Best Inexpensive Vitamin C Serum

Best Inexpensive Vitamin C Serum For Glowing and Youthful Skin

When we are young we don’t pay too much attention to our skin because it’s generally quite flawless, plump and blemish free. As we enter our teen years, damage starts to accumulate, we start getting acne; and if that wasn’t bad enough, signs of sun damage starts to show with the development of fine lines, hyperpigmentation and other skin abnormalities. Proper skincare is crucial for maintaining our skin as we age. A good vitamin C serum should be a foundation of most people’s skincare routine.

best inexpensive vitamin c serumFortunately good skincare on the cheap is possible as there are many really good products to choose from that can be almost as effective as the high end products. One of the best inexpensive vitamin C serums I’ve come across is a Korean skincare product that is almost a copy of the more expensive and award winning Skinceuticals CE + Ferulic Acid. Although, a 30 ml bottle does last about 6 months when stored in the refrigerator, and is clinically proven, so that’s good.

My friends ask me which skincare products I use, and I tell them I use products by Skinceuticals. The question I get asked a lot is: are there any cheaper alternatives?

For people on a budget, or perhaps want to use Vitamin C serum on other parts of the body and not just the face, using a more inexpensive serum could be a good choice. I personally use my Skinceuticals CE+Ferulic or Skinceuticals CF+Phloretin on my face (both contain L-Ascorbic acid at 15 and 10%), and use the Korean Vitamin C serum on my neck, hands and other areas. I’ve used vitamin C Serums for over 8 years, and I could never do without them because they make a big difference in how my skin looks and feels.

The difference with the Korean Skincare product is that it uses sodium ascorbyl phosphate which is a stabilized form of vitamin C.

Skinceuticals products such as CE+Ferulic and CE+Phloretin use L-Ascorbic acid and are clinically proven in studies showing that they are safe and effective.

Let me be clear: you get what you pay for. And when it comes to using products on my face, I’d rather not go cheap. I believe Skinceuticals sell the best vitamin C serums and have the studies to back them up. But they are expensive and not everyone is willing to pay that much.

Skinceuticals also have other cheaper options like: AOX 10%, 15%, and 20% serums, which also has Ferulic acid that is synergistic with the vitamin C, making it more powerful.

Rather than recommending copies of CE+Ferulic with L-Ascorbic acid (AA) as the active ingredient, and possibly causing irritation, inflammation and damage from poorly formulated serums, I thought I’d recommend a cheaper alternatively but with a stabalized form of vitamin C.

Two Inexpensive Vitamin C Serums

I know you were looking for a cheap vitamin C serum, so here are two good options to choose from. Later in the article I will compare the cheap vitamin C serum to more premium priced vitamin C serums.

Seoul Ceuticals Vitamin C Serum 20%

cheap vitamin c serumSeoul Ceuticals is one of the cheapest vitamin C serums around, with ingredients that match more expensive and premium brands like Skinceuticals (see table below).

This Korean skincare serum contains several ingredients that have been found help reverse some of the signs of aging, as well as helping improve skin inflammation and also protect the skin from every day damage which causes skin to wrinkle.

Main ingredients

  • Vitamin C – 20% (Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate)
  • Vitamin E
  • Hyaluronic Acid
  • Ferulic Acid
  • Citrus Stem Cells

Expected Results: They mention that they expect you to see fast results, usually within 3 weeks if used daily

Not satisfied?: They ask that you contact them if you are not satisfied with their product, and they will do whatever they can to help you.

Click to see all the ingredients and current price

Serumtologie Vitamin C Serum 22%

cheap vitamin c serumSerumtologie – anti aging vitamin C serum is a professional grade skin product, designed to be affordable, yet effective in in preventing and treating various skin problems.

They claim that their product is 100% vegan and contains mainly organic and natural ingredients, to reduce the likelihood of any negative reactions when using the serum.

This product is also suitable for all skin types, including those who have acne prone skin.

Main ingredients

  • Vitamin C – 22% (Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate)
  • Hyaluronic Acid
  • Vitamin E
  • Ferulic Acid
  • Other ingredients include: aloe leaf, jojoba oil (and more)


Expected results: Improved skin hydration, skin softening, and reduced appearance of lines and wrinkles. Also the skin serum is said to offer some protection from UV damage.

For best results: They recommend that you use the vitamin C serum both morning and night with a moisturizer.

