The best vitamin C serums to brighten, tighten, smooth and make skin oh-so-happy

the-best-vitamin-c-serums-to-brighten,-tighten,-smooth-and-make-skin-oh-so-happy

Katie Thomas







Katie Thomas




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  • Brighter skin days right this way

    Ask any beauty expert what their absolute-must-haves are in their skincare routine and this is what you’ll hear: facial sunscreens, retinol and vitamin C serums.

    Why? Well that’s simple. When used in conjunction, these three are your best chance at fighting the signs of ageing. Not only that, but this holy trinity promotes happy, healthy and well functioning skin. You’ve probably got your best SPF moisturiser and you’re clued up on which retinol serum best suits your, so let’s look a little closer at vitamin C.

    What does vitamin C do?

    Vitamin C is something of a mega multi-tasker; it encourages collagen production, helps brighten dark spots and pigmentation from sun damage and works as an antioxidant to protect the skin from free radicals (unstable molecules that cause oxidative stress on skin cells a.k.a premature ageing. It’s not just our skin that suffers, our bodies are affected by oxidative damage, which is why vitamin C is so readily used to combat illness.)

    Not only that, but it’s also great at reducing inflammation, softening rough skin texture and giving you one hell of a natural glow (meaning the best face serums will allow you to forgo even your very best highlighter).

    How to use vitamin C

    ‘You have to pay a lot of attention to the form and the concentration you use on the skin,’ says Dr Emma Craythorne, a Consultant Dermatologist. ‘The optimal concentration depends on its formulation. In most cases, for a product to be of biological significance, it needs to have a concentration higher than 8%. Studies have shown that a concentration above 20% does not increase its biological significance, but might cause irritation. Reputable products of vitamin C available today are, therefore, in the range of 10 to 20 percent. Pure vitamin C is also known as L-Ascorbic Acid. This is the most effective form of vitamin C on the skin.’

    It’s a fairly punchy active ingredient, so it’s a good idea to let your skin get used to it. Don’t worry, introduce it slowly by applying it every couple of days to start with. You can then gradually up your usage. Be sure to use your best SPF moisturiser on top.

    Vitamin C is unstable – meaning that its efficacy and strength is affected by light, air and heat exposure. It’s also a bit of a lone wolf and doesn’t like to be paired with certain ingredients. We don’t recommend you apply an AHA/BHA toner beforehand (something with salicylic acid or glycolic acid in it) because it could destabilise the pH level of the vitamin C and stop it from working.

    Keep scrolling for our beauty editor-approved round-up of the best vitamin C serums the beauty industry has to offer.

    best vitamin c serums – Skinceuticals

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    If you want to use the same vitamin C serum as most beauty editors, then voilà. This hardworking and efficacious serum is the go-to for beauty experts. It’s something of a cult classic.


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    best vitamin c serums – The Inkey List

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    For something more affordable (but by no means less effective) look to new cult brand The Inkey List for high performing ingredients at low prices.


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    best vitamin c serums – Drunk Elephant

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    Oh the hype that has surrounded this brand! Luckily, the products are worth it. Despite the sticky texture, you’ll love this.


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    best vitamin c serums – Kiehls

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    A rich formula that also contains hyaluronic acid, so perfect for those with dry skin but those with oilier complexions might want to give this one a mix.


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    best vitamin c serums – Sunday Riley

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    Sunday Riley is legendarily famous in the beauty world, and her potent vitamin C serum will have you looking more radiant in a ‘rapid flash’.


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    best vitamin c serums – REN

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    Dull skin will be a thing of the past with regular use of Ren’s vitamin C serum.


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    best vitamin c serums – Dr Barbara Sturm The Good C Vitamin C serum

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    Yes, it’s on the pricier side of the serum spectrum. Yes, it’s pretty amazing. Not satisfied with just one, this lightweight formula is infused with a mix of Vitamin C in three forms – oil-soluble vitamin c THD, stabilized synthetic vitamin c in glucosidic form, and kakadu plum extract. Working to reduce signs of uneven pigmentation and tone, sensitive skin will love this one because it’s potent enough to be highly effective, without compromising a fragile skin barrier.


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    best vitamin c serums – Emma Hardie

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    This silky serum is a pleasure to use and absorbs quickly. It has vitamin B3, as well as vitamin C, which reduces inflammation so perfect if you have sensitive skin.


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    vitamin c serums Vichy

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    This serum’s a bit different to the others. It’s a 10-day treatment that at the end will give you a much brighter and even skin tone. Just do it again if you feel things are looking a little lacklustre.


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    best vitamin c serums – La Roche-Posay Pure Vitamin C10 Serum

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    Another Vitamin C hero formulated with sensitive skin in mind, La Roche-Posay’s Vitamin C 10 has a 10% concentration – so you’ll get all the brightening benefits of Vitamin C, without irritating your skin in the process. Check and check.


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    best vitamin c serums – Avène A-Oxitive Antioxidant Defence Serum

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    Not just a vitamin C serum, this lightweight skin treat from Avène combines vitamin E with a 15% equivalent of Vitamin C for a daily barrier against pollution and UV rays, all while brightening, evening and smoothing. Plus, it’s non-comedogenic, so won’t cause acne-prone skin to breakout.


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    best vitamin c serums – Murad Vita-C Glycolic Brightening Serum

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    This potent serum combines vitamin C with glycolic acid – an AHA wonder ingredient that boosts cell turnover and rids the skin of dead cells – to tighten pores, brighten sallowness and give your skin an all-round smoother and more even appearance.


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    Paula's Choice C15 Super Booster - vitamin c serums

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    The 15 in the name stands for the 15% potency in the formula. That’s a really good concentration to start with if you’re fairly new to vitamin C. See this as your introduction to an ingredient you are sure to fall in love with.


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    Ole Henriksen Banana Bright Vitamin C Serum - vitamin c serums

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    If what you’re after is glow, then look no further than this bad boy. It’s obviously got vitamin C in it, but it’s the added extras of exfoliating acids and banana powder-inspired pigments that are really what you’ll love. Inspired by the banana powders on make-up counters, this serum colour corrects dark spots and neutralises redness. So all you’re left with is glow.


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    Medik8 C-Tetra - vitamin c serums

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    Medik8 are firm believers in the power of our hardworking trifecta – vitamin C and SPF during the day and retinol at night. They’re also firm believers in delivering simplified skincare that brings with it the results you want. This serum has a type of vitamin C that’s gentle on the skin. It’s paired with vitamin E, which then adds a boost of hydration. Ideal for everyday use and sensitive skin types.


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    Skinceutcials Phloretin CF Serum - best face serum

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    If you’re trying to tackle hyperpigmentation, then this is worth the investment. It contains 10% vitamin C, which brightens the skin and phloretin which helps even out skin tone.


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