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Five Best vitamin C serums 2011

December 30, 2011 Reviewed by Marta 46 Comments

This post has been updated: Five Best with Vitamin C 2014

It is always gratifying to go back to an old Five Best and find that a year can be a long time. Since our 2010 Five Best with vitamin C, we have made found some really good products that focus on vitamin C. Although prized for its antioxidant qualities and its well-known role in boosting the immune system and synthesizing collagen, it is a tricky ingredient that can be unstable and drying. Get it right though, and it repairs DNA damage, fades hyperpigmentation and corrects rosacea. Here’s our Five Best with vitamin C for 2011.

E’shee Vitamin C Serum ($119 in the TIA shop). Junko promised that even my sensitive skin would like this C Serum and she was right. Here, liposomes stabilize the vitamin C and ensure that it is delivered more efficiently into the cells. Along with liposome vitamin C this serum gives us copper PCA, antioxidants mulberry and ginkgo biloba. Ginkgo biloba is an anti-inflammatory too. Read the full review

Collametics Collagen Building Factor ($100). This collagen building formula gets straight to the point with a high dose of vitamin C and amino acids.  I use this regularly as it is one of the best vitamin C serums that I have found. It is designed to build collagen with inclusion of two amino acids. One of them, L-lysine is also supposed to play a synergistic role with vitamin C. The pithy ingredients list also includes glucosyl hesperidin, which improves blood circulation and may stimulate the surface circulation of the skin. Expect slight tingling at first. But, at least in my experience, Collametics does not dry out the skin or irritate. Read the full review.

CSS C + E Ferulic ($39) The best thing about this is that it is about $100 cheaper than the exact same formula by Skinceuticals. The second best thing about it is that it comes with ferulic acid. It has been found to act synergistically with other antioxidants and, specifically, renders vitamins C and E more powerful. A Duke University study found it particularly good for preventing sun damage, and studies elsewhere have demonstrated that exposure to ultraviolet light actually increases the antioxidant power of ferulic acid. Reader, Marsha, has had good results with this.

John Masters Organics Vitamin C Antiaging Face Serum ($29.99). Don’t expect miracles from this, but younger (not yet too damaged) skins will appreciate its natural ingredients and keen price point. The vitamin C (in the form of ascorbic acid polypeptide is in a base of aloe vera juice, sunflower seed oil and rose flower water. There is yet more vitamin C from acerola berries. These are supposed to be packed with enough vitamin C to put oranges in the shade.

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Ole Henriksen’s Truth Serum  ($48). One of our 2010 Five Best Serums for Under $50, after it was reformulated to be paraben-free. It still contains such brighteners as grapefruit and orange extract (which contributes to how great it smells). Antioxidants like green tea, and a powerful vitamin C derivative (sodium ascorbyl phosphate) help fight free-radical damage, which another vitamin C salt in the form of calcium ascorbate helps boost collagen production. The serum also contains hydrating sodium hyaluronate, which penetrates the skin to promote nutrient absorption for softer, fuller skin. And you gotta love the name!

Update - Five Best Vitamin C Serums 2012

Ingredients in Collametics

Water, propanediol, L-ascorbic, L-glycine, L-proline, L-Lysine, glucosyl hesperidin, zinc gluconate, copper gluconate, silica

Ingredients In E’shee:

Aqua, Liposome Vitamin C, 1.3 Butylene Glycol, Cyclomethicone, Phenyltrimethicone, Biosaccharide Gum-1, Polysorbate 80, Morus Alba (Mulberry) Extract, Ginkgo Biloba Extract, Polyglceryl-3 Diisostearate, Sodium Lactate, Sodium Hyaluronate, Xanthan Gum, Copper PCA, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Peel Oil, Sodium Dehydroacetate, Phenoxyethanol, Imidazolidinyl Urea, D-Limonene, Citral.

