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Five Best Vitamin C Serums of 2012

Solution for:

Hyperpigmentation, Sagging Skin, Wrinkles
December 30, 2012 Reviewed by Marta 53 Comments

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

Dr Oz has just highlighted vitamin C as one of the anti-agers that will "drop a decade from your face". I agree that vitamin C is a helpful anti-ager, but I strongly disagree with his guidance: "Look for products that contain between 3% and 10% of vitamin C and include the active ingredient ascorbic acid or L-ascorbic acid." First of all ascorbic acid is far from the best form of vitamin C to look out for. It is the least stable and most likely to irritate. There are much more impressive types of vitamin C, such as MAP (read up on vitamin C in all its forms). And the 3-10% range is just arbitrary. There are fantastic serums such as E'shee's that has 20% delivered over time so that it doesn't irritate, clever stabilizing ingredients, others with lower percentages of stable Cs that work really well, or those (such as Nutra-Lift or M.A.D) that have complex formulas of different Cs. Here's my new update on last May's Five Best vitamin C serums.

Read my article on how to choose the best vitamin C actives

  • E’shee Serum Vitalizing C

    E’shee Serum Vitalizing C ($119 in the TIA shop). 20% vitamin C that is supposed to remain active in the skin for up to 48 hours. 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. A high quality product that is deservedly a two-year winner in the Five Best vitamin C serum category.

  • Snowberry Bright Defence Face Serum

    Snowberry Bright Defence Face Serum ($69 in the TIA shop) Snowberry describes Bright Defence as a serious, rapid-delivery anti-glycation and anti-free-radical formulation. Well, the second ingredient is l-ascorbic acid. Clearly, they are serious. Snowberry's solution is to use an enzyme in order to stabilize the ascorbic acid. But this enzyme is very clever. The enzyme enables a gradual release of the vitamin, thereby preventing any irritation. This serum is extremely mild and even sensitive skin types won't feel the slightest bit of a tingle. Moreover, this measured release of the vitamin prolongs its benefits for a longer period of time than ordinary vitamin C serums. There’s also kombuchka for glycation and a host of other good things.

  • Nutra-Lift Maximun C Plus Growth Factors

    Nutra-Lift Maximun C Plus Growth Factors ($34 in the TIA shop) 20% vitamin C. The C to end all Cs! Never again will you be concerned that your vitamin C serum has the best, most stable and potent form of vitamin C. Nutra-Lift Maximum C Ultra Serum has it all - no less than five different forms of vitamin C. And that's not all, there's anti-inflammatory alpha lipoic acid, hydrating hyaluronic acid, antioxidant superoxide dismutaseand even more vitamins in the form of D and E.

  • MAD’s Spot On Targeting Skin Brightening Serum

    MAD’s Spot On Targeting Skin Brightening Serum ($38/0.50 oz in the TIA shop). A great dark spot fader at a very decent price. Although nianciamide (from the vitamin B family) features strongly, it is the vitamin Cs in this formula that merit a call out. Stay C-50 is sodium ascorbyl phosphate and, along with MAP (magnesium ascorbyl phosphate), it is recognized as a stable form of vitamin C.  A skin brightener, as well as antioxidant and UV protector, vitamin C is also here as a strong component of phyllanthus emblica. These Cs are given are given ample backup by very interesting actives in the whitening department.

  • Mad Hippie Vitamin C Serum

    Mad Hippie Vitamin C Serum ($34 in the TIA shop). A popular product for its price to quality ratio, this has vitamin C as the second ingredient in a form that the company calls sodium ascorbyl phosphate (STAY-CR 50) which they claim is more stable and bioavailable than the traditional L-Ascorbic acid used by most companies. Also included are vitamin Eferulic and hyaluronic acid, as well as the more unusual mineral-rich konjac root. Breakout-prone skins find this vitamin C serum gentle

  • July 14, 2015

    by sonia lindeque

    I am in south Africa and want to order a vit c cream with a hydro. acid not sure witch one I am 42 eyes the main problem

  • January 26, 2015

    by Kimberly

    I've been doing a ton of research on skin care ingredients and which one is the best. There is so much misleading information on the ingredients found in most skin care products, mostly because they are sinmply just tryiung to sell you there cheap versions of "youthful products" that actually cause more harm than good. There is much debate about vitamin C and which one is the best and rather than mislead more people I would like to share what I deciphered to be the best. If you don't believe me, do the research yourself but be careful of the websites that are premoating their "best" form of vitamin C products. Ascorbic Acid is the best despite what this website says. It is the least stable form which means it doesn't have a long shelf life anf needs to be transfered in an air tight, opaque container. Other forms such as ascorbyl palmiatate have limited permability and have been found to be toxic. Whenever I am in doubt of an ingredient I will look it up on website which shows the toxicity of all chemicals. I wanted to take the time to share my findings becuase I am baffled at all the misinformation. I know that I have bought many products that claimed to be anti-aging and beneficial when they are doiing the opposite effect, so not only is it making me look older but im losing money too! so frustrating. Don't take my word for it, do your own research.

