Skin Brightening: Best Vitamin C Serums for Glowing Skin

If you are looking for a brighter complexion, then look no further! Adding the correct Vitamin C serum to your skincare routine and using it correctly can benefit your skin in so many ways.

Vitamin C is a hot topic for sure and one I get asked about a lot. It can be a game changing ingredient when the correct products are used. I do think it’s easy to think that Vitamin C is old news compared to other products that are exploding into the skincare world now.  But not so fast, Vitamin C is a force to be reckoned with and is changing the skincare game everyday.  Allow me to introduce you to one of my favorite skincare ingredients and show you exactly how you can brighten and change your skincare routine with it!

*Affiliate Disclosure: I do have affiliate links in this blog post. If you purchase something from my link, I will receive a small commission from the sale.  This comes at no cost to you, but is paid by the company.  I do not take becoming an affiliate with any company lightly.  If I am, it’s because I believe in the company and their product.

Skin Brightening

I don’t know about you, but I definitely want a brighter complexion, especially when most would say that if your skin isn’t bright it is dull and lackluster. When you think of bright skin usually it’s associated with more a youthful skin tone and a glowing radiance. This can be accomplished in a variety of ways including fading dark spots caused by the sun, acne spots, and giving a more even skin tone. And that’s where Vitamin C steps in!

What can help brighten skin?

But first, I want to share that you can help brighten up your skin in a variety of ways. And, I am not talking about just skincare products!

Skincare Ingredients To Look For

Besides Vitamin C that I will be diving in deep on below, here are a few other ingredients to be on the lookout for when on the search for skin brightening skincare products.

  • Lactic Acid- This helps with cell turnover.  Revealing a brighter complexion overall. 
  • Retinol- This helps to speed up cell turnover and cell regeneration.  I like to stick to clean retinols known as plant-derived retinols.
  • Glycolic Acid- This helps to break down dead skin cells on the top layer of the skin.
  • Licorice Root Extract- This helps to naturally lighten the skin, great for sensitive skin types.
  • Niacinamide(Vitamin B3)- This helps to lighten skin by decreasing the number of melanin transferred to pigment producing cells (melanocytes) to skin cells by more than half.

Lifestyle Factors To Consider

Products aren’t the only thing to consider when it comes to getting brighter skin!  There are so many lifestyle factors to consider as well.

  • Moving Your Body- This is one way to get brighter skin.  By moving our body we are getting our lymphatic system moving which helps to increase blood flow and remove toxins.  Have you ever seen someone post yoga or after a spinning class?  They have a glow and it’s because they have moved their body and their blood is flowing!
  • Facial Massage- Giving your skin a massage can really help to get a glow on.  Getting our lymphatic system moving is key to achieving a brighter complexion.  Our lymphatic system doesn’t have a pump, so we have to manually move our lymphs so that toxins can be removed.  After a facial massage with hands or a gua sha or facial roller you are getting your lymphs going and stimulating blood flow.
  • Drinking Water Daily- Making sure you’re hydrated will in turn help with hydrated skin.  Hydrated skin looks more plump, youthful and you guessed it- brighter!
  • Eating Fruits and Veggies- These are loaded with antioxidants that literally can make you glow from the inside out.  These feed your body in all the right ways, giving your skin Vitamin C naturally.  
  • Ditch The Sugar- Sugar actually causes glycation in the body.  Which turns into free radicals.  In the ends it ages your skin!
  • Stress- Stress can play a huge role in overall skin health. Just look at a before and after photo of a president when they take office and then after.  You can tell a huge difference in their appearance!  They age so much.  Regularly processing your emotions and meditating/praying can really help to manage stress more effectively.
  • Weather- Taking inventory of how your skin feels and reacts in different climates can really help you to give your skin what it needs for a brighter complexion. For example, my skin does better with a little humidity. It’s more plump and my fine lines are less visible. 
There are many ways to brighten your complexion and adding Vitamin C to your skincare routine is just one of those ways!

Skin Care Benefits of Vitamin C

On to Vitamin C! Vitamin C is naturally found in the epidermis and the dermis of the skin. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps prevent free radical damage in your skin.  Free radicals cause DNA damage and decrease our skin’s antioxidants.  

