The 13 Best Vitamin C Serums of 2023, Tested and Reviewed

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Our winner is a serum you can find at your local drugstore

People / Kristin Kempa
People / Kristin Kempa

Vitamin C is one of the most searched skincare ingredients on the ‘net. Rightfully so, given the number of products on the market and the numerous internet skincare gurus sharing their advice about the how-to’s of getting the most out of the antioxidant, given the fact the powerhouse ingredient actually yields visible results. These results aren't anecdotal. They're scientifically backed. Vitamin C is clinically proven to protect against free radical damage caused by pollution, sunlight, and even alcohol while effectively evening skin tone and promoting collagen production.

Even with all of the above mentioned, you may still have questions about selecting a vitamin C serum for your routine. Let's start with some expert-backed information about this ingredient. "Translated to real life, vitamin C is a workhorse for looking great," Christina Lee Chung, MD, FAAD, board-certified dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology Group in King of Prussia, tells PEOPLE.  However, to get benefits like improving wrinkles, evening out skin tone, and helping with skin sagging, Chung says consistency is key. So using vitamin C daily can be a game-changer for your skin.

Below you’ll find 13 serums that were PEOPLE Tested for six weeks and scored on attributes like ease of use, absorption, skin texture and glow, firming ability, overall look, and value.

Best Overall: L'Oreal Paris Revitalift Derm Intensives Vitamin C Face Serum


  • Just as effective as products that are double the price

  • Drastically improved our skin over two months

  • Tube shape allows you to get every last drop

  • Glides onto the skin easily and melts in without feeling sticky or weighed down


  • Not an immediate effect of vitamin C benefits, but over time, an amazing transformation

Drugstore products are competing with pricer options and becoming best in class. This fragrance-free anti-aging serum features 10 percent vitamin C, with over 3,000 users writing five-star reviews of the fast-absorbing, skin-mattifying formula after seeing visible results.

During our tests, we found that while the serum didn’t yield immediate results like other serums we tried, it offered longer-lasting results. Over the course of a few months, this L'Oreal serum drastically improved our tester's skin's radiance. “I've paid this much for other vitamin C serums that were half as effective, so I think this is a great price for this product," she said.

On top of that, this serum melted into our skin without any stickiness or added weight and had an immediate glowing and smoothing effect. Plus, unlike pump containers, the L'Oreal Revitalift tube shape prevents you from wasting any serum because you can squeeze every last drop out of this affordable product.

Price at time of publish: $18.25 (orig. 32.99)

Size: 1 oz. | Star ingredients: 10% vitamin C, hyaluronic acid, and retinol

Best Budget: Yes To Grapefruit Daily Brightening Serum


  • We saw immediate skin-brightening results

  • Formulated with over 95% natural ingredients

  • Only $15, which is a great value


  • It has a grapefruit fragrance, which may not be for everyone

Priced under $20, this brightening serum boasts PHAs that gently exfoliate and vitamin C to brighten. Additionally, the budget-friendly formula is made with over 95 percent natural ingredients sans parabens, SLS, and silicones. This serum was the highest-rated option under $20 with a rating of 4.8, and in our testing, we saw results in just a few days.

This Yes to Grapefruit vitamin C serum was refreshing, not greasy or sticky, and it imparted a subtle glow upon application. This particular serum can be used morning or night, but we prefer to use it in the morning for the light grapefruit scent and instant skin-brightening boost. However, if you prefer non-scented serums, you should opt for another pick on our list.

Price at time of publish: $14.99

Size: 0.95 oz. | Star ingredients: Vitamin C and 5% polyhydroxy acids

Best Investment: SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic


  • Improves skin while also brightening

  • Remains effective for a minimum of 72 hours

  • Works well with other skincare products that might already be in your routine

  • Doesn't leave a sticky residue

  • Immediate glowing and smoothing effects


  • Very pricey but worth the investment

  • Odd sour-like scent upon application

If you ask anyone serious about their skincare routine, it's a very likely possibility this is — or has been — in their rotation as it is the gold standard of vitamin C serums. Why you ask? Firstly, the science and clinical testing behind the brand's products: In this serum's cases, it's patented and clinically proven to reduce combined oxidative damage from free radicals generated by UV, Ozone, and diesel exhaust by up to 41 percent. Additionally, the serum improves signs of photodamage, lines, and wrinkles while brightening the skin and even fading dark spots. Though this didn’t earn our highest score — it was close at 4.8 — we found that this product is worth the hype. Not only is it brightening and glowifying, but it smoothes fine lines and texture on our skin.

