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 skin care is crucial for maintaining our skin as we age. There are many good inexpensive vitamin C serums available to choose from and should be a foundation of most people’s skincare routine.
Seoul Ceuticals is my favorite cheap vitamin C serum. It has a high concentration of vitamin C plus other ingredients such as vitamin E, Ferulic acid, and Hyaluronic acid – these all significantly enhance the effectiveness of the serum.
These are some of the best inexpensive vitamin C serums:
- Korean Seoul Ceuticals Vitamin C Serum (20% concentration) – Other ingredients include Vitamin E, Citrus Stem cells, Ferulic Acid, Hyaluronic Acid.
- Serumtologie Vitamin C Serum (22% concentration) – Other ingredients include Hyaluronic Acid, Vitamin E, Ferulic Acid, Aloe Leaf, Jojoba and more.
- True Skin Naturals Vitamin C (20% concentration) – Other ingredients include Aloe leaf, MSM, Hyaluronic acid, Witch Hazel, Vitamin E, Organic jojoba oil.
- Vitamin C serum for Women (20% concentration) – Other ingredients include Aloe leaf, MSM, Hyaluronic acid, Jojoba oil, Vitamin E and more.
Fortunately, good skin care 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 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 antioxidant serum.
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 always ask me which skincare products I use, and I tell them which ones, but they are a little on the expensive side.
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 for other parts of the body and not just the face, the serums below might be a better option.
Inexpensive Vitamin C Serums
Seoul Ceuticals, Serumtologie vitamin C, and TrueSkin Naturals all have great reviews, which you should definitely check out before buying.
They are super affordable serums for most people and contain ingredients which have proven clinical benefits for skin health.
I believe the foundation of everyone’s skincare regimen should be vitamin C.
#1. Korean Seoul Ceuticals Vitamin C Serum 20%
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 everyday damage which causes the skin to wrinkle.
In South Korea, many people have amazing skin (have you ever seen Kpop or Kdramas?). One of the main reasons for their amazing clear skin is their use of preventative and corrective skincare products such as vitamin C serums. Skincare in South Korea is very popular for both men and women. And they also have some of the best skin care products available.
If you ever go to South Korea, make sure you stop by some of their skincare and beauty stores! There are so many of them.
So what makes Korean Seoul Ceuticals serum special? It’s the inclusion of proven skin care ingredients such as the ones below.
- 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.
For best results: It’s best to use this serum in the morning after cleansing. Always apply a sunscreen after using.
#2. Serumtologie Vitamin C Serum 22%
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.
- 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.
Serumtologie vitamin c serum is also 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.
#3. TruSkin Naturals Vitamin C Serum 20%
TruSkin naturals vitamin C serum for eyes and face is an extremely popular professional vitamin C serum for men and women. I’ve put this last because it’s approaching the more the mid-range line of skincare products.
It has a long list of natural ingredients which you won’t find in many vitamin C serums for its price range. And it also has a lot of great reviews (check them out!). Many people claim to have seen a huge improvement in their skin within days to weeks.
Not only that, they’ve managed to create a formula which is free from irritating and potentially harmful chemicals like colorings, additives, and fragrances.
This vitamin C serum is also suitable for all skin type. Great for people who are prone to developing dry skin, due to the inclusion of hyaluronic acid in the serum. And aloe vera, which is also included, is very soothing for irritated skin.
- Vitamin C – 20% (Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate)
- Aloe leaf
- Hyaluronic acid
- Witch Hazel
- Vitamin E
- Organic jojoba oil
Expected results: Improvement in skin firmness, brightness, wrinkles, and hyperpigmentation
For best results: Apply once a day after cleansing or exfoliating and always use with sunscreen to achieve maximum benefit.
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.
They 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.
Unlike retinoids, is not harsh and there are little to no side effects.
Below I go into more detail about the main benefits of the daily use of a vitamin C serum.
What’s the difference between budget and high-end Vitamin C serums?
If you’re going for a cheap serum, you’ll normally see an ingredient called sodium ascorbyl phosphate – which is a stabilized form of vitamin C.
Rather than recommending L-Ascorbic acid (AA) as the active ingredient, and possibly causing irritation, inflammation, and damage from poorly formulated serums, it’s better to recommend a cheaper alternative but with a stabilized form of vitamin C.
These skin serums which contain sodium ascorbyl phosphate are generally suitable for all skin types and should be a good start, especially if you’re just getting into developing your own skincare regime routine.
Depending on the results you get, you could always try something more expensive later on.
Main Benefits of Using a Vitamin C Serum
There are many different benefits of using 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 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 of 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 reduced. 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, the everyday 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.
Help 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 from 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 Balm would be even more effective because the eye area tends to be drier 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% or more.
The three vitamin C serums that I recommended in this article are suitable for all skin types, so it’s really up to you on which one you want to try first
If you’re not getting the results you want from a cheap vitamin C serum, then I would highly recommend trying CF phloretin or CE Ferulic by Skinceuticals. These products have a lot of scientific data to back up their effectiveness compared to cheaper brands and ingredients.
The Added Ingredients Make Vitamin C Even More Powerful
As already mentioned, the addition of vitamin E, ferulic 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 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 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.
We naturally produce Hyaluronic acid, which basically allows us to hold more water in our skin making it look plumper. It has many benefits for improving the skin barrier as well as having a calming effect on the skin by reducing irritation from the environment. Hyaluronic acid also is 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 breakouts 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 to wait for results?
You should give it a few months to some improvement. Many 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 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.
Will taking Vitamin C supplements to improve my skin help?
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?
Vitamin C serums are suitable for people who’ve had laser treatment. 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.