Have you ever been exposed to the sun?  I’m guessing your answer is yes.  Well, when your skin is exposed to the sun, it produces free radicals.  Vitamin C helps to protect the skin from free radicals caused by sun exposure.  Often you will get sun spots as a result of sun damage, but with Vitamin C you could actually alter melanogenesis, which is the formation of pigment in the skin. Free radical damage in the skin causes issues like discoloration, wrinkles, fine lines- all the things we try and combat.  

Since Vitamin C is an antioxidant, it neutralizes the oxidative stress caused by free radicals, stopping them in their tracks.  I like to think of antioxidants as putting out the flame of free radical damage.  They come in and stop free radicals from doing their thing!  Vitamin C has been known as the largest antioxidant and really does wonders for our skin.  It brightens your overall complexion too.  Have dark spots that you want to fade or minimize?  Vitamin C is your new bestie.  Vitamin C has even been shown to increase collagen!  Talk about a little miracle for your skin in a bottle.  

We naturally have Vitamin C in our skin, however adding in a Vitamin C Skincare product can really take your skin to the next level.  When it comes to keeping your skin looking its best Vitamin C should be in your skincare lineup!

Different Types of Vitamin C Found in Skincare

The biggest problem when it comes to Vitamin C is delivering it to the skin in a stable product.  Vitamin C is very sensitive to light and oxygen. You want to make sure the serum comes in a dark glass bottle or opaque bottle so light is not able to get into the product.  When exposed to either it can degrade and not be as potent.  Your Vitamin C should be colorless or pale straw color.  If you notice the Vitamin C is yellow or brown then it’s going to be less effective.  It doesn’t mean you can’t use it, but it’s not going to be as effective.  

You also want to make sure it hasn’t been sitting on someone’s shelf for a long time or in a warm place.  Vitamin C does best when it’s fresh and not exposed to higher temperatures.  I always recommend storing it in a cool place.  Many formulas you get on the market today can actually be so inactive by the time you buy them because they’ve been sitting on the shelf being exposed to light and not housed in a proper bottle. 

Vitamin C can come in many different forms.  Most formulas come in a serum.  Serums are highly active and are smaller in molecular size so they are able to penetrate the skin much deeper.  

Another thing to consider when looking for a Vitamin C serum is what type of Vitamin C.  There are many different types of Vitamin C on the market today. Some Vitamin C’s are more stable than others and some are better for certain skin types.  These are all things to consider when purchasing a Vitamin C.  For example, L-ascorbic acid and sodium ascorbyl phosphate are more water soluble Vitamin C’s, making them great for oilier skin types. Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate is another water soluble Vitamin C however it is better suited for sensitive skin types.  It doesn’t exfoliate the skin like L-ascorbic acids or sodium ascorbyl phosphate.  Often these types of Vitamin C are found in lighter formulas.  If you’re wanting something more hydrating, then look for lipid-soluble forms of vitamin C, such as ascorbyl palmitate and tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate. I’ve found lipid-soluble forms to be a little less harsh on the skin and less irritating compared to serums. 

And, yes, those are all synthetic forms of Vitamin C. Remember, a synthetic ingredient isn’t necessarily bad. But, you can also find natural forms of Vitamin C in your skincare products. This includes:

  • Kakadu plum- an Aussie fruit.
  • Camu Camu- one of the richest sources in nature. 
  • Yuzu- Japanese super fruit.
  • Amla or Indian Gooseberry
  • Lemon
  • Orange peel
  • Rosehip
  • Jujube

It’s important to get a formula that has at least 5% and up to 20% Vitamin C. 

The higher percentage can help guarantee you’re going to see results.  However, if you do have sensitive skin starting at the lower end of 5% is a good idea and working your way up.  Anything after 20% has been shown to not do much more than 20%, in essence the results taper off after 20%.

It’s important not to mix certain ingredients with Vitamin C!

Other Ingredients to Avoid When Using Vitamin C

Often when using a product you might not think about other skincare products you’re using in conjunction with it, but with Vitamin C it’s important to be aware of what you’re putting on your skin along with it.  If you add in the wrong ingredients while using Vitamin C you can completely deactivate Vitamin C all together.  It will leave you feeling like your Vitamin C was useless when really, you were just mixing ingredients that shouldn’t be mixed together.

