From hyaluronic acid to peptide-infused serums, there are plenty of serums to pick from the shelves of beauty stores and drugstores. If you only have room for one in your routine, however, let it be a vitamin C serum.
For the uninitiated, vitamin C is a powerhouse antioxidant that brightens your complexion by blocking the creation of excess pigment. On top of that, it delays visible signs of ageing by stimulating collagen and protects your skin by neutralising free radicals from environmental aggressors. The result? Radiant, glowing skin that’s smooth and flawless.
Ready to invest in better skin? Ahead, we’ll tell you what to look out for in a vitamin C serum and the best ones that deserve your full attention.
What to look for in a vitamin C serum
There are several forms of vitamin C, but not all are created equal. When you’re shopping around for a new vitamin C serum, remember to check the serum’s label for L-ascorbic acid, which is considered to be one of the best forms of vitamin C for the skin. Better yet, go for tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate, which is a stable, oil-soluble form of vitamin C (and not a species of dinosaur).
If you can’t find those two in the ingredients list, you can also look for these useful forms of vitamin C:
- Ascorbic acid
- Ascorbic acid sulfate
- Ascorbyl 6 palmitate
- Ascorbyl glucoside
- Disodium isostearyl 2-0 L-ascorbyl phosphate (VCP-IS-Na)
- Magnesium ascorbyl phosphate
- Sodium ascorbyl phosphate
Vitamin C is notoriously unstable, especially when it’s exposed to air and light, so it’s best to pick a formula that comes in an airtight pump, opaque, or amber glass bottle. To extend its shelf life, remember to store it in a cool, dark place, away from direct sunlight.
Now, you may associate vitamin C with a bright orange colour, but that doesn’t apply to vitamin C serums. Active vitamin C solutions should be almost colourless or bear a champagne tint. In some cases, however, other ingredients may be whisked in, which can sometimes darken the colour of the vitamin C serum. So even though it looks yellow or orange, it can still contain active vitamin C.
To help you cut through the clutter and make it a little less overwhelming for you, we’ve picked out the best vitamin C serums on the market. These are suitable for a wide range of skin types and there’s one to fit every budget.
Best vitamin C serums to brighten your skin
1. SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic
If there’s one vitamin C serum that’s made it to the Hall of Fame, it’s SkinCeuticals’ C E Ferulic. This formula contains 15% of pure vitamin C, vitamin E, and ferulic acid to help even out pigmentation and sunspots. It’s one of the priciest vitamin C serums on our list, but plenty of reviewers will tell you it’s worth every penny.
The potent blend also prevents damage throughout the day by neutralising free radicals caused by UVA/UVB rays, infrared radiation, and pollution. It has picked up a handful of awards and is a go-to vitamin C formula for dermatologists everywhere – it’s truly in a league of its own.
SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic retails for S$248 at Lazada.
2. Paula’s Choice C15 Super Booster
Made with a whopping 15% of stabilised L-ascorbic acid, just a drop or two of Paula’s Choice Resist C15 Super Booster added to your daily moisturiser will brighten, tighten, and smooth your skin.
There are vitamin E and ferulic acid in the formula too, which help to nourish and protect your skin from damage caused by free radicals. Peptides in the serum aid in collagen and elastin production to keep your skin smooth and supple too.
3. BeautyStat Universal C Skin Refiner
While some forms of vitamin C are more stable than others, BeautyStat’s Universal C Refiner ensures you’re getting the good stuff with encapsulated 20% L-ascorbic acid that’s delivered at full strength.
There’s an active compound from green tea in the mix to soothe your skin and feed it with antioxidants. On top of that, it contains moisturising squalane and tartaric acid to adjust your skin’s pH levels for easier product absorption. The result is firmer, brighter skin that’s more even in tone and texture.
Beauty Stat Universal C Skin Refiner retails for £96 (S$174.73) at Cult Beauty.
