The 28 Best Vitamin C Serums to Obsess Over

Get that glow, guaranteed.

skincare products
(Image credit: Jonathan Storey)

Spend more than three minutes talking to any dermatologist, and they’ll inevitably start raving about three things: 1. Wearing sunscreen every single day until the moment you die, 2. How Accutane is an actual miracle drug, and 3. Why everyone should be slathering vitamin C serums on their face every single morning. Because unlike retinol (the other constantly derm-endorsed skincare product), which can cause irritation and flakiness in the majority of people for the first month, vitamin C is a skin-perfecting ingredient that’s tolerated by almost all skin types.

What are the benefits of vitamin C for your skin?

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“I’m obsessed with vitamin C,” says Mona Gohara, MD, associate clinical professor at Yale. “It’s cosmetically elegant, it rarely irritates the skin, it doesn’t interact with other topicals, and it makes everyone look really, really good,” she says. But lest you think this is just some dumb, one-off, ineffectual trend, rest assured that vitamin C kicks ass on pretty much every (skin) level possible.

How do vitamin C serums work?

“Vitamin C is one of the most powerful antioxidants available to treat the skin,” says Joshua Zeichner, MD, director of cosmetic and clinical research at Mount Sinai Hospital, adding that it “acts like a fire extinguisher to put out the inflammation and damage caused by free radicals.” It's most commonly and easily applied in serum form so it can sink into your skin to shield it from damage, smooth bumps and rough patches, reduce fine lines by stimulating collagen production, and even fade acne scars and dark marks.

“Vitamin C does a great job of lightening the discoloration, especially on my skin of color patients who want to lighten their dark spots without ‘bleaching’ their skin, which can happen with products like hydroquinone,” says Tobechi Ebede, MD, clinical assistant professor in dermatology at Cornell.

How should I use vitamin C serums?

“I prefer pure L-ascorbic acid in strengths of 15 to 20 percent strengths, and I recommend using a serum instead of a cream, since my skin of color patients find the creams leave behind a white film, whereas the serums absorb quickly and can be used under your moisturizer,” Ebede adds.

Either way, though, unless you’ve got ultra-sensitive, ultra-reactive skin (lookin’ at you, rosacea peeps), you should be adding some vitamin C to your skincare routine, stat. Just massage a few drops of the serum over clean, dry skin in the morning, wait a minute for it to sink in, then apply your moisturizer, sunscreen, and makeup, like usual. It’s not an overnight miracle worker, but derms agree that you’ll start to notice a difference in your skin’s appearance within a few weeks of consistent use. Which is almost the same as instant gratification, right? Right.

Taylore  Glynn

Taylore Glynn is the Beauty and Health Editor at Marie Claire, covering skincare, makeup, fragrance, wellness, and more. If you need her, she’s probably roasting a chicken, flying solo at the movies, or drinking a bad Negroni at JFK.