Among the instagram DM questions I’m asked most often is for me to name my favorite Vitamin C serum. Vitamin C is, of course, one of three absolutely non-negotiable ingredients in a proper skincare regimen. The other two? Niacinamide (for enlarged pores) and Retinol (to improve tone and texture). And while I do always strive to introduce one antioxidant treatment at some point during the day, my skin finds some available formulas just too strong for daytime. Vitamin C, however can be slotted in with your AM or PM routine. You’re out of excuses.
My own Vitamin C adventure began with a blurb on Gwyneth Paltrow’s loving Ole Henricksen’s Truth Serum in Us Weekly circa 2002. Within minutes of reading about it, I was on the subway heading uptown. Back then, Henri Bendel was the exclusive distributor for the line. The fifteen year journey has been rather fruitful and my current favorites range from eco-luxe through dermatologist developed or recommended formulas to amazing finds from net-a-porter!
Why Vitamin C?
We often hear about its brightening properties (all true!) but Vitamin C’s biggest undertaking as an antioxidant is to protect against the harmful effects of free radicals. Sun damage is only one of the many oxidative stressors we experience every day (others include pollution, smoke, pesticides, alcohol, to name a few) that cause premature aging of our skin. Luckily and when worn under sunscreen, Vitamin C can neutralize the negative effects of UV invasion. Additionally, it stimulates collagen synthesis, which helps the skin appear plumper and firmer longer.
What I’ve learned…
- Vitamin C does need to remain stable in order to be effective. However I find concentration levels of the active ingredients slightly less important.
- Results are achieved over time. My own have been equally impressive with formulas that range from undisclosed proprietary blends up to 30%.
- Ascorbic Acid is the most stable form of Vitamin C (but other forms such as sodium ascorbyl phosphate, ascorbyl palmitate, retinyl ascorbate, tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate should not to be ignored)
- The powdered form of pure L-ascorbic acid mixed with my daytime moisturizer has not worked for me even though it does wonders for many. Sadly, all it leaves is a slightly tacky film on my combination skin.
- When liquid Vitamin C serum turns dark yellow, any shade of orange or light brown, it’s oxidized and no longer serves a purpose. Time to toss.
- Once a day (or night) will do ya. Usually, I prefer to use a Vitamin C serum during the day under sunscreen and Retinol at night. During the summer, I tend to cut down on retinoids and often opt for a stronger C formula (usually under an oil) before bed.
D A Y T I M E
PCA Skin C & E strength max
My skin hasn’t looked better since incorporating this water-free powerhouse treatment into my routine last April. It took a couple of weeks to notice a difference but the radiance is real. The creamy consistency has a very slight grit to it (hello, microencapsulated Vitamin C!) but glides on seamlessly and layers great under my broad spectrum SPF. The slim tube makes it a perfect companion for travel. Because I just can’t be without this stuff ever again. Since it’s waterless, it’s super stable, will never change color, and doesn’t have that odd hot dog smell. $99 (30ml) dermstore.com
Youth Corridor C Boost Serum
No doubt the most luxurious Vitamin C serum in my collection, it is the hero product within Dr. Imber’s line of skincare. A devotee of his masks and a regular at the Youth Corridor Clinic (best IPL treatment in all Manhattan), I have just opened my third bottle of this fancy potion. Packed with L-Ascorbic Acid, Ferulic Acid, Niacinamide, and Sodium Hyaluronate, it lightens dark spots and improves the texture of the skin while also delivering a megadose of hydration. Worth the splurge. $195 (30ml) net-a-porter.com
dermalogica biolumin-c serum
Between this newness and the previously launched sound sleep cocoon, my dermalogica needs have been officially met from sunrise to sunset. Biolumin-C features a blend of two highly stable forms of Vitamin C, firming peptides, gently resurfacing Lactic Acid, and medicinal plant extracts from Sapona Japonica and Chia Seed. The elegant liquigel solution sinks into the skin within seconds and feels absolutely weightless. Get ready to experience soft, glowing skin. I’m petitioning for a jumbo size. $87 (30ml) skinstore.com
N I G H T T I M E
Moss Decongesting Radiance Concentrate
Introduced to moss via Boxwalla, Illumina is hands down my best clean beauty discovery of the year. Potent yet non-irritating, this creamy serum is to be used only at night. Since I struggle with clogged pores and am always chasing radiance, I appreciate the combination of AHA (Pumpkin Enzyme) and BHA (White Willow Bark), which work brilliantly alongside Vitamin C, Green Tea, and Ceramides. It is my single step bedtime treatment product after cleansing a few nights each week. $145 (30ml) mossskincare.com
DCL C Shape High Potency Night Booster 30
Peptide Plus Cream and this Vitamin C masterpiece are two DCL formulas my skin never tires of. This thicker than most lotion is fueled by a 30% concentration of time released L-Ascorbic Acid and has an elegant slip that allows for seamless product layering at bedtime. The formula is rather strong so those with skin types that lean more towards dry, may want to apply a rich moisturizer on top. Your skin will be visibly brighter with a glass-like texture within weeks. $120 (30ml) skinstore.com
Beauty Rx Triple Vitamin C Serum
The brand behind my favorite Exfoliating Serum (seriously magical) also delivers some of the best in overnight luminosity with the Triple Vitamin C Serum. In a clever move Beauty Rx combines three forms of Vitamin C with Vitamin E, Japanese Green Tea Leaf Extract and Sodium Hyaluronate to amplify the much needed by our skin antioxidant protection. Recommended for nightly use, it is often my single go-t during the summer. No dryness nor irritation. Ever. Just glow. Cause baby, you’re a firework! $95 (30ml) dermstore.com