These Vitamin C Serums Will Give You Glowy Skin, Instantly

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Best Brightening Vitamin C Serums

Byrdie / Sabrina Jiang

Our Top Picks
A luxe option, this vitamin C serum works to prevent sun damage and even out complexion.
This serum blends vitamin C with hyaluronic acid and vitamin E to tackle signs of aging, dullness, discoloration, and more.
This serum contains hero ingredients—think vitamins C and E, plus ferulic acid—to improve the skin's overall complexion.
A blend of vitamin C, ferulic acid, and 2% phloretin, result in a serum for oily skin that corrects discoloration, and more.
Aside from vitamin C, this serum also contains glycolic acid, which is known for its ability to exfoliate and leave skin renewed.
This serum helps protect against environmental damage, thanks to a vitamin C and ferulic acid blend.
This milky serum is specially designed for skin of color, targeting discoloration and acne while boosting overall glow.
Ingredients like Vitamins E and A help to calm, and rejuvenate the skin, making it perfect for acne-prone skin or rosacea.
Best for Hyperpigmentation:
BeautyStat Universal C Skin Refiner at Amazon
This serum helps to boost radiance and shine and minimize the look of fine lines and dark spots.
Protect the skin from UV damage, ease hyperpigmentation, and support collagen production with this vitamin-infused serum..
In This Article

Vitamin C is an ingredient that should be part of everyone’s skincare 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.

While budget-friendly vitamin C serums certainly do exist, the majority of formulas skew on the expensive side. That said, they are totally worth the investment, as a highly concentrated vitamin C serum will ward off harmful environmental aggressors like UV rays, pollution, and smoke, while also reversing existing damage. They’re also ideal for brightening and evening out a mottled complexion. “Vitamin C is a multi-tasking brightening agent as its antioxidant properties provide protection from ultraviolet light exposure, and it also inhibits tyrosinase, the enzyme that fuels melanin pigment production,” explains Dr. Jessie Cheung, a dermatologist.

As a topical ingredient, vitamin C is volatile and breaks down when exposed to light or oxygen. So on that note, airtight, opaque packaging is a must to preserve product potency. Vitamin C also works well with other antioxidants, so products that combine it with other actives could work double-duty on your skin concerns. And don't forget to consider your skin type—stronger forms of the vitamin, like L-ascorbic acid, are potent but potentially irritating, while milder forms are ideal for sensitive skin.

Behold: The best brightening vitamin C serums to add to your skincare routine.

Best Overall: SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic

SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic
What We Like
  • Fades dark spots and hyperpigmentation

  • Boosts overall glow

  • Protects against environmental stressors like UVA/UVB damage

What We Don't Like
  • It's pricey

Few vitamin C serums have gained the notoriety of SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic. It's won a handful of awards and is a go-to pick for dermatologists everywhere. The hype is certainly warranted because this vitamin C serum is truly in a league of its own. Even the entire Byrdie team agrees!

The formula 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. Just apply 4-5 drops to your face every morning and you will soon understand why it stands the test of time.

Benefits: Even skin tone, anti-aging, hydration | Skin Type: Dry, normal, and sensitive skin | Dosage: 4-5 drops once daily | Size: 1 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

What Our Editors Say

"If I had to pick one skincare product to rave about, this is the one. The combination of ferulic acid and vitamin C and E works to protect against environmental damage caused by free radicals, improves signs of aging and photodamage, reduces the appearance of lines and wrinkles, and brightens my complexion each time I use it. It's a thin, watery serum and it doesn't smell great—but it works better than any vitamin C product I've ever used. Over the years, I've noticed an immediate (glowy, even skin the day after) and long-term (healthier, happier, smoother skin) result." —Hallie Gould, Associate Editorial Director

Best Budget: TruSkin Naturals Vitamin C Serum

TruSkin Vitamin C Serum for Face
What We Like
  • Plumps and hydrates as it brightens and smoothes

  • Formula is gentle and doesn't sting

  • Lightweight texture that absorbs quickly

What We Don't Like
  • Skin feels tight after application

This hydrating serum is precision-designed to revitalize aging skin. It blends vitamin C with hyaluronic acid and vitamin E to restore firmness, combat dullness, tackle discoloration, and more. The formula also contains MSM, a sulfur compound naturally found in the body that is said to maintain and increase collagen production within the skin when taken internally, making it an excellent choice for those concerned about lines, wrinkles, and sagging. The best part? It's super effective, which is why scores of reviewers on Amazon can't get enough. And for the price, you really can’t go wrong.