  • January 1, 2015

    by Christy Anderson

    Well guys, tell me how confusing this article is. It holds truth though. Please tell me what you think. I'm curious because it's true that many additives in these serums can promote rapid oxidation.

  • August 17, 2014

    by sally

    never heard of any of these products before

  • July 8, 2014

    by April

    @Jane, have you tried the serum yourself???

  • July 8, 2014

    by April

    @ Caroline, I was curious about the info you posted about Oz Naturals. Over 700 five star reviews????? It's very tempting to try. I wanted to find out how you came across the information? Thanks....

  • June 26, 2014

    by kelly

    I will be receiving the OZ serum today and for the money I don't think I will regret it. The serum is under 20 bucks on Amazon. I like the idea of natural ingredients. I also will continue using extra virgin olive oil as my moisturizer.

  • June 15, 2014

    by Paul

    Here's a pretty good comparison of the premium labels for Vitamin CEF.

  • June 12, 2014

    by Caroline S.

    @Jane, that OZ brand is manufactured from a wholesale cosmetics supplier in Oregon that has no affiliation to the brand. They order their serums from this company and repackage it as their own. They are not the only ones who do this as you will see several different "companies" that are essentially selling the same watered down ingredients that do nothing for your skin long term.

    I've tried Mad Hippie and I think it's OK but the best Vitamin C serum I have found that really works is the Hydra Select 17% CEF serum on Amazon for only $27. Give it a shot and you will be impressed.

  • June 3, 2014

    by Marta

    Hi Zachary, you can read comparisons of different forms of vitamin C here:

  • June 3, 2014

    by Zackary

    I read on other web pages that ascorbic acid and L-ascorbic acid have been proven scientifically to be some of the most stable forms of vitamin C. Do you have the studies proving that they're not as stable as others say they are? Thanks

  • April 27, 2014

    by Harriet

    I was very excited about the Nutra-Lift Maximum C Plus serum and wanted to purchase it, but no luck. It is not sold in the UK, and the shipping costs from the USA are horrendously high (much higher than the price of the product itself). If you don't live in the USA , my advice is not to get too excited about the product, unless you don't mind shelling out a fortune to get it.

  • April 7, 2014

    by barbara

    what is a drugstore or health food store brand of face cream with the correct amounts of vitamin c and hyaluronic acid for wrinkles.

  • March 30, 2014

    by Myrian

    GM Collins is an EXCELLENT product line.
    They have a true Active C serum which is activated when u r ready to use it.
    You mix a powder into its serum, shake and violà, active C which stays active for 10 days. Leaves skin feeling supple and radiant.

  • February 1, 2014

    by Sonya

    I use a vitamin C serum by Amara Organics. It's a high quality product with natural and organic ingredients. It's got 20% vitamin C with vitamin E and hyaluronic acid. You can get it on amazon here:

  • October 14, 2013

    by Renee

    Thanks for this review! This is great.

  • September 28, 2013

    by Jane

    Great line up and while I have not tried any of the five mentioned, A particular Vitamin Serum being sold on Amazon claiming to the best and sales showing at as a best seller is a complete let down. OZ Naturals is a watered down joke! They compare them selves to the industries best and there popularity is mind blowing as I can not understand why there sales continue, the product does not work as described.

  • May 7, 2013

    by Gerly

    Hi. Where can i buy ascorbic acid powder?

  • April 15, 2013

    by Janet

    I'm looking into adding Vit. C to my regimen as I just had a spot taken off my nose that was basal cell carcinoma.
    Knowing Vit. C is such a superb cell renewal, builder, super vitamin I'm thinking about adding something to my regimen.
    I have very fair skin and have been burned over the years, therefore the bsc diagnosis. Since it can return I'd like to be proactive in perhaps delaying or beginning healing my skin at the cellular level.
    Thoughts, Marta?