Ingredients in John Masters

Aloe barbadensis (aloe vera) leaf juice,* helianthus annuus (sunflower) seed oil,* glycerin,* rosa damascena (rose) flower water,* populus tremuloides (aspen) bark extract, ascorbic acid polypeptide, lecithin, phospholipids, superoxide dismutase, malphighia glabra (acerola) fruit extract,* oryza sativa (rice) extract,* spirulina platensis (algae) extract,* tocopheryl acetate, retinyl palmitate, ascorbyl palmitate, butyrospermum parkii (shea) butter,* triticum vulgare (wheat) germ oil, rosa damascena (rose) flower oil,* citrus sinensis (blood orange) oil, tilia cordata (linden) blossom oil,* xanthan gum, rosmarinus officinalis (rosemary) leaf extract,* sclerotium gum powder, potassium sorbate.

Ingredients in CSS

Water, Ethoxydiglycol, L-Asorbic Acid, Propylene Glycol, Glycerin, Laureth-23, Alpha Tocopherol, Phenoxyethanol, Triethanolamine, Ferulic Acid, Panthenol, Sodium Hyaluronate.

Ingredients in Ole

Water (Aqua), Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Calcium Acerbate, Sorbitol, Glycerin, Tocopheryl Acetate, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Fruit Extract, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Euphrasis Offinalis Extract, Rosa Canina Fruit Extract, Citrus Grandis (Grapefruit) Seed Extract, Oleth-20, Hydroxyethylcellulose, PEG-12 Dimethicone, Benzophenone-4, Sodium Hyaluronate, Thioctic Acid, Phenoxyethanol, Citric Acid, Caprylyl Glycol, Hexylene Glycol, Limonene, Linalool, Citral, Fragrance (Parfum), Yellow 6 (CI 15985).

  • October 13, 2016

    by Marta

    Hi Maria, here is a link to a more recent article on copper peptides and how it can boost collagen in the skin (and help hair growth): https://www.truthinaging.com/review/the-truth-about-copper-peptides
    The reason why you don't see it very often is that it is difficult and expensive to formulate with. I don't know of any drugstore brands that use it that I can recommend. Sorry.

  • October 12, 2016

    by Maria

    Hi Marta -
    Can you comment on copper peptides? Your last article was years ago and I rarely see or hear about copper but it's supposed to be very rejuvenating. Can you recommend any drugstore products that contain it? I cannot afford the very expensive brands you sell on the website unfortunately and I'd like to visit more often but I notice that you don't recommend many affordable items. I used a Neova retinol with copper once and got great results. Why aren't these ingredients put together more often. I'm confused- thanks

  • April 5, 2012

    by NDO

    I have to agree with the comments on Dr Denese's Wrinkle Rx Pro Extreme...15% vit c, stem cells, 7 different peptides and a host of other anti-oxidants like astaxanthan! how could this have been omitted???

  • January 11, 2012

    by Becky

    Great info but where is the Mad Hippie Vit C Serum? http://truthinaging.com/face/mad-hippies-vitamin-c-serum-reviewed-and-recommended
    I have been using is for 6 months and my skin looks great!

  • November 10, 2011

    by spo

    oops, sorry! I'm a fool.. This question was answered in this thread by Darrell of YBF and now, I understand the difference between the copper salts and a copper peptide..

    I read the thread too quickly -- sorry about that!

  • November 10, 2011

    by spo

    Can someone answer a question I have?

    I notice that the Collametics and the Eshee vitamin c serums both contain copper.. I was under the impression that copper cancels out vitamin c's effects when both are applied together.. Is that true?

  • June 28, 2011

    by Marta

    Hi Lesley Anne
    I would say absolutely why not. If you like vitamin C - not all skins do - it is good for hyperpigmentation and other things and so a good complement to growth factors.

  • June 28, 2011

    by Lesley Anne

    Marta,
    What do you think about using ReLuma serum and a Vit C serum, one in the morning and one at night? A waste of one or the other or unwanted reaction? Thanks.

  • June 27, 2011

    by NoeyD77

    Thanks for the kind wishers Marta! But I'm in need of your expert opinion. When I was in San Fran drinking away my worries, I met this guy my age and of course we started chatting about products. He swore his life that I should stop using all products and get Botox as a preventative. Would you rec getting those injections just for preventative measures or no???