Benefits: Even skin tone, hydration | Skin Type: All skin types | Dosage: 3-5 drops once daily | Size: 1 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

What Our Testers Say

"While most vitamin C serums pack a bit of a sting, this one felt instantly soothing and hydrating thanks to the product’s high concentration of aloe leaf juice. The product melted into my skin pretty quickly, leaving behind a smoothed-out base that’s the perfect base for makeup." —Jenna Igneri, Product Tester

Runner-Up, Best Budget: Paula's Choice C15 Super Booster

C15 Super Booster
What We Like
  • Contains peptides to boost collagen production

  • Plumps and hydrates in addition to brightening and smoothing

  • Luxe formulation at a moderate price tag

What We Don't Like
  • Formula may oxidize quickly

Ringing in at just under $50, this strategically formulated serum is a worthy alternative to SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic with a more wallet-friendly price tag. It contains the same hero ingredients (brightening and smoothing vitamins C and E, plus free-radical fighting ferulic acid) in addition to skin-boosting peptides, which might support your complexion's natural collagen production. It also contains hyaluronic acid, which helps to hydrate and plump fine lines and wrinkles. Overall, it’s a solid choice for improving uneven texture and tone, smoothing out the complexion, and protecting against environmental stressors. 

Benefits: Even skin tone, anti-aging, hydration | Skin Type: All skin types | Dosage: 2-3 drops once daily | Size: 0.67 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best for Oily Skin: SkinCeuticals Phloretin CF

SkinCeuticals Phloretin CF
What We Like
  • Non-greasy formula is great for oily skin types

  • Contains phloretin to neutralize free radicals and improve discoloration

What We Don't Like
  • It's pricey

Say hello to the lesser-known cousin to SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic, Phloretin CF. Despite its insane following, many don't realize that C E Ferulic is actually best suited to those with dry and normal skin types. However, if you veer oily, this serum is actually a better option for your specific skin type. 

"For normal to oily skin types, we recommend using this product over the C E Ferulic. Many people read rave reviews about C E Ferulic and don't realize that the Phloretin is a better match for their skin type!" explains Helen Koo, senior marketing manager of Dermstore. So what makes it so special? This serum contains a mix of vitamin C, ferulic acid, and 2% phloretin to help neutralize free radicals, encourage cell turnover, and lessen discoloration.

Benefits: Even skin tone, anti-aging, hydration | Skin Type: All skin types | Dosage: 4-5 drops once daily | Size: 1 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best for Acne-Prone Skin: Sunday Riley C.E.O. 15% Vitamin C Brightening Serum

SUNDAY RILEY C.E.O. Rapid Flash Brightening Serum
What We Like
  • Formulated with a stable, oil-soluble form of vitamin C

  • Contains glycolic acid to exfoliate

  • Fades acne scars while preventing future breakouts

What We Don't Like
  • It's pricey

While most vitamin C serums contain L-ascorbic acid, this one is made with the gold standard tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate, which is a stable, oil-soluble form of vitamin C. 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 leaving you absolutely glowing.

Benefits: Even skin tone, anti-aging | Skin Type: Dry, combo, normal skin | Dosage: 2 pumps once or twice daily | Size: 1 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

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

C-firma fresh
What We Like
  • Contains pumpkin and pomegranate enzymes to gently exfoliate

  • Has a soothing, cooling sensation

  • Continues to work for 72 hours after applying

What We Don't Like
  • Slightly sticky texture

This vitamin C serum contains a laundry list of high-quality ingredients. Pumpkin and pomegranate enzymes help with cellular turnover and gently exfoliate the skin while vitamin C and ferulic acid naturally brighten skin and help protect against damage. What's more, the cooling sensation of this clear gel soothes even the most inflamed, sensitive skin. After cleansing in the morning, spread a pea-sized amount all over your face, neck, and chest.

