Skin experts say the best vitamin C serum is an non-negotiable - these are the 13 best as chosen by our beauty editors

Brighter skin days, right this way

Best vitamin C serum: woman shielding face from sun with her hand
(Image credit: Getty Images/Plume Creative)

We've waxed lyrical in the past about how using a hardworking face serum is arguably the most important step in skincare. And whilst that is true, if you ask any beauty expert or dermatologist what their absolute must-haves are in their skincare routine and this is what you'll hear: facial sunscreens, retinol and the best vitamin C serum you can get your hands on.

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. So get you best SPF moisturiser at the ready, clue yourself up which retinol product works best for you and let's take a look at some of the best vitamin C serums. 

What is the best vitamin C serum to buy?

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. The Marie Claire UK team were thorough in their testing of the below products. How did we do it? Well, with some of the most established beauty journalists in the country getting to call Marie Claire UK their work home, it's needless to say they've spent a good few years of their lives testing and trialling vitamin C serums. Combined, the beauty team has decades of vitamin C testing experience, so they know a thing or two about what makes a product the best (and worth your money). 

The criteria for a great vitamin C product is one that absorbs well into the skin, comes in smart vitamin C-friendly packaging (to prevent oxidisation) and has a genuinely effective formula with a percentage of vitamin C cut the mustard—and only products that tick all of the above boxes made it onto our final list. 

Best vitamin C serums 2023

1. SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic Serum

best vitamin c serum - SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic

(Image credit: Skinceuticals)

SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic Serum

Best vitamin C serum for dry skin

Specifications

Concentration: 15%

Reasons to buy

+
A little goes a long way

Reasons to avoid

-
Very expensive

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 has 15% L-ascorbic acid, as well as vitamin E and ferulic acid. It's something of a cult classic. This one is best suited to those with dry skin, if you're more on the oily side opt for the brand's Phloretin C F serum. It's very lightweight and the addition of ferulic acid, another antioxidant, means that you get double the free-radical protection.

Katie Thomas, Senior Beauty Editor says: "When I started in the beauty industry, everyone told me to get my hands on this serum. I wasn't disappointed. Yes, my skin looked glowier, but I noticed that my uneven skin tone (thanks to years of not wearing SPF everyday before I became a beauty editor) looked infinitely better."

2. The INKEY List Vitamin C Serum

The INKEY List Vitamin C Serum

(Image credit: The INKEY List)

The INKEY List Vitamin C Serum

Best affordable vitamin C serum

Specifications

Concentration: 30%

Reasons to buy

+
Super affordable 

Reasons to avoid

-
Very potent, won't suit those with sensitive skin

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. Plus, that bank-friendly price tag leaves us very impressed indeed.

Katie says: "I am always so impressed with the Inkey List products and this was no different. What a brilliant product for such a low price. I will say that it did sting a little when I used it, so I started using it twice a week initially and then managed it every day after about a month.2

3. L'Oréal Paris Revitalift Clinical 12% Pure Vitamin C Serum

best vitamin c serum - L'Oréal Paris Revitalift Clinical 12% Pure Vitamin C Serum

(Image credit: L'Oréal Paris)

L'Oréal Paris Revitalift Clinical 12% Pure Vitamin C Serum

Best vitamin C serum for oily skin

Specifications

Concentration: 12%

Reasons to buy

+
good if you suffer from breakouts

Reasons to avoid

-
might not suit drier skin types

One of the latest innovations from L'Oréal Paris, this relatively affordable vitamin C serum has seriously impressed us at Marie Claire. 

Shannon Lawlor, Executive Beauty Editor says: "I often find that vitamin C serums can be oily and leave my skin prone to breakouts, but the fact this clear product contains salicylic acid means it's perfect for my congestion-prone skin. It helps to unclog pores for optimum absorption of the vitamin C. Plus, some added silicones means it doesn't leave an oily residue and means it makes for a great make-up base."

4. Kiehl's Strength Line-Reducing Concentrate

best vitamin c serum - Kiehl's Powerful-Strength Line-Reducing Concentrate

(Image credit: Kiehl's)

Kiehl's Strength Line-Reducing Concentrate

Best vitamin C serum for uneven skin tone

Specifications

Concentration: 12.5%

Reasons to buy

+
Brightens complexion 

Reasons to avoid

-
slightly grainy texture

This stuff is a rich formula that contains a healthy 10.5% of L-Ascorbic acid and hyaluronic acid, so perfect for those with dry skin. A gentle plumping formula that also packs in moisturising glycerin, it might be something that those with oilier complexions want to give a miss.

Katie says: "This is a lot creamier than others on the list and tingles slightly when it goes on, but don't panic that fades quickly."

5. Summer Fridays CC Me Serum

best face serum - Summer Fridays CC Me Serum

(Image credit: Summer Fridays)

Summer Fridays CC Me Serum

Best vitamin C serum for glow

Specifications

Concentration: N/A

Reasons to buy

+
Beautiful base for make-up

Reasons to avoid

-
Cheaper, more advanced antioxidants on the market

Celeb-favourite Summer Fridays started with effective facemasks and has added impressive serums to its repertoire. The brands CC Me serum dazzled us so much with its glow-getting abilities, we even named it one of our best face serums ever. 

Grace Lindsay, Beauty Contributor says: " I have a lot to say about this vitamin C serum. If your skin is in need of a pick-me-up, then I can't recommend this enough. It contains two forms of vitamin C to brighten the complexion and reduce the appearance of dark spots and pigmentation. I apply it in the morning and it gives me the most gorgeous glow. It's also super moisturising, so helps to create the perfect base for my make-up."

6. Sunday Riley C.E.O. 15% Vitamin C Brightening Serum

best face serum - Sunday Riley C.E.O. Vitamin C Serum

(Image credit: Sunday Riley)

Sunday Riley C.E.O. 15% Vitamin C Brightening Serum

Best vitamin C serum for fine lines

Specifications

Concentration: 15%

Reasons to buy

+
Early signs of ageing

Reasons to avoid

-
Quite expensive

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'. The visible signs of skin ageing—fine lines, dehydration, dullness, sensitivity and uneven tone—are no match for this punchy formula.

Shannon says: "I like my vitamin C serums to feel luxe and be enjoyable to use, and it's surprisingly tricky to find a genuinely efficacious formula that ticks those boxes. This creamy serum from Sunday Riley, however, nails it. And then some. It's moisturising without turning skin greasy, provides glow-boosting antioxidant protection and generally leaves my oily/combination complexion looking much better for using it. I've noticed that my skin looks more youthful too after prolonged use."

7. Vichy Liftactiv Vitamin C Skin Brightening Corrector