Get Your Glow On: BestOfMakeupAlley's Guide to Vitamin C

July 7th 2020, 7:00 pm

An antioxidant-powerhouse, Vitamin C brightens the complexion, minimizes fine lines, firms the skin, and fights against skin aging caused by environmental aggressors—all while leaving an unbelievably radiant glow! Below is the best vitamin C skincareas tested and ranked by the MakeupAlley communityplus best-practice advice from Kavita Mariwalla, MD, a New York-based dermatologist.


"Environmental stressors, like pollution, smoking and stress, create free oxygen radicals that bounce around your cells; they can damage your skin by accelerating the aging process and by creating fine lines, wrinkles and hyperpigmentation. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps neutralize these free radicals and helps reverse some of the cell damage—leading to less fine lines, firmer skin, and a reduction of dark spots and an evening in skin tone."—Kavita Mariwalla, MD, a board-certified dermatologist


SKINCEUTICALS PHLORETIN CF

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3.8

(99 Reviews)

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GREAT FOR: Oily Skin Types

MUA USER FRESH TAKE: "I am 41 and have been using this for a year. I just finished my 2nd bottle and will buy another. Yes, it is expensive but well worth it. It makes my foundation stay on better and makes my skin glow immediately after application. My sister has commented multiple times that my skin looks great. People complain about the smell but I like it. Smells like coffee to me. I like that if I don't want to wear foundation, I can use this and then just apply concealer and go.”

C NOTES: Phloretin CF is another formulation that shouldn't be overlooked from SkinCeuticals. It might be less buzzy than the much lauded C E Ferulic, but it's still as effective and deserves as much attention. The lightweight serum combines 10% L-ascorbic acid with ferulic acid and phloretin (a powerful antioxidant derived from apples)—plus, most importantly, it won't break out your skin.

DRUNK ELEPHANT C-FIRMA DAY SERUM

3.1

(101 Reviews)

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GREAT FOR: Acne-Prone Skin Types

MUA USER FRESH TAKE: "I bought a travel size to try out because I’ve sensitive and acne prone skin. I’ve to say it’s one of the best serum that I’ve tried so far. It helps to clear most of my acne and shorten the time for my acne scar to fade. Will definitely purchase a full size. The only downside of this serum is the price tag.”

C NOTES: Loaded with hyaluronic acid, antioxidants and fruit enzymes, this vitamin C serum works for those with temperamental skin looking to brighten and even out their complexions (though some initial stinging is expected). In addition, its air-tight, opaque white packaging helps preserve the stability of the contens within.


"Your skin is basically your coat of armor from the outside world. It is very good at keeping things out and penetrating it. So you want to make sure that when you are going to buy a vitamin C serum, you actually look at the formulation itself. Look for L-ascorbic acid. It is the most active form of vitamin C that will help your skin. Other forms of vitamin C out on the market aren't potent enough—by the time they get through your skin's barrier they aren't as active and effective. Also, make sure the L-ascorbic acid is at least a 10% concentration, minimum."


CLINIQUE FRESH PRESSED DAILY BOOSTER

4.0

(16 Reviews)

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GREAT FOR: Acne-Prone Skin Types

MUA USER FRESH TAKE: "I am always on the hunt for a good vitamin C based serum, and this one proves to be very good. Once you've mastered how to get the little bottle open and working (you need to remove a foil first, press the rubber button and then shake the powder well to dissolve into the liquid), you are set. Of course, this concoction is not very stable and it is recommended you use it within 7 days. I do this twice a year—a one month cure in spring and autumn—when I need my skin to deeply renovate. It certainly works, proven that you use it morning and evenings. It will smooth skin, and my hyperpigmentation spots will be doing better after [I complete] the one month cure! ”

C NOTES: Dr. Mariwalla recommends this gel-based serum to her acne-prone patients because it won't make them break out.

THE ORDINARY 100% L-ASCORBIC ACID POWDER

4.6

(22 Reviews)

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 GREAT FOR: Acne-Prone Skin Types

MUA USER FRESH TAKE: “This is my introduction to vitamin C. I love The Ordinary brand and it's pricing so I gave this a try. It is a little tricky finding a product that would mix well with this powder, though it dissolves in pretty much whatever liquid you mix it with. However, it thickens whatever you mix it with and makes the liquid "sticky," leaving a tacky film on your face. I could tell my skin was finally absorbing it because I felt the stinging sensation that I didn't feel with my previous mixers. So it's a little tricky to find a good mix. It is vitamin C and it does dry/irritate my already dry skin a bit, so I have to cut back on my use. But, if you're looking for a good vitamin C product (can't beat the price), I'd say this would be suitable.”

