbed serum that combines a mild 10% concentration of vitamin C with the plumping ingredient hyaluronic acid to smoothen skin and reduce fine lines. The serum – which is silicone-based, so it's a good choice for sensitive skins – also contains exfoliating salicylic acid, 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: The best for skin recovery

Price: £18 (30ml) | Buy now from Amazon

A pleasantly non-sticky formula blending brightening vitamin C with vitamin E, known for its softening and 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 ingredients 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. Eucerin Hyaluron-Filler Vitamin C Booster: The best vitamin C serum for anti-ageing

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

This bottle is small but its contents are potent, promising 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. The product feels smooth and is easily absorbed, while having a pleasant, light fragrance. For best results, follow it with a hydrating moisturiser.

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

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

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

The Ordinary is known for no-frills packaging and a no-nonsense approach to the science of skincare. The strong concentration of vitamin C makes this an effective serum 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 when starting to use the product. The Ordinary’s unpretentious formula certainly packs a punch, however, and 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.

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

Buy now from Cult Beauty


5. SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic Antioxidant Vitamin C Serum: The best high-end serum

Price: £129 (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 it’s something very close. Expect improved skin texture and brightness almost immediately, combined with softening of fine lines after a few weeks.

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

6. Boots No7 Radiance+ 15% Vitamin C Serum: The best on the high street

Price: £12 (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 bringing together a good concentration of vitamin C with sodium hyaluronate to boost moisture in the skin. The serum has a lightweight texture that’s absorbed quickly into the skin. 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


7. Clinique Fresh Pressed Daily System with Vitamin C: The best brightening vitamin C serum

Price: £25 | Buy now from Boots


Designed 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 it 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 wake up and freshen your newly revealed skin – with regular use, skin texture and brightness will be noticeably improved.

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


8. Body Shop Skin Boost Instant Smoother: The best smoothing finisher

Price: £22 (30ml)| Buy now from Amazon  

 

Not a serum but rather a smoothing primer to finish off your morning skincare routine, Body Shop’s Instant Smoothing Radiance balm glides over the skin to give a smooth and dewy finish, either on its own or under makeup, and can be used together with or in place of moisturiser. The balm contains moisturising Brazil nut oil as well as a glow-boosting dose of vitamin C, and the vegan and Fairtrade formula will give your green credentials a lift too.

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