We do want to call out that our tester, who has used vitamin C daily in her morning routine for eight years, wasn’t expecting a notable difference. However, they were pleasantly surprised: “I ended up seeing a difference in the texture of my skin and fine lines during this six-week test. Everything is a bit smoother and softer — this is the only product/step that changed.” One other thing we noticed about this product: the odor. It has what might be described as a sour scent, akin to the smell of a hot dog.

Price at time of publish: $182

Size: 1 oz. | Star ingredients: 15% pure vitamin C (L-Ascorbic Acid), 1% Vitamin E, and 0.5% Ferulic Acid

Best Smoothing: CeraVe Skin Renewing Vitamin C Serum


  • Under $30

  • Formula is lightweight and easy to apply

  • Reduction in post-breakout hyperpigmentation

  • Reduction in fine lines, especially around the mouth


  • Packaging is great for keeping the product stable, but tricky to open

Drugstore products may offer more budget-conscious prices, but that doesn’t mean they’re any less effective. For sensitive or breakout-prone skin, this dermatologist-developed, allergy-tested, non-comedogenic formula has all the necessities that lead to healthier, brighter skin, including 10% L-ascorbic acid, hyaluronic acid, skin barrier-protecting ceramides, and soothing vitamin B5.

Our tester absolutely loved this product and said she will continue to use it at home until she uses the very last drop. She did note that the packaging can be tricky because while it's securely packaged for delivery, there are a few steps to opening the cap that took a second to figure out. But her acne-prone skin with post-breakout hyperpigmentation saw a reduction in the appearance of those spots while the formula felt light on the skin. She even noticed a reduction in fine lines around her mouth area.

Price at time of publish: $27.49

Size: 1 oz. | Star ingredients: 10% pure vitamin C (L-Ascorbic Acid), ceramides, hyaluronic acid, and vitamin B5

Best for Mature Skin: KLUR Brilliant Light Multi-Correctional Repair Serum


  • Absorbs into the skin quickly and works well with other skincare products you may already own

  • Our 63-year-old tester said it had a firming effect

  • Felt hydrating and smoothing upon application


  • On the expensive side, but a little bit goes a long way, so we think the price is justified

Formulated with a blend of 20 percent bioavailable vitamin C in tandem with a skin-strengthening and calming complex of plant extracts to help even skin tone sans unwanted irritation, this clean formula absorbs in seconds and, for some skin types, even helps control excess oil production.

We found the Klur vitamin C serum to be super hydrating and smoothing upon application, and it was easily incorporated into our daily skincare routine. Plus, our tester noted that her 63-year-old skin felt firmer over time. It's expensive, but a little bit goes a long way, so we think you'll get your money's worth.

Price at time of publish: $88

Size: 1 oz. | Star ingredients: 20% bioavailable vitamin C

Best for Dark Spots: Goodal Green Tangerine Vitamin C Dark Spot Serum+


  • Under $30

  • Has skin barrier-protecting and collagen-boosting ingredients like Centella Asiatica (Tiger Grass)

  • Our skin felt healthier, brighter and dark spots dissapated after just a few days


  • Has tangerine fragrance, which might not be for everyone

Finding the right vitamin C to fade dark spots can take a lot of trial and error. (And we all know that can get expensive.) However, this $27 dark spot serum is relatively budget-friendly and is packed with a powerful blend of 70 percent fresh green tangerine extract (an ingredient that offers 10x more vitamin C than lemons), 4 percent niacinamide, and arbutin that helps improve dark spots and post-acne hyperpigmentation.

We saw a difference in the texture of our skin after just a few days of use, a visible improvement in skin tone, and a reduction of dark spots. Our skin felt healthier, brighter, and clearer after just a few days, and we think this is an absolute steal at $27.

