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All About Topical Vitamin C, Ascorbic Acid, Including Product Reviews

Updated on February 15, 2019

Before I get into the actual product review, I just want to write a brief introduction. But rest assured, this review is my honest opinion, all products purchased by me. The vitamin c or ascorbic acid or L-ascorbic acid is hands down a life or skin changing ingredient that you have to incorporate into your skincare. I'm a firm believer of the vitamin c in the ascorbic acid form; there are other less irritating forms of vitamin c on the market. But all the scientific articles that I read have evidence that ascorbic acid is one of the most effective topical vitamin c. Check out the scientific articles at the end for your reference. Lastly, I feel that vitamin c is really good for acne or acne prone skin because it made my skin less prone to breakouts. In order words, I can feel the ascorbic acid working on my skin!!

Main benefits of topical vitamin c

  • Provide significant photo protection for skin. Effective for reducing mutations that are associated with skin cancer. Ascorbic acid is an antioxidant. Should be used as a supplement to your sunscreen.
  • Improved the appearance of photoaged skin.
  • Reduce hyperpigmentation caused by acne.
  • Very safe to use on the skin. Certain people will get a little bit irritated with it. But it should improve with time.
  • Essential for collegan synthesis. Improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

Important criteria to consider when purchasing a vitamin c serum

  • 10 to 15 percent ascorbic acid is most effective for topical applications. Avoid other forms of vitamin c. Check the ingredient list to make sure you are getting ascorbic acid.

Ascorbic acid is not very stable by itself, the stability is improved in several ways.

  • Formulated with vitamin e and ferulic acid to improve performance and stability

  • Packaging that minimizes exposure to light and air. Ascorbic acid will degrade when exposed to light and air.
  • pH of less than 3.5. Ascorbic acid is most stable and effective at a low pH.
  • Color of serum, colorless is best because you can spot the degradation of ascorbic acid. A colorless serum gets darker over time. When it gets to dark yellow or brown, you will not be able to use it, will not provide any benefits of ascorbic acid.

1. Drunk Elephant C Firma Serum - 15% ascorbic acid, ferulic acid, vitamin E

This is a really solid option because ferulic acid and vitamin e enhance the effect of ascorbic acid. The percent of ascorbic acid is also right in good range (between 10 and 20%) for best skin absorption. pH is 3.3, good for skin absorption. Drunk Elephant also did a superb job on the packaging. It is opaque, twist cap that minimizes the exposure to air and sunlight. The price is only slightly expensive at $80. But still a very solid choice for vitamin C serum. This serum is very light yellow when you first open it. Then, it gets a little darker as you use it. As the packaging says, put the serum in the refrigerator after opening to prolong its efficiency. I use two pumps every morning because I need to apply to my face as well as my neck.

2. Maelove - 15% ascorbic acid, ferulic acid, vitamin e, and hyaluronic acid

This is a budget friendly vitamin c serum. This brand is very new and its formulation is very good. The amber glass dropper bottle design is also good for a vitamin c serum. Aside from the 3 important ingredients that a vitamin c serum should include, it also includes hyaluronic acid which hydrates the skin. For someone with dry skin, this is a very good serum that not only have the benefits of vitamin c, but also improves water content of skin. At only $27 a bottle, this serum is very budget friendly. This is the vitamin c that I'm currently using, I store it in the refrigerator to prolong its effectiveness and slow down the degradation of vitamin c.

3. Skinceuticals C E Ferulic - 15% ascorbic acid, ferulic acid, and vitamin E

No vitamin c serum review is complete without the famous Skinceuticals C E ferulic. This is the serum that started them all. With a short list of ingredients, it's formulated right to the point. This serum is really expensive, at $166 a bottle. It is twice the price of Drunk Elephant C Firma and almost 6 times the price of Maelove with the exact same amount of product as both. You probably want to know if it's worth it or miraculously even more effective than the other two. I haven't bought it yet, but I honestly don't think that it's much more different than the DE C Firma or Maelove. You can save your money. However, if you want high end and don't mind spending the extra money for the brand, then you can get. But as for myself, I do like to save money. I think I will buy it to try eventually because I want to see if the hype is real.

4. Clinique fresh squessed - 10% ascorbic acid.

Aww, this is my very first vitamin c serum. This is a good place to start even though it lacks the beneficial ingredients like ferulic acid and vitamin e. Let me explain, this comes in a small container that you will open and use for only 7 days. The 10% is a good starting point for the skin to get use to the ascorbic acid because some people are sensitive to it. This is a good way to test out your skin before purchasing an expensive vitamin c serum. Also, this has only 10% so it can help your skin build a tolerance for higher percentage vitamin c serum that you want to switch to in the future. And the small container will surely last more than 7 days. My mom and myself both used it for 7 days. You will mix the serum with the moisturizer and apply to the face in the morning. I don't know if the vitamin c is fresher or what, but when I first used it, I definitely saw a brightening effect on my whole face.

What did I notice after incorporating ascorbic acid in my skincare

  • Brightening
  • Skin is firmer and nicer to the touch
  • Persistent acne hyper-pigmentation (from years ago) faded completely
  • Sunspots are not completely gone, but significantly reduced
  • Skin feels better overall
  • Skin texture for my neck is significantly improved
  • Improve the appearance of not severe hypertrophic scars (caused by acne) on my nose


  • Pullar, J. M., Carr, A. C., & Vissers, M. (2017). The Roles of Vitamin C in Skin Health. Nutrients, 9(8), 866.
  • Telang P. S. (2013). Vitamin C in dermatology. Indian dermatology online journal, 4(2), 143-6.
  • Fitzpatrick, R. E., & Rostan, E. F. (2002). Double-Blind, Half-Face Study Comparing Topical Vitamin C and Vehicle for Rejuvenation of Photodamage. Dermatologic Surgery, 28(3), 231-236.


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