15 best vitamin C skincare products for a brighter and clearer complexion

Tamara Corin
·3-min read
Choose between serums, creams, cleansers and moisturisers   (The Independent)
Choose between serums, creams, cleansers and moisturisers (The Independent)

More than just a quick-fix when you’re feeling run-down, vitamin C infused skincare has recently seen a 40 per cent increase in online searches. Often referred to as the holy grail of skincare, vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that helps to reduce pigmentation and inflammation and can also boost collagen and protect against pollution.

As we age, our skin's natural levels of vitamin C decreases, which is why it's great to include it in your daily skincare routine. Although vitamin C can’t protect like an SPF does, it can help minimise the deep damage you can’t see, making it a powerful preventative ingredient too.

What types of products contain vitamin C?

In skincare, the most popular format for vitamin C is in a serum, ranging in different concentrations and formulas, however, you can now also find it in moisturisers, cleansers even suncream, so if you'd rather not add another step into your skincare routine, but don’t want to miss out on the wonder ingredient, there’s different ways to incorporate it. The supercharged C can usually be found on the ingredient list as L-ascorbic acid, which is the most effective form of vitamin C to apply topically to the skin.

How often should I use it?

Although vitamin C is a natural antioxidant, it can often cause mild irritation, so you should build up usage overtime. Start with twice a week, gradually moving up to three times a week and so on. This will ensure your skin gets used to the ingredient. However, if your skin does react, consider swapping to a vitamin C product that contains magnesium ascorbyl phosphate, a water-soluble vitamin C, which is far less irritating. This type is a good starting point for sensitive skin too. Alternatively, mix your serum into your regular moisturiser for a gentle yet still powerful hit of the C.

What strength should I use?

Similar to the application rule, begin with a low concentration of 10 per cent and then increase to 15 per cent and then if you feel your skin can tolerate more, then jump up to 20 per cent. With strict daily application, you should be able to notice results within a fortnight. If there’s no obvious change, consider increasing the concentration or applying your vitamin C product both day and night. It’s completely safe to do so.

You can usually find vitamin C-based products combined with vitamin E and B, ferulic acid and hyaluronic acid. This is because they are all strong antioxidants which will support and stabilize the vitamin C content.

It’s worth noting that you should keep an eye out for darker bottles – vitamin C is very sensitive and often inactivated when exposed to light. The best quality products come in dark bottles to retain their potency, quality and longevity and this is usually reflected in the price.

Speaking of which, the only real downside of vitamin C skincare is that it doesn’t come cheap. Budget-friendly options do exist, however they’re rare and often don’t have high potency ingredients, so it’s definitely worth saving up for a pricier option.

To ensure you make sensible choices that deliver results, we tested and trialed over 30 vitamin-C based products over a six-week period on different skin types. We focused on changes to the skin’s brightness, pigmentation, skin tone and texture and the ease of application.

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent.

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