Price at time of publish: $27

Size: 1.01 oz. | Star ingredients: vitamin C, niacinamide, and arbutin

Best for Clogged Pores: iNNBEAUTY PROJECT Green Machine Vitamin C + Green Superfoods Jelly Serum


  • While it didn't stop acne from occurring, it dissipated flare-ups quickly

  • For every product sold, INNBeauty Project funds the removal of two units of plastic from landfills, waterways, and marine environments

  • Feels like a lush smoothie for your face


  • The formula might not be a favorite if you don't love oil, even in a hybrid form

If you're an oil lover or somewhere in between, a serum-oil hybrid feels like an ideal match. This particular one is infused with 15 super greens, vitamin C, azelaic acid, and 250,000 pomegranate stem cells alongside non-comedogenic hemp, quinoa, and chia oils. It's like a lush smoothie for your face that won't clog pores— though our tester shared the formula didn't completely stop acne from occurring. However, the serum did help acne flare-ups dissipate more quickly than before adding this product to their routine. If you try to avoid oil-based products, this one might not be for you.

Price at time of publish: $34

Size: 1 oz. | Star ingredients: Vitamin C (Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate), 15 super-greens complex, and pomegranate stem cells

Best for Dry Skin: Sephora Collection Ultra Glow Serum: Glow + Strengthen Vitamin C Serum


  • Bright and dewy results in just a few weeks

  • $20 price point

  • Formulated with 97% ingredients naturally sourced

  • One of the products that produced the biggest impact during testing


  • Not ideal for oily skin types

  • Packaged in a glass bottle, which some may prefer and some may not

If natural ingredients are your jam, we have some good news. This fast-absorbing serum is made with 97 percent naturally sourced ingredients, including natural forms of vitamins C and E alongside peptides derived from marine algae that firm and hydrate to combat and smooth wrinkles.

In testing, we saw brighter, dewier, and healthier skin in just a few weeks. Of all the serums we tested, this one definitely had a "wow" factor, and our tester felt that her skin looked younger after using this product for a few months. However, if you have oily skin, this might not be the best serum for you, and it's packaged in a glass bottle, which made our tester a little nervous that she might shatter it at any moment. But from our standpoint, $20 for a vast skin improvement from a non-plastic bottle is a fantastic deal.

Price at time of publish: $20

Size: 1.01 oz. | Star ingredients: Vitamin C, vitamin E, and natural peptides from marine algae

Best for Daytime: Drunk Elephant C-Firma Fresh Vitamin C Day Serum


  • Resulted in softer, plumper, and reduced breakouts during testing

  • Proven to maintain nearly 95% of active Vitamin C for one year after mixing

  • Our skin was noticeably more glowy, smoothing, and bright after one month of regular use


  • It might not be an ideal starter serum for anyone new to vitamin C

  • Pricey and comes with an odd smell (that quickly fades, but it's worth noting)

This OG serum is still holding up to its hype. The brand's proprietary C-Firma is designed to be mixed by you before its first use. This helps maximize potency and keep the antioxidant complex of the L-ascorbic and ferulic acids fresh; each bottle is proven to maintain almost 95 percent efficacy up to one year after mixing.

As for real-world results, we found that our skin was softer and plumper by the end of the six weeks, and our monthly chin breakouts were significantly reduced. One of our testers even started receiving compliments on her skin and said after three to four weeks of use, she'd catch herself in the mirror and think, "Wow, my skin looks so bright and smooth!" That self-confidence boost helps justify the price tag. However, this Drunk Elephant serum has a 15 percent vitamin C concentration, so if you're just starting out with a vitamin C step in your skincare routine, it's better to start with a 10 percent concentration. Also, one of our testers noted an odd smell upon application but said it quickly faded.

Price at time of publish: $78

Size: 1 oz. | Star ingredients: Vitamin C (15% L-ascorbic acid), ferulic acid, and vitamin E

Related:The 12 Best Drunk Elephant Products of 2023

Best Scent: Olay Vitamin C Peptide 24 Serum


  • Has an immediate glowing effect and our skin felt very refreshed even hours after application

  • $30 price point

  • Resulted in visible hydration and brightening


  • This may not be for you if you don't enjoy citrus-based scented products

Olay is a skincare staple. If scent is a vital factor in your skin products, you'll love that this serum wakes up your senses and brightens the skin. Formulated with vitamin C, skin barrier protecting niacinamide, and hydrating peptides, the citrus-scented formula is clinically proven to help skin look visibly more hydrated in one day and brighter after one month.

We loved that this serum resulted in visible hydration and brightening effects and even after several hours, our skin felt refreshed. It had an immediate glowing effect, but it faded within an hour, so if glowing skin isn't your top priority, but feeling refreshed and hydrated is, this is a great value pick. We absolutely love the scent but realize it may not be for everyone, especially those with fragrance sensitivities.

