Brighter skin days right this way

Ask any beauty expert or dermatologist what their absolute-must-haves are in their skincare routine and this is what you’ll hear: facial sunscreensretinol and vitamin C serums.

Why? It’s pretty simple. When used alongside each other, these three are your skin’s best chance at fighting the visible signs of ageing. Not only that, but this holy trinity also promotes happy, healthy and well-functioning skin. You’ve probably got your best SPF moisturiser at the ready and you’re clued up on which retinol serum works best for you, so now it’s time to look a little closer at vitamin C.

What does vitamin C do?

Vitamin C is something of a mega multitasker in the skincare world. It encourages collagen production, helps to brighten dark spots and pigmentation, and works as an antioxidant to protect the skin against free radicals (unstable molecules that cause oxidative stress on skin cells, AKA premature ageing).

Not only that, but it’s also a great anti-inflammatory agent, softens rough skin texture and gives your skin one hell of a natural glow (meaning the best face serums containing vitamin C will allow you to skip out on even the very best highlighter).

How to use vitamin C in your skincare routine

Now let’s get down to the good stuff: how do you go about starting to use this ingredient in your skin regimen? ‘You have to pay a lot of attention to the form and the concentration you use on the skin,’ says consultant dermatologist Dr Emma Craythorne. ‘The optimal concentration depends on its formulation.

‘In most cases, for a product to be of biological significance, it needs to have a concentration higher than 8%. Studies have shown that a concentration above 20% does not increase its biological significance, but might cause irritation.

‘Reputable products of vitamin C available today are, therefore, in the range of 10 to 20%,’ she continues. ‘Pure vitamin C is also known as L-ascorbic acid. This is the most effective form of vitamin C on the skin.’

In short, vitamin C is a fairly punchy active ingredient, so it’s a good idea to let your skin get used to it. But don’t panic – simply introduce it slowly by applying it every couple of days to start with and your skin should adjust. You can then gradually up your usage.

However, vitamin C is notoriously unstable, meaning that its efficacy and strength is affected by factors like light, air and heat exposure. It’s also a bit of a lone wolf and doesn’t always play nicely with certain other active ingredients. We don’t recommend you apply an AHA or BHA toner beforehand (something with salicylic acid or glycolic acid in it) because it could destabilise the pH level of the vitamin C and stop it from working.

Ready to find your new hero serum? Below you’ll find our beauty editor-approved round-up of the best vitamin C serums that the market has to offer.

If you want to use the same vitamin C serum as most beauty editors, then voilà. This hardworking and efficacious serum is the go-to for beauty experts. It’s something of a cult classic.

Why it gets the Marie Claire seal of approval: Very lightweight and also contains ferulic acid, another antioxidant that helps stave off free radicals.

For something more affordable (but by no means less effective) look to cult bargain skincare brand The Inkey List for high performing ingredients at low prices. The Vitamin C serum has quite a creamy texture and contains a punchy 30% pure L-ascorbic acid to help you get your skin glowing.

Why it gets the Marie Claire seal of approval: Its seriously bank balance-friendly price tag.

Oh the hype that has surrounded this brand! Luckily, the products are worth it. Despite the slightly sticky texture of this vitamin C serum, you’ll love the results it brings. It’s pricey, but it truly is one of best-loved formulas on the market.

Why it gets the Marie Claire seal of approval: Contains a stellar supporting cast of ferulic acid, vitamin E, antioxidants and enzymes and has completely airtight packaging.

This serum is designed to both brighten your skin AND protect the planet. Along with a potent mix of active ingredients, the product is enhanced with lemon extract. A superfood that targets dark circles and boosts glow.

Why it gets the Marie Claire seal of approval: Vitamin C sits alongside niacinamide and salicylic acid to clear up and even out your complexion.

A rich formula that also contains hyaluronic acid, so perfect for those with dry skin but those with oilier complexions might want to give this one a miss.

Why it gets the Marie Claire seal of approval: A gentle plumping formula that also packs in moisturising glycerin.

