Apparently You Can Wear Retinol During the Day—But There Are Rules, People

But you’ll get more bang for your buck at night, tbh.

We all know the basics of a healthy skincare routine: cleanser, moisturizer, and SPF. Now, further products can be incorporated for a more extensive routine with additional benefits and that treat specific issues. (i.e., eye cream for dark circles or a hydrating serum for replenishing moisture.) Beyond skincare products, though, are the ingredients that fuel them. There’s retinol for anti-aging, salicylic acid for keeping blemishes at bay, and hyaluronic acid for hydrating—but we’re here to talk about what vitamin C skincare products and what the powerful antioxidant can do for your skin.

Vitamin C is popularly known for its brightening effects, but this potent ingredient does more than give your skin megawatt shine. As such, it’s been prominently featured in virtually almost every skincare brand’s assortment and is part of millions of skincare routines. But every skincare ingredient has its caveats. Vitamin C isn’t always formulated the same way and there are multiple types of vitamin C used in products. So before you purchase vitamin C skincare, it’s important to know what to look for.

Below, we spoke to three skincare experts on everything there is to know about vitamin C skincare—from the different forms of vitamin C on the market to the benefits and potential side effects of using it. Plus, keep scrolling to find 14 of the best vitamin C skincare products that’ll take your skin to the next level.

The best vitamin C skincare products, at a glance:

What is vitamin C?

Many of you likely grew up being told to drink their orange juice to get a healthy dose of vitamin C, and while it’s certainly healthy to drink the antioxidant to boost cell function in the body, it’s a little different when we talk about it through the lens of skincare.

As a powerful antioxidant, vitamin C acts to protect the skin from free radicals. It’s commonly found in fruits and vegetables, but most of the vitamin C used in skincare products is created synthetically to ensure optimal safety and stability.

Shop 14 of the best vitamin C skincare products

skinceuticals silymarin cf, one of the best vitamin c skincare products

Best for oily skin: SkinCeuticals, Silymarin CF — $182.00

Keep blemishes at bay while boosting radiance with this oil-free formula. It uses 15 percent l-ascorbic acid in tandem with salicylic acid, a beta-hydroxy acid known to smooth out uneven texture and both treat and prevent acne. It also blends silymarin, a plant-derived milk thistle that prevents oxidation, with ferulic acid to keep the vitamin C stable so you can use it longer with effective results. 

Size: 1oz

Key ingredients: 15% l-ascorbic acid (vitamin C), salicylic acid, silymarin, ferulic acid


  • One of the more potent options on this list
  • Contains ferulic acid to enhance and stabilize vitamin C
  • Short ingredient list


  • Pricey option

bliss vitamin c serum, one of the best vitamin c skincare products

Best budget-friendly serum: Bliss, Bright Idea Vitamin C + Tri Peptide Serum — $22.00

This fast-absorbing vitamin C marries the brightening ingredient with collagen-boosting peptides for a youthful glow. Apart from effectively boosting radiance, this formula is also vegan, cruelty-free, and non-comedogenic, which means it won’t clog your pores.

Size: 1oz

Key ingredients: Peptides, licorice root extract, 3-O-ethyl ascorbic acid (vitamin C)


  • Budget friendly price
  • Tri-peptides boost collagen


  • Formula includes fragrance, which may irritate sensitive skin types

skin better alto defense serum, one of the best vitamin c skincare products

Best luxury serum: SkinBetter, Alto Defense Serum — $165.00

Dr. Mraz touts this award-winning pick as one of her favorites, and for good reason. “The serum defends against free radicals and the visible effects of skin aging from the environment, including UV light, blue light, and pollution,” she begins. “Vitamin C sits alongside vitamin E and 17 other antioxidants to address skin vitality, the appearance of skin tone, texture, and pigmentation.” 