Click to see all the ingredients and current price

Why Use a Vitamin C Serum?

Collagen is what keeps everything together! It is the foundation or matrix that keep holds the structure of the skin keeping it youthful. It provides firmness to the skin, which is gradually lost over decades of sun exposure, stress, and other insults from the environment. Vitamin C has been clinically proven to boost collagen synthesis for more younger looking skin even at just 5% concentration.

Vitamin C serums can be used as both a corrective and preventative treatment. Not only does it improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, but it can also help lighten hyperpigmentation and red marks, as well as improve skin tone overall. Vitamin C, unlike retinoids is not harsh and there are little to no side effects.

Below I go into more detail about the main benefits for daily use of a vitamin C serum.

Main Benefits of Using a Vitamin C Serum

There are many different benefits of using a vitamin C to protect and improve overall skin health and function. Below are some of the main benefits you’ll notice if you use a vitamin C serum every day.

Increased protection from sun damage.

Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that soaks up reactive oxygen species (ROS), which can be very damaging to the collagen that keeps our skin together. When we are exposed to UV rays, pollution and other environmental factors, the level of reactive oxygen species increases in the skin, leading to mitochondrial damage and upregulation of enzymes which degrade our elastin and collagen.

Vitamin C serums like Skinceuticals CE+Ferulic have been shown to prevents dimer formation almost completely, thus lowering the risk of skin cancer.

When you combine a sunscreen with vitamin C, you have even greater protection from skin cancer and slower skin aging.

Vitamin C increases collagen synthesis in the skin and protects elastin

Vitamin C serums have been shown to affect the rate that we synthesis collagen in our skin. When we are young, collagen synthesis is at a high level, but as a person ages, the rate at which collagen is laid down is slower. Not only that, the collagen tends to be laid down incorrectly and disorganized, which leads to the formation of the lines and wrinkles people see in their 20s and beyond.

By using a Vitamin C serum, you will protect the elastin that you have, so your skin will snap back into position more quickly, and keep your skin tight, while also improving collagen synthesis so fine lines and wrinkles are gradually filled in.

There are have been multiple long trials using vitamin C for treating fine lines, wrinkles, and hyperpigmentation. These studies generally show a significant benefit after just 12 weeks. But improvements can continue up to a year and beyond.

The percentage of people who benefit from using vitamin C serums is thought to be about 80% in terms of increased collagen synthesis and objective improvement in lines and wrinkles. However, all people who use a vitamin C serum as a preventative should benefit from enhanced photoprotection of their skin.

By using a vitamin C serum, you will also decrease the degradation of collagen by MMP enzymes.

Reduces redness, inflammation, and other common skin complaints such as acne

Vitamin C is also great for people who have inflammatory skin conditions like acne. Vitamin C helps calm the skin, and improve overall skin redness over time. Vitamin C is antibacterial, anti inflammatory and helps give the skin a natural healthy glow.

Any time there is inflammation in the skin, there is the potential for damage. By limiting the inflammatory reaction to bacteria and other skin problems, you also reduce damage and prevent age-related skin problems.

Improves the healing capacity of the skin

As you get older, the healing capacity of the skin is greatly reduces. If you’re old enough, you’re probably aware that as a kid you would heal very fast from little cuts and wounds, but when you’re older this is no longer the case. By using vitamin C serum on your face, every day damage that is inflicted on your skin will not only be reduced but also the rate at which skin repairs itself will be increased.

Prevents sun spots, hyperpigmentation and other skin discolorations

Every day living, just going out int he sun can cause things like liver spots or sun spots, hyperpigmentation from increased melanin production. Vitamin C is able to decrease melanin production significantly, especially when combined with other ingredients such as ferulic acid and phloretin.

The main cause of much of the discoloration that people experience is either from acne or from the sun.

To get the biggest protection from skin discoloration while using a vitamin C serum, it is recommended that you also use a high SPF sunscreen as well, especially in the summer.

Helps reduce under eye puffiness and under eye circles

If you’re up all night and getting a bit older, you’ll start to notice that dark circles form under the eyes. Vitamin C can help by reducing inflammation, evening out skin tone and brightening up the skin. Using vitamin C with a good eye serum like Skinceuticals Eye Balm would be even more effective because the eye area tends to be more dry and more easily damaged than the rest of the face.