  • June 27, 2011

    by Marta

    Hi Noel, welcome back and good wishes to your mom.

  • June 27, 2011

    by NoeyD77

    First I would like to say HELOO to Marta and my apologies. As you know the situation with my mom, she entered Stage 4 which is why we hadn't connected. I'm back on on the East Coast now.

    Dennis and Mark, I can't rec Dr. D's Extreme Wrinkle Gel enough! 15% of stabilized vit c in the forms of SAP, ascorbyl glucoside and others! And for the advocates of peptides she includes about SIX of them as well as stem cell technology. The container is an airless pump so oxidation is prevented. For the supersized container on her website or QVC is the LESS than vitamin c serums that are in oxidizing bottle dropper containers that contain vitamin c ALONE!!!! You simply can not go wrong with several of her products! Remember, she is not only an MD but also a Neuroscientist! Try it, you have nothing to lose!

  • June 20, 2011

    by Douglas Kitt

    First, I want to disclose that I am the founder of ReCverin LLC of Salt Lake City, Utah. We are manufacturers and sellers of vitamin C skin serums. I'm writing to invite the readers of TIA who are interested in truthful and comprehensive information about topical vitamin C to visit our website. There is much confusion and misinformation about the stability of vitamin C, the many chemical forms that are used in cosmetics, and the physiology of this important antioxidant. We have focused our website on providing as much information as possible, because we are convinced that informed people will choose our products over any other. Search our name ReCverin.

  • May 27, 2011

    by Mark

    Noel - thanks for the info. and recommendation for the Dr. Denese Wrinkle Rx. This may be one I need to put on my list to try.

  • May 26, 2011

    by Dennis

    That does look good, Noel! I love the inclusion of astaxathin and the exclusion of parabens!

  • May 11, 2011

    by Noel

    A Vit C serum is MANDATORY in my personal philosophy on skincare since it is the 2nd most scientifically studied skincare ingredient in existence, second only to retinoids. I have tried many many many serums and I have found that Dr. Denese's Wrinkle Rx Extreme gel is by FAR the best.

    It is in a an airtight pump, not dropper bottles like most. It contains 15% of stabilized vitamin c in the form of SAP. It also has stem cell technology and 7 peptides at percentages deemed effective by their manufacturers! 3.4 oz container costs a little over $90. I can't find any other serum that possesses all these attributes or one that has provided me results remotely close to this one......

  • March 17, 2011

    by Oksana

    Jaysie,
    Collametics discuss the absorption of both copper and VitC from the small intestine - this is where the uptake of copper maybe reduced d/t interaction w/vitC. your topical use of copper has nothing to do w/interaction in the small intestine. Think "diet".
    60% of dietary copper comes from legumes, grains, and vegetables, another 20% from animal products (liver has the highest content).
    dietary copper is metabolized in the liver. High doses of supplemental zinc and gastric surgery may cause copper defficiency. Zinc is more competative w/copper for absorption than vitC in the small intestine, since both are metals and zinc can chelate copper.
    copper toxicity has been documented in burn victims (large burn areas), when copper salt creams were used. Otheriwise, it's pretty safe.

  • March 16, 2011

    by marta

    Thanks for following up on this Anna!

  • March 16, 2011

    by Jaysie

    Geez, that explanation from Collametics clears everything up, doesn't it? And the line item about Vit C that's ingested in the small intestine interferring with copper absorption is question-raising. I eat a lot of foods with Vit C and take a supplement, so maybe *any* copper product is not going to be effective unless I really pile it on? The yin and yang of this makes my eyes glaze over.

  • March 16, 2011

    by Anna

    I wrote to E'shee and this was their very prompt response:

    "In E'shee formula vitamin C is highly concentrated (20%) and already highly stable. It doesn't need a additional boost: liposomes insures delivery of vitamin C directly to the cells and protecting it form exposure to any other elements. Adding a ferulic acid to it in order to increase activity of vitamin C in this formula will not be useful.
    You can add a ferulic acid as additional cream or serum on top of the vitamin C serum and use it as additional anti-oxidant."