Size: 1oz

Key ingredients: Coffee, licorice extract, vitamins C&E, superfood extracts (acai, turmeric, green tea, and more)


  • Dermatologist recommended
  • Antioxidants from vitamins and superfoods


  • Pricier pick

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cerave vitamin c serum, one of the best vitamin c skincare products

Best for sensitive skin: CeraVe, Skin Renewing Vitamin C Serum — $30.00

CeraVe is known for its ceramide-rich formulas that help replenish the skin barrier and are suitable for even super-sensitive skin—and this vitamin C serum is no different. It uses 10 percent l-ascorbic acid to brighten without pushing the limits of sensitive skin types, and blends it with three different types of ceramides to restore, moisturize, and protect your complexion. 

Size: 1oz

Key ingredients: 10% l-ascorbic acid (vitamin C), glycerin, ceramides


  • Budget-friendly and widely accessible
  • Fragrance free, good for sensitive skin types


  • No natural or botanical ingredients

Best for dry skin: Odacité, Vitamin C & E + Hyaluronic Acid Brightening Serum — $78.00

Keep skin bright and plump by combining two of the most popular skincare ingredients on the market: vitamin C and hyaluronic acid. The two pair beautifully together to deliver high-performing and quick results, so this serum will have your skin looking healthier in no time. Plus, this product also has the Credo clean beauty seal of approval, meaning it uses the cleanest of ingredients that are good for your skin and the planet. 

Size: 1oz

Key ingredients: Vitamins C&E, hyaluronic acid, squalane, orange blossom water


  • Super hydrating formula (thanks to squalane and hyaluronic acid)
  • Made with botanical ingredients


  • Some folks experienced pilling (may depend on the other products you’re layering with)

matter of fact vitamin c serum, one of the best vitamin c skincare products

Best for anti-aging: Matter of Fact, Brightening and Firming Serum — $92.00

This serum uses waterless vitamin C with 20 percent fully dissolved and stable l-ascorbic acid, and is clinically proven to brighten and firm the skin in 12 weeks. Blended with ferulic acid and a maritime pine complex, it’s also clinically proven to improve skin firmness and elasticity while reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. 

Size: 1oz

Key ingredients: 20% l-ascorbic acid (vitamin C), ferulic acid, pine bark extract (maritime pine complex)


  • Potent formula (20% vitamin C)
  • Pine bark extract helps protect skin against pollution
  • Short ingredient list


  • Moderately pricey

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BeautyStat Universal C Refiner, one of the best vitamin c skincare products

Best for evening skin texture: BeautyStat, Universal C Skin Refiner — $77.00

Bumpy skin texture can feel like a total buzz kill, but this serum will help users unveil their brightest and smoothest skin thanks to its Hailey Bieber-approved formula. (In fact, she loves it so much she even commissioned the founder and cosmetic chemist, Ron Robinson, to formulate some Rhode skincare products.) It uses 20 percent l-ascorbic acid, green tea, and squalane to brighten skin, refine the appearance of pores, hydrate, and soothe redness. Plus, it layers very nicely with other skincare and makeup. 

Size: 1oz

Key ingredients: 20% l-ascorbic acid, squalane, green tea


  • Great for layering
  • Potent dose of vitamin C (20%)


  • May cause dryness in some skin types

isdin flavo-c ultraglican vitamin c serum, one of the best vitamin c skincare products

Best vitamin C capsules: ISDIN, Flavo-C Ultraglican Vitamin C and Hyaluronic Acid Serum (10-Pack) — $45.00

Dr. Mraz stands behind these ampoules, which contain a blend of actives designed to protect against oxidative stress and deeply hydrate the skin. “Vitamin C is married with UltraGlycans—a combination of proteoglycans and pre-proteoglycans, which support firmness and elasticity in the skin and provide radiance—and deeply hydrating hyaluronic acid,” she says of the product.

