The 6 Best Brightening Vitamin C Serums of 2019

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Vitamin C is an ingredient that should be part of everyone’s skin care routine—regardless of age or skin type. It’s known and loved for its brightening and anti-aging abilities, and dermatologists also tout it for being one of the strongest protective antioxidants out there.

However, before jumping on the vitamin C bandwagon, there are a few things you should know. While potent, vitamin C is also very volatile and difficult to stabilize. In other words, it expires faster than most other products in your medicine cabinet. Be sure to store your serum in a dark and cool place to prevent it from breaking down and losing its potency from frequent light and air exposure.

Substantial science and tech goes into keeping vitamin c serums fresh and strong, which generally causes them to skew on the more expensive side. That said, they are totally worth the investment as a highly concentrated vitamin C serum will ward off harmful environmental elements like UV rays, pollution, and smoke, while also reversing existing damage and reducing inflammation.

So whether you are concerned about wrinkles, sun damage, uneven skin tone, or acne scarring, you should consider adding one of our picks for top vitamin C serums to your skincare routine.

Best for Sensitive Skin: Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum

Drunk Elephant

The cooling sensation of this clear gel will soothe even the most inflamed, sensitive skin. After cleansing in the AM, spread a pea-sized amount all over your face, neck, and chest. This vitamin C serum contains a laundry list of high-quality ingredients including good-for-you pumpkin enzymes and Indian Gooseberry.

Pumpkin and pomegranate enzymes help with cellular turnover and gently exfoliate skin while vitamin C and ferulic acid naturally brighten skin and help protect against damage. Lastly, the Indian Gooseberry is rich in antioxidants, which helps protect against environmental stressors.

C-Firma has a reservoir effect on skin, which means it continues to work for up to 72 hours and cannot be washed or rubbed off (we like to justify the price with this). Drunk Elephant as a whole is a great brand for sensitive skin as their products only include ingredients that specifically benefit the skin, and avoid any harsh irritants.

Best for Hyperpigmentation: Karuna Vitamin C+ Pearls

Say goodbye to darkness, dullness, and all of your hyperpigmentation problems with the help of this vitamin C powerhouse. Vitamin C is a potent yet tricky ingredient as it is difficult to preserve, but this innovative two-part serum has made it possible to deliver 79% vitamin C, which is the highest concentration available on the market.

Impressively, the pearls undergo a unique “Flash-Freeze” process, which dry freezes active ingredients (in this case, vitamin C) to maintain maximum potency. To reactivate the vitamin C, add three full droppers of the included Activator Serum, which breaks down the solid pearl into a clear serum. Apply the serum all over your face, neck, and chest to erase fine lines and dark spots. Unlike most vitamin C serums, which are recommended for morning use, this one should be added to your PM routine once weekly.

Best for Acne-Prone Skin: Sunday Riley C.E.O. Rapid Flash Brightening Serum

SUNDAY RILEY C.E.O. Rapid Flash Brightening Serum
Courtesy of Sephora

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 fancy strain of vitamin C, it also contains glycolic acid, which is known for its exfoliating ability.

The unique blend helps retouch discolored acne scars while also preventing future breakouts. Unlike most liquid vitamin c serums, this one has a thicker, richer consistency—almost like a moisturizer. That said, the formula melts right into the skin, reducing breakouts and leaving you absolutely glowing.

Best All-Natural: Mad Hippie Vitamin C Serum

Mad Hippie

Because vitamin C serums are so active, many can cause a tingling or burning feeling upon application. However, this natural option skips out on additives and preservatives making it gentle for even the most sensitive skin types, yet powerful enough for most-in-need complexions.

With a refreshing citrus smell, this green beauty option goes on smoothly and leaves skin feeling tightened and brightened. Apply a few drops all over your face in the morning and within weeks you will notice a true transformation. 

Best with Hyaluronic Acid: Lumene Valo Glow Boost Essence

They call it an essence, but don’t let that confuse you because it acts, looks, and feels just like a serum. The lightweight liquid absorbs right into skin, simultaneously brightening while also recharging with a boost of hydration. The non-greasy formula blends arctic cloudberry and pure arctic spring water with hyaluronic acid—the perfect recipe for glowing skin. Arctic cloudberry is a rich source of vitamin C, which helps revive, enhance, and even remedy discoloration.

Meanwhile, pure arctic spring water and hyaluronic acid work to quench thirsty skin for a smooth, bright complexion. And like many vitamin C serums, this one has a deliciously refreshing citrus scent.

Best for Wrinkles: SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic

Courtesy of DermStore

SkinCeutical’s C E Ferulic serum has been a beauty award winner for years, and it’s no surprise why. It contains high concentrations of pure vitamin C (15%), vitamin E (1%), and ferulic acid (.5%) to help even out pigmentation. The potent blend also prevents damage throughout the day by neutralizing free radicals caused by UVA/UVB, infrared radiation, and pollution.

While it’s technically recommended for drier, non-acne prone skin (SkinCeuticals makes a different variation for acne-prone skin), this option still works for all skin types. Everything about the product is truly unbeatable from its lightweight texture to its dark glass bottle, which helps keep light away to maintain the product’s stability. Just apply 4-5 drops to your face every morning and you will understand why it stands the test of time.

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