Vitamin C is one of the most powerful skincare ingredients, but vitamin C serums can get pricey. Thankfully, there are plenty of affordable but highly effective vitamin C serums available at the drugstore. Here is our guide to the best drugstore vitamin C serums.

Our Recommendations

1. 10% Pure Vitamin C Serum

La Roche-Posay 10% Pure Vitamin C Serum

La Roche-Posay Vitamin C Serum for Hyperpigmentation and Wrinkles

La Roche-Posay 10% Pure Vitamin C Serum

This serum contains a potent concentration of vitamin C, which is known for its ability to brighten, diminish post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, and even skin tone.

Skin types: All Skin Types
Best for: Hyperpigmentation and Wrinkles
Tested on animals: Yes
How to use: After cleansing, apply the serum all over the face, neck, and chest.
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Vitamin C is an incredibly effective skincare ingredient that is known to boost collagen production, which in turn brightens, fades hyperpigmentation, and diminishes fine lines and wrinkles. This serum contains a potent 10% concentration of vitamin C (ascorbic acid), which will help even overall skin tone and texture.

Pros

  • Oil-free
  • Dermatologist tested

Cons

  • Contains fragrance

In addition to ascorbic acid, this serum contains salicylic acid, which gently exfoliates, and hyaluronic acid and sodium hyaluronate, which draw moisture to the skin.

Aqua/Water/Eau, Ascorbic Acid, Cyclohexasiloxane, Glycerin, Alcohol Denat., Potassium Hydroxide, Polymethylsilsesquioxane, Polysilicone-11, Dimethicone, Propylene Glycol, Pentaerythrityl Tetraethylhexanoate, C13-14 Isoparaffin, Tocopherol, Sodium Hyaluronate, Hydrolyzed Hyaluronic Acid, Adenosine, Acetyl Dipeptide-1 Cetyl Ester, Peg-20 Methyl Glucose Sesquistearate, Poloxamer 338, Salicylic Acid, Polyacrylamide, Toluene Sulfonic Acid, Ammonium Polyacryloyldimethyl Taurate, Xanthan Gum, Caprylyl Glycol, Disodium Edta, Bht, Laureth-7, Parfum/Fragrance.

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "The Roles of Vitamin C in Skin Health"

    Accessed Aug. 16, 2021.

2. Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2%

The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2%

The Ordinary Vitamin C Serum for Evening Skin Tone and Fighting the Signs of Aging

The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2%

This is one of the best The Ordinary products to add to your skincare routine, because it contains a potent concentration of vitamin C (ascorbic acid), which brightens and evens out overall skin tone while fighting the signs of aging.

Skin types: All Skin Types
Best for: Evening Skin Tone and Fighting the Signs of Aging
Tested on animals: No
How to use: After cleansing, apply the product to the face, neck, and chest. Follow up with a moisturizer.
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Those looking to brighten their skin tone while also fighting against the signs of aging should turn to this product, which has the highest concentration of antioxidant-rich vitamin C of any of the products the brand offers. Since vitamin C has been shown to help with hyperpigmentation, this option is also great for those looking to even out dark spots. In addition to vitamin C, this product contains sodium hyaluronate (the sodium salt of hyaluronic acid), which increases moisture in the skin.

Pros

  • Oil-free
  • Alcohol-free
  • Fragrance-free
  • Vegan and cruelty-free

Cons

  • May irritate sensitive skin

Since this product contains such a high percentage of vitamin C, some users may experience tingling as their skin adjusts, particularly if they’re newer to topical vitamin C.

Ascorbic Acid, Squalane, Isodecyl Neopentanoate, Isononyl Isononanoate, Coconut Alkanes, Ethylene/Propylene/Styrene Copolymer, Ethylhexyl Palmitate, Silica Dimethyl Silylate, Sodium Hyaluronate, Glucomannan, Coco-Caprylate/Caprate, Butylene/Ethylene/Styrene Copolymer, Acrylates/Ethylhexyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Trihydroxystearin, BHT.

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Vitamin C in dermatology"

    Accessed Aug. 11, 2021.

3. Vitamin C Concentrated Serum

Derma E Vitamin C Concentrated Serum

Derma E Vitamin C Serum for Brightening and Anti-Aging

Derma E Vitamin C Concentrated Serum

This affordable vitamin C serum contains a stable and effective form of vitamin C, as well as additional ingredients that help hydrate and soothe the skin.

Skin types: All Skin Types
Best for: Brightening and Anti-Aging
Tested on animals: No
How to use: After cleansing, apply the serum onto the face, neck, and chest. Follow up with a moisturizer, and an SPF during the day.
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Vitamin C – an antioxidant that fights free radicals that can damage the skin – is key for a rounded out skincare routine, and this option is affordable and effective. It contains sodium ascorbyl phosphate, a stable form of vitamin C that doesn’t deteriorate as easily as other forms. It is able to brighten the skin and fight signs of aging, including fine lines, wrinkles, and dark spots.

