If you compared the routines of all the women you know who have great skin, I can pretty much guarantee that you'd find this one common denominator. I'm confident in saying this because I know that any number of experts from beauty editors to makeup artists and dermatologists would confirm that it's an essential ingredient in anybody's skincare lineup. If you, like us, are obsessed with achieving a glowy complexion and combatting the signs of aging, you need vitamin C in your life.
While the ingredient itself is nothing new, adding a vitamin C serum to your skincare if you're not already using one can yield some pretty transformative effects. This is because it touts an impressive number of benefits like lifting dark spots, improving skin tone, reversing UV damage, firming, plumping, and even shrinking pores. Yep, all those amazing benefits can be found in a single product. And while it's recommended that you begin using a vitamin C serum in your 20s, dermatologists say that incorporating it into your routine becomes doubly as important in your 30s and 40s (and beyond).
We already know that vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant found naturally in many fruits and vegetables, but when applied topically via a facial serum or oil, it not only has a similar damage-blocking effect but can also reverse some of the age-related structural changes in the skin.
I reached out to a number of women in the "mature skin" camp with amazingly glowy complexions to hear if they were using vitamin C and how they incorporated it into their routines. Grece Ghanem, a 50-something Instagrammer and Who What Wear regular, put it succinctly, saying, "I feel like it gives a glow to the face and helps keep my skin tone bright and radiant and I also feel like it helps smoothen my skin and fine lines by boosting the collagen production. I am no expert, but I do believe that it’s an essential step in a skincare routine!"
I couldn't agree more, so I compiled recommendations from these women as well as my own favorites and customer reviews to round up the best vitamin C serums. Discover them all ahead.
Ghanem said she actually uses vitamin C in both her morning and nighttime routines. In the morning, she uses this holy grail brightening serum that combines 15% pure L-ascorbic acid and 1% alpha-tocopherol, plus ferulic acid for a super-antioxidant combination.
To really double down on achieving a glowy effect, try adding a chemical exfoliant like glycolic acid into your routine. This overnight cream uses 10% glycolic to promo cellular turnover, and, according to our editor reviews, reveals luminous skin and smaller pores after just one use.
"I've noticed that vitamin C helps my skin look younger, reduces my wrinkles, and makes my face look more radiant," 50-something Renata Jazdzyk shared. She uses this serum every morning and evening and says it makes her skin looks brighter, healthier, and less dull.
Tennille Murphy, a 40-something lifestyle influencer and founder of The Tennille Life, shared that she has mature, oily blemish-prone skin and looks to a vitamin C serum to counteract exposure to free radicals and environmental pollutants. "The sun is legit enemy number one to my aging skin," she told us. "Give me all the superheroes like a lovely vitamin C to fight against premature aging." In particular, she's currently obsessed with this Cocokind serum because it helps brighten any spots she gets from blemishes while the hyaluronic acid keeps her skin plump and hydrated.
While vitamin C serums will do the work to lift dark spots and reverse signs of UV damage, we absolutely recommend wearing SPF to protect your skin from future signs of photoaging. This sunscreen is the latest from Supergoop and has a pearlescent finish to leave skin luminous and instantly glowy.
To achieve a bright, glowy complexion, one serum can't do all the work in your skincare. It's just as important to use a physical exfoliant a few times a week to remove excess dirt and oil from the pores—two things that contribute to duller-looking skin. I'm a fan of this resurfacing mask that never fails to leave my skin brighter and clearer.
Another favorite of Jazdzyk's is this multitasking product that combines an all-day moisturizer, overnight repair cream, and serum base all in one. "This is a product that I cannot live without!" she proclaimed, continuing "I use it every morning. Usually leave it for a few minutes while getting ready. It leaves my skin softer, cleaner, and more radiant."
Keeping your routine as minimal as possible? The above emulsion is a great way to simplify multiple steps into one, and we'd add that this non-toxic cleanser is another great way to keep reaping the brightening benefits of vitamin C in a part of your routine you're already doing.
One over-40 Dermstore customer noted that she's a faithful user of SkinCeuticals CE Ferulic but was impressed with Sunday Riley's best-selling formula, noting, "It lasted me longer than I expected and I really liked the instant glow it provided to my skin. It is a nice creamy texture that I like during the colder months since it feels more moisturizing. It absorbs effortlessly into the skin and has a nice light citrus scent."
Another cult-favorite for brightening are these peel pads from Dr. Dennis Gross, which are convenient (and travel-friendly) peel pads that deliver a powerful combination of five anti-aging acids to visibly reduce dullness and uneven texture, pores, and dark spots.
If you're not already familiar with Caudalie's hero serum, it's time to get well-acquainted with the best-selling French formula. I could describe its miracle-working effects on my own skin, but I'll let my fellow Caudalie-obsessed editor Erin Jahns took the words right out of my mouth: "It makes my face look glowy, fresh, and more even. Over time, it also helps brighten my post-acne marks, which is what I originally sought out the product for. Be patient with results, though, as the marks won't fade right away. The serum's ingredient that helps with dark spots is called viniferine, which is derived from grapes."
I personally use the above serum and have noticed that when I prep my skin beforehand with the brand's essence, it reveals an even more luminous complexion than using the serum alone. So much so that when I first began using the two in conjunction, I noticed that people would go out of their way to compliment me on my skin.
Drunk Elephant's award-winning serum is packed with antioxidants, nutrients, and fruit enzymes to firm and brighten skin’s appearance and improve the signs of photoaging. But don't take it from us—let the 2000 Sephora reviews speak for themselves.
Have we hammered the idea into your mind yet of adding in important AHA's and BHA's to your brightening routine? I sure hope so, but just in case, we're highlighting this resurfacing compound which exfoliates dead surface skin and uses chickpea flour to balance, brighten, and combat dullness.
It doesn't get any better than this $29 Amazon serum set that's clinically proven to reduce dark spots, fine lines, and wrinkles. Combining the powers of vitamins C and E with hydrating hyaluronic acid, these two little bottles have earned hundreds of reviews and nearly five stars, which speaks for itself.
Like I mentioned earlier, exfoliating is another skincare step that can't be missed if you're aiming for glowy results, and this powerful overnight serum has won over our beauty editor Caitie Schlisserman, who can attest that it really does help with uneven skin tone, texture, and dullness.
This is one of Versed's founder (and WWW's very own CEO and Co-Founder) Katherine Power's top picks from the affordable and clean skincare line. "I love this serum for the results," she told us, "meaning I can actually see them. It evens out the texture of my skin, makes it smoother, and creates a healthy glow. I use it every morning after cleansing and before moisturizing. I apply about two drops to my face, pat it lightly into my skin, and let it dry for a few minutes before moving along to the rest of my routine."
I'm a big fan of this creamy serum, which helped me (finally) lift my stubborn post-acne marks. It's lightweight but hydrating enough that I can actually skip my moisturizer altogether on days when my skin isn't particularly dry or in need of anything more hydrating.
I like Glossier's gentler serum which combines vitamin C and magnesium (two things that your skin needs to maintain a healthy appearance). Unlike some brightening serums, this one smooths into my skin seamlessly without any stickiness to it.
When I started using Glossier's exfoliating solution, I noticed my skin transform in just a few weeks from bumpy, uneven, and just overall dull to smoother and clearer, so I'll always keep a bottle in my bathroom in case my skin starts acting up again.