C NOTES: Normally, you would apply your vitamin C serums or gels as your first step right after you wash your face. However, if using a powder formulation, apply it as the last step in your morning skin routine, right before you slather on the sunscreen.


"Look for vitamin C in serum or gel formulations. Creams and lotions aren't as effective and your skin won't absorb it well. If you have dry skin, use a serum; whereas, if your skin is oily, try a gel-like formula."


NEOSTRATA VITAMIN C CONCENTRATE

4.0

(8 Reviews)

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GREAT FOR: All Skin Types

MUA USER FRESH TAKE: "Contains 10% L-Asorbic Vitamin C concentration, packaged in a glass jar with 30 capsules so basically a one month supply if only applying once a day. Pretty pricey when you break it down into a per application cost. The capsules are quite sturdy/thick and opaque in color to protect the efficacy of the vitamin C. The serum is much thicker than I thought it would be. It feels very silky and smoothing on the skin, like a dimethicone primer feels...I really liked the convenience of using one capsule per application and I like how soft and velvety my skin felt after applying the serum. There was a slight tingling on my skin so I know that the vitamin C was definitely still “active”... I might still splurge on these on occasion when they are on sale because I do enjoy using them.”

C NOTES: The single-dose ampoules contain the perfect shot of C for amped up radiance and firmer skin.

OBAGI PROFESSIONAL C-SERUM 20%

4.4

(25 Reviews)

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GREAT FOR: All Skin Types (but those with sensitive complexions should proceed with caution and take a less is more approach to limit negative reactions)

MUA USER FRESH TAKE: "I've used this serum for 3 weeks. For the first week it stung my skin, but my skin soon adjusted. It feels highly active. I love it! I have noticed brightening of my skin and an increased radiance, so far.”

C NOTES: According to Dr. Mariwalla, this mediceutical brand's vitamin C delivery system is one of the best available.


"Vitamin C is photo-sensitive. It degrades in light. Thus, it should be housed in a dark, amber or opaque bottle, not a clear one. Store it in a dark, cool place as heat can also compromise its efficacy. It's best to use it once a day in the mornings to help your skin actively fight free radicals. Apply it right after you wash your face as your first layer of defense."


PAULA'S CHOICE RESIST C15 SUPER BOOSTER

3.4

(127 Reviews)

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GREAT FOR: All Skin Types

MUA USER FRESH TAKE: "I recently just finished a bottle of the PC C15 Booster. It's pretty pricey for the amount you get, but still more affordable compared to other brands. Even though I have sensitive skin I never had issues with irritation”

C NOTES: Enriched with a multitude of antioxidants, including ferulic acid, peptides, and vitamins C and E, this super serum improves collagen production while firming and brightening your visage.

PETER THOMAS ROTH POTENT-C POWER SERUM

3.9

(9 Reviews)

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GREAT FOR: All Skin Types

MUA USER FRESH TAKE: "OK, so I really, really wanted to hate this. It’s so expensive!!! But in all honesty, it’s worth it. I have to save up for this baby! I’ve tried many different vitamin C formulas throughout the years and this one right here gives me the ultimate glow the next morning ( I use only at night). My complexion has become so even and bright. My very fine lines are fading fast. My pores look the best that they ever been, and my skin is so soft. One pump is enough for my face and neck. I lightly pat a few drops of water on my face before application to make it spread even further. This bottle has lasted me over 3 months with nightly use. It’s smells like, well vitamin c! But not overwhelming. It’s a splurge for sure, but a great investment!”

C NOTES: This powerful C potion is jam-packed with skin-beneficial goodies: vitamin E for extra antioxidant protection), ferulic acid ( to boost the efficacy of both vitamin C & E), and hylaluronic acid (for hydration).


"Note that the stinging goes away with time. Only 2 to 3 drops of a quarter of a dropperful is needed. Rub that in the palm of your hands, then appy it to your face."


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