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.



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.”



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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The best dermatologist-recommended vitamin C serums:

“Bliss Bright Idea serum contains a stabilized form of vitamin C, along with a specialized peptide to protect and strengthen the skin,” says Zeichner.

"I love Obagi Medical's Professional-C Serum 20% because it has a super-concentrated formula, packed with 20% L-ascorbic acid," says Gohara. 

"I often recommend the three-in-one formula Isdin Melatonik Overnight Recovery Serum, which contains melatonin, bakuchiol, and vitamin C to help restore vitality and elasticity, for radiant, healthy skin," explains Henry. "The melatonin and vitamin C work together to repair skin from UV damage and environmental stress as well as stimulate the skin's own antioxidant defenses to help the skin prepare for the colder months."

"Of the vitamin C serums I've tried, I feel that [this one is] particularly wonderful for brightening the complexion," says Tzu.

"Rodan + Fields's Reverse Tone Correcting Treatment is one of the few serums that break the rules and actually combine vitamin C and a retinoid in a single, stable product," explains Zeichner. "The formula helps brighten the skin by both blocking abnormal pigment production and enhancing cell turnover to shed darkly pigmented cells."

Tzu also recommends this vitamin C serum for skin brightening skin and lightening dark spots. 

"For combination skin, I recommend Isdin Flavo-C Ultraglican because the serum contains vitamin C, UltraGlycans, a combination of proteins and peptides that help make the skin feel firmer, and hyaluronic acid to plump skin and add lasting hydration," says Deanne Mraz Robinson, MD, FAAD. "The serum comes in a single-dose glass ampoule to guarantee vitamin C stability, maximum freshness, and potency. The serum targets multiple skincare concerns, making it great for every day use."

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