The first signs of aging usually appear around the eyes, even as early as late teens and early 20s. So it’s important to use skin serums under the eye from an early age to prevent the development of fine lines, crows feet and under-eye circles.

Your skin glows

Anyone who has ever used a good vitamin C serum before knows that one of the first benefits you see is glowing skin. This effect can appear even within a few days of using the serum, and you’ll never want to go back to not using it.

You’ll look younger for longer

All of the above benefits culminate into one thing: you’ll probably end up looking a lot younger than your age and staying that way for a longer time than you would have if you hadn’t been using vitamin C.

Deciding On Which Vitamin C Serum Is Best For You

Vitamin C in the form of L-Ascorbic acid is suitable for most skin types, but if your skin is very sensitive, then you might want to start at a low concentration serum or go for a serum containing Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate. However, most people will have no problems applying vitamin C (AA) up to a concentration of 20%.

In the table below, I’ve detailed 3 different serums: Skinceuticals CE+Ferulic, Skinceuticals AOX 15, and Seoul Ceuticals CE Ferulic to give you an example of how they compare side by side. The cheapest serum has similar ingredients to the more expensive vitamin C serums, but contains another type of vitamin C.

I’ve also included the Skinceuticals AOX 15 in this article because I believe it’s a great compromise between a very expensive vitamin C serum and a very cheap vitamin C serum.

All that being said, these serums can last as long as 6 months or more if stored correctly, so consider that when you buy. The price of the mid level serum and high end serum seems more palatable.

Click Items below for the current price and reviews on Amazon for Skinceuticals CE Ferulic, Skinceuticals AOX 15, and Seoul Ceauticals CE Ferulic.

Vitamin C Serum Skinceuticals CE Ferulic Skinceuticals AOX 15 Seoul Ceuticals CE Ferulic
 Skinceuticals CE Ferulic  Skinceuticals AOX 15 Serum  Seoul Ceuticals CE Ferulic Serum
Vitamin C Form Ascorbic Acid Ascorbic Acid Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate
Percentage of Vitamin C 15% 15% 20%
Other Main Ingredients 1% Vitamin E (alpha tocopherol),
0.5% Ferulic Acid
0.2% Ferulic Acid Hyaluronic Acid, Vitamin E, Citrus
Stem Cells, Ferulic Acid.
Skin Suitability Dry, Normal, Sensitive Normal and Oily All Skin Types
Skin Conditions Recommended For Skin aging, hyperpigmentation,
dull skin
Reduce fine lines and wrinkles Uneven skin tone, acne prone skin,
and fine lines
Verdict Scientifically proven combination
and made by a reputable company
1st choice!
A great compromise if you
can’t afford a premium serum
2nd choice!
Form of Vitamin C has less science
behind its effectiveness, but
great for a budget serum

The Added Ingredients Make Vitamin C Even More Powerful

As already mentioned, the addition of vitamin E, ferilic acid, and phloretin to vitamin C serums can significantly improve the efficacy of these skin serums in treating a wide range of skin problems. Below I will briefly touch on each ingredient that is included in some of the vitamin C serums that I recommend in this article.

Ferulic Acid

Ferulic acid is found in many different places, it's an organic compound that is in the cell wall of plants. You can find ferulic acid in the seeds of certain fruits like apples and oranges. You can also find it in certain vegetables and nuts. By itself it is a very effective antioxidant. It helps improve vitamin C serums by stabilizing the vitamin C, but also has the power to preserve the integrity of our skin by mitigation radiation damage from the sun.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E in serums is an important addition for several reasons. One reason is that it helps keep the skin moisturized and helps prevent inflammation and free radical damage. Vitamin E also helps stabilize the vitamin C. Vitamin E also allows the serum to be spread across the skin better.

Vitamin C and Vitamin E also work synergistically through the donation of electrons, going through a process of "recycling" whereby Vitamin C donates an electron and causes vitamin E to become stable again.

Hyaluronic Acid

We naturally produce Hyaluronic acid, which basically allow us to hold more water in our skin making it look more plump. It has many benefits like improving the skin barrier as well as having a calming effect on the skin by reducing irritation from the environment. Hyaluronic acid also is a good to reduce inflammation and improve the healing capacity of the skin.

Commonly Asked Questions About Vitamin C Serums

Below are some of the questions that I get when asked about the effects of using vitamin C serums.

Can vitamin C serum burn skin?