    Hopefully this will help someone else!

  • March 16, 2011

    by Anna

    Thank you Marta, I read that article before which is what insipred me to add actives to the serum. Does anyone know if the liposome encapsulation of Vitamin C can still be "boosted" by the addition of ferulic acid? Or does the liposome protect the Vit C so much that ferulic acid would have no effect?

  • March 16, 2011

    by Susan

    Thanks so much, Marta. Your answer is helpful. :)

  • March 15, 2011

    by marta

    Hi Anna, I'm no chemist either: I added ferulic to a vitamin C serum here: http://truthinaging.com/body/age-spots-no-more-ferulic-acid-vitamin-c-and-a-pinch-of-bathroom-chemistry

  • March 15, 2011

    by Anna

    So if you had an encapsulated Vit C (such as this liposome), and ADDED ferulic acid...would the ferulic acid still boost the Vit C? I'm torn between adding vitamin C powder to a mixture that has ferulic acid or adding ferulic acid to a Vit C serum. It's maddening and I'm not a chemist!

  • March 15, 2011

    by Darrell

    Hi Peggy -- Thank you! I'm always trying to learn more. Marta is really the one who turned me on again to vitamin C and copper peptides last year.

    -Darrell

  • March 15, 2011

    by marta

    Susan, that's not obtuse. It's the best question of the week. I'm with you actually. I find C rather drying and never seen many results. Having said that, others swear that it helps hyperpigmentation. I do, however, think that the combination of C, E and ferulic is a good one. The ferulic makes the vitamins more powerful and they work synergistically to protect against UV.

  • March 15, 2011

    by Peggy

    Darrell, I hope you see this, as I want to thank you for making yourself available for providing help - and thank you too, Marta. Big hugs to you both for taking the time to address our concerns.
    Peggy

  • March 15, 2011

    by Susan

    Marta,
    I hate it when I am obtuse, and I'm having an obtuse moment.

    Will you please explain to me why vitamin C is worthy of all this skin care attention? As I understand it, it is an antioxidant and it stimulates the formation of collagen, but so do dozens of other factors, or ingredients.

    Why does C continue to be a forerunner?

    I've never felt compelled to jump on the C train, and I feel I must be missing a big, important one. Really. What am I not understanding???

  • March 14, 2011

    by JustD

    Everything Darrell said! YBF's Antioxidants and Vit C together are a love affair for your face. I am so happy with the changes that I see my skin transitioning towards. I put Antioxidants in EVERYTHING, except my honey's food :D ....hmmmmmmmmm.........

  • March 14, 2011

    by marta

    Here is the explanation from Collametics:

    First of all, Vitamin C is similar in structure to the 6 carbon sugar glucose hence its molecular formula C6H8O6. It’s a hexose derivative.

    Second, Cu+ is a transitional element which participates in lysyl oxidase, the enzyme responsible for collagen and elastin cross linking.

    Cu+ does not interfere with C, rather C can reduce the absorption of Cu+ after the hydroxylation event. Cu+ is absorbed in both active and passive processes and this determines its participation of the metaloenzymes (protein-lysine 6 oxidase). Remember, C can interfere with Cu+ absorption when ingested in the small intestine.
    Cu+ is not a peptide in itself and the hydroxylation event of C occurs prior to any metalloenzyme (Cu+) participation, particularly when applied topically

  • March 14, 2011

    by Jaysie

    Thanks, Marta...if E'shee happened to mention what type of Vit C is used, please let us know.

  • March 14, 2011

    by marta

    E'shee responded on the copper/vitamin C issue by saying that the vitamin C is liposome encapsulated. It is protected by the liposome's walls, so that it does not come into contact with the cooper pca.
    Liposome also protects the Vitamin C from contact with oxygen in the air. The liposome starts to dissolve only when attached to the cell membrane, releasing vitamin C directly to the cells.