4. The Ordinary Ascorbyl Glucoside Solution 12%
If you’ve been searching for a way to brighten dull skin and even out your skin tone, this serum by The Ordinary is an affordable solution. With its lightweight texture, this potent blend of 12% ascorbyl glucoside goes on nice and smooth, delivering a shot of antioxidants to your skin.
Ascorbyl glucoside is a stable, water-soluble derivative of vitamin C that’s comfortable to use. By stimulating collagen synthesis and inhibiting melanin production, the serum brightens the skin and reduces signs of ageing.
The Ordinary Ascorbyl Glucoside Solution 12% retails for S$16.50 at LookFantastic.
5. CeraVe Skin Renewing Vitamin C Serum
Featuring 10% L-ascorbic acid, CeraVe’s Skin Renewing Vitamin C Serum is potent yet gentle and lightweight. There are three essential ceramides whisked into the formula to restore and strengthen your skin barrier, while hyaluronic acid and vitamin B5 bump up hydration levels and improve your skin’s texture.
The serum even counts congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as a fan. In response to a question on Twitter about what skincare products she uses, AOC replied, “I’ve actually been trying some new drugstore items in my skincare. The CeraVe Vit C serum is legit! I tried a fancier one before that but it turned orange too fast.”
CeraVe Skin Renewing Vitamin C Serum retails for S$30 at Shopee.
6. Tatcha Violet-C Brightening Serum 20% Vitamin C + 10% AHA
This popular Tatcha serum may have a hefty price tag on it, but according to glowing reviews, it’s totally worth the splurge. The Violet-C Brightening Serum contains a whopping 20% of vitamin C to help your skin achieve that coveted lit-from-within look.
It also uses fruit-derived AHAs to slough away dead skin cells to restore radiance and even out your skin tone. Japanese angelica root lightens the appearance of stubborn dark spots, discolouration, hyperpigmentation, and post-acne scarring, so your skin will appear brighter and clearer with continued use.
Tatcha Violet-C Brightening Serum 20% Vitamin C + 10% AHA retails for S$140 at Sephora.
7. Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum
From beauty editors to dermatologists, it seems like everyone has raved about Drunk Elephant’s C-Firma Day Serum. With its list of high-quality ingredients, it’s easy to see why. Pumpkin and pomegranate enzymes help with cellular turnover and gently exfoliate the skin, while vitamin C and ferulic acid naturally brighten your skin and help protect against damage.
What’s more, the cooling sensation of this clear gel will soothe even the most inflamed, sensitive skin. And here’s a fun fact: the C-Firma has a reservoir effect on the skin, which means it continues to work for up to 72 hours, even after you’ve cleansed your skin.
Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum retails for S$114 at Sephora.
8. Kiehl’s Powerful-Strength Line-Reducing Concentrate
When Kiehl’s gave one of its bestsellers a facelift, it added a higher concentration of vitamin C to the formula along with hyaluronic acid. Now, this Powerful-Strength Line-Reducing Concentrate boasts a formidable 12.5% of L-ascorbic acid to visibly reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, boost radiance, and refine skin texture.
One of the most popular vitamin C serums around, it’s been said that a bottle sells at a rate of over one per minute around the world!
Kiehl’s Powerful-Strength Line-Reducing Concentrate retails for S$110 at Kiehl’s.
9. Sunday Riley C.E.O. 15% Vitamin C Brightening Serum
While most vitamin c serums contain L-ascorbic acid, this one is made with the gold standard tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate. Albeit expensive, we highly suggest adding this mighty vitamin C serum to your lineup if you have acne-prone skin. In addition to its potent form of vitamin C, it also contains glycolic acid, which is known to exfoliate the top layer of your skin.
The unique blend helps lighten discoloured acne scars while also preventing future breakouts. Unlike most liquid vitamin c serums, this one has a thicker, richer consistency, almost like a moisturiser. That said, the formula melts right into the skin and leaves you glowing.
