Why a vitamin C serum needs to be in your skin care routine

The old-favourite continues to be one of the best ingredients for great skin

May 27 2021

Vitamin C is one of those ingredients we’ve all heard of, but chances are, you only know the half of it. For starters, vitamin C is found in more than just oranges. In fact, the Australian native ingredient Kakadu plum contains 100 times more vitamin C than an orange and is one of the world's highest sources of vitamin C. Good on us Aussies, huh? Vitamin C is also so much more than a skin-brightening superhero. Here’s everything you need to know about the popular skin care ingredient, plus our favourite vitamin C serums for brighter, fresher skin.

What is vitamin C?

Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is a potent antioxidant that is renowned for its benefits across a wide range of skin concerns. It is also one of the most researched active ingredients used in skin care for protection against photoageing, evening out the skin tone, and promoting more youthful-looking skin,” says Prudvi Kaka, Chief Scientific Officer at DECIEM.

What you need to be careful of when using vitamin C skin care

“As vitamin C has an acidic pH, it is important to take into consideration skin sensitivity. If your skin is not familiar with acidic ingredients, we always recommend a patch test prior to facial application,” suggests Kaka. “Subsequently, based on the results, you may prefer to start using vitamin C at a low concentration, then work your way up to higher concentrations as your skin develops its level of tolerance.”

“We do not recommend using more than one [vitamin C] product in a single regimen as this may enhance or induce skin sensitivity,” adds Kaka.


Can you over-use vitamin C?

We get it; vitamin C is a pretty amazing ingredient so it can be tempting to practically bathe in the stuff. But Kaka warns about over-using the ingredient. “In the case of vitamin C, there are indicators that one can look out for as a sign of overusing the ingredient. For instance, when it comes to suspensions of pure vitamin C, they are gritty upon application at first, but over a short period of time, the moisture within the skin solubilises the powder particles and the skin draws the vitamin C in. However, when applied in excessive amounts, a gritty residue will continue to remain on the skin, which is an indication of over-usage."

"In addition to that, if the skin’s tolerance to high exposure of pure vitamin C is not developed gradually, a strong tingling but non-irritating sensation may be experienced. If the sensation is too strong to tolerate, we recommend opting for a vitamin C derivative as an alternative,” says Kaka, who suggests vitamin C derivatives such as magnesium ascorbyl phosphate, ascorbyl glucoside and ascorbyl tetraisopalmitate.

The 8 best vitamin C serums for brighter, glowing skin

One of the best ways to get your vitamin C fix in its most potent form is with a vitamin C serum. It’s where you’ll find the ingredient in a highly concentrated and stable form, which means your skin will reap ALL the rewards. You're in luck, too; we’ve pulled together a curated list of some of our favourite vitamin C serums for the face.

Olay Niacinamide + Vitamin C Super Serum

Olay's brightening buy allows you to reap the benefits of both niacinamide (vitamin B3) and vitamin C in the one serum, eliminating the ramifications that may come from mixing them yourself. Instead, the two vitamins work synergistically together for a more even skin tone and radiant complexion.

Shop here.

Olay Niacinamide + Vitamin C Super Serum

Tatcha Violet C Brightening Serum

If you’re after a refined, radiant complexion, this serum is your one-stop shop. The impressive formula features two types of vitamin C, as well as Japanese anjelica root to fight against discolouration, plus the addition of powerful AHAs that slough away dead skin cells to reveal brighter and luminous-looking skin.

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Tatcha Violet C Brightening Serum

Dr. Dennis Gross C+ Collagen Brighten + Firm Vitamin C Serum

A plumping and brightening wunderkid, this vegan-friendly option from Dr. Dennis Gross combines the power of vitamin C with collagen to create a potent anti-ageing formula. Featuring a touch of lactic acid, this little guy also helps to gently resurface dull looking skin for an overall healthy-looking glow that’ll leave you positively gleaming.

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Dr. Dennis Gross C+ Collagen Brighten + Firm Vitamin C Serum

Sunday Riley C.E.O 15% Vitamin C Brightening Serum

Arguably one of the most popular vitamin C formulas on the market,
Sunday Riley’s famous C.E.O serum is known for being a powerhouse for minimising the appearance of hyperpigmentation. It also happens to be a great choice for those who suffer from discolouration from sun exposure or melasma.

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Sunday Riley C.E.O 15% Vitamin C Brightening Serum

The Ordinary Ascorbyl Glucoside Solution 12%

Taking out the category for our favourite vit-C chemist pick, this lightweight brightening and anti-ageing formula contains a water-soluble vitamin C derivative known as ascorbyl glucoside, which is highly stable and comfortable to use. If you’re looking for something effective (and affordable) that won’t irritate your skin, give this one a try.

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The Ordinary Ascorbyl Glucoside Solution 12%

La Roche-Posay Redermic Pure Vitamin C10 Serum

Vitamin C has been paired up with other top-performing ingredients in this serum to bring you effective results in a non-irritating formula. Safe for sensitive skin types (La Roche-Posay is known for its gentle formulas), 10 per cent vitamin C along with exfoliating salicylic acid and soothing neurosensine all work together to stimulate collagen and elastin production and strengthen the skin’s defence against daily aggressors so you’re left with skin that’s smoother and firmer with a healthy glow.

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La Roche-Posay Redermic Pure Vitamin C10 Serum

Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum

This vitamin C serum is one of the hero products in the Drunk Elephant line-up (which as you can imagine is really saying something), and has gained a cult following for its potent formula. Visibly brightening and firming skin with the help of vitamin C, it also contains enzyme exfoliants, pumpkin ferment and pomegranate extract, which dissolve dead surface skin cells and minimise the appearance of pores.

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Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum

Skinceuticals C E Ferulic

Beauty editors around the world are obsessed with this vitamin C serum because it’s that good at targeting all kinds of skin woes, including discolouration, dryness, lines and wrinkles, and sensitised skin, and leaving a bright, smooth and healthy complexion in its wake. You’ll find 15 per cent pure vitamin C (L-ascorbic acid), one per cent pure vitamin E and 0.5 per cent ferulic acid in this potent serum. It doesn’t come cheap, but we think it’s worth every cent.

Shop here.

Skinceuticals C E Ferulic

Main image credit: @hoskelsa

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