Fun fact: C-Firma has a reservoir effect on the 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).

Benefits: Even skin tone and texture, anti-aging | Skin Type: All skin types | Dosage: 2-3 pumps once daily | Size: 1 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

What Our Editors Say

"I've been using this vitamin C serum every morning for years now. The naturally amber-colored formula gives my skin a lovely, lit-from-within glow immediately upon application, and over time my skin has become more luminous and healthy-looking (even when I'm not wearing it). I'm prone to the occasional breakout, but I don't have any lingering acne scars, and I give 100 percent of the credit to C-Firma." —Holly Rhue, Editor

Best for Dark Skin Tones: EADEM Milk Marvel Dark Spot Serum with Niacinamide and Vitamin C

What We Like
  • Formulated specifically for melanin-rich skin

  • Features encapsulated vitamin C for maximum potency

  • Gently exfoliates with papaya and pineapple enzymes

What We Don't Like
  • May take a while to see full results

This luxurious milky serum from EADEM is uniquely designed for skin of color, helping to reduce the appearance of dark marks, hyperpigmentation, and scars while fighting acne and boosting overall glow. Powered by the brand's Smart Melanin Technology—along with niacinamide, amber algae, and encapsulated vitamin C—the formula helps to brighten discoloration without lightening overall skin tone. It also boasts papaya and pineapple enzymes to gently smooth out rough texture sans irritation, and it's fragrance-free, making it safe for those with more sensitive complexions.

Benefits: Brightening, resurfacing, fighting acne and blemishes | Skin Type: All skin types, specifically darker skin tones | Dosage: 3 drops twice daily | Size: 1 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best for Rosacea: iS Clinical Pro-Heal Serum Advance +

Shari Darden
What We Like
  • Contains botanical blend that treats rosacea, acne, and contact dermatitis

  • Packed with anti-inflammatory ingredients

  • Olive leaf extract provides extra anti-aging benefits

What We Don't Like
  • It's pricey

This dermatologist-recommended serum is a splurge that delivers; it includes a powerful combination of antioxidants and botanicals to both protect and calm the skin, says Cheung, who counts this one as a favorite. More specifically, vitamin C works together with vitamin E and A to help heal, soothe, and rejuvenate the skin, making it a savior for those with acne-prone skin or rosacea. Plus, it also delivers anti-aging benefits with olive leaf extract that provides antioxidant protection against free radical damage.

Benefits: Even skin tone, anti-aging | Skin Type: All skin types | Dosage: Apply sparingly | Size: 1 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best for Hyperpigmentation: BeautyStat Universal C Skin Refiner

BeautyStat Universal C Skin Refiner
What We Like
  • Contains a potent concentration of vitamin C

  • Instantly smoothes the skin

  • Lightweight gel-cream formula absorbs quickly

What We Don't Like
  • Slightly gritty texture

This skin refiner delivers 20% pure vitamin C, the highest percentage available OTC, allowing for some pretty powerful results. Vitamin C is notoriously difficult to stabilize, so the brand uses a unique encapsulation system that prevents the serum from breaking down and losing its efficacy. Plus, it's infused with anti-aging EGCG, hydrating squalane, and pH-balancing tartaric acid.

Overall, this serum boosts radiance and shine while creating long-term changes to the way your skin looks and feels. With regular use, the serum works to minimize fine lines, lighten dark spots, and overall increase the skin's brightness.

Benefits: Even skin tone, anti-aging | Skin Type: All skin types | Dosage: Use AM and PM | Size: 1 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes, but not certified | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Anti-Aging: Obagi Medical Professional-C Serum 20%

obagi-serum
What We Like
  • Contains a potent concentration of vitamin C

  • Plumps and hydrates with hyaluronic acid

  • Designed to deeply penetrate the skin for maximum efficacy

What We Don't Like
  • May irritate sensitive skin

Featuring an even higher concentration of vitamin C than C E Ferulic (a whopping 20%, to be exact), this down-to-business brightening serum from Obagi is simply one of the best, hands down. It's deeply penetrating and designed to protect the skin from UV damage, fade dark spots and hyperpigmentation, and support collagen and elastin growth. Plus, it contains hyaluronic acid accents that help keep the skin's hydration levels nice and healthy.

