I’m happy that vitamin C is taking its turn in the spotlight and finally getting the recognition it deserves. Vitamin C, the stuff oranges and Kakadu plums are made of, is an active ingredient you need to incorporate into your routine. It brightens the face, boosts collagen and fights free radicals, among other numerous skin benefits. Read on to find out what makes it a powerhouse skincare ingredient, as well as the top 5 vitamin C serums you need to try.
A Vitamin C Serum Buying Guide: All You Need to Know
What is vitamin C?
Ascorbic acid or vitamin C is a powerful, acidic antioxidant that stimulates the skin to regenerate and heal itself. It fades hyperpigmentation and soothes inflammation. It also defends the skin from harmful free radicals and boosts collagen.
You’ll often see vitamin C-infused serums, moisturisers and cleansers. It’s adaptable enough to be adapted into different formulas and concentrations. The most effective topical form of vitamin C, though, is called L-Ascorbic acid. Keep your eyes peeled for products with that in the ingredients list if you’re after dramatic effects.
Why should you use a vitamin C serum?
Vitamin C in skincare isn’t a new thing actually but it has gained popularity, especially with a renewed interest in all things skin and beauty. It’s as much of a skin anti-ageing product as it is a complexion-enhancing ingredient.
Vitamin C helps boost vitamin E production. These 2 vitamins protect the skin from photo-ageing caused by free radicals and sun exposure. It stimulates the skin to produce collagen and resurface the outer layers. In a sense, it is an exfoliant because it encourages faster cell turnover. Dark spots become fainter, as a result. That’s why it gives users a much sought after glow.
Vitamin C also preserves the skin’s collagen reserves, resulting in a more refined skin texture and a reduction in the signs of ageing. With every use, your skin will look plumper and firmer. It’s like turning back the clock.
Who should use vitamin C serums?
Vitamin C covers a wide range of skincare concerns so all skin types can benefit from it. It can be used as a preventative measure for young people while for people concerned about ageing, it can treat fine lines and wrinkles.
Vitamin C is particularly beneficial for people struggling with hyperpigmentation and a dull complexion. Skin that has started showing signs of sun damage will also drink up the effects of a vitamin C serum.
Is vitamin C safe to use?
Given its potency, vitamin C needs to be introduced slowly into your skincare routine, especially if you have sensitive skin.
The devil is in the details so the thing you should pay attention to is the concentration of vitamin C in a formula.
For sensitive skin types, it’s recommended to start with a baseline of 5 per cent before working your way up. A vitamin C derivative (meaning something that’s diluted or a non-pure version) or a gentler form of vitamin C like vitamin C ester, could be a good introduction to the product.
Of course, the higher the dose, the better the results will be. If your skin is quite resilient, you could use a serum with between 10 to 20 per cent vitamin C. Definitely start slow and build up your tolerance. Patch test a product to see if there are any adverse reactions.
How do you choose the best vitamin C serum?
If you see L-ascorbic acid anywhere on the label or the ingredients list, it’s a good sign. It’s the most effective form of vitamin C, which is also why it’s the most well-known.
Ideally, L-ascorbic acid should be in the first 5 ingredients on the serum.
Other skincare experts prefer 3-O-ethyl ascorbic acid or the ester version of vitamin C called tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate but the jury is still out on this. Unless you’re sensitive, you should go for L-ascorbic acid just to be on the safe side.
Most skin types can tolerate vitamin C serums at a 15 to 20 percentage. Sensitive skin should start with a 10 per cent concentration or lower. However, more doesn’t mean better results. Going over 20 per cent will only irritate your skin. At least 8 per cent is good enough to see results.
Supporting IngredientsVitamin C plays well with ferulic acid and vitamin E. These ingredients enhance the effects of vitamin C.
Vitamin E is an antioxidant that stabilises vitamin C and fortifies the skin moisture barrier.
Another ingredient that supports or complements vitamin C is hyaluronic acid, which draws water into the skin and prevents moisture loss. It has soothing effects which can act as a buffer to the irritating properties of vitamin C.
Vitamin C should not be exposed to light because light makes the actives unstable. Air and heat exposure also degrades vitamin C.
When preserved in serum form, vitamin C should come as a clear liquid. It should be stored in a dark bottle to minimise light exposure. The opening should be airtight.
Dropper bottles and air pumps are good carriers for vitamin C. Just remember to store the bottle in a cool and dark place to prolong its life further.
The 5 Best Must-Try Vitamin C Serums in Australia: Glow-to Face Products
SkinCeuticals- C E Ferulic Serum
L-ascorbic acid and alpha tocopherol are the key ingredients of this anti-ageing serum from SkinCeuticals. It’s a great product when you need a little pick me up or when your skin has been feeling lacklustre.