  • January 29, 2013

    by Maria T

    You MUST have a cream with vitamin A in it if you are looking to bring the elasticity back to your skin, making it look and feel smooth. You also need Hyaluronic acid. Why? As we age, our body produces less and less of this important acid, affecting how moisture is stored in our skin. I use Lady Soma's Renewal Serum because it has both those ingredients in 1 serum, and its been getting me the results I have been looking for.

  • January 12, 2013

    by katia

    Hi All
    I use synergie and their vitamin c was really lovely, anyone else used synergie before?

  • January 10, 2013

    by Rose

    Hi Marta,

    Question... I am in my mid 20's, but have been suffering from a noticeably dark upper lip due to excess laser -which did very little to remove hairs, but leave a dark mark around the mustache area... I've been going over the top five products, and am trying to get a good idea of what's best for my condition!...

    ....Any and every advice is much appreciated!... :)...

  • December 29, 2012

    by Carol

    Vit C and copper peptides should not be used together, according to information I've read. One cancels out the other.

  • December 16, 2012

    by Marta

    Hi Kate (no last name), my name is Marta (not Martha). My last name is Wohrle. My credentials are that I am an aging woman, trying things out and educating myself on products and their ingredients. You can read about me and our other contributors here:

  • December 15, 2012

    by Kate

    I hope people are not really taking advice from people like Martha, no last name, no [known] credentials without first doing additional research… :)

  • December 5, 2012

    by Marta

    Hi Patricia
    There are three serums here for under $40. As explained, vitamin C is difficult to formulate with due to stability and irritation issues and that effects the price. We can only be as good as the industry in finding products that qualify for Five Best and come in at under $50. If anyone has a lower priced recommendation we'd love to hear it.

  • December 4, 2012

    by Patricia Brecheisen

    All of the lotions listed are ridiculously expensive, I'm sorry you assume all of your readers have that kind of money. I'm surprised there aren't more reasonable creams.

  • November 21, 2012

    by suraya

    I live in South Africa, I. Am so into all the wonderful remedies. Dr Oz give on the skin but here in SA we don't have much creams with Vit C available the ones we do have are so expensive. I would love to. Make my own. Would have to find all the ingredents it would require. Any suggestions from Americans

  • November 18, 2012

    by Myra

    Naheed do you buy them all seperate and mix.. Where do you get them and instructions please

  • November 14, 2012

    by Nathalie Duncan

    Perricone recently came up with a fabulous Vitamin C treatment that I highly recommend. If you are 45+ and battling dryness you will need some oil or some moisturizer on top. Best of the best of all the C treatments I ever tried.

  • November 12, 2012

    by Jan

    Danny, or anyone who may know, how do you get access to Osmosis if you're not a salon or licensed aesthetician? I actually live in Colorado where Osmosis is located.....and I'm so spoiled by being able to order everything off the internet, I no longer have the desire to drive to buy.

  • November 12, 2012

    by Marta

    Hi Wendy, the issues for vitamin C are light and air (rather than heat). They should be in an opaque or dark glass container and kept away from direct light in, for example, a bathroom cabinet.

  • November 11, 2012

    by Wendy

    What is the best way/place to store a bottle of these serums to reduce oxidation? In the refrigerator? Room temperature? Is the bathroom OK or too humid & warm? What about using a vacuum seal container like those made for preserving coffee?

  • November 9, 2012

    by Naheed

    I like to use my DIY C serum with MAP and Ferulic acid. I make it fresh every month, so I don't have to worry about oxidation which is a problem with these manufactured Vit. C serums, especially with LAA.

  • November 7, 2012

    by Marta

    Hi Vicki, yes that's right. Ferulic acid improves the performance of vitamin C (and vitamin E). There's more on ferulic acid here:

  • November 7, 2012

    by vicki

    i thought c worked better with ferulic acid, even if it's in form of labsorbic acid. >>>>

  • November 7, 2012

    by Junko

    Aargh!! So frustrating. It would benefit Dr. Oz to put Marta on his staff as a consultant or professional expert on such matters before he goes off making recommendations that he has not researched well. If he keeps this up his recommendations won't be credible simply because he's not sourcing from knowledgeable people to make 'his recommendations'. Guess the TIA community needs to go post on his site again and tell him where he should be getting his information and recommendations from!!