Benefits: Anti-aging, hydration | Skin Type: Normal, oily skin | Dosage: 5-7 drops once daily | Size: 1 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Exfoliating: OLEHENRIKSEN Banana Bright Vitamin C Serum

Ole Henriksen Banana Bright Vitamin C Serum
What We Like
  • Contains PHAs to exfoliate and boost radiance

  • Contains hyaluronic acid to plump and hydrate

  • Lightweight formula with no sticky texture

What We Don't Like
  • Contains added fragrance

Have dull, congested skin? Look no further than this exfoliating serum from OLEHENRIKSEN. The vegan formula is formulated with a potent dose of 15% vitamin C and packs some serious brightening and anti-aging power. On top of all the brightening benefits of vitamin C, this lightweight serum is also formulated with 5% polyhydroxy acids, an AHA alternative that works to exfoliate the skin, loosening and lifting dead skin cells to reveal a fresh, radiant complexion. Plus, it contains hyaluronic acid for an added burst of hydration.

Benefits: Smooth texture, anti-aging, hydration | Skin Type: All skin types | Dosage: Use once daily | Size: 1 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Repairing: KLUR Brilliant Light Multi-Correctional Repair Serum

What We Like
  • Formulated with a powerful concentration of 20% vitamin C

  • Also contains antioxidants vitamin E and rosehip seed

  • Fast-absorbing

What We Don't Like
  • May be too strong for sensitive skin types

If you’re looking to repair skin damage while boosting overall radiance, look no further than this powerhouse antioxidant serum from KLUR. Powered by a potent 20% concentration of vitamin C with vitamin E and rosehip seed, this formula helps correct and protect against multiple signs of damage while leaving the skin absolutely glowing. The formula also absorbs instantly, making it great for layering under moisturizer and SPF without pilling.

Benefits: Correct and protect against damage, illuminate | Skin Type: All skin types | Dosage: 1-2 pumps, every other day | Size: 1 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best With Hyaluronic Acid: Kiehl's Powerful-Strength Line-Reducing Concentrate

Kiehl’s Powerful-Strength Line-Reducing Concentrate
What We Like
  • Plumps and hydrates as it brightens and smoothes

  • Gentle enough for sensitive skin

What We Don't Like
  • Contains silicones and doesn't absorb quickly

Kiehl's recently gave this formula a facelift, adding a higher concentration of pure vitamin C (aka L-ascorbic acid) along with moisture-boosting hyaluronic acid. The ingredients are a match made in heaven because this formula helps brighten the skin and improve skin texture while reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. A true customer favorite, it's been said that a bottle of this vitamin C serum sells at a rate of over one per minute around the world—and honestly, we're not surprised!

Benefits: Even skin texture, anti-aging, hydration | Skin Type: Normal | Dosage: Once or twice daily | Size: 1.7 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Value: THE ORDINARY Vitamin C 23% + HA Spheres 2%

the ordinary vitamin c suspension 23% + ha spheres 2%
What We Like
  • Contains potent concentration of vitamin C

  • Has a hydrating moisturizer-like feel

  • Leaves behind a powdery, matte finish great for oily skin types

What We Don't Like
  • May slightly burn or sting upon application for some

Canadian beauty brand The Ordinary offers wallet-friendly alternatives to pricier skincare products without sacrificing efficacy. This serum, which pairs vitamin C with moisture-boosting hyaluronic acid, certainly does not disappoint. Not only does it brighten and improve uneven skin tone and texture, but it reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles while providing the complexion with a subtle plumping effect. It leaves the skin amply hydrated, smoothed, and brightened—all for six bucks. Yep.

