The 6 Best Vitamin C Serums Are Your Skincare Secret Weapons

Vitamin C loves to shut down excess melanin production, which both brightens your skin tone on the whole, and lightens those annoying, persistent dark spots that can come from hyperpigmentation or sun damage . (Please, sunscreen yourself, even if it’s just in your moisturizer!)

3. Relief for acne-prone skin

While vitamin C won’t do much to prevent breakouts, its skin-protecting powers do help diminish redness and irritation. Obviously, check with your own board-certified dermatologist to make sure using a vitamin C serum makes sense with however you’re treating acne.

4. Fewer free radicals

Free radicals are jerks. Okay, fine, they’re technically damage-causing chemicals that literally get under your skin, brought on by everything from pollution to UVA and UVB rays, potentially causing spots, wrinkles, dry skin and worse. As an antioxidant, vitamin C essentially neutralizes free radical damage, making sure your skin stays as healthy as it can and allowing it to gleefully absorb all the great hydrating skincare products you’ll put on after.

How to Find the Best Vitamin C Products

Because vitamin C, like a banana, seemingly wants to go bad, anyone buying a topical skincare product starring the antioxidant should know how to get the freshest, most effective version. There are exceptions to these rules—some brands have used mad science to develop vitamin C formulas that can defy one or two of them. But if you want to be sure you’re getting that vitamin C goodness, and not just expensive face oil, here’s what to look out for.

An airtight, opaque container: Vitamin c oxidizes (read: loses its potency) in air, so avoid finger-scooped creams or pipette-dropped face serums. We particularly like—and selected, below—powder-based products that you mix at home, or products that you activate as you use them.

Look for ferulic acid and vitamin E: These two ingredients help stabilize Vitamin C when they’re added into a product’s formula. Some truly top-shelf pipette-dropped serums will pack in ferulic acid and vitamin E as active ingredients to keep the potency powerful—but you should still do quick applications! (One note: vitamin E can block pores for anyone with oily skin.)

Buy direct through the maker: Since it’s hard to know how long a product has been in the warehouse, your best bet is to buy direct from a skincare brand in order to get the freshest vitamin C possible.

Use the product within 2-3 months: Unless you get one of the products you activate before each use, the moment you pop the top, the clock starts. Using the product within 2-3 months means you should get maximum vitamin C benefits before its potency wanes.

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