The 15 per cent L-ascorbic acid fights free radicals that contribute to that haggard look. It visibly improves the appearance of your complexion and you only need a few drops each time to see effects.
Supporting the vitamin C is 1 per cent alpha tocopherol or vitamin E. It’s an unadulterated form of vitamin E so it’s a potent antioxidant that enhances the effects of vitamin C. It strengthens the skin’s moisture barrier so skin looks plump and hydrated.
Ferulic acid is an antioxidant that stabilizes vitamin C and has anti-ageing benefits.
Though the SkinCeuticals vitamin C serum is lightweight, it’s also has a bit of tackiness. The sticky feel goes away after the product sinks into the skin.
The vitamin C serum is stored in a dark brown dropper bottle that distributes the right amount of product. The sealed packaging helps to prevent the degradation of the actives in the serum.
With regular use, this serum will keep your skin glowy and refine texture and dark spots. That being said, it’s quite an expensive purchase but it may be worth the investment if you’re after a serious glow-up.
- Contains 15 per cent vitamin C that neutralizes free radicals
- 1 per cent vitamin E supports the antioxidant effects of vitamin C
- Stored in a dark bottle
- Lightweight feel and quick-absorbing
- Fortifies the skin and makes it look glowy
- The price is quite expensive
- Has a bit of stickiness that goes away after the serum is absorbed
OLE HENRIKSEN – Truth Serum
One of the best vitamin C serums to get in Australia is the Truth Serum by Ole Henriksen. It’s like popping a daily multivitamin for your face.
From the get-go, Ole Henriksen has been a staunch believer of the power of vitamin C. The vitamin C serum contains a combination of sodium ascorbyl phosphate (SAP) and calcium ascorbate. Some experts say this is a more stable form of vitamin C compared to L-ascorbic acid.
While the percentage isn’t indicated, it’s quite low, making this the best vitamin C serum to buy if you have sensitive skin or aren’t sure if your skin will tolerate vitamin C well.
The serum also contains collagen, orange and green tea extracts, and aloe juice. This will calm down hyperpigmentation and boost skin elasticity. It contains hydrating ingredients and stimulates the production of collagen, leaving you with smoother and more radiant skin.
The Ole Henriksen vitamin C serum has a refreshing citrus scent that makes putting it on the face a real treat. It comes in a slightly opaque glass bottle with a pump for easy dispensing. Application is a breeze and there are no pesky waiting periods.
A disadvantage with this serum is the form of vitamin C it uses. Derivatives are less powerful than L-ascorbic acid but if the goal is to avoid irritation and slowly build up a tolerance, it’s a great starter product. I also wish they disclosed the exact concentration of vitamin C in the serum but it’s still an effective product, nonetheless.
- Contains a vitamin C derivative that is said to be more stable than pure vitamin C
- Has a low vitamin C percentage, good for sensitive skin
- Contains collage, orange and green tea extracts and aloe juice
- Fades dark spots and improves elasticity
- Comes in a semi-opaque bottle with a pump
- Uses a less potent form of vitamin C
- No percentage indicated
Drunk Elephant – C-Firma™ Day Serum
Say hello to brighter days with the Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum! Yes, you read that right–this is a vitamin C serum for daytime use. While I preach about using your restorative and active ingredients at night, vitamin C is actually best used during the day. It supports sunscreen and amplifies its protective benefits. This vitamin C serum helps block UV exposure and fend off pollutants and free radicals.
The main ingredient is 15 per cent L-ascorbic acid which is an anti-ageing workhorse. It brightens, firms and protects the skin. Working together with vitamin C is pumpkin ferment and pomegranate extract which refine pores and slough off dead skin cell so you get a more even skin tone.
Drunk Elephant also added Indian gooseberry to reduce the signs of ageing caused by stress (a skincare benefit we all need nowadays). The Day Serum is as much of a corrective brightener as it is a preventive serum.
The effects last 72 hours after you apply it. It’s like a tonic for the face because it visibly wakes up a tired-looking face while preventing fine lines and wrinkles.
The Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum is stored in the cutest of bottles. The packaging is functional, too, since it’s tightly sealed to keep the serum from oxidizing.
In terms of texture, it’s a lightweight oil-type serum. It does feel a bit sticky at first but that fades away the more you work it into your face.
While this isn’t as pricey as the SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic Serum, it’s still quite a steep investment. You should also take note that this vitamin C serum has a divisive scent. It doesn’t smell like a fragrant or perfumey serum so it might irritate a sensitive nose. If you are not picky about fragrance, though, this is one of the best vitamin C serums to get in Australia.