Benefits: Even skin tone, anti-aging | Skin Type: All skin types | Dosage: Use at PM | Size: 1 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Collagen-Boosting: Dr. Dennis Gross C + Collagen Brighten & Firm Vitamin C Serum

Dr. Dennis Gross C+ Collagen Brighten & Firm Vitamin C Serum
What We Like
  • Contains niacinamide to strengthen skin barrier

  • Contains amino acids and antioxidants to reduce hyperpigmentation and wrinkles

  • Formulated to increase collagen production

What We Don't Like
  • Slightly sticky texture

Invigorating and rejuvenating, this serum pairs vitamin C with collagen-boosting, skin-renewing amino acids, and a proprietary energy complex that recharges skin so you can see visible improvement in firmness and dark spots over time. It also contains skin-loving niacinamide, which works hard to repair damage and rebuild the skin’s barrier. It’s best massaged into the skin before moisturizing in order to lock in the potency of vitamin C and encourage a brightening effect for your complexion.

Benefits: Even skin tone | Skin Type: All skin types | Dosage: 1-2 pumps once daily | Size: 1 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Natural: InstaNatural Vitamin C Serum

InstaNatural VItamin C Serum
What We Like
  • Packed with natural ingredients

  • Contains skin-rejuvenating ingredients hyaluronic acid, sea buckthorn oil, and plant stem cells

  • Affordable

What We Don't Like
  • Slightly sticky texture

This vitamin C serum has no shortage of hard-hitting ingredients—hydration-boosting hyaluronic acid, antioxidant powerhouse ferulic acid, barrier-repairing sea buckthorn oil, and rejuvenating plant stem cells among them. It not only helps defend the skin against external aggressors, but it also brightens up the entire complexion by fading the look of sunspots, discoloration, hyperpigmentation while improving the skin’s overall texture and tone. It also doesn’t hurt that the price is quite affordable for a totally natural formula.

Benefits: Even skin tone, hydration | Skin Type: All skin types | Dosage: Dime-sized amount twice daily | Size: 1 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

What Our Testers Say

“It’s an incredible value for the results it gives and is incredibly budget-friendly for skincare making it a total win in our book.” — Ashley Rebecca, Product Tester

Runner-Up, Best Natural: Mad Hippie Vitamin C Serum

Mad Hippie
What We Like
  • Tightens the skin as it brightens and smoothes

  • No preservatives or additives

  • Gentle formula doesn't sting

What We Don't Like
  • Slightly sticky texture

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 to make a difference.

With a refreshing citrus smell, this green beauty option goes on smoothly and leaves the 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. 

Benefits: Even skin tone, anti-aging, soothing | Skin Type: All skin types | Dosage: Use twice daily | Size: 1 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Organic: Eminence Organic Skin Care Rosehip Triple C+E Firming Oil

eminence organic skin care rosehip triple c+e firming oil
What We Like
  • Packed with certified organic ingredients

  • Replenishes skin with jojoba and rosehip oils

  • Non-irritating and non-greasy formula

What We Don't Like
  • It's pricey

If finding an organic vitamin C serum is important to you but you love the appeal of a heavy-duty serum like SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic, look no further than this option from Eminence. It’s formulated with replenishing jojoba and rosehip oils, as well as a skin-firming and texture and tone-improving mix of vitamins C and E. Never greasy or irritating, the expert blend of botanical actives flawlessly adapts to the rest of your skincare routine, leaving you with a naturally radiant glow.

Benefits: Even skin tone, anti-aging | Skin Type: Combo, normal, mature | Dosage: 1-2 drops once daily | Size: 1 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Soothing: PCA Skin C-Quench Antioxidant Serum

pca skin c-quench antioxidant serum
What We Like
  • Contains lilac leaf cell culture extract to reduce inflammation

  • Contains glutathione to detoxify the skin

  • Contains ergothioneine to protect against UV ray-induced damage

What We Don't Like
  • Has a strong medicinal scent

A favorite brand among the best dermatologists in the world (and often the brand of choice used in-office for more intensive treatments like chemical peels), PCA Skin is lesser-known on a commercial level. (Although it shouldn't be.) This hydrating and nourishing serum features a unique blend of vitamin C, hyaluronic acid, lilac leaf cell culture extract (derived from the cells of the lilac flower to help ease inflammation), dexotifying glutathione, and ergothioneine, an antioxidant amino acid that protects the skin from UV ray-induced oxidative damage.