  • November 7, 2012

    by Marta

    Hi Becky, antioxidants are not all simply antioxidants, vitamin C will have different effects than, say, copper peptides. So I would say that what you have going is complimentary.

  • November 7, 2012

    by Becky

    I have been using Mad Hippie Vit C for a few years and really like it but have a question about whether also using Osmosis Correct is simply duplicating efforts? both are ultimately antioxidants, yes?
    I use the Correct in the morning before sunscreen and the Vit C at night before moisturizer (a few times a week).

  • November 5, 2012

    by erum

    has anyone used vitamin c cream by bio one professional solution with 17% l ascorbic acid?its a US brand ,when i opened ,it was yellow in color,idk if its effective or not ? please someone guide me?

  • November 3, 2012

    by Dennis

    I agree with Laura. Vitamin C is the best for skin. I always look for a product with MAP or even better (for me) TA.

  • September 26, 2012

    by Mary

    has anyone tried philosophy vitamin c booster powder that you mix 1/2tsp in with your serum or cream to put on your face? They say it is 100% potency while serums i am reading about go up to 20%. Anyone know which is better and what is the difference?

  • September 25, 2012

    by Danny

    The best Vit C I have used is one of those osmosis skin care powders. The vitamin C powder also has glutathione and vitamin e in it . I used to get irritation from normal vitamin c products but I can mix this with anything any I don't sting at all . I have noticed a big change and also I use it around my eyes . You get a lot of powder and it lasts for so long

  • September 23, 2012

    by page mccane

    I have been using the Obagi 15% C serum and looking for something like it but less expensive. I have also recently received a sample of Peter Roth Thomas serum and like it alson but again is a little expensive for me. Any advice or suggestions?

  • September 22, 2012

    by laura

    I've used some of these, and I know from experience that creams with vitamin C are the best ones for your skin. Right now I'm using Monsia moisturizing cream and wooow I'm loving it so far :) Really making a difference to my skin.

  • July 11, 2012

    by Jan

    I must admit, I do what davea0511 suggests......I wet my face and use a pinch of Vit C on fingertip and massage into skin and then rinse off. It's wonderful. Additionally I mix a large pinch of the powder with water in a spray bottle - lasts a long time - and mist my face in the mornings only.

  • July 11, 2012

    by Marta

    Hi Julie, it is better to use A at night because it is makes the skin more sensitive to sunlight and it is a photosensitizer

  • July 11, 2012

    by Julie Kay

    I just bought Lather's vitamin C peptide renewal in the TIA Shop. I haven't used a Vit C serum in my regimen yet and (because of product promises) thought I could use some "brightening." So far it works well w both Control and Skinn Night Balm. Marta- Is Vit C the one we should use at night or is that A? ~jk

  • July 10, 2012

    by Larsa benjamin

    How about ActivFerulox CE which contains exact formula as Skinceuticals CE Ferulic Acid. I switched to ActivFerulox because skinceuticals was just too expensive. I found this Generic formula from a friend of mine. The best thing about this is that it is an identical product at a cheaper price. About $80 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.

  • June 4, 2012

    by Darrell

    I mean no disrespect but I disagree completely with your advice to rub pure ascorbate powder onto a wet face.

    For almost all individuals, this would cause extreme irritation, sensitize the skin and in some (especially if the person has recently exfoliated) cause severe tissue damage.

    I saw the video on another web site Dave where you commented and would like to point out that the video does not instruct use of pure ascorbate powder on the face -- but rather directs the user to dissolve 1/4 tsp vitamin C in 1 tsp of water, dissolve the vitamin C and then paint onto the face with a brush.

    Vitamin C is an especially wonderful ingredient, but when used haphazardly may cause irritation or severe burns.

    I would advise readers interested in rubbing pure vitamin C powder on their wet faces to consult with an esthetician first or that some estheticians weigh-in on this topic.

    My best,

  • June 4, 2012

    by davea0511

    Not mentioned: vitamin c powder on a wet face puts all of these to shame and costs pennies to the dollar compared to these "serums". Use sodium ascorbate if your skin is sensitive, but still go full strength. Rub until skin starts to tingle ... then rinse off.

  • May 16, 2012

    by Marta

    Good catch Renee and my bad. E'shee is 20% vit C for example. I've added them to the descriptions where I have them. Thanks!

  • May 16, 2012

    by Renee

    I noticed that the strength of the Vitamin C is not included in the reviews. I consider this an important factor. Was the strength not included in the product information?

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