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A Vitamin C Serum Showdown

vitamin c serum reviews clean beauty

Folks, I’ve been testing so many Vitamin C serums over the past few months, my mouth literally tastes like citrus daily. (True story! Occupational hazard, I suppose. #couldbeworse)

Vitamin C, which also goes by ascorbic acid and L-ascorbic acid, is one of the best vitamins you could possibly use on your skin. Everyone knows Vitamin C is a great immune-booster when taken orally, but when you use it topically, it’s 20 times more potent.

What are Vitamin C’s benefits for skin, you ask? Well, pretty much everything. Vitamin C helps to repair damage from sun exposure and collagen loss by encouraging healthy cell turnover and regeneration, diminishes fine lines, and is essential for firm, youthful skin. Most importantly, vitamin C is an antioxidant, meaning it protects skin cells from damaging free radicals caused by UV exposure.

(You know when you cut an apple open and how the edges brown? That, my friends, is oxidation and *also* what’s happening to our skin on the daily. SO GIVE ME ALL THE ANTIOXIDANTS thankyouverymuch)

Vitamin C also inhibits melanin production in the skin, which helps to lighten hyperpigmentation and brown spots, even out skin tone, and enhance skin radiance.

If you want to up the ante, you can maximize the benefits of vitamin C by combining it with other antioxidants such as Vitamin E and Ferulic Acid. Together, they have optimal absorption benefits when it comes to anti-aging, skin brightening, and protection against free radical damage. Vitamin C also plays well with vitamin B and hyaluronic acid.

It’s important to note that you shouldn’t mix vitamin C with retinol or niacinamide because the pH levels are incompatible. That’s why I use my Vitamin C serums in the morning and my very favorite retinol at night.

So how about we get to the nitty-gritty? Here are my 5 favorite Vitamin C serums!

best vitamin c serums in clean beauty

from left to right: Ursa Major Brighten Serum, Kypris Antioxidant Dew, GOOP Glow, Marie Veronique Vitamin C, African Botanics Nutritive Molecule Serum

URSA MAJOR BRIGHTEN UP VITAMIN C SERUM, $54

Ursa Major Brighten Up Vitamin C Serum wins the Most Affordable category by a landslide. This hydrating facial serum is good for all skin types including dry, mature, sensitive, blemish-prone, combination and normal. It’s a pale yellow, opaque, creamy serum (the creamiest of the 5!) that goes deep to provide instant hydration while brightening and smoothing skin’s tone and appearance.

This one has enough hydration to be used alone as a lightweight moisturizer for normal-to-oily skin, or you can layer beneath a moisturizer for added moisture. The scent is light and fresh with the slightest floral take from rose flower oil and it doesn’t have that traditional Vitamin C + Ferulic scent that so many have…you know the one…slightly metallic with a hint of burnt marshmallows? (I know, I know. My scent descriptions are totally rando.) If any of y’all have used Skinceuticals CE Ferulic, you know exactly what I’m talking about.) I don’t mind that smell, but the fresh and light scent of this serum is definitely my preference.

I found my skin looked visibly brighter and my hyperpigmented spots did indeed fade when using this regularly. If you read the reviews, SO many customers mentioned their acne scars fading so if that’s an issue for you, go for it! It layers super well with other products – all in all, this one is quite lovely and you just can’t beat the price!

Ingredients:

aloe barbadensis (aloe vera) leaf juice*, helianthus annuus (sunflower) seed oil*, glycerin, cocoglucoside, coconut alcohol, populus tremuloides (aspen) bark extract, ascorbic acid/orange/citrus limon/citrus aurantifolia polypeptide, rosa canina (rose hip) seed extract*, butyrospermum parkii (shea) nut butter*, leontopodium alpinum (edelweiss) meristem cell culture, hydrogenated lecithin, glyceryl caprylate, sclerotium gum, rosa damascena (rose) flower oil*, citrus sinensis (blood orange) peel oil, rosmarinus officinalis (rosemary) leaf extract*, bisabolol, sodium anisate, lactic acid, xanthan gum

KYPRIS ANTIOXIDANT DEW, $90

I’ve used Kypris Antioxidant Dew for years and I adore it! Chock full of encapsulated antioxidants, nurturing amino acids, and an array of soothing botanicals, this lightweight hydrator is much more than just a Vitamin C serum in my humble opinion. It’s a lovely layering piece that makes my skin super plump and ready for makeup.

With 26 active ingredients including Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Ferulic Acid, Sea Algae Extracts, Waltheria Indica, and DPHP, my skin looks really radiant after applying this serum. And not just right after I apply it…when I used it daily over a few months, I noticed that the glow would stick around all day and create this really nice lit-from-within glow under my makeup. That’s the one thing I notice when I don’t use the Kypris serum daily – my skin just doesn’t look *quite as* dewy and healthy. Also keeps my redness at bay which is huge.

Another thing I love about the serum is the milky, featherweight texture, seen in the photo above. It’s so smooth and silky, and the scent is super light and neutral. I love the scent of Kypris products in general – very minimal yet so delicious…almost like the faintest scent of pumpkin or something. I can’t put my finger on it, but I just love it.