Benefits: Anti-aging, hydration | Skin Type: Dry, combo, normal skin | Dosage: 1-2 pumps twice daily | Size: 1 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Hydrating: Lumene Valo Vitamin C Glow Boost Essence

lumene valo glow boost essence
What We Like
  • Lightweight, non-greasy texture

  • Binds moisture to the skin as it brightens

  • Boosts overall glow

What We Don't Like
  • Contains added fragrance

They call this product an essence, but don’t let that confuse you—it acts, looks, and feels just like a serum. The lightweight liquid absorbs right into the skin, simultaneously brightening while also recharging the skin with a boost of hydration. The non-greasy formula blends arctic cloudberry (a rich source of vitamin C) and pure arctic spring water with two different types of moisture-retaining hyaluronic acid. The result? The perfect recipe for glowing skin. We also love that, like many vitamin C serums, this one has a deliciously refreshing citrus scent.

Benefits: Even skin tone, hydration | Skin Type: All skin types | Dosage: 3-4 drops twice daily | Size: 1 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Scent: Rosen Skincare Bright Citrus Serum

Rosen Skincare
What We Like
  • Contains a potent concentration of vitamin C

  • Contains mulberry extract to balance skin's pH and stabilize vitamin C

  • Affordable, all-natural formula

What We Don't Like
  • May irritate sensitive skin

Vitamin C serums don't have to cost a lot of money, despite what you may have heard. This one is loaded with 20% vitamin C stabilized by mulberry extract to help put your skin's metabolic process to work, delivering skin that is pH balanced and visibly more radiant. We also love that this all-natural product is gentle enough to use morning and night. Also nice: Unlike some vitamin C serums on the market that have a strong, unpleasant scent (seriously, the hot dog water rumors are true), this one naturally has a refreshing citrus scent thanks to added grapefruit oil.

Benefits: Even skin tone | Skin Type: Oily, acne-prone skin | Dosage: 3-5 drops once or twice daily | Size: 1 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best for Discoloration: Maelove The Glow Maker

MaeLove Glow Maker
What We Like
  • Plumps and hydrates with hyaluronic acid

  • Weightless and non-sticky texture

  • Affordable

What We Don't Like
  • May oxidize quickly

This serum lives up to its name, full stop. Formulated with a mix of vitamins C and E, ferulic acid, and hyaluronic acid, it works double-time to hydrate and even out the skin. Ferulic acid helps to stabilize and boost vitamin C's brightening powers while offering extra protection against free radical damage, making for an all-around potent serum that's still quite gentle.

It's also a Byrdie fave, beloved by Senior Commerce Editorial Director Dwyer Frame: "No joke, when I use this serum pre-makeup in the AM, my skin is less red and irritated," she says. "It has become a mainstay in my weekly routine and I notice instantly when I forget when I see myself on Zoom calls."

Benefits: Even skin tone, hydration | Skin Type: All skin types | Dosage: 3-5 drops once or twice daily | Size: 1 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

What Our Testers Say

"After applying it, I felt my skin absorb it up and then immediately dry down to a smooth, soft finish. It’s really hydrating!" —Jenna Igneri, Product Tester

Final Verdict

Vitamin C, known for its brightening, antioxidant, and anti-aging abilities, is an ingredient that should be a part of everyone’s skincare routine. Though it's a splurge (and kind of smells like hot dog water), the best vitamin C serum is SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic, scoring a thumbs up all around from Team Byrdie. Don't want to spend so much money on a vitamin C serum? We (along with thousands of happy reviewers) are big fans of TruSkin Vitamin C Serum as well, and it clocks in at less than 40 bucks.

SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic
Byrdie / Hallie Gould

What To Look for in a Brightening Vitamin C Serum

An Opaque Bottle

Vitamin C is inherently unstable, quickly broken down when exposed to light and/or oxygen. For that reason, Cheung suggests looking for products that come housed in opaque bottles (bonus points if they have an air-tight pump dispenser). Similarly, always make sure to store your vitamin C serum in a cool, dark place. 

L-Ascorbic Acid

To get the most bang for your buck, Cheung suggests looking for this type of vitamin C, the most potent and active version. That being said, it is the priciest and comes with the highest likelihood for irritation. Other less intense versions include sodium ascorbyl phosphate and magnesium ascorbyl phosphate. 

Other Antioxidants

Vitamin C works synergistically, meaning it plays very nicely, with other antioxidants, such as vitamin E and ferulic acid, says Cheung.

truskin vitamin c serum

 Byrdie / Jenna Igneri

FAQ
  • What does vitamin C serum do?

    According to dermatologist Jennifer Herrmann, MD, vitamin C has three main functions. The first is protecting against environmental stressors and free radicals, an antioxidant benefit that slows signs of aging and reduces damage overall. Vitamin C also promotes collagen production, giving our skin more support and structure. Finally, vitamin C is a brightening agent, so a serum that features it can work to even skin tone and fade hyperpigmentation.

  • When should you apply vitamin C serums?

    Many people have strong preferences on when to apply vitamin C serums, debating whether it’s better to use the ingredient to protect skin during the day or replenish it at night. Herrmann says you can choose which time of day to apply, but notes that consistency is key.

  • How should you apply vitamin C serums?

    Herrmann recommends applying your serum after cleansing. Additionally, avoid using it at the same time as certain other active ingredients such as benzoyl peroxide. For example, if you use a benzoyl peroxide product at night, it’s best to apply your vitamin C serum in the morning.

  • How often should you apply vitamin C serums?

    According to Herrmann, you should apply vitamin C serum either daily or every other day, depending on your routine and the result you want. If you already alternate several other actives, you might apply it every other day; if you’re looking to dramatically fade hyperpigmentation, you may want to use it daily.

Meet the Expert

Dr. Jessie Cheung is a dermatologist specializing in dermatological surgical and cosmetic procedures based in Willowbrook, IL.


Dr. Jennifer Herrmann is a board-certified, fellowship-trained dermatologist and dermatologic surgeon based in Beverly Hills, CA.

According to our Diversity Pledge, 15% of products in our newly-published market roundups will feature Black-owned and/or Black-founded brands. At the time of publishing, we were not able to find enough brightening vitamin C serums from a Black-owned and/or Black-founded business to meet this percentage. If you know of one we should consider, please email us at contact@byrdie.com and we will evaluate the product ASAP.

Article Sources
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  1. Pullar JM, Carr AC, Vissers MCM. The Roles of Vitamin C in Skin HealthNutrients. 2017;9(8):866. Published 2017 Aug 12. doi:10.3390/nu9080866

  2. Pullar JM, Carr AC, Vissers MCM. The Roles of Vitamin C in Skin HealthNutrients. 2017;9(8):866. Published 2017 Aug 12. doi:10.3390/nu9080866

  3. Muizzuddin N, Benjamin R. Beauty from within: Oral administration of a sulfur-containing supplement methylsulfonylmethane improves signs of skin ageing. Int J Vitam Nutr Res. 2020 Feb 21:1-10. doi:10.1024/0300-9831/a000643

  4. Samuel P, Tsapekos M, de Pedro N, Liu AG, Casey Lippmeier J, Chen S. Ergothioneine Mitigates Telomere Shortening under Oxidative Stress Conditions. J Diet Suppl. 2020 Dec 7:1-14. doi:10.1080/19390211.2020.1854919

  5. Lin FH, Lin JY, Gupta RD, Tournas JA, Burch JA, Selim MA, Monteiro-Riviere NA, Grichnik JM, Zielinski J, Pinnell SR. Ferulic acid stabilizes a solution of vitamins C and E and doubles its photoprotection of skin. J Invest Dermatol. 2005 Oct;125(4):826-32. doi:10.1111/j.0022-202X.2005.23768.x

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