Size: 10 glass vials (two treatments per vial)

Key ingredients: UltraGlycans, hyaluronic acid, l-ascorbic acid


  • Individual vials help preserve vitamin C stability
  • Contains hydrating hyaluronic acid
  • Promotes firmness and elasticity in the skin


  • Glass vials can be dangerous if not broken safely (customers recommend using a washcloth between the bottle and your hands)

Drunk elephant c firma fresh day serum, one of the best vitamin c skincare products

Best powdered vitamin C: Drunk Elephant, C-Firma Fresh Day Serum — $78.00

This vitamin C serum is different from the rest as it’s originally presented in powder form, only becoming a serum once the user activates it by adding water. It has 15 percent ascorbic acid, one percent vitamin E, and .5 percent ferulic acid, in addition to a handful of fruit enzymes and antioxidants. Founder Tiffany Masterson also tells W+G that the brand recently reformulated and “lowered the pH from 3.3 to 2.5, which increases the penetration and potency of the ascorbic acid in C-Firma, removed some of the thickeners for a lighter texture, and made it vegan, too.”  

Size: 1oz

Key ingredients: 15% ascorbic acid (vitamin C), 1% vitamin E, .5% ferulic acid


  • Separating powder and serum helps extend vitamin C stability
  • Includes fruit enzymes and antioxidants


  • Requires a little extra work on your end

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sunday riley ceo glow turmeric face oil, one of the best vitamin c skincare products

Best vitamin C face oil: Sunday Riley, C.E.O. Glow Vitamin C and Turmeric Face Oil — $80.00

If a face oil is more your speed, don’t sleep on this option from Sunday Riley. The base oil is made from evening primrose and raspberry seeds, but the stars of the show are THD ascorbate (aka vitamin C), ginger root extract, and turmeric, which work together to calm your skin and promote a more even tone. And yes, it’s an oil, but the formula is lightweight and great for normal, dry, and combination skin types. It’s also free of parabens and mineral oil, and only includes a tiny amount (less than one percent) of synthetic fragrance.

Size: 1.2oz

Key ingredients: THD ascorbate (vitamin C), ginger root extract, turmeric


  • Lightweight and moisturizing oil
  • Turmeric and ginger root work to calm the skin


  • Scent might not be for everyone

olehenriksen banana bright eye cream, one of the best vitamin c skincare products

Best vitamin C eye cream: OleHenriksen, Banana Bright+ Eye Crème — $44.00

Fake a full night’s rest with this vitamin C-packed eye cream, and don’t worry about it being too harsh on the delicate skin around your eyes—it was formulated specifically for the sensitive area without compromising on efficacy. Dark racoon eyes, be gone!

Size: .5oz

Key ingredients: Hardy orange extract, vitamin C, plant-based antioxidants


  • Made with botanical ingredients
  • Fragrance-free formula is safe for sensitive skin types


  • Smaller size

paulas choice c5 super boost moisturizer, one of the best vitamin c skincare products

Best vitamin C face cream: Paula’s Choice, C5 Super Boost Moisturizer — $45.00

Whether you want to simplify your skincare routine and eliminate serum, or are looking to power up your brightening routine by adding a vitamin C moisturizer on top of your vitamin C serum, this cream will deliver. Formulated to suit all skin types, it uses five percent vitamin C to deliver that megawatt shine. But apart from brightening, it also plumps, repairs the skin barrier, and evens out skin texture. A quadruple whammy if we’ve ever seen one. 

Size: 1.7oz

Key ingredients: 5% 3-O-ethyl ascorbic acid (vitamin C), cocoa butter, hexapeptide-5, polyglutamic acid


  • Good for dry, oily, or combination skin
  • Lightweight moisture that works for layering


  • May cause some sensitivity around the eyes

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natura bisse c+c vitamin body cream, one of the best vitamin c skincare products

Best vitamin C body cream: Natura Bissé, C+C Vitamin Body Cream — $125.00

Our faces aren’t the only area that deserve brightening benefits—our body deserves to glow as well. (Not to mention, our bodies also experience hyperpigmentation from time to time.) Hailing from Barcelona, this body cream brightens and firms skin with an elegant blend of amino acids, vitamin C, rosehip oil, and a variety of antioxidants. 