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Lightweight
  • Vegan and cruelty-free

Cons

  • Contains fragrance

In addition to vitamin C, this serum contains a blend of ingredients that hydrate, soothe, and nourish the skin, including hyaluronic acid, green tea leaf extract, rosehip oil, and aloe vera extract.

Purified Water, Glycerin (Vegetable Derived), Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate (Vitamin C, Stay-C 50), Sodium Hyaluronate (Hyaluronic Acid), Organic Camellia Sinensis (Green Tea) Leaf Extract*, Microcrystalline Cellulose (Plant Derived), Cellulose Gum (Plant Derived), Alpha-Glucan Oligosaccharide (Vegetable Derived), Polymnia Sonchifolia (Yacon) Root Juice, Maltodextrin, Lactobacillus (Probiotic), Rosa Canina (Rosehip) Fruit Oil, Organic Aloe Barbadensis (Aloe Vera) Extract *, Allantoin, Panthenol (Provitamin B5), Tocopheryl Acetate (Vitamin E), Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride (Plant Derived), Ethylhexyl Palmitate, Xanthan Gum, Sodium Citrate, Phenoxyethanol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Natural Fragrance Oils

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Anti-Inflammatory and Skin Barrier Repair Effects of Topical Application of Some Plant Oils"

    Accessed Aug. 31, 2021.
  2. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Pharmacological attribute of Aloe vera: Revalidation through experimental and clinical studies"

    Accessed Aug. 31, 2021.
  3. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Sodium ascorbyl phosphate in topical microemulsions"

    Accessed Aug. 31, 2021.

4. C15 Super Booster

Paula's Choice C15 Super Booster

Paula's Choice Vitamin C Serum for Brightening and Fighting Signs of Aging

Paula's Choice C15 Super Booster

The 15% concentration of pure vitamin C in this serum helps brighten the skin while reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

Skin types: All Skin Types
Best for: Brightening and Fighting Signs of Aging
Tested on animals: No
How to use: Massage two to three drops of the serum into clean skin. Follow up with a moisturizer.
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This lightweight serum is one of the best Paula’s Choice products, as it contains a powerful concentration of vitamin C, which evens out and brightens the skin tone while also minimizing fine lines and wrinkles. It also contains ingredients that hydrate and soothe the skin.

Pros

  • Fragrance-free
  • Lightweight
  • Non-greasy

Cons

  • May irritate more sensitive skin types

In addition to vitamin C, this serum contains ferulic acid and vitamin E. These antioxidants protect the skin, and are also known to increase the efficacy of vitamin C.

Water (Aqua), Ascorbic Acid (vitamin C/antioxidant), Butylene Glycol (solvent/texture enhancer), Ethoxydiglycol (solvent/texture enhancer), Glycerin (skin-replenishing), PPG-26-Buteth-26 (emulsifier/skin-softening), PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil (emulsifier/solubility enhancer), Pentylene Glycol (skin-softening slip agent), Tocopherol (vitamin E/stabilizing antioxidant), Sodium Hyaluronate (hydration), Hexanoyl Dipeptide-3 Norleucine Acetate (skin-restoring peptide), Lecithin (skin-restoring/hydration), Ferulic Acid (stabilizing antioxidant), Panthenol (vitamin B5/skin-softening, skin-soothing), Bisabolol (skin-soothing), Oryza Sativa (Rice) Bran Extract (skin-softening/chelating agent), Propyl Gallate (antioxidant), Sodium Gluconate (chelating agent), Sodium Hydroxide (pH adjuster), Phenoxyethanol (preservative), Ethylhexylglycerin (preservative)

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Vitamin C in dermatology"

    Accessed Jul. 30, 2021.

FAQs

What is the best drugstore vitamin C serum for oily skin?

Many of the options on this list are suitable for all skin types, including oily skin. However, two great oil-free options to try include The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2% and the La Roche-Posay 10% Pure Vitamin C Serum.

Which is better: hyaluronic acid or vitamin C?

Hyaluronic acid and vitamin C are both great skincare ingredients – they just target different issues. Hyaluronic acid is a humectant that draws moisture to the skin and locks it in, helping to maintain hydration levels and make the skin look and feel more supple. Vitamin C, on the other hand, brightens the complexion, lightens dark spots, and fights signs of aging. These ingredients can be used at the same time, and you’ll often find hyaluronic acid added to vitamin C serum formulas. 

Can I use a vitamin C serum everyday?

In general, most people will find that they can use a vitamin C serum on a daily basis. That said, some people may find that using it that frequently can cause irritation, especially when using a serum with a higher concentration of vitamin C. If you’re using a vitamin C serum for the first time, start by applying it every other day to see how your skin reacts, and then increase your usage if it seems suitable for your skin.

The Bottom Line

If you want to add a vitamin C serum to your routine, you can find plenty of great options at the drugstore. For a brighter, more even, and younger looking complexion, consider adding one of our recommended drugstore vitamin C serums to your skincare routine.