Price at time of publish: $29.99

Size: 1.3 oz. | Star ingredients: Vitamin C and peptides

Best for Acne-Prone Skin: TruSkin Vitamin C Facial Serum


  • 90-day money-back guarantee

  • Absorbed in just 30 seconds

  • Hydrating enough to use on combination skin as the sole moisturizer

  • Skin remained bright and glowing after 12 hours


  • Unsure of vitamin C percentage

Looking for a new vitamin C serum but don't want to waste your money on one that doesn't work for you? Well, this botanical hyaluronic acid, vitamin E, aloe vera, jojoba oil, and MSM (an anti-inflammatory ingredient) infused serum is backed by a 90-day money-back guarantee.

In testing, we found that this serum absorbed in just 30 seconds and was hydrating enough to use on combination skin without the need for any additional moisturizer. One of our testers said she started receiving compliments on her skin's complexion and credits that to this product. "I'm way more confident in stepping outside without any makeup. I took a selfie after flying on a 13-hour flight and my bare skin still looked bright and glowy," she adds.

Price at time of publish: $21.97

Size: 1 oz. | Star ingredients: Vitamin C, vitamin E, and hyaluronic acid

Best for Dull Skin: Biossance Squalane + Vitamin C Rose Firming Oil


  • Absorbed quickly and didn't leave behind a greasy residue

  • Great for dull skin, but it's also just a great serum that could work for a variety of skin types

  • Plumping effect gave an overall refreshed look


  • Expensive, but from our experience, we think it's worth it

If your skin is feeling and looking a little meh, this luxe oil infused with Damascus rose oil, brightening vitamin C, and radiance-boosting chios crystal oil tag team to provide hydration while brightening and improving firmness. Applying oil to your skin might feel like it goes against everything you learned about skincare. However, squalane soaks right into the skin and is usually well tolerated by most skin types, including oily and combination skin.

In testing, we found that even testers with naturally oily skin loved this product, saying that the oil absorbed surprisingly well and never felt greasy post-application. The glow of this serum is excellent at combating dull skin, and one of our testers said she'd received so many compliments on her skin since incorporating this product into her daily routine. It also made our skin extra plump, as if we'd just gotten a great night's sleep.

Price at time of publish: $74

Size: 1.01 oz. | Star ingredients: Damascus rose oil, vitamin C, and chios crystal oil

Best Hydrating: OLEHENRIKSEN Banana Bright 15% Vitamin C Serum


  • Hyaluronic acid is included in the formula, so you can save time by cutting that step in your skincare routine

  • High concentration of vitamin C

  • Offers gentle exfoliation while improving skin elasticity and evening skin tone


  • High concentration can irritate sensitive skin

With this 15 percent vitamin C-infused serum, you won't need to layer hyaluronic acid because it's already in this formula, which is a plus if you're an impatient skincare applicator. The serum is a trifecta of powerhouse ingredients — vitamin C, exfoliating acids, and banana-powder-inspired pigments — that improve skin elasticity, evens skin tone, and combats pollution.

We love that this serum has such a hydrating effect that we can make it through a full day of Zoom calls while still looking dewy. It made our skin glowy, hydrated, and refreshed, and we loved the slight scent. It has a 15 percent vitamin C concentration, so if you're new to vitamin C or have sensitive skin, you may want to opt for a 10 percent concentration.

Price at time of publish: $71

Size: 1 oz. | Star ingredients: 15% Vitamin C (Ethyl Ascorbic Acid), PHAs, and hyaluronic acid

Things to Consider Before Buying Vitamin C Serum

Concentration Level and Skin Type

Most everyone can benefit from layering vitamin C into their routine. However, if your skin is reactive or sensitive, Chung says to avoid high-concentration formulas as they may cause irritation. So what exactly is a high dose? Formulas with 15-20 percent vitamin C are considered a higher dose. So, stick with a 10 percent concentration if this is your first experience with the antioxidant or if you have more reactive skin. You can always work your way up. Our top pick, L'Oreal Revitalift Vitamin C Serum, has a 10 percent vitamin C concentration.

Other Ingredients

Vitamin C is usually thoughtfully formulated with complementary ingredients. The reason for this? "Vitamin C products often need oiler vehicles to maintain stability," Chung tells PEOPLE. However, she notes this can be problematic for some skin types (think: acne-prone skin). But luckily, brand founders and chemists are considering a range of skincare needs. So if you are acne-prone, seek formulas with squalane and rosehip oils, as they are non-comedogenic.