  • March 14, 2011

    by marta

    Hi Jaysie and Peggy

    I am going to write to E'shee and Collametics to see if I can get their take on the effect the kinds of copper that they use might have on vitamin C. I'll let you know what I hear.

  • March 14, 2011

    by Jaysie

    Peggy - Thanks for bringing up the copper/vit C dilemma. Over the years, I've read that Vit C cancels copper...then I've read the opposite - that copper cancels Vit C. Confusion reigns. I also scratch my head when I see an ingredient list that includes some form of both. And, like you, I will pass up these products because I don't have the patience to repeatedly do on-line research to investigate whether the iterations of Vit C and copper are compatible or whether they are cancelling each other out. One hopes the formulator knows what they're doing, but there are so many brands out there and some are sold by marketing companies that rely on an outside lab for formulations without having their own scientific knowledge. All these brands & formulations lead us deeper into the snake pit of doubt. As a consumer, it's easier for me to use a Vit C dominant product, and if I decide to add copper do it with a separate product applied 12-24 hours later or in a different spot. Not convenient, alas.

    One thing I have NOT read is that the combination of these two ingredients would be deleterious to the skin, only that one of them would have little or no effect. But, I'm still not sure which one!

  • March 13, 2011

    by Darrell Owens

    Hi Peggy,
    Copper PCA and copper gluconate are both copper salts. I'm not familiar with copper salts acting negatively with vitamin C and someone else might be able to provide insight there.

    Copper peptides, of which there can be endless varieties, are generally sensitive to swings in PH. Vitamin C as ascorbic acid can upset the ph balance of a copper peptide. This may be where most advice stems from, suggesting you avoid a peptide/C combination.

    You may find products out there that make use of the form of vitamin C called ascorbyl palmitate combined with a copper peptide. In that situation, there would less likely be a problem as the PH of ascorbyl palmitate is more ph neutral.

    My opinion is still, in general, keep application of C products and copper peptide products apart -- perhaps using copper peptides at night and vitamin C's during the day.

    I hope this info may be of some use.
    -Darrell

  • March 13, 2011

    by Peggy

    Marta,
    I should probably clarify my last entry. My quandary is that the E'shee Vit C Serum & the Collametics Collagen Building Factor (both of which are recommended - and I value your recommendations) are Vit C serums that seem to have copper peptides in them. Is this so, or am I confused about copper PCA and copper gluconate being copper peptides?
    Thanks again.
    Peggy

  • March 13, 2011

    by Peggy

    Hi Marta,
    Thanks so much for the reply, and I apologize for being a bit thick about this (I think I must be confused), but are copper PCA and copper gluconate copper peptides? That's been the rub for me, products that feature Vit C also have copper peptides, or vice versa. I've seen copper PCA listed (I think as a copper peptide) in the review of Osmotics Blue Copper 5 Molecular Repair Treatment, and copper gluconate in the Collametics Daily Renewal Serum on the 5 Best with Copper Peptides list.

    Could you please explain enigma to me?

    With much appreciation,
    Peggy

  • March 13, 2011

    by marta

    Hi Peggy, you should not use copper peptides and vitamin C at the same time, or same place. You could use them at different times of the day - one at night, the other in the morning. Here's a link to Sarah's article on ingredients to avoid combining: http://truthinaging.com/body/ingredients-to-avoid-combining

  • March 13, 2011

    by Peggy

    Hey everyone in the TIA family -
    First, I'd like to thank everyone who takes the time to post here (something which I am woefully guilty of not doing). These discussions really help clear away some of the confusion regarding choosing appropriate products, and I appreciate them greatly.

    This question is for Marta or Darrel, or anyone who can help, and I hope this post isn't too late to get a response as there is an issue that has been plaguing me for some time. And that is - is there any danger in combining Vit C and copper peptides? Both ingredients are appealing, but I read somewhere that they shouldn't be combined. I've seen quite a few products reviewed here that sound wonderful and I've wanted to try, such as anti-wrinkle serums with copper peptides, or Vit C serums, but shied away from them because of the combination of the two. I've searched this site and Skin Biology's site, but can't for the life of me find what I read about not combining them.

