The best vitamin C serums

Acne-prone? These 8 face serums won’t break you out.

Stephanie Papanikolas Avatar

Stephanie Papanikolas
May 13, 2020 · 4 min read

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We’re here to share what we know — but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider if you have questions.

Vitamin C in skincare has some groovy benefits, including stimulation of collagen production, decreased hyperpigmentation, and neutralizing free radicals. But the best vitamin C serum doesn’t have to be the fanciest one money can buy. In fact, a lot of the most expensive products I came across have potentially pore-clogging ingredients that may cause breakouts. Luckily, you don’t need to breakout or break the bank just to enjoy this antioxidant! In fact, almost all of my top picks are drugstore vitamin C serums. And if you’re acne-prone, these non-comedogenic serums don't tend to cause breakouts.

1. e.l.f. Beauty Shield Vitamin C Pollution Prevention Serum

A lightly hydrating serum with pomegranate extract, hyaluronic acid, and antioxidants. Layer it with your sunscreen in the morning for a boost of protection against UV rays.

At a glance

  • Good for normal to dry skin

  • Vitamin C, E, and pomegranate extract

  • $16.00 (0.95 oz) via Target

2. Eb5 Vitamin C Serum Concentrate

Arguably the best drugstore vitamin C serum, this product has Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate, one of the most stable forms of vitamin C. Plus this non-comedogenic, fragrance-free formula is great for sensitive skin. The trade-off? Unscented vitamin C serums tend to have a strong musk to them that’s not for everyone.

At a glance

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

This product from Clinique is a potent supplement to your skincare routine. Just add two drops to your AM/PM moisturizer and apply! It also has stay-fresh packaging that helps maintain vitamin C freshness — but I still don’t think you should buy it in bulk!

At a glance

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4. BareMinerals SKINLONGEVITY Vital Power Infusion Serum

This serum has vitamin C and niacinamide to help restore sun-damaged skin while boosting protection against UV rays. It has a richly hydrating formula that helps trap moisture into the skin with ingredients like squalane, butylene glycol, and dimethicone.

At a glance

5. No7 Protect & Perfect Intense Advanced Serum

This vitamin C serum is focused on anti-aging. Hyaluronic acid plumps skin by sealing in moisture. Meanwhile, retinyl palmitate may help with fine lines and dark spots (but of course, prescription-strength retinoids are stronger).

At a glance

6. L’Oreal Revitalift Derm Intensives Vitamin C Serum

Similar to Clinique, this product from L’Oreal boasts a potent 10% concentration of vitamin C. Just squeeze a little product out and apply it directly to spots on the face that need a boost.

At a glance

7. Mario Badescu Vitamin C Serum

This soothing serum by Mario Badescu combines vitamin C with cucumber, lavender, and aloe to brighten and hydrate skin. Although collagen molecules are too large to be directly absorbed into the skin, vitamin C can stimulate collagen synthesis all by itself.

At a glance

Bottle of pineapple glow bright serum

Image via Glow Recipe

8. Glow Recipe Pineapple-C Brightening Serum

This sweet, delicious serum is made from pineapples (which have a high content of vitamin C). Plus, the packaging is adorable. It’s not only packed with vitamin C but also has lactic acid to help exfoliate the skin.

At a glance

A note on topical vitamin C and stability

Vitamin C serums are best when used fresh — don’t buy bulk! This is because many forms of vitamin C used in cosmetics lack stability, which allows them to lose potency quickly. Most products include stabilizing ingredients, but there’s no scientific consensus on which ones work best (if they work at all). You can usually tell if your vitamin C serum has turned if the product’s color changes (often to a yellowish hue).

A skincare routine that’s made for you

Curology is the easiest way to get prescription-strength skincare for acne or signs of aging. Just take our skincare quiz and snap a few selfies to get matched with one of our in-house medical providers. They’ll prescribe you a custom cream with a mix of 3 ingredients for your unique skin’s needs. When you sign up for a free month of Curology, you can add on our cleanser and your choice of moisturizer at no extra cost — just pay $4.95 (plus tax) to cover the cost of shipping and handling.

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Stephanie Papanikolas

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