Sunday Riley C.E.O. 15% Vitamin C Brightening Serum retails for S$186 at Sephora.
10. Vichy LiftActiv Vitamin C Brightening Skin Corrector
Made with only 11 ingredients, Vichy’s LiftActiv Vitamin C Brightening Skin Corrector is a lightweight serum that won’t sting or burn upon application. That said, it still packs a punch, delivering firming and brightening results in as a few as 10 days.
The formula boasts one of the highest concentrations of vitamin C on the derma-skincare market, with an affordable price tag to boot. To combat any dryness, the serum also contains 0.1% of fragmented hyaluronic acid, which draws moisture to your skin and plumps it up. It even has a pH level of 2.5 to ensure that it gets absorbed into your skin efficiently.
Vichy LiftActiv Vitamin C Brightening Skin Corrector retails for S$52 at Watsons.
11. La Roche-Posay Pure Vitamin C10 Serum
The name of La Roche-Posay’s vitamin C serum is as straightforward as it gets. The Pure Vitamin C10 contains 10% of L-ascorbic acid to renew your skin as it targets wrinkles and fine lines, dullness and lack of luminosity, and irregular skin texture.
Look a little closer and you’ll find that this serum does more than just brighten your complexion. It also contains salicylic acid to clarify a congested complexion, while hyaluronic acid keeps your skin soft and smooth. The formula uses La Roche-Posay’s neurosensine to soothe sensitive skin too.
La Roche-Posay Pure Vitamin C10 Serum retails for S$79.90 at Watsons.
12. Allies of Skin 20% Vitamin C Brighten and Firm Serum
One of the newer products in the Allies of Skin family, the 20% Vitamin C Brighten and Firm Serum is one of a few waterless vitamin C serums out there, which means it won’t oxidise as easily. This next-generation formula harnesses a stable, ethylated form of 20% pure L-ascorbic acid to provide excellent antioxidant protection.
This multi-tasking ingredient also helps to strengthen your skin barrier and encourage cellular renewal, which in turn promotes firmer, brighter skin. The benefits don’t end there. The serum also uses orange extract to boost elasticity and smoothness, as well as a complex of gluthathione and three further antioxidants to protect your skin and diminish dullness.
13. Mad Hippie Vitamin C Serum
Since vitamin C serums are so active, some of them can cause a tingling or burning sensation upon application. That is why this natural option from Mad Hippie skips out on additives and preservatives, making it gentle for even the most sensitive skin types, yet powerful enough to make a visible difference to your complexion.
With a refreshing citrus smell, this green beauty option will leave your skin feeling firmer and brighter with continued use. Simply apply a few drops all over your face in the morning and evening for a radiant glow.
Mad Hippie Vitamin C Serum retails for S$33.08 at iHerb.
14. Glow Recipe Pineapple-C Brightening Serum
We can’t resist this cute pineapple-shaped bottle of goodness. Glow Recipe’s Pineapple-C Brightening Serum contains 22% of pineapple juice, which is one of the most potent forms of natural vitamin C. On top of that, there’s pure ascorbic acid and stable 3-O-ethyl ascorbic acid to combat acne scars, dark spots, and hyperpigmentation.
The lightweight serum also enlists the help of natural AHAs and bromelain enzymes from pineapple to gently exfoliate the skin, while skin soothers like chamomile and aloe vera ensure that your skin stays calm and refreshed.
Glow Recipe Pineapple-C Brightening Serum retails for S$75 at Sephora.
15. Some By Mi Galactomyces Pure Vitamin C Glow Serum
Apart from containing 3% of ascorbic acid, the Some By Mi Galactomyces Pure Vitamin C Glow Serum also contains 75% galactomyces ferment filtrate. For the uninitiated, galactomyces is known for its brightening benefits, but it’s also lauded for its ability to moisturise, smooth out bumpy skin texture, and boost skin elasticity.
