One Serum to Rule Them All—Bye, Fine Lines, Hyperpigmentation, and Dullness

Imagine if you could smooth on a single serum to combat fine lines, dullness, and uneven skin tone. It might sound far-fetched, but vitamin C serum does all that and more.


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If you haven’t already added this superstar serum to your daily skincare routine, now is the time to get one for yourself. To help guide you on your vitamin C serum journey, I talked to top dermatologists to offer their best insight into the product, from what to look for when you’re shopping for one to how best to mix it into your routine.

What does vitamin C do for the skin?

Think of it as a dark-spot savior. "Vitamin C serum can help lighten discoloration and brighten the skin and is also a potent antioxidant that neutralizes harmful environmental insults (UV radiation, pollutants) to the skin,” says Julia Tzu, board-certified dermatologist at Wall Street Dermatology in Manhattan. 

The reason this antioxidant serum helps fade dark spots is because it is a "tyrosinase inhibitor, which inhibits melanin production to reduce dark spots and maintain an even complexion,” says Michelle Henry, founder of Skin & Aesthetic Surgery of Manhattan. This leads to an overall more even complexion.


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Josh Zeichner, fellow New York–based board-certified dermatologist at Mount Sinai, calls vitamin C serum an "insurance policy” for your sunscreen and recommends layering it under sunscreen every morning. Zeichner also explains that "vitamin C is an essential cofactor for the production of collagen, so it helps improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.”


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What should you look for when choosing a vitamin C serum?

While vitamin C is an extremely potent antioxidant, it’s also a fairly unstable ingredient by itself. This is why you need to be extra careful when choosing a vitamin C serum to add to your routine—the wrong one could be weak at best and ineffective at worst.

"Choose vitamin C serum packed in a dark or opaque container that can shield external light from biodegrading it,” says Tzu. "Fifteen percent is a good concentration that is effective but not too irritating.” Dark packaging helps prevent pure forms of vitamin C from oxidizing too quickly, which will turn it a dark amber color.


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When looking at the ingredient list, if you want a pure form of vitamin C, go for a vitamin C serum that utilizes L-ascorbic acid as the main form of vitamin C. "Known as the purest form of vitamin C, L-ascorbic acid helps neutralize free radicals, minimize the look of fine lines and wrinkles, and brighten skin tone,” says Mona Gohara, MD, associate clinical professor at Yale. 

If you have more sensitive skin or just want a more stable form of vitamin C, Zeichner recommends vitamin C esters instead of the pure form. "Vitamin C esters are an oil-soluble form, which tend to be less potentially irritating and more stable in cosmetic formulations,” he says. "Examples include sodium ascorbyl phosphate and THD ascorbate. Many are light stable and come in clear bottles.”


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Other vitamin C serums that Who What Wear editors swear by: 


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Associate Beauty Editor

Katie Berohn is the associate beauty editor at Who What Wear. Previously, she worked as the beauty assistant for Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and Prevention magazines, all part of the Hearst Lifestyle Group. She graduated from the University of Colorado, Boulder, with a major in journalism and minor in technology, arts, and media, and earned her master's degree at NYU's graduate program for magazine journalism. In addition, Katie has held editorial internships at Denver Life magazine, Yoga Journal, and Cosmopolitan; a digital editorial internship at New York magazine's The Cut; a social good fellowship at Mashable; and a freelance role at HelloGiggles. When she's not obsessing over the latest skincare launch or continuing her journey to smell every perfume on the planet, Katie can be found taking a hot yoga class, trying everything on the menu at New York's newest restaurant, or hanging out at a trendy wine bar with her friends.