Common Ingredients To Avoid Using With Vitamin C

  • Citric Acid or Alpha-Hydroxy Acids- You won’t notice an actual reaction in your skin like a sensitive sensation but using these with Vitamin C can actually cancel out the Vitamin C effectiveness.  So in essence it’s not doing much for your skin!
  • Retinol Products- Since Vitamin C and Retinols are both highly active products it’s best to use them separate from each other and not together.  It can cause skin irritation when there are too many actives on the skin.  Vitamin C is best in the morning and Retinol at night if you do want to use them both in your skincare routine.  
  • Benzoyl Peroxide- This is another ingredient you should avoid when using Vitamin C products.  It can oxidize your Vitamin C, making it less potent. 
Consistent use of a Vitamin C serum will get your your best results.

How To Add Vitamin C To Your Skincare Routine

It’s always a good idea to slowly add in Vitamin C.  Although it’s not as irritating as retinols, it still is an active ingredient and if you have sensitive skin you really want to add it in slowly.  

I recommend starting with Vitamin C twice a week and if you tolerate that well add another day and so on.  

I’ve found people’s skin can easily adapt to Vitamin C the more they use it, even if they’re sensitive to it at first.  I am to the point where I use a Vitamin C Serum every morning and my skin loves it!  I apply mine after I cleanse my skin and tone it.  Then I apply the Vitamin C serum and an oil or day cream on top and then a sunscreen if I’m going outside.  

It is normal to feel a tingling sensation.  There is a difference between a tingling sensation and a burning sensation.  Burning is not good!  Tingling might last for 10 seconds where a burning sensation won’t go away. Remember, it’s important to use Vitamin C within 6 months, even earlier if you can.  Since Vitamin C can lose it’s effectiveness over time it’s really important to make sure you’re using it within a certain amount of time so it does the work on your skin. 

I also love Vitamin C because it’s a safe alternative to retinol products when you’re pregnant! Even plant-derived retinols haven’t been totally cleared by many physicians while pregnant and so I love having Vitamin C as a safe active skincare ingredient for all the moms to be.  It really offers some of the same benefits as Retinols but without the risk.  

Check out my Pregnancy Safe Skincare post here!

Vitamin C Results

You will start to see results within 2-4 weeks with daily use.  I always notice a brighter look overall to my skin when using a Vitamin C product.  It will look more radiant and more even.  I will notice less hyperpigmentation in certain areas.  My skin just looks overall less ruddy and smoother. Vitamin C is great for giving the skin an overall glow to it.  If you’re feeling like your skin is looking dull, then you may be in need of a Vitamin C serum!

Take my skincare quiz here to find your skin type and get started on the best skincare routine for you!

I can’t get over how many amazing Vitamin C serums there are in clean beauty!

Best Vitamin C Serums For a Brighter Complexion

It has taken me so long to write this post because of testing out the formulas!  It takes time and I only have one face. 🙂 Plus, since I started to write this, brands have come out with new formulas and I’ve wanted to test them out as well.  So alas, I’m finally sharing my top favorite Vitamin C products with you for a brightening complexion!

Beautycounter All Bright C Serum

This vitamin C serum really takes your skin to the next level.  It uses two forms of stable vitamin C and is formulated in such a way that it doesn’t lose its potency like many vitamin C products.  It not only protects your skin from environmental damage, helps to fight fine lines and wrinkles but gives your skin an overall brightness with camu camu and turmeric. I remember using this for the first time and instantly noticing a difference- like that day.  Some Vitamin C serums take time, but this one really amps up your skin’s brightness quickly.  Overtime I noticed fading in one dark spot in particular and an overall glow to my skin.  It never felt irritating at all.  My hubs is obsessed with this!  He can’t be without it. Let’s just say I always have a backup on hand.  I can’t recommend this enough!  Get it here!

Ursa Major Brighten Up Vitamin C Serum

This Ursa Major Skincare serum really goes deep into the skin to not only treat hydration but also help to brighten the skin overall.  It also helps to improve skin’s tone and appearance.  Unlike many forms of Vitamin C that are unstable, Ursa Major contains a stable form of Vitamin C.  But they didn’t stop their with stellar ingredients.  It also contains edelweiss- a stem cell complex that helps to fight the signs of aging with it’s high antioxidant properties.  Plus, one of my favorite skincare ingredients, rosehip oil is in the formula.  Rosehip is naturally high in Vitamin C and can really help to minimize fine lines and scarring.  Your skin feels overall hydrated and more supple after using.  This is also a great layer product.  So you can layer an oil over it, or a moisturizer for added hydration. Shop it here!