Together with vitamin C, the ingredient brightens skin as it fades dark spots and hyperpigmentation for a more even skin tone. If your skin is particularly sensitive, you’ll be pleased to know that it doesn’t contain artificial fragrance, colouring, sulfates, mineral oil, and silicones.
Some By Mi Galactomyces Pure Vitamin C Glow Serum retails for S$24.56 on iHerb.
16. InstaNatural Vitamin C Serum
This vitamin C serum from InstaNatural has no shortage of hard-hitting ingredients. To enhance the antioxidant benefits of vitamin C, the serum contains ferulic acid to defend your skin against environmental aggressors.
It uses plant stem cells and sea buckthorn oil to support your skin’s protective barrier too. With continued use, you’ll notice a brighter complexion as well as lightened pigmentation and discolouration.
InstaNatural Vitamin C Serum retails for S$27.28 at iHerb.
17. NIOD Ethylated L Ascorbic Acid 30% Network
If the name of this product from NIOD gave you dreadful flashbacks of your chemistry lesson, don’t panic. It’s only a science-y way of telling you that it’s vitamin C serum. This potent formula contains 30% of L-ascorbic acid – possibly the highest concentration on our list.
The serum forms protective barrier as soon as you smooth it on your skin, which helps to fight against oxidation while simultaneously reducing discolouration. It supports your skin’s collagen production and revives your skin tone too.
NIOD Ethylated L Ascorbic Acid 30% Network retails for S$58 at Hush.sg.
18. Klairs Freshly Juiced Vitamin C Drop
Ideal for beginners or those with sensitive skin, Klairs Freshly Juiced Vitamin C Drop has a lower percentage (5%) of vitamin C. Though its formula is gentler than others, it’s still effective at brightening your complexion and fading dark spots.
Klairs Freshly Juiced Vitamin Drop retails for S$28.90 at Guardian.
19. By Wishtrend Pure Vitamin C 21.5% Advanced Serum
You’re looking at By Wishtrend’s bestselling vitamin C serum. Formulated with 21.5% of vitamin C, the serum counters any discomfort with 70% sea buckthorn water and sodium hyaluronate, which soothe and replenish your skin’s moisture barrier.
The paraben-free formula absorbs fast and leaves no sticky finish, helping to fade acne scars, brighten your skin, and even out your overall complexion.
By Wishtrend Pure Vitamin C 21.5% Advanced Serum retails for S$41.20 at Althea.
20. The Inkey List 15% Vitamin C and EGF Serum
Known for their uncomplicated approach to skincare, The Inkey List only uses ingredients that are absolutely necessary and effective in their formulas. Of course, the same principle applies to their vitamin C serum.
The 15% Vitamin C and EGF Serum combines two hero ingredients: the powerful peptide EGF and 15% of nutrient-rich vitamin C. Vitamin C charges the formula with antioxidant power, defending the skin against environmental aggressors. EGF, on the other hand, encourages collagen production, a vital process that slows as we age.
This powerful duo targets the skin’s deepest levels, promoting collagen production to reveal younger-looking, healthier skin.
The Inkey List 15% Vitamin C and EGF Serum retails for S$24 at Selfridges.
21. Fresh Vitamin Nectar Glow Juice Antioxidant Face Serum
Bursting with glow-giving antioxidants, this innovative serum holds over 480,000 nutrient-rich microbubbles that are brimming with vitamins and nourishing botanical extracts to smooth and deeply hydrate your skin.
It contains a blend of lemon and orange extracts, vitamin C, E, B5 and minerals to revitalise skin that looks dull and depleted. To replenish lost moisture, cold-pressed jicama root juice, chicory root juice and ginger water form a protective veil of hydration on the skin.
Meanwhile, beta-carotene lends its powerful antioxidant properties to the formula, helping to ward off free radicals that threaten to compromise your skin cells. Coconut oil adds the finishing touch, working to nourish and soften your skin.
Fresh Vitamin Nectar Glow Juice Antioxidant Face Serum retails for S$45 at Sephora.