Sunday Riley is legendarily famous in the beauty world, and her potent vitamin C serum will have you looking more radiant in a ‘rapid flash’ (see what we did there?). The visible signs of skin ageing – wrinkles, fine lines, dehydration, dullness, sensitivity and uneven tone – are no match for this punchy formula.

Why it gets the Marie Claire seal of approval: A potent formula that absorbs easily with a complex that reduces skin sensitivity.

Yes, it’s on the pricier side of the serum spectrum. Yes, it’s pretty amazing. Not satisfied with just one, this lightweight formula is infused with a mix of Vitamin C in three forms – oil-soluble vitamin C THD, stabilized synthetic vitamin c in glucosidic form, and kakadu plum extract. Working to reduce signs of uneven pigmentation and tone, sensitive skin will love this one because it’s potent enough to be highly effective, without compromising a fragile skin barrier.

Why it gets the Marie Claire seal of approval: A clever formula that contains three types of vitamin C and zinc to improve its absorption.

This serum is a bit different to the others in our round-up. It’s a 10-day treatment that, once completed, will give you a much brighter and more even skin tone whenever your skin needs a boost. Just do it again if you feel things are still looking a little lacklustre.

Why it gets the Marie Claire seal of approval: The 10-day treatment time, plus the hydrating, hyaluronic-acid infused formula.

Another Vitamin C hero formulated with sensitive skin in mind, La Roche-Posay’s Vitamin C 10 formula has a 10% concentration – so you’ll get all of the brightening benefits of vitamin C, without irritating your skin in the process. Check and check.

Why it gets the Marie Claire seal of approval: Made by a dermatologist-loved brand, plus the addition of exfoliating salicylic acid.

This potent serum combines vitamin C with glycolic acid – an AHA wonder ingredient that boosts cell turnover and rids the skin of dead cells – to tighten pores, brighten sallowness and give your skin an all-round smoother and more even appearance.

Why it gets the Marie Claire seal of approval: The exfoliating glycolic acid for the ultimate glow – not for the faint-hearted.

The 15 in the name stands for the 15% potency in the formula. That’s a really good concentration to start with if you’re fairly new to vitamin C. See this as your introduction to an ingredient you are sure to fall in love with.

Why it gets the Marie Claire seal of approval: The lightweight texture and the brand founder, Paula Begoun, who is one of the most knowledgable people in beauty.

If what you’re after is glow, then look no further than this bad boy. It’s obviously got vitamin C in it, but it’s the added extras of exfoliating acids and colour-correcting pigments that are really what you’ll love. This serum colour corrects dark spots and neutralises redness. So all you’re left with is the glow.

Why it gets the Marie Claire seal of approval: The colour-correcting pigments, inspired by old school beauty product banana powder.

The Medik8 team are firm believers in the power of our hardworking trifecta – vitamin C and SPF during the day and retinol at night, also known as the CSA philosophy. They’re also firm believers in delivering simplified skincare that brings with it the results you want. This serum has a type of vitamin C that’s gentle on the skin, paired with vitamin E. Ideal for everyday use and sensitive skin types.

Why it gets the Marie Claire seal of approval: The brand’s straightforward philosophy and hardworking products.

Whilst on the spenny side, you are getting clinic-worthy results in a bottle. There’s 10% stabilised vitamin C in this serum and it is clinically proven to reduce pigmentation by 39.7% and brighten skin by 29.4% over 30 days.

Why it gets the Marie Claire seal of approval: The advanced results you’d expect from an advanced formula.

Dr Marko Lens is a leading plastic surgeon and a go-to for skin ageing. His skincare line is well respected and reliable. This brightening serum helps with loss of elasticity, improves the appearance of dark spots and makes one heck of a daily antioxidant treatment.

Why it gets the Marie Claire seal of approval: Also works to restore your skin’s barrier function.

This is a mighty all-rounder from Jessica Alba’s beauty brand. It combines the powers of vitamin C to brighten, hyaluronic acid to hydrate and artichoke extract for pore refining. There’s also light reflecting pearlescent effect that’s incredibly pleasing.

Why it gets the Marie Claire seal of approval: As well as vitamin C’s complexion benefits, artichoke extract helps to reduce the appearance of pores and prevent their sagging.