By now, most of us are using some form of vitamin C in our skincare routine. If you're not yet, you may be missing out on some serious benefits like antioxidant protection, reduced fine lines, and an overall brighter complexion. However, we also recognize that ultra sensitive skin may not take well to a hyper-concentrated vitamin c serum.
If you fall into the latter category, look no further. We hunted down the best derm-approved vitamin C serums for sensitive skin and picked the brains of professionals for insight on what ingredients to look out for (and avoid), especially if you have a condition like rosacea. Keep scrolling for the best vitamin C serums for sensitive skin, backed by dermatologists.
What Types of Vitamin C Should You Prioritize If You Have Sensitive Skin?
For starters, the concentration of your vitamin C serum is key, especially if you have sensitive skin. According to Dr. Marisa Garshick, a board-certified dermatologist located in New York City, choosing a serum that's too highly concentrated can cause irritation. "It's best to stick with vitamin C serums that contain L-ascorbic acid between 10-20%," she shares. "If you're sensitive, it's best to start with a concentration of 8-10% and increase if needed."
Going for a lower concentration isn't the only option, either. There are other forms of vitamin C, like magnesium ascorbyl phosphate, that can be just as beneficial for delicate skin types. MAP is water-soluble and oil-loving so it more deeply penetrates the skin. This also makes it less irritating and easier on a sensitive visage. Another important factor to consider when buying the right vitamin c serum for your skin? The product's pH level. "Those with sensitive skin may prefer a vitamin C with a pH that more closely mimics the skin’s natural pH," says Garshick. "Often vitamin C products are formulated to have a low pH to help with stability, but the lower pH can be irritating, so remember this if you have sensitive skin."
Additionally, some vitamin c serums are formulated with other ingredients. This can be either a win or an L if you're prone to sensitivities. Garshick reports that moisturizing and soothing agents like niacinamide or hyaluronic acid combine well with vitamin C in this case. "These [ingredients] contain other antioxidants which may help to stabilize and boost results."
What Should You Avoid?
On the other hand, there are a few things you should avoid when choosing a vitamin c serum for touchy skin. Dr. Kaveri Karhade, a board-certified dermatologist located in the San Francisco Bay Area, suggests steering clear of other active ingredients like BHAs, AHAs, and retinol. Adding any of these to the mix may cause a precarious complexion to teeter on the edge of irritation. Garshick also adds that salicylic acid may not pair well with vitamin C either for sensitive skin. Generally, the consensus is that most other acids should be avoided with it.
The good news is, if you have a skin condition like rosacea, Karhade considers vitamin C a great addition to your routine. As long as you use a gentle formulation, the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties can be highly beneficial. Shop the best derm-approved serums below.
The Best Vitamin C Serums for Sensitive Skin:
1. Skinbetter Science Alto Defense Serum
This is a recommendation from Garshick that combines vitamin C, vitamin E and 17 other antioxidants to help protect the skin against free radical damage. "[Free radical damage can] lead to signs of aging including discoloration, fine lines, wrinkles and collagen breakdown. It also helps to protect the skin against blue light and pollution."
2. Wander Beauty Sight C-er Vitamin C Concentrate
Garshick loves this multi-tasking vitamin C concentrate because it also contains niacinamide and kakadu plum (a potent antioxidant). It's also packed with hyaluronic acid and squalane, which improve overall tone and texture, while brightening, hydrating, and improving fine lines.
3. CeraVe Vitamin C Serum With Hyaluronic Acid
Garshick says this is one of the best drugstore options around for those with sensitive skin. It contains 10% ascorbic acid, ceramides to support the skin barrier, and hyaluronic acid to boost hydration.
4. Vichy LiftActiv Vitamin C Brightening Skin Corrector
This is another top pick for Garshick because it combines 15% L-ascorbic acid with hyaluronic acid to help boost moisture and hydrate the skin. It's also fragrance-free and paraben-free, making it a great option for those with sensitivities.
5. SkinCeuticals Phloretin CF
For Karhade, this is a great pick for those who err on the side of sensitive and oily. It also contains ferulic acid, a plant-based antioxidant that neutralizes free radicals.
6. SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic
Karhade also recommends this cult-favorite vitamin C serum for those with dry, sensitive skin.
7. L'Oreal Paris Revitalift Derm Intensives Vitamin C Serum
L'Oreal tops Karhade's list for best drugstore brands. This 10% vitamin C serum is on the gentler side, but still gets the job done.
8. TruSkin Naturals Vitamin C Serum
Top-rated and highly revered on Amazon is TruSkin Naturals' vitamin C serum. It contains other soothing ingredients like aloe vera and jojoba oil, making it a great option for those with delicate skin.
9. Osea Hyaluronic Sea Serum
This deeply hydrating serum contains a synergy of three molecular weights of hyaluronic acid and three nutrient-rich seaweeds. They work together to restore and maintain optimal moisture levels, keeping your skin hydrated all day long.
10. Obagi Medical Professional-C Serum 15%
Another favorite of Karhade's, this Obagi serum is suitable for all skin types and penetrates deeply into the skin.
11. Artnaturals Anti-Aging Vitamin C Serum
Hyaluronic acid and vitamin E are additional ingredients in this serum that really suit sensitive complexions. It does, however, contain 20% vitamin C so keep that in mind if your skin has an extra low tolerance.
12. Mario Badescu Vitamin C Serum
This gentle but powerful serum also contains collagen and hyaluronic acid for a youthful boost.
13. Summer Fridays CC Me Vitamin C Serum
The addition of squalane and a peptide complex make this vitamin C serum well worth your time if you have sensitive skin.
14. La Roche-Posay Pure Vitamin C Face Serum
This 10% serum is another small but mighty option that leaves skin feeling soft and fully moisturized. It also soothes skin with mineral-rich La-Roche Posay Thermal Spring Water.
15. Sunday Riley C.E.O. Glow Vitamin C + Turmeric Face Oil
Sunday Riley's C.E.O. Glow earns a spot for its other hydrating oils like jojoba and evening primrose in addition to vitamin C. A little turmeric never hurt anyone, either.