Lastly, I appreciate that there are no essential oils in this product. It’s a nice change and I would imagine fantastic for those of you with reactive skin. This serum would be especially beneficial for environmentally stressed, experienced, or imbalanced complexions.

If you love a dewy glow, this one’s for you!

Ingredients:

aqua/water/eau, glycerin, helianthus annuus (sunflower) seed oil, camellia oleifera seed oil, leuconostoc/radish root ferment filtrate, xylitylglucoside, betaine, dipalmitoyl hydroxyproline, panthenol, ahnfeltia concinna extract, aloe barbadensis leaf juice, anhydroxylitol, calophyllum inophyllum (tamanu) seed oil, symphytum officinale (comfrey) leaf extract, tocopherol, urtica dioica (nettle) extract, waltheria indica leaf extract, citric acid, dextrin, ferulic acid, lecithin, mannitol, phospholipids, prunus cerasus (sour cherry) flower extract, rosa centifolia (rose de mai) flower extract, rosa damascena (damask rose) flower extract, rosmarinus officinalis (rosemary) leaf extract, superoxide dismutase, ascorbyl palmitate, sodium citrate, sodium gluconate, sodium hyaluronate, sodium levulinate, xanthan gum, xylitol, sodium anisate

GOOP GLOW, $125

GOOP Glow is a two-part daily serum with L-ascorbic acid and hyaluronic acid and is good for all skin types including dry, mature, sensitive, blemish-prone, combination and normal. This serum boasts 20% Vitamin C in a unique two-part serum designed to maximize potency and freshness. (You receive Vitamin C in powder form and mix into the serum upon first use.)

This facial serum combines L-ascorbic acid, proven to be the purest form of vitamin C, and moisturizing hyaluronic acid to help brighten skin and improve firmness, tone, and hydration. It’s also formulated with the antioxidant super fruit Australian Kakadu plum in addition to three different molecular sizes of hyaluronic acid which allows it to penetrate different layers of the skin.

As you can see from the above photo, this serum is very thin and watery. It’s the palest translucent yellow shade, but POTENT. 20% Vitamin C, y’all…this one doesn’t mess around. Since there is so much Vitamin C, it definitely has the traditional Vitamin C serum scent. (Bottom line, if you want a serum that doesn’t smell like the traditional CE Ferulic formulations, go for Kypris or Ursa Major.)

This one definitely needs another layer of moisture afterward, but if potency is your thing, this serum is for you!

Ingredients:

aqua, ascorbic acid, glycerin, dimethyl isosorbide, pentylene glycol, propanediol, terminalia ferdinandiana fruit extract, sodium hyaluronate, ferulic acid, olea europaea (olive) leaf extract, zizyphus jujuba seed extract, levan, decyl glucoside, galactoarabinan, sodium citrate, xylitol, caprylic acid, sodium hydroxide, citric acid, phenethyl alcohol, ethylhexylglycerin, potassium sorbate, caprylyl glycol

AFRICAN BOTANICS NUTRITIVE MOLECULE SERUM, $250

For my luxury lovers, look no further than African Botanics Nutrient Molecule Serum. If you’ve been around these parts for a while, you know African Botanics is my #1 skincare brand, no question. (My full review of the brand can be found here.)

100% honesty here. I did NOT want to love this serum. At $250 a pop, I was sure I could find something just as effective for much less in the green beauty realm. But I had a bottle to try and…you know where this is going, right? It did AMAZING things to my complexion.

It is an incredibly rejuvenating serum that makes my skin’s texture so clear and bright. My pores completely disappeared after a week of using this every morning. The serum has 3 types of Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Ferulic Acid, Tannic Acid, Niacinamide, Superoxide Dismutase, Resveratrol, Green Coffee and Yeast. It’s non-toxic and lightweight and is incomparable at helping to combat damage due to age, urban pollution, and dryness.

I use the Nutritive Molecule Serum every morning and the Resurrection Cell Recovery Serum + Fleurs D’Afrique Intensive Recovery Oil every night and my skin has never looked better. I haven’t worn foundation for over months since using these three products. #praisebe

Nutrient Molecule Serum is good for all skin types including dry, mature, sensitive, blemish-prone, combination and normal. Texture-wise, It is the most gel-like of the five and is a light brownish-yellow in color.

