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For a very long time, Vitamin C has been virtually synonymous with good health, and for good reason. It is a potent antioxidant that strongly supports healing in your body, and has a ton of benefits for your body, health, face, and skin. It’s not surprising, therefore, that Vitamin C has also become a thing in the skincare industry.

Unfortunately, topical Vitamin C is also much more expensive than its oral counterpart – it easily costs above SGD100. What’s much worse than splurging on these expensive products is finding out that they’re also ineffective.

Don’t waste your money anymore. We perused scientific journals and other articles on the Internet to bring you this short guide with recommendations. Read on to find out exactly what you need to look out for when purchasing this expensive, but very magical, skincare product.

Why should you use topical Vitamin C?

vitamin c serums 1

We scoured this particular scientific article that talks in great detail about the role of Vitamin C in the health of your skin. It turns out that Vitamin C is not only great for your immunity, but its benefits in skincare has also been studied and proven!

1. They are strong antioxidants

You’ve been nagged at enough to know what damage the sun can have on your skin. This damage is known as oxidative stress, and Vitamin C helps to reverse that.

You may already put on sunscreen on the regular, but how sure are you that it’s working at maximum efficacy? Topical Vitamin C gives you that extra assurance, slowing down the formation of ageing, fine lines, age spots, and all those nasty effects from UV rays.

2. They are needed to make collagen

You already know that your skin makes collagen, and that it’s the key to plump, bouncy, youthful-looking skin. How many facial treatments or skincare products have you spent on to stimulate or support that collagen production?

Without going into the boring, technical details, suffice it to say that Vitamin C is absolutely essential in your skin’s natural collagen-making process, and we were super happy to read that topical Vitamin C has been shown to boost collagen production in young as well as mature skin!

3. They slow down pigmentation

Nobody has ever looked forward to getting age spots. While Vitamin C would not be able to reduce pigmentation that’s already present, it can slow down the process that builds up melanin, warding off age spots for longer.

4. They are anti-inflammatory

“Anti-inflammatory” may be a favourite buzzword with many skincare products out there, but in the case of topical Vitamin C, it’s actually true. It can promote wound healing, and helps improve conditions like acne and rosacea.

What do you look out for when shopping for topical Vitamin C?

One of the main reasons why topical Vitamin C is so expensive is because it is difficult to get Vitamin C to stay in its active, useful form in a liquid formulation. When exposed to any light at all, but most especially sunlight, it quickly degrades into other compounds and loses all those benefits we mentioned earlier.

This is also the main reason why Vitamin C serums are generally so expensive – it takes a lot of delicate research work to stabilise the compound so you can enjoy the benefits of it on your skin!

Here are some things you should make sure you look out for when shopping for your next Vitamin C serum:

1. Type of Vitamin C

Of course, ‘Vitamin C’ is really just the layman term for ascorbic acid. Just like an envelope that protects fragile letter paper during delivery, ascorbic acid is often changed to a different form to improve its stability before it reaches your skin.

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Unfortunately, not all forms of ascorbic acid are created equal. Some of the more useful forms of ascorbic acid are:

  • Ascorbic acid
  • L-ascorbic acid*
  • Magnesium ascorbyl phosphate
  • Ascorbyl 6 palmitate
  • Disodium isostearyl 2-0 L-ascorbyl phosphate (VCP-IS-Na)
  • Sodium ascorbyl phosphate
  • Ascorbic acid sulfate

Don’t worry if the above looks like Greek to you. You just have to match these with the ingredients list of your serum to make sure it’s using one of the more effective forms of Vitamin C.

* L-ascorbic acid is the most well-researched and has the most evidence to show that it works, but it is also more irritating to the skin than other forms. Use this with some caution, and only if your skin is not sensitive.

2. Percentage of Vitamin C

As with most other things, the higher the percentage of Vitamin C, the more effective it will be. However, do note that this only applies up to 20%!

This means that any serum claiming to have more than 20% Vitamin C will probably be much more expensive, but its efficacy will not be significantly higher than a 20% solution.

3. Colouring of product

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Source: YesStyle

You may associate Vitamin C with orange juice and citrus fruits, but don’t get carried away. Active Vitamin C solutions should actually be almost colourless or with a tinge of champagne.

Through the manufacturing processes, other ingredients may be added that makes the Vitamin C take on a darker shade without affecting its efficacy. This means that if a newly manufactured product is yellow or orange, it may still contain very active Vitamin C.

4. Colouring of bottle

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Source: Amazon

As we’ve mentioned earlier, Vitamin C is extremely sensitive to light and air. This means that manufacturers who are committed to delivering the best quality Vitamin C serums would usually package them in opaque or tinted bottles or tubes.

If your Vitamin C serum comes in a transparent bottle, you can expect it to turn yellow (and therefore ineffective) much faster.

Always make sure your Vitamin C serums are closed tightly, and not exposed to heat or humidity (keep them away from the bathroom). You can even store them in the refridgerator!

Without further ado, here are the Vitamin C solutions that tick all the checkboxes above, and are worth even their hefty price tags.

1. Vichy Liftactiv Vitamin C Freshshot

Vitamin C Vichy Liftactiv Vitamin C Freshshot 1

Vit C concentration: 15%

The Vichy brand has always been looked up to for their accessible but high-quality skincare products. It should be no surprise that they also have a new Pure Vitamin C serum in their range, which boasts one of the highest concentrations of pure Vitamin C in the Derma-skincare market with an affordable price.

