9 Clean Vitamin C Serums, Products For Your Daytime Skincare Regimen
Updated: Oct 4, 2020
Vitamin C, please.
I recently learned the deets on skincare's most popular antioxidant, vitamin C, while interviewing experts for this FabFitFun article. The vitamin is recommended universally by dermatologists for brightening the complexion, improving hyper-pigmentation and acne scars/PIH, as well as amplifying your skin's defense against free radical damage. I've also read studies indicating that it aids with wound healing, promotes collagen production, and improves skin elasticity. It's particularly important to use in the daytime along with your SPF, enhancing the protective benefits.
In the words of celebrity facialist and skincare expert, Bella Schneider, "Vitamin C helps shield the skin from environmental stressors [like] sunlight and pollution while shedding dead skin cells and regenerating new cells." Beyond that, she adds that it also helps to improve the visible signs of aging, including fine lines, uneven texture, dullness, age spots, and more. One of my favorite forms of vitamin C—THD Ascorbate—lights up the complexion visibly; I always notice a difference. (Here's a fun experiment: I always tell people to apply two pumps of Sunday Riley C.E.O. serum, which uses the active, before bed if they want to wake up to see noticeable glow.)
But not all forms of vitamin C skincare products benefit the skin equally well. Things like oil- vs. water-solubility, stability, and delivery method all matter. Without using an expert formulation—one that considers factors down to the packaging (the unstable vitamin should be shielded from sunlight and air exposure)—ascorbic and l-ascorbic acid cannot provide your skin with the full, intended benefits. It's also important to note that the antioxidant can be irritating to the skin, which is why the formulation of a product—namely, the extracts, oils, or active ingredients that go along with it—are important.
Lastly, you'll notice that most of the serums below belong to a class of skincare called clean cosmeceuticals. These skincare products use lab-made chemicals, but formulate their blends without toxic ingredients. It's important to note that clean beauty isn't simply about using totally green formulas and earth-derived ingredients. A non-toxic skincare regimen can absolutely incorporate both.
Here are some enticing ways to incorporate vitamin C into your skincare regimens.
Every service at celebrity-beloved Joanna Vargas Spa begins with the celebrity esthetician's gentle cleanser. That means stars like Mindy Kaling, Rachel Brosnahan, and Elizabeth Moss have used the cleanser at the beginning of their treatments. For a little celebrity-approved DIY treatment from home, follow with the Rescue Serum and Dawn Face Mask.
This hand-crafted, micro-batched luxury skincare serum is a fun one as it contains the brand's signature blend of gemstones, including sapphire, diamond, amethyst, ruby, citrine, quartz, and tourmaline to enhance clarity and cellular absorption. The milky, blue-tinged serum contains an oil-soluble form of vitamin C from Japan (THD esters), amino acids, hyaluronic acid, minerals (including Magnesium), and peptides galore—like the smoothing Matrixyl 3000, collegan, and platinum peptides. Two other notable ingredients are the green tea extract (which contains beneficial catechins like EGCG) and royal jelly. There's a lot going on, but in a lavishly good way.
The luxury brand is free of parabens, phthalates, sulphates, detergents, mineral oil, petrolatum, palm oil, synthetic dyes, and gluten. It's also cruelty-free.
The U.K.-based founder of the Skin Design spa, Fatma Shaheen, created the luxury, clean alternative to the cult-favorite C E Ferulic serum by SkinCeuticals. She includes the same active ingredients—namely, vitamins C, E, and ferulic acid—as well as sodium hyaluronate (think: hyaluronic acid but deeper-reaching molecules), brightening nonapeptide, and ginseng root. The clean cosmeceutical skincare line is also vegan.
I just requested a sample of this vitamin C & E serum because I've been wanting to try it for so long. This is Rouleau's top-recommended treatment for acne scars, containing four different forms of vitamin C. The presence of vitamin E helps to ensure the antioxidant is stable and beneficial for the skin. I can't wait to start it.
This esthetician-created brightener contains three forms of vitamin C—10% THD Ascorbate, and 3% Magnesium Ascorbic Phosphate, and amla extract—as well as Niacinamide, another important hyperpigmentation-fighter. The formula evens tone with a combination of evidence-based cosmeceuticals with nature's discoloration-fishers, including bearberry, mulberry, and purple corn extracts. The serum is orange and smells like citrus fruit.
I just started using this Credo bestseller from the cult-favorite CBD skincare line, Saint Jane. The formula features 20% vitamin C from 3-glyceryl-ascorbate and the natural source, Kakadu plum oil, along with 500 MG CBD, ferulic acid, and essential oils. It appears like it would be oily, but absorbs easily to a velvety finish. The clean brand also takes part in Radical Fragrance Transparency, disclosing that the only sources of fragrance come from essential oil and natural sources.
Maelove makes an excellent, oil-free, affordable option containing the synergistic trio of vitamins (C, E, and Ferulic acid) with hyaluronic acid for plumpness and hydration. It is a watery, yellow texture that absorbs cleanly, reminiscent of the "holy grail" formula from SkinCeuticals.
This was recommended to me by Sara Spruch-Feiner, an accomplished beauty editor who just wrote a piece on vitamin C. THD Ascorbate is known for being one of the most stable forms of the antioxidant, and its brightening powers are enhanced by the incorporation of algae. Chlorella and Reishi are two adaptogenic mushrooms that soothe the skin, while squalane and moringa oils make up the base, countering the potential for irritation.
This is another affordable option that is worth a try—and is next on my list of vitamin C serums to sample. It is made with powerful actives that deliver: 18% THD Ascorbate that is stabilized by the presence of 1.9% vitamin E, while bakuchiol oil—nature's plant-based retinol-alternative—and Bisabolol (AKA vitamin B, or Panthenol) soothes, brightens, and imparts antimicrobial benefits, as well.
How about a clean foundation next?
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