Size: 8.8oz

Key ingredients: Vitamins C&E, rosehip oil, amino acids


  • Vitamin E and essential oils hydrate and nourish the skin
  • Amino acids and vitamin C boost collagen production and reduce signs of aging


  • Pricey for a body lotion

shea moisture deodorant, one of the best vitamin c skincare products

Best vitamin C deodorant: SheaMoisture, Vitamin C & Niacinamide Antiperspirant — $11.00

Those with melanin-rich skin know first-hand how underarms can darken with time, and vitamin C-infused deodorants can help brighten the area. This particular pick was developed specifically for melanin-rich skin and is approved by a group of Black dermatologists to help even out skin tone. As if that weren’t enough, its gentle peach and citrus scent is absolutely delightful. 

Size: 2.6oz

Key ingredients: Glycerin, niacinamide, vitamin C, sunflower seed oil, aluminum sesquichlorohydrate (antiperspirant)


  • Formulated for melanin-rich skin
  • Glides on smoothly
  • No parabens or mineral oils


  • Contains aluminum (which may or may not be for you)

What are the different forms of vitamin C?

There are multiple forms of vitamin c, ranging from the most powerful and well-studied form (l-ascorbic acid, or L-AA) to the weakest form—and most tolerable for sensitive skin (ascorbyl palmitate). The most popular and purest form of vitamin C found in skincare is l-ascorbic acid. However, you may also find vitamin C labeled as sodium ascorbyl phosphate, ascorbyl palmitate, 3-O ethyl ascorbic acid, retinyl ascorbate, tetrahexyldecyl (THD) ascorbate, and magnesium ascorbyl phosphate.

How does vitamin C benefit the skin?

Vitamin C is popularly known for its brightening effects. Studies have shown that it helps treat and prevent skin changes associated with photoaging, aka dark spots. As such, it’s commonly used to treat post-inflammatory inflammation, dark under-eye circles, and other forms of hyperpigmentation. But vitamin C does more than boost a lit-from-within glow.

Deanne Mraz, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in Connecticut, adds that vitamin C is also an antioxidant that protects and repairs the skin, primarily thanks to its ability to neutralize the production of molecules called free radicals, which cause damage to the skin over time. “Essentially vitamin C is an antioxidant that supports your skin’s natural ability to regenerate and heal, protecting the health of your skin cells,” she says, adding that it boosts our bodies’ ability to generate collagen.

What are the potential side effects of vitamin C?

While vitamin C can benefit all skin types and tones, it’s not without its caveats. For starters, sensitive skin types may not be able to tolerate high concentrations of the ingredient, but Dr. Mraz says the workaround is to find a formula with lower percentages of vitamin C and supporting ingredients that soothe inflammation. Furthermore, Jessica Chopra, founder of natural skincare brand Mudita Earth, cautions that people with melanin-rich skin need to be extra careful as well. “Melanin-rich skin is inherently more prone to hyperpigmentation [than paler skin tones], and degraded vitamin C can worsen this,” she says. To mitigate this, she recommends searching for products with stable forms of vitamin C and hints at the importance of using the product before its expiration date, as vitamin C will oxidize afterward.

What’s the best way to use vitamin C skincare products?

Vitamin C is a notoriously difficult to stabilize ingredient, and as such needs to be stored correctly to increase efficacy and shelf life. Mary Berry, a Texas-based skincare formulator and founder of Cosmos Labs, explains that vitamin C loses its potency when it meets air and sunlight, and suggests keeping it away from those to keep reaping its skincare and health benefits.

Now, there are different ways vitamin C formulas are created. You can find the ingredient in all forms of body and skincare (i.e., cleansers and masks to body washes and deodorants), but Dr. Mraz says serums are the most effective as they allow for the ingredient to absorb quickly into the skin and get to work. However, there are many ways to benefit from vitamin C, it’s just about finding the best for you.

With that, we’ve compiled some of the best vitamin C skincare products on the market—from serums that tackle acne to body lotions that will help you glow from head to toe.

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