To combat any dryness in the skin, the Vichy Liftactiv Freshshot contains 0.1% fragmented Hyaluronic Acid of natural origin, which aids with plumpness and hydration of skin. They’ve also optimised the pH level of their product – pH 2.5 – so that the Vitamin C is best absorbed into your skin efficiently.

More importantly, with only 11 ingredients, the powerful yet hypoallergenic formulation is safe for all skin types with 0% fragrance, colorants, silicon, parabens and texturizing agents.

With all these being said, Vichy promises visibly brighter and firmer skin with less fine lines within 10 days of usage – a very bold statement that we think they wouldn’t state unless they were confident!

Vichy Liftactiv Vitamin C Freshshot retails for SGD52 (10ml) at Watsons and Guardian from March 2018.

2. 277 Series Vit C Intense

ridiculously expensive products 277 series vit c intense 1

Vit C concentration: 17%

277 Series is a homegrown brand developed by aesthetics doctors from South Bridge Aesthetics Clinic. The Vit C Intense is packaged in opaque capsules which you cut open to release the active Vitamin C onto your skin (of course, please do not consume the capsules orally!)

The Vit C Intense boasts an active Vitamin C concentration of 17%, which is one of the highest in the local market!

277 Series Vit C Intense retails for SGD 280 (50 ml) at Skin Concierge.

3. Evans Dermalogical Vitamin C 10% Topical Serum

vitamin c serums evans dermatological vitamin c 10 topical serum

Vit C form: L-ascorbic acid

Vit C concentration: 10%

Evans has actually long been on the market at your local drugstores, Guardian and Watsons, but because of its relatively high price point, only selected stores carry the product.

10% is by no means a low concentration of Vitamin C – in fact, since L-ascorbic acid has a higher potential for skin irritation, it’s probably a good thing that it’s not present in higher amounts.

Overall, Evans is a good, simple, and slightly more affordable Vitamin C option.

Evans Dermalogical Vitamin C 10% Topical Serum retails for SGD89.85 (30ml) at Guardian. It is also available on Watsons and Qoo10.

4. Clinique Fresh Pressed Daily Booster with Pure Vitamin C 10%

vitamin c serums clinique fresh pressed daily booster with pure vitamin c 10

Vit C form: Ascorbic acid

Vit C concentration: 10%

Clinique doesn’t specify whether the ascorbic acid in their product is L-ascorbic acid, or some other form. We’re going to go with the assumption that it is L-ascorbic acid.

What’s interesting about this product is its packaging. You press a button to release powdered Vitamin C (which is supposedly more resistant to degradation than the liquid form) into a serum suspension which you shake for 15 seconds. You then press the button again to dispense the freshly mixed Vitamin C serum.

Clinique also only sells a 7 to 10 day supply in each tube, and their tubes are sold in fours. Each tube is, of course, opaque. Although the formulation system sounds complicated and gimmicky, it does seem like Clinique is going the extra mile to ensure the stability of their Vitamin C.

Clinique Fresh Pressed Daily Booster with Pure Vitamin C 10% retails for SGD99 (4 pcs x 8.5ml) at Sephora and Clinique counters.

5. Mario Badescu Vitamin C Serum

vitamin c serums mario badescu vitamin c serum

Vit C form: Ascorbic acid

Vit C concentration: 7.5%

While Mario Badescu products are widely sold at Sephora here, the Vitamin C serum may be a bit harder to get your hands on. However, you can still find it on other online retail platforms.

The Vitamin C used in the formula is in its pure form, ascorbic acid. However, this form is also harder to keep stable, even if it is stored in an opaque glass bottle, so you’d need to be extra careful if you intend to use this product.

Mario Badescu Vitamin C Serum retails for USD45 (1 oz) on Amazon.

6. Paula’s Choice Resist C15 Super Booster

vitamin c serums Paula's Choice Resist C15 Super Booster 1

Vit C form: Ascorbic acid

Vit C concentration: 15%

Paula’s Choice has recently landed in Singapore, and we were excited to see this high-potency Vitamin C serum on their shelves.

The serum contains 15% ascorbic acid, the most active but also the most unstable form of Vitamin C. It comes in a tinted bottle to prevent oxidation from light, but extra care should still be taken to prevent the ingredient from degrading.

Paula’s Choice Resist C15 Super Booster retails for SGD68 (20ml) at Paula’s Choice online, or in stores.

7. SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic

vitamin c serums skinceuticals c e ferulic

Vit C form: L-ascorbic acid

Vit C concentration: 15%

This may be a pricey entry on our list, but the SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic is also one of the most highly recommended Vitamin C serums on the Internet.

It comes in a tinted glass bottle that prevents oxidation, and its active ingredient is L-ascorbic acid. The formula contains a pretty high concentration of Vitamin C, which will prove very beneficial for your skin if it’s able to handle the irritation from L-ascorbic acid.

SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic is available at SkinCeuticals sales points in Singapore. Contact SkinCeuticals via their Facebook or Instagram page for more information.

If we’ve missed out any Vitamin C serum that you believe should be on this list, do let us know in the comments section below!