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When we are young we don’t pay too much attention to our skin as it’s quite flawless, plump and blemish free. Keeping it that way can be difficult, but there are many good inexpensive vitamin C serums that are able to improve complexion, fight dark spots and improve the skin’s firmness by helping boost collagen synthesis.
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 start to show with the development of fine lines, hyperpigmentation, and other skin problems.
It’s difficult to hold back the signs of aging but with proper sun protection and a good skin care regimen, it’s possible to maintain youthful-looking skin.
While there are amazing vitamin C serums available that have proven anti-aging effects, they can be very expensive due to patented formulas. For example, SkinCeuticals products are highly recommended by dermatologists because they have clinical evidence from patients which show their efficacy.
Thankfully, in recent years there have been many copies created which have similar ingredients as the high-end products. However, instead of using Ascorbic Acid, which is highly susceptible to oxidation, cheaper serums use a more stable form of Vitamin C.
This does mean that they aren’t as powerful as serums containing Ascorbic acid, but there is clinical evidence which shows that Ascorbyl Sodium Phosphate has many positive effects on the skin.
If you’re in a bit of a rush and can’t read the whole review, here are 4 great serums that you ought to check out!
Why should you 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 looking 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.
It can be used as both a corrective and preventative treatment to help the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, but it can also help lighten hyperpigmentation, red marks, and improve skin tone.
Unlike retinoids, vitamin C is not harsh and there are little to no side effects from applying daily to the face.
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 (SAP) which is a stabilized form of vitamin C.
L-Ascorbic acid (AA) is often used in more expensive products, but you can find them in cheaper versions as well. The problem with the cheaper versions is that it can become oxidized and do more harm than good unless properly stabilized.
For this reason, if you’re not going to spend a lot of money on a high-quality and clinically tested serum, I recommend products containing SAP instead.
Top Vitamin C serums for people who are on a tight budget
Now that you should have a better idea of what you’re looking for, let’s take a better look at 4 amazing skin serums!
#1. Korean Seoul Ceuticals Vitamin C Serum 20%
Seoul Ceuticals vitamin C serum contains ingredients that match more expensive and premium brands.
It contains several ingredients which are known for synergizing with vitamin C to create a more powerful cocktail that can help improve skin inflammation and reduce oxidative damage from the sun and environment.
In South Korea, many people have amazing skin! Have you ever seen K Pop or Korean Dramas? Their complexions are often flawless. One of the main reasons for their amazing clear skin is their use of preventative and corrective skin care products such as vitamin C.
If you ever go to South Korea, make sure you stop by some of their skincare and beauty stores! Seoul is one of the best places for some amazing products that you won’t find anywhere else.
So anyway, what makes Seoul Ceuticals serum special? It’s the inclusion of proven skin care ingredients such as the ones below.
- 20% Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate
- Vitamin E
- Hyaluronic Acid
- Ferulic Acid
- Citrus Stem Cells
Expected results: You should expect improvements to your skin within 3 weeks of using it every day.
For best results: It’s best to use this serum in the morning after cleansing and before applying sunscreen.
#2. Serumtologie Vitamin C Serum 22%
Serumtologie – Anti-Aging Serum is a professional grade skin product, designed to be affordable, yet effective 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.
- 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.
For best results: They recommend that you use vitamin C serum in the 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 skin 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. 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 can sometimes be difficult to achieve in this type of serum.
It’s also a good choice for people who are prone to developing dry skin due to the inclusion of hyaluronic acid and aloe vera.
- 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.
#4. Pure 31 Vitamin C Glow Serum
Last but not least we have a very budget-friendly product by Pure 31 which contains many of the same ingredients as the previous serums and more.
This product is designed to contain mostly organic ingredients (72%), cruelty-free, paraben free, and good for all types of skin.
The ingredients included are designed to act synergistically with vitamin C to help boost skin tone, prevent wrinkle formation, and they claim that you get 8x the protection from free radical damage with their proprietary formula.
Unlike the other products, this one has fewer reviews overall but many of them are still positive. And it’s super cheap anyway, so it might be worth a try!
- Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate
- Jojoba Oil
- Vitamin E
- Gotu Kola
- Botanical Hyaluronic Acid
Added Ingredients Make Vitamin C Even More Powerful
As already mentioned, the addition of vitamin E, Ferulic acid, and Phloretin 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 not only helps to stabilize 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.
Both of these ingredients 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.
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 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 up-regulation of enzymes which degrade our elastin and collagen.
Vitamin C serums have been shown to prevent dimer formation almost completely, thus lowering the risk of skin cancer.
When you combine sunscreen with vitamin C, you have even greater protection from skin cancer and slower skin aging.
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 becomes sluggish.
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 Ascorbic acid for treating fine lines, wrinkles, and hyperpigmentation, but Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate has only been tested in-vitro and in animals. And you need a higher concentration of SAP to have a similar effect of Ascorbic Acid.
Studies 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 these skin 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.
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. It helps calm the skin, and improve overall skin redness over time. It also has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory benefits.
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, it’s recommended that you also use a high SPF sunscreen as well, especially in the summer.
They 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 these skin serums.
Frequently asked questions about Vitamin C
Can vitamin C serum burn skin?
When applying L-Ascorbic acid, you might notice a slight stinging sensation. This is completely normal and after a few applications, the effect usually goes away. These products contain Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate, which should not cause any irritation.
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 these serums 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. It can also help reduce any inflammation and reduce the severity of breakouts if they do occur. By itself, vitamin C is 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 on 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 (see the video below).
Ways to improve your results
- 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 serum 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 needed to have any effect is much higher than what you will obtain with supplements.
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 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?
These 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 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. PMC4562654
2 Double-blind, half-face study comparing topical vitamin C and vehicle for rejuvenation of photodamage. PMID: 11896774
3. Vitamin C in dermatology. PMC: 3673383
4. Sodium ascorbyl phosphate shows in vitro and in vivo efficacy in the prevention and treatment of acne vulgaris. PMID: 18492184
5. Ferulic acid stabilizes a solution of vitamins C and E and doubles its photoprotection of skin. PMID: 16185284
6. Protective effects of a topical antioxidant mixture containing vitamin C, ferulic acid, and phloretin against ultraviolet-induced photodamage in human skin. PMID: 19146606
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. PMID: 18603326