Check out my Ursa Major Review here!

Josh Rosebrook The Bright C Complex

The Bright C Complex uses two stable and clinically proven biomimetic Vitamin C complexes to give dull skin the boot.  This serum helps to fade dark spots, improve texture and tone of skin and leaves you with a brighter complexion overall.  Plus, it helps to stimulate collagen synthesis- just in case you were wondering. The formula isn’t sticky at all, but subtly hydrating- more of a creamy feel to it and texture.  It gives an overall smoothness to the skin and helps to protect against environmental damage. I apply this in the morning after cleansing and my hydrosol.  It feels so refreshing on the skin.  I love how it fills in lines and just creates an even canvas.  My skin texture since using this has felt so good!  A smoothness and radiance overall.  Another winner by Josh Rosebrook- am I surprised, not one bit. Get it here! 

One Love Organics Botanical C Facial Serum

This facial serum is so rich and decadent- not just a serum but also an oil too- so very nourishing.  Not only does it moisturize the skin so well but it’s also loaded with Vitamin C!  I love that my dry skin is not only getting some good heavy duty hydration but also the antioxidants.  Not only does it have the Vitamin C Ester in it, but also Rosehip, baobab, acerola and sea buckthorn oils that all have plant based C nutrients in them.  It’s power packed!  You’ll quickly become addicted as I have. It gives you a glow and radiance that you can’t deny.  Get it here!

Alpyn Beauty Bearberry & Vitamin C Glow Serum

This is another serum that really helps to amp up the glow on the skin.  It not only delivers glowing skin, but also a smoothness.  It has Vitamin C and bearberry leaf, and licorice root that targets dark spots.  Plus, it also has a blend of AHA’s that help to really bring out the glow in your skin by giving it a gentle exfoliation. You can actually wear it under or over makeup.  I prefer to wear it under makeup. I can really see the difference in how my makeup looks when I do it first.  It definitely imparts an overall glow!  Get it here. Use code GURLGONEGREEN20 to save 20% on your purchase through September 30th, 2022.

Check out my full Alpyn Beauty Review here!

Goop Glow 20% Vitamin C + Hyaluronic Glow Serum

This is a two part serum.  It combines L-ascorbic acid with hyalruonic acid.  Not only are you getting the benefits of Vitamin C, but also getting the moisturizing benefits of hyaluronic acid.  What I love about this serum is how fresh it is.  You get the Vitamin C and the hyaluronic acid separate, so you’re not activating it until you add them together.  As I wrote earlier, the problem with most Vitamin C serums is the potency.  So this is 100% potent right when you use it which I love!  It also has antioxidant super fruit Australian kakadu plum which also helps the Vitamin C to penetrate the skin even deeper.  I noticed a brightness to my skin and hydration after just using it a few times.  Then as I continued to use it I really noticed my skin’s overall pigment fade.  This is one of my top favorite Vitamin C serums to date!  It really shows improvement in the skin after so many uses and I think it’s because of how it’s not activated until you activate it.  They have even done third part studies on the Vitamin C and people noticed improvement in brightness, texture and fading of hyper pigmentation.  Get it here!

Marie Veronique Vitamin C+E+ Ferulic Serum

When I was pregnant I’m extra picky about what I use on my skin, retinol being an ingredient I steer clear of.  However, it doesn’t mean I don’t want my skincare to suffer.  Thankfully, this serum has vitamin c which helps to build collagen-bye, bye wrinkles.  Plus, it offers some sun and antioxidant protection for day.  I love how light this serum is.  It doesn’t take long to soak in.  I use it before my moisturizer in the morning.  My skin is protected even when I’m pregnant!  This is also essential oil free too which is nice, especially for sensitive skin.  You can actually use this product in the morning and at night.  They’re both encouraged. The reason for this is it not only includes vitamin C but also tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate (a potent c-derivative) that helps to give nutrients to the skin and repair it at night and rebuild collagen.

I will say the one drawback to this product is the scent.  It just doesn’t smell amazing.  It doesn’t bother me enough not to use it and I feel like it does dissipate somehwhat but wanted to share if smells are big for you.  It’s similar to a meaty smell to me. Haha, I’m sure I’m making you not want to try but it’s not horrible.  I really like this for sensitive skin and acne prone skin.  I’ve recommended it to several people who have had these skin types and they’ve loved.  I love how this serum goes on the skin, so smooth- not tacky or greasy at all. It gives my skin a glow- literally a tangible glow and it really works on zits that come up too.  Smell aside, this serum really works! Get it here.