Ingredients:

aqua (deionized water), hamamelis virginia (witch hazel) extract, glycine soja protein (soy peptides), superoxide dismutase, oxido reductases, niacinamide (vitamin b3), yeast beta-glucan, hydrolyzed rice protein (di- and tripeptides), tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate (vitamin c), bulbine frutescens*, myrothamus flabellifolius (resurrection) plant**, sodium ascorbyl phosphate (vitamin c), adansonia digitata (baobab) seed oil**, d-alpha tocopherol (vitamin e), glycerin, panicum miliaceum (millet) seed extract, tannic acid, sodium hyaluronate, potassium sorbate, honeybush leaf extract*, carbomer, citrillus lanatus (kalahari melon) seed oil**, rosa-senensis (hibiscus) extract, panthenol (pro vitamin b5), azelaic acid, sclerocarya birrea (marula) seed oil**, allantoin, aspalathus linearis (green rooibos) tea extract*, malus domestica fruit cell culture (swiss apple), xanthan gum, lecithin, aloe ferox leaf extract*, acetamide mea, hydrolyzed wheat protein, hyaluronic acid, phytic acid, triticum vulgare (wheat) germ oil, linoleic acid, sommondsia chinensis (jojoba) seed oil*, butylene glycol, sorbitol, ascorbyl methylsilanol pectinate (vitamin c), urtica dioica (nettle) extract, equisetum arvense (horsetail) extract, cucumis sativus (cucumber) extract, hydrocotyl (centella asiatica) extract*, chamomile martricaria extract*, chlorella vulgaris (green algae) extract, hydrolyzed algin, sea kelp, aminomethyl propanol, arnica cordifolia (arnica) extract, moringa oleifera (moringa) seed oil**, calendula officinalis flower extract*, helianthus annuus (sunflower) seed oil*, ethyl ferulate (ferulic acid), rosmarinus officinalis (rosemary) leaf extract*, resveratrol, disodium uridine phosphate, green coffee bean extract, helichrysum angustifolium (everlasting/immortelle) flower extract*, ethylhexylglycerin, phenoxyethanol

MARIE VERONIQUE VITAMIN C + E + FERULIC SERUM, $90

Marie Veronique Vitamin C + E + Ferulic Serum is an essential oil-free, dual-purpose serum that protects by day and repairs at night.

Super rich in antioxidants, this serum is the upgraded version of an all-time favorite Marie Veronique product. During the day, this serum helps provide sun protection by acting as a boost to your daily sunscreen while also working to neutralize free radicals. At night, the combination of vitamin C and tetrahexyldecyl (a potent c-derivative) works to provide nutrients to help repair skin and rebuild collagen. This powerful serum promotes skin health and a radiant complexion, and replenishes the skin with antioxidants and is gentle enough for sensitive skin. (If you use a retinol at night, use this one in the morning.)

This yellow serum is super creamy and feels lovely on the skin. It brightens and reduces texture, all while keeping sensitive skin so happy. Reactive skin? You will love this one. (Also looking to replace your Skinceuticals serum with a cleaner option? This is a great switch.)

Ingredients:

camellia sinensis (green tea) leaf infusion, vitamin c (l-ascorbic acid, l-ascorbyl palmitate, tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate, magnesium ascorbyl phosphate, olea europaea (olive) oil, leuconostoc/ radish root ferment filtrate, populus tremuloides (aspen) bark, mixed tocopherols (vitamin e), xanthan gum, ferulic acid, sodium hyaluronate, ceramide np (stearoyl phytosphingosine), milk lipids (phosphatidylethanolamine, phosphatidylcholine), lactobacillus/ nereocystis luetkeana ferment filtrate, sodium salicylate, acetyl glucosamine, potassium polysorbate, terminalia ferdinandiana (kakadu plum) fruit extract, thioctic (alpha-lipoic) acid, l-glutathione, ubiquinone (coq10), lycopene, astaxanthin

All of these masks can be found at Credo Beauty and right now if you spend $125+, you will receive a free 8-piece gift including:

Mini Ursa Major Hoppin Fresh Deodorant
Indie Lee Rosehip Cleanser Deluxe Size (15ml)
Mini Trilogy Vital Moisturizing Cream (20ml)
January Labs Daily Brightening Tonic Mini (2oz)
Mini W3ll People Bio Brightener
Spacemask Single Mask
Love Sun Body Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30 Lightly Scented (25ml)
Mini Grown Alchemist Anti-Pollution Primer

No code is needed and it’s through 2/24/20 or while supplies last!

Any questions about my Top 5 Vitamin C serum picks? Leave them in the comments and I’ll do my best to help!

Other posts you might like:

Best of the Best: Kosas Cosmetics

Top 10 Clean Beauty Picks of 2019

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5 Comments
  • Odds and Ends - whoorl

    March 20, 2020 at 7:40 am Reply

    […] A Vitamin C Serum Showdown […]

  • Lisa

    March 20, 2020 at 10:10 am Reply

    Are these OK to use during pregnancy?

    • whoorl

      March 22, 2020 at 10:12 am Reply

      Ursa Major is and I’m waiting to hear back from others.

  • Kelly

    March 20, 2020 at 9:52 pm Reply

    Thanks so much!! I’m curious about ones you may have tried that didn’t make the list because they weren’t effective for you. Specifically, I’ve been really interested in Biossance and True Botanticals, but really trust your reviews so was curious if there is a specific reason either of their Vitamin C formulas didn’t make the cut? Thanks and stay safe!

    • whoorl

      March 22, 2020 at 10:14 am Reply

      I haven’t tried Biossance and I like the True Botanicals Vitamin C powder, but overall, I’m lazy and prefer my serum to be pre-mixed so I can just pump it out and go. However, if I used the True Botanicals serum, I would definitely go for the powder because the two work so well together.

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