And as far as the actual vitamin C goes, Chung recommends products that use L-ascorbic acid as its active ingredient, preferably with vitamin E, for the best stability. This is because L-ascorbic acid is the most potent and effective form of vitamin C. Our best daytime serum, Drunk Elephant C-Firma Fresh Vitamin C Day Serum, contains both L-ascorbic acid and vitamin E.

Retinol Products

When should you apply vitamin C serum? That depends on what other products you’re using as well as your skin sensitivity level. Chung recommends her patients use Vitamin C in the morning. However, she tells us it can be applied at night with another skincare must-have: retinol.

"If I'm going to use either retinol or Vitamin C, I'll take retinol," she shares. However, Chung does note this pairing can be a dynamic duo that gets you a little more bang for your buck if your skin isn't prone to irritation. "Retinol is your gold standard for increasing collagen and improving the turnover of skin cells while Vitamin C acts as a supporting cast," she explains. Prone to irritation? No problem. Instead, stick with vitamin C for the daytime and retinol at night. 

Related:This Under-the-Radar Retinol Serum Gives Me Glowing 'Vacation Skin' — and It's On Sale

How We Tested Vitamin C Serums

To find the best vitamin C serums on the market, our team used them over a period of six weeks. We tested 32 vitamin C serums altogether on a variety of different skin types. Of the 32 serums tested, seven earned a 4.6 or above, and the ratings ranged from a 2 to a 4.9.

We rated each serum on ease of application and absorption. Then we noted how it interacted with our skin texture and whether it produced a glow or had firming capabilities. We then gave it a general rating based on the overall look of the applied vitamin C serum. Finally, the prices were revealed and we compared the retail price against the quality of the product to get our value rating. All in all, we selected 13 vitamin C serums we feel confident would work well for a variety of people.

Frequently Asked Questions

How often should I use vitamin C?

Darden says a slow start is best if you're starting a vitamin C serum for the first time or adding a new vitamin C serum you haven't tried. "Vitamin C is a very active ingredient, and it can cause irritation," she explains. "Introducing it slowly will allow time for your skin to acclimate to the product without causing any irritation. Additionally, adding the product in slowly and by itself will make it easier to pinpoint how well it works for your skin. If you're adding in too many products at the same time, it can make it difficult to understand whether or not a product is working."

So, how and when should I use vitamin C serum?

Learning how to layer products and when to use them is a science, but once you get your routine down, it’s super simple. Chung encourages her patients to use vitamin C serum in the morning, but you can also apply it at night with a retinol. If your skin isn’t prone to sensitivity, the combination of vitamin C and retinol may give you faster results. In you are susceptible to irritation, use a vitamin C serum in the morning and a retinol at night.

There is one must when using vitamin C (and caring for your skin in general): SPF. "I recommend using vitamin C every morning before sunscreen," Los Angeles-based celebrity esthetician Shani Darden tells PEOPLE. "During the day, you want to protect your skin while you're out and exposed to environmental stressors. The combo of vitamin C serum and sunscreen is perfect for daytime protection." Among her favorite vitamin C-infused serums is iS Clinical Pro-Heal Serum. She notes it's an efficacious yet nourishing serum formulated with L-Ascorbic acid, a pure and potent form of vitamin C. It is also usually well-tolerated by most skin types, including those with sensitive skin.

Why Trust PEOPLE?

Bianca Lambert is a freelance writer for PEOPLE and is also a contributing writer for Byrdie, specializing in natural hair and skincare. She has worked as a freelance beauty and travel writer for over four years and has an extensive knowledge of beauty ingredients and how they affect your skin, hair, and face. For this article, she consulted our testing results and interviewed Christina Lee Chung, MD, FAAD, board-certified dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology Group, and Los Angeles-based celebrity esthetician Shani Darden.

What Is People Tested?

We created the PEOPLE Tested seal of approval to help you find the very best products for your life. We use our unique methodology to test products in three labs across the country and with our network of home testers to determine their effectiveness, durability, ease of use, and so much more. Based on the results, we rate and recommend products so you can find the right one for your needs.

But we don’t stop there: We also regularly re-review the categories in which we’ve awarded the PEOPLE Tested seal of approval — because the best product of today might not be the best of tomorrow. And by the way, companies can never buy our recommendation: Their products must earn it, fair and square.

In short, PEOPLE Tested provides recommendations you can trust — every day, every purchase.

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