‘You are what you eat’ was drilled into me at a very young age, often in the toxic noughties TV show style that is scorched into the brains of many-a-millennial. But, diet culture trauma aside, there are some takeaways from that saying when it comes to skincare, and vitamin C is the prime example.
Just as the vitamin is recommended as part of a healthy diet, working to aid your immune system, memory and blood pressure, it can actually work wonders when applied to the skin, too.
Vitamin C serums are a staple in my skincare routine. In fact, while other ingredients dip in and out of the limelight – retinol and niacinamide, I’m looking at you – the only one I’ve ever stuck with every day is vitamin C. And I swear it’s the secret to my usually clear, bright and fresh-looking face.
Working as an antioxidant, vitamin C has been known to reduce wrinkles, dark spots and acne scarring, and even help prevent sun damage, which is a fairly impressive list of benefits for just one serum.
Every skin type can use it (unless you have an allergy to triethanolamine), but it’s best to work your way up slowly in regards to the percentage of the concentration. If you’re new to these serums, you want to look for a concentration of less than 10% or the more sensitive skin variations, sodium ascorbyl phosphate and Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate (THD), rather than the standard L-ascorbic acid (or just ascorbic acid).
For everyone else, it’s fair game. But not all vitamin C serums are made equal, so keep reading below to find out my six favourites to suit every budget.
Skin Proud Bright Boost 2% Vitamin C Serum, £12.95
With only 2% concentration, this vitamin C serum is incredibly mild, making it a great option for beginners. Just like all Skin Proud products, it sits nicely within the bargain beauty price point, and Kakadu plum and lemon extract stick out as the key ingredients, adding a brightening boost to any complexion.
Skinceuticals Phloretin CF Antioxidant Serum for Normal, Combination, Discolouration-Prone Skin Types, £150
Yes, this serum is a major investment, but it’s Eliza beauty editor Rebecca Fearn’s favourite pick, so has the golden seal of approval. Included in the potent product is 10% L-ascorbic acid, 2% phloretin and 0.5% ferulic acid to help smooth the skin, even tone and boost the skin barrier. But if it’s not within your budget, I have a great handful of other options.
Pacifica Glow Baby Booster Serum, £31.98
Coming in at under £20, this is quite the bargain buy (as far as quality vitamin C’s go, anyway). Leaning into the skin brightening and luminosity-boosting results, vitamin C is combined with glycolic acid for a gentle exfoliation that sloughs away dead skin cells for a more even skin texture and glow.
Medik8 C-Tetra Luxe, £59
This is the vitamin C serum I use every day. It’s the only item I’d count as essential in my whole bathroom, and you best believe I’m scraping every last drop out of the bottle.
Although the brand won’t share what percentage of vitamin C is included, it uses tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate (THD) as the vitamin C source, meaning it’s more suitable for sensitive skin. And squalane, vitamin E, F, maracuja oil and red ginseng are also included, only bumping up its benefits.
Ole Henriksen Banana Bright Vitamin C Serum, £58
On days when my skin feels particularly dry, I reach for this Ole Henriksen option over Medik8. Its thick, creamy formula never fails to impress, providing deep hydration that lasts for hours on end.
With 15% vitamin C, it’s one of the highest concentrations in this list, and fruit acids have also been included to exfoliate at the same time. So, this one’s best for those who are well-versed with these ingredients.
Simple booster serum 10% vitamin C+E+F, Was £7.99, now £3.99
Simple has been a staple high street beauty brand for as long as I can remember, and there’s a reason why we all love it so much. Boasting a whole host of skin-loving ingredients inside, including 2% vitamin C, 1% vitamin E and 7% vitamin F, it’s sure to be gentle on even the most sensitive skin, while cutting down the number of products in your routine.