Maya Chia The Super Lift Vitamin C- More Serum

This contains three forms of Vitamin C, plus peptides, and Stem Cells.  It’s power packed!  This does work with sensitive skin as well I’ve found because the essential oil content is minimal.  The formula is really unique too because it helps give the skin a firmness even upon contact, and then over time you notice it even more.  You can also notice collagen synthesis up to 157% through a bio-polymer matrix  of orange blossom stem cells and pomegranate peptide.  I love how this formula instantly absorbs into the skin and doesn’t feel sticky.  It also does feel like I have a primer on my skin before I apply my makeup.  I didn’t know how I would feel about this when initially reading the description but I really love how it feels under makeup.  I can’t say that my makeup has felt like it lasted longer but I do notice more of a glow overall.  My skin’s tone is so much more even using this.  That is the biggest thing I’ve noticed.  More of smoothness and then the glow.  Just a brightness to my skin when I’ve been using this.  My hubs used it and said the same thing!  He loves how his skin feels brighter and has a glow to it and how it subtly hydrates.  I’ve had some people say their acne scarring faded after using.  I never had acne as a teen or young adult so I can’t attest to that but I do feel my redness overall is less and it really pulls out a more brighter complexion.  It never once felt irritating either.  Get it here!

Agent Nateur Holi (C) Refining Face Vitamins

This is a unique product and I love it!  It’s a blend of calcium and Vitamin C and is in powder form.  You then mix the powder with a few drops of water and spf, moisturizer or face serum and then mix them together in your hand. Once mixed, then apply it to your skin and massage in.  You can apply it in the morning or at night.  I found myself doing both at times. Typically I do my Vitamin C in the morning but I would also do it a night too with this formula since it took a little more time to mix it up.  What I noticed the most using this product was the texture of my skin.  It definitely felt smoother overall and less ruddy looking.  It looked bright as well.  I will say the downside to it is having to mix it.  I’ve found it’s just one more step even though it’s really not a big deal it still feels like one more step which I don’t always want to do! 🙂 But I like that it’s not activated until I activate it since it’s a powder.  The one other thing is that it is a pretty small bottle, so you have to be mindful of how much product you’re actually using.  You don’t need a ton.  The powder can also harden a little which is a little annoying.  Get it here!

Bluh Alchemy Multi-C Serum

This serum has a multitude of Vitamin C’s all wrapped into one.  From quandong and sea buckthorn berry oils.  When you combine them together they are a force to be reckoned with! Plus, this unique formula has peptides that help to firm the skin, green coffee, and ferric acid.  Say bye to dull, ruddy skin and hello to glowing, radiant skin!  I use it after toning my skin at night and in the morning.  I noticed an improved overall texture, glow and evenness to my skin.  I love how it absorbs so effortlessly into the skin.  And can we talk about the luxe frosted glass bottle?  I love how it pumps and has a cap- so easy for travel. Get it here.

Free + True Bright Side Vitamin C Serum

This Vitamin C serum contains two forms of Vitamin C, tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate and magnesium ascorbyl phosphate.  This is made for even the most sensitive skin types. Both of the Vitamin C’s are non-irritating compared to other formulas.  It also has niacinamide in it which is very soothing to the skin.  It is meant to help with uneven skin tone, hyper pigmentation, sun spots and acne scars.  I love how this feels hydrating on the skin and richer than some Vitamin C serums.  It also is not irritating at all.  I could use it everyday right away with no irritation.  I didn’t notice a difference initially with it.  But then the more I used it the more I could see an improvement in the texture of my skin and a brighter complexion.  My skin also felt plumper overall. It really does take 8 weeks, so give it time!  If you have irritated, sensitive or inflamed skin this would be a great Vitamin C! Get it here.

And that’s it! So many great Vitamin C Serums in clean beauty. I had to make sure to include them all;)

Did I miss your favorite Vitamin C serum? Share it below!

Cheers, Suzi

Suzi

Suzi is a wife, and mama who is passionate about sharing her natural lifestyle with those around her. She created Gurl Gone Green to show how our everyday decisions, from what we use on our face, home and the food we eat affect us more than we know. She loves holding space where people can weed through the marketing clutter to find truth, and ultimately make the best decision for their families.

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