What Is the Most Effective Vitamin C Serum?

Reviewed on 2/24/2021

What are the characteristics of an effective vitamin C serum?

Vitamin C serums are skincare products that contain L-ascorbic acid, ascorbyl-6-palmitate, or magnesium ascorbyl phosphate. Effective vitamin C products contain between an eight and 20 percent concentration of vitamin C. They may also contain tyrosine, zinc, and vitamin E and be in an opaque bottle.
Vitamin C serums are skincare products that contain L-ascorbic acid, ascorbyl-6-palmitate, or magnesium ascorbyl phosphate. Effective vitamin C products contain between an eight and 20 percent concentration of vitamin C. They may also contain tyrosine, zinc, and vitamin E and be in an opaque bottle.

With many of the benefits of vitamin C backed by science, it is not surprising to see the market flooded with vitamin C serums. While you decide which vitamin C serum will make way into your skincare routine, here are few factors that can help you choose one.

Vitamin C concentration

For a vitamin C serum to be effective, it should ideally have a concentration between eight and 20 percent. The higher the concentration, the more potent it is. Serums with vitamin C concentrations below eight percent are ineffective, while above 20 percent, their effectiveness tapers off. 

Form of vitamin C

Available vitamin C serums usually contain vitamin C in forms such as

  • L-ascorbic acid
  • Ascorbyl-6-palmitate
  • Magnesium ascorbyl phosphate

Though all are potent forms of vitamin C, L-ascorbic acid appears to be the most biologically active form.

Presence of other ingredients

The addition of other ingredients such as vitamin E and ferulic acid helps stabilize vitamin C in the serum. The combination of vitamin C and vitamin E offers a stronger antioxidant action. Vitamin E also makes vitamin C less irritating to the skin, particularly if you have sensitive skin. Ingredients such as tyrosine and zinc increase the bioavailability of vitamin C by 20 times.

Packaging

The vitamin C serum bottle should be dark or opaque and with a tight cap (vitamin C breaks down when exposed to air and light).

Be willing to experiment. You may have to try a few brands of vitamin C serum until you find the most effective one for yourself. If you are confused about which brand to choose, you should ask a board-certified dermatologist. They can guide you in choosing the right serum based on your skin type.

How to use vitamin C serum

A vitamin C serum contains vitamin C in concentrated form and penetrates the skin faster than creams and moisturizers. Hence, apply it after you have cleansed and applied a skin toner on your face. Then layer it with a moisturizer. If you venture out during the day, make sure to apply a sunscreen lotion/gel after you apply moisturizer. Alternatively, you can apply a sunscreen-based moisturizer after you apply vitamin C serum. Moisturizer helps seal the serum in your skin.

You can also apply vitamin C at night after cleansing and applying a toner to your skin.

Always follow the instructions on the product’s label before using vitamin C serum.

Most vitamin C serums should be used within six months of opening them. Make sure you store them in a place away from sunlight, preferably in a dark room. Exposure to sunlight oxidizes the vitamin C, rendering the serum ineffective. If the serum has turned dark or black, it means it has oxidized. Throw it away.

Do vitamin C serums have any side effects?

Vitamin C serums are most often skin-friendly and do not cause problems in most people. Rarely, they may cause an allergic reaction if you are allergic to some ingredients. Hence, make sure you do a skin patch test before you use them. If after 24 hours, you develop redness, itching or a rash on your face, discontinue using that particular vitamin C serum.

If you have highly sensitive skin, choose a vitamin C serum that contains vitamin C in the form of magnesium ascorbyl phosphate instead of L-ascorbic acid.

A study has shown that vitamin C can cause stinging, redness, dryness and yellowish staining of skin in some people. If you have hypersensitive skin, you may feel minor irritation. But that is OK. Layering it with a moisturizer can help resolve the dryness, redness, minor irritation and stinging. If these symptoms are extremely troublesome for you, discontinue using vitamin C serum.

Consult a skin specialist who will suggest the right vitamin C serum or maybe some other skincare product for you.

What are the benefits of using vitamin C serum on your skin?

Vitamin C serums are popular for their anti-aging benefits and for promoting youthful, bright and glowing skin.

Once you start using vitamin C serum, you may notice the following effects on your skin

  • Brighter or lighter skin (fading of hyperpigmentation or dark spots)
  • Reduced appearance of fine wrinkles and dark spots
  • A more even skin tone
  • Improved skin elasticity and firmness
  • Reduced skin damage from the sun

If you do not notice any improvement in your skin condition after using vitamin C serum within a month or two, visit a skin specialist (or dermatologist). They will analyze your skin and examine you to see if you have any nutritional deficiency. They will put you on a customized skincare regimen that suits your skin type for improved results.

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References
Medscape Medical Reference

Nutrients


Indian Dermatology Online Journal


The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology


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