    I would dearly love to have this burning question answered. If anyone knows about this, or can direct me to an article that talks about it, I'd love you forever (and be able to place an order without worrying I'm either missing out on a great product or doing damage to skin than need TLC)!

    Thanks a bunch.
    Peggy

  • March 10, 2011

    by Anna

    Thanks Darrell, I was hoping to add Vit C to the YBF Antioxidant Concentrate. Everything I was reading about adding your own Vit C would refer to a mix made DAILY, but a week is MUCH more reasonable for me. Think I'm going shopping! Thanks!

  • March 10, 2011

    by Darrell

    Hi Anna,
    I heard about your questions and wanted to comment.

    There is such a thing as D-ascorbic acid, but I have never seen it used in personal care products. Generally when you see a mention of ascorbic acid, it's the chirally correct L- version. Many companies just don't indicate it as L-ascorbic acid.

    There are several ways you could use Antioxidants Concentrate with other vitamin C's:

    -If you have a great C serum you love, you could apply a portion of the serum and a pump of Antioxidants Concentrate to the skin.

    -If you want to make your own serum, such as a week's supply and have a stock of vitamin C, you can dissolve a small portion in water and add a few pumps of Antioxidants Concentrate.

    -If you are feeling adventurous, you can create a mask from fresh items at home such as pineapple, kiwi or papaya, add some ascorbic acid and a few pumps of Antioxidants Concentrate -- and viola -- you'll have a supercharged & fresh at home treatment!

    All my best,
    -Darrell

  • March 10, 2011

    by Anna

    Another question--is ALL L-ascorbic Acid chirally corrected?

  • March 10, 2011

    by Anna

    So which would be better? Adding Ferulic Acid or Vitamin C? I'm torn because I used to use CSS Vitamin E and C with Ferulic Acid but thet last bottle I bought (January 2010) oxidized VERY quickly. So I don't want to buy it again, I'd rather add as needed. But the YBF antioxidant I believe comes in a pump bottle--how is that supposed to help making your own mix? I'm stumped.

  • January 27, 2011

    by Gloria

    To Renee- Thank you for your input. I have read a few things in TIA and none seem to positive about Obagi. I have not had any redness or burning the last 2 days so I think my face is finally getting acclimated to the serum and the TNS Tri Retinol Complex.My face sure is smooth and soft. I think it is interesting about the airless pump Ozana. Most all of my products I use are in airless pumps but the vitamin C from Obagi uses a dropper. Where did this information originate from Ozana? Thanks for all the information.

  • January 27, 2011

    by Ozana

    Thanks for this article, it is great when we know all the ingredients. However, I read that many skincare experts recommende to only buy serums with vitamin C packaged in airless pump bottles because vitamin C is very senzitive to light and air and will deteriorate very quickly (even if it is stabilized vitamin C). So basically buying these serums in other packagings is a waste of money. Personnaly, to be on the safe side and hope for the most potent serum I alsways buy them in airless pump bottles.

  • January 26, 2011

    by Renee

    I use Obagi 20% Vitamin C daily. It is very effective and I'm happy with the results. I've had skin cancers on my face previous to using Vitamin C but have not had a problem since using daily. I used several different brands throughout the years, but like the amount of Vitamin C in the Obagi 20%.

  • January 26, 2011

    by Gloria

    Jan 26th, 2011

    Thanks Marta for the information. I just purchased the Obagi 10% vitamin C serum and at first I was very pleased until 2 days later when my face started peeling and burning. I thought it was the SkinMedica Tri-Retinol Complex I purchased.I stopped using that for a few days and it seemed to be getting worse until I called the spa and she told me it could be the C, and said to use every other day on both products until my skin adjusted.I stopped using it everyday and it did clear up quickly and now it seems to be better. I was thinking I might return the C and try the CSS. The price is certainly great and the spa is more than happy to accommodate me if I am not happy with any product. Is this product okay for sensitive skin? Has anyone ever used Obaji before? If so what is your take on it?

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