When applying vitamin c serum in the form of L-Ascorbic acid, you might notice a slight stinging sensation. This is completely normal and after a few applications the effect usually goes away. This product contains sodium ascorbyl phosphate and so it is more gentle on the skin.

Does vitamin C serum lighten skin?

Vitamin C is known to inhibit an enzyme called tyrosinase, therefore it has the potential to lighten skin tone and lighten freckles and other marks on the skin. Please allow at least 3 months to see an effect.

Best time to use vitamin C serum?

Once you apply vitamin C it is absorbed and is effective for as many as three days. It acts as an antioxidant in the skin and mops up free radical damage, inhibits inflammation and increases collagen synthesis.

It also acts as a mild sunscreen by itself, but is usually more effective when combined with other ingredients such as: vitamin E and Ferulic Acid which the Seoul Ceuticals Korean Skin Care product contains.

Most people prefer to use vitamin C serum in the morning after washing.

Does vitamin C serum help acne?

Vitamin C serum can improve the healing time of acne marks as well as prevent acne from forming. Vitamin C can also help reduce any inflammation and reduce the severity of break outs if they do occur. By itself, vitamin C serums are unlikely to cure acne, but may mitigate the damage that acne can cause to the skin like hyperpigmentation and scarring.

You might also want to go with Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate instead of L-ascorbic acid, as this is less irritating on the skin, and has some clinical research on its positive effects in people who have acne.

How long does it take for vitamin C serum to show good results?

You should give it at least 12 weeks to see significant improvements. Some people notice a glow the first time they use a vitamin C serum, and this can appear just days after using it. Over time you'll gradually notice changes in how your skin looks and feels.

To see faster improvements, you can also make sure that you are protecting your skin in other ways like using a powerful sunscreen, and also use a good moisturizer at night.

You also want to make sure that you are using the serum correctly. Below is a video from Skinceuticals on how to correctly apply a vitamin C serum.

Ways to improve results of using a vitamin C serum:

  • Use sunscreen every day and limit sun exposure
  • Make sure that the serum has not been oxidized (it's not dark yellow)
  • Make sure that you apply the vitamin C every day
  • Make sure that you spread the serum evenly over the entire face, but avoiding the eyes

Note: Over time vitamin C will change color and will lose its potency. I have found that storing it in a cold place will slow down this oxidation process and it will barely change from the moment I open it to the last drop.

Won't taking Vitamin C supplements help my skin?

Many people believe that taking vitamin C orally will help improve their skin, but unfortunately the concentration of vitamin C taken orally - even at high doses - will not reach the level necessary to help improve collagen synthesis or improve the skin in the same ways that applying a vitamin C serum directly to the skin would.

Will applying citrus fruits to my face help the same as a vitamin c serum?

Applying a citrus fruit to the face will not give you the same benefits as using a concentrated vitamin C serum that is specifically designed to penetrate into the dermal layer at effective concentrations. Also, applying citrus fruit can be generally irritating to the skin because of the pH level and other ingredients.

Can you use vitamin C after having laser treatment?

According to Skinceuticals, CE+Ferulic is suitable for people who've had laser. Although you should always consult with your physician beforehand.

How To Use Vitamin C Serum On Your Face

To make vitamin C serum more effective you want to make sure that you wash your face and exfoliate occasionally to remove dead skin. You want to go from using the lightest product first, to the heaviest and thickest.

So after you clean your face with your cleanser, you should then use the dropper and use a small amount and rub in gently (see video below).

Wait until the product dries and then use a sunscreen for added photoprotection. The best results will be seen when you are also using sunscreen.


1 The role of vitamin C in pushing back the boundaries of skin aging: an ultrasonographic approach

2 Double-blind, half-face study comparing topical vitamin C and vehicle for rejuvenation of photodamage.

3. Vitamin C in dermatology

4. Sodium ascorbyl phosphate shows in vitro and in vivo efficacy in the prevention and treatment of acne vulgaris.

5. Ferulic acid stabilizes a solution of vitamins C and E and doubles its photoprotection of skin.

6. Protective effects of a topical antioxidant mixture containing vitamin C, ferulic acid, and phloretin against ultraviolet-induced photodamage in human skin.

7. A topical antioxidant solution containing vitamins C and E stabilized by ferulic acid provides protection for human skin against damage caused by ultraviolet irradiation.


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