- Contains 15 per cent L-ascorbic acid, pumpkin ferment, pomegranate extract and Indian gooseberry
- Brightens the complexion and fights the signs of ageing
- Retexturizes the skin and dissolves dead skin cells
- Effects last for 72 hours
- Sealed in an airtight bottle
- A bit expensive
- Has an odd scent
ALPHA-H – Vitamin C With Grape Seed Serum
The Alpha-H vitamin C serum is a serious multitasker. In fact, if you only want one serum in your routine, let it be this one.
It’s made in Australia and is vegan and cruelty-free. The Alpha-H serum contains ethyl ascorbic acid. Supporting it are liquorice extract, hyaluronic acid and grape seed extract. This antioxidant blend boosts skin radiance, increases elasticity and protects the skin from oxidative damage.
The ethyl ascorbic acid stimulates collagen production so skin looks more youthful and smooth. Liquorice reduces the formation of melanin and grape seed extract boosts the serum’s antioxidant effects.
Hyaluronic acid draws water into the skin and minimizes potential irritation caused by vitamin C. Your skin will look firmer and the appearance of pores will be minimized.
The serum is very easy to use and absorbs quickly into the skin. It leaves a velvety feeling after application and makeup sits on top of the serum quite well since the formula is water-based.
The serum is stored in a beautiful neutral-coloured dropper bottle that shields it from light and oxygen exposure. It’s a great lightweight serum that’s gentle enough for vitamin C newbies.
That being said, the percentage of vitamin C isn’t indicated, which is a bit of a letdown. It doesn’t use the more potent form of vitamin C, L-ascorbic acid so it may take a while to see visible effects.
- An Australia-made serum that’s cruelty-free and vegan
- Contains ethyl ascorbic acid, liquorice extract, hyaluronic acid and grape seed extract
- Improves the complexion and increases skin elasticity
- Prevents oxidative damage and stimulates the production of collagen
- Hyaluronic acid is a hydrating ingredient that plumps up the skin
- Lightweight formula, stored in a sealed dropper bottle
- No vitamin C percentage indicated
- Uses a less potent form of vitamin C
The Ordinary Ascorbyl Glucoside Solution 12%
If you’re looking to score a great vitamin C serum on a budget, look no further than The Ordinary. DECIEM’s famous no-frills skincare line has taken the world by storm years back. They have multiple vitamin C products but this one is a fan favourite.
The Ordinary’s Ascorbyl Glucoside Solution 12% contains the aforementioned ascorbyl glucoside, a form of vitamin C. Though it’s not as potent as L-ascorbic acid, the vitamin C derivative ascorbyl glucoside is nothing to shrug at. Its water-soluble quality makes it a more stable alternative to L-ascorbic acid. The texture of the serum has a light, pleasant feel.
The Ordinary Ascorbyl Glucoside serum brightens the skin within a few weeks of use. The complexion becomes more even and skin texture more refined. It helps turn back the clock by reducing and preventing the telltale signs of ageing.
As a plus, the serum has a skin smoothening effect. If you’re struggling with uneven skin tone or redness, this serum would do the trick to take your complexion from lacklustre to radiant.
The Ordinary serum is fragrance-free and stored in a dark glass bottle for easy application and longer shelf life. Some users say the serum doesn’t layer well with other products. It tends to pill, especially during cold months. It also takes a while to absorb into the skin, which may be frustrating if you’re in a rush. You do get a lot of bang for your buck with the Ordrinary, making this product one of the best vitamin C serums to try.
- Contains 12 per cent ascorbyl glucoside, a vitamin C derivative
- The water-soluble serum is light and pleasant to use
- Improves skin texture and unevenness in a few weeks
- Reduces signs of ageing and smooths the skin
- Stored in a dark glass dropper bottle
- Hard to layer with other products without pilling
- Doesn’t absorb quickly
These are the best vitamin C serums in Australia, well-loved by beauty editors and skincare aficionados alike.
The most recommended serum on this list is the SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic and for good reason. Vitamin E and ferulic are complementary ingredients to L-ascorbic acid. You squeeze out the benefits of vitamin C with this triple threat ingredient list.
The percentage of actives hits that sweet spot of effectiveness and tolerability. It’s stored in a dark bottle to keep the product from going stale.
The serum absorbs into the skin, making it perfect for daytime use. Once you get past that hefty price tag, you’ll love the results you’ll get from this vitamin C serum and become a part of the highly enthusiastic C E Ferulic serum fan club.