Five Vitamin C serums that make a difference in your mature skin

Image of serum vials and oranges

Serums are having a moment—a long moment.  However, while most of them contain impressive ingredients, many of them are no more effective than a moisturizer.  That’s because the molecules they contain are not minute enough to penetrate to the lowest levels of the skin.  And even if they were, they would not be able to change the cellular structure of the skin enough for you to notice a difference.

Serums are a way for cosmetic companies to broaden their product lines (more products for you to buy) and charge a higher cost per ounce of product (serums are more concentrated and perceived as more exotic).  However, there is one major exception to this serum philosophy—and that’s Vitamin C.

Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant.

Taken internally as a supplement or through diet, Vitamin C boosts the immune system and fights free radicals (toxins).  Applied to the skin in the form of a serum, Vitamin C can visibly improve the skin, even 60+ skin.  Abigail Waldman, MD, instructor of dermatology at Harvard Medical School, maintains, “There is good literature that shows that vitamin C, in particular, can prevent brown spots, reverse damage from ultraviolet rays, and stimulate the growth of new collagen.”  However, as with anything, not all Vitamin C serums are created equal.

The Vitamin C serums in our selection have the most likelihood of making a visible difference in your skin.

Your Vitamin C serum should meet these criteria

* Contains L-ascorbic acid in a 10%-25% concentration.

L-ascorbic acid is the purest and most potent form of Vitamin C.  Vitamin C derivatives are often used in Vitamin C serums but they are not as effective as L-ascorbic acid.  Below a 10% concentration of this ingredient in your serum, you are unlikely to see much effect.  Above 25% and your skin is likely to react with redness, dryness and stinging.  The sweet spot in the serums we have chosen is between 10% and 25%.

* Comes in an amber or frosted glass bottle.

Vitamin C is notoriously unstable.  Light, heat and plastic will degrade it and render it essentially useless.  Make sure your serum comes in amber or frosted glass and keep it in a medicine cabinet or cupboard rather than out on your vanity in the light. Some manufacturers suggest keeping the serum in the refrigerator but there’s a good chance that many of us would then forget to use it–if it’s not on your face, it can’t do its job.



* Has as few ingredients as possible

Ingredients like tocopherols (Vitamin E), glutathione, ferulic acid and centella asiatica are all ingredients that make a good combination with Vitamin C and help to boost the effectiveness of the serum.  However, ingredients like silicones, parabens, alcohols, and fragrance merely dilute the effectiveness of these ingredients; they are unnecessary in a Vitamin C serum.  One thing to watch for, however, is that L-ascorbic acid is one of the first few ingredients.

* Is reasonably priced

You don’t have to pay a fortune for your Vitamin C serum.  While they may cost more than your moisturizer because they are concentrated, some of them (which we have not included) can cost close to three hundred dollars.  However, based on the amount you get and the ingredients, we found that the reasonably priced ones were just as effective.

Blue Hare-recommended Vitamin C serums for mature skin

Ling New York Hi-Vitamin C 12% Serum

Why we like it:

  • Ling Chan, the founder of the company is in her 70s and looks 50
  • She has been facialist to the stars for decades
  • This serum contains a good amount of l-ascorbic acid (2nd ingredient) as well as centella asiatica, used for centuries as a wound healer and scar reducer.

Buy it at, $108



The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 23%

Why we like it:

  • This is the most budget friendly Vitamin C serum you will find
  • It has a high concentration (23%) of l-ascorbic acid (if you have sensitive skin, you may be better off choosing a lower concentration)
  • L-ascorbic acid is the first ingredient.

You can find it at, $7

Skinceuticals C E Ferulic

Why we like it:

  • This is the most expensive of the serums, but extremely potent and easy on the skin
  • It has few ingredients and a good concentration of l-ascorbic acid
  • The formula contains ferulic acid, an ingredient that helps to stabilize Vitamin C and make it more effective.

Available at, $169

Drunk Elephant C-Firma Fresh Day Serum

Why we like it:

  • You make it fresh at home by pouring the serum into the powdered L-ascorbic acid—makes for a longer shelf life
  • Potent 15% L-ascorbic acid concentration
  • The formula contains ferulic acid, an ingredient that helps to stabilize Vitamin C and make it more effective.

Buy it at, $78

Paula’s Choice, C15 Super Booster

Why we like it:

  • L-ascorbic acid is the second ingredient after water
  • Potent 15% L-ascorbic acid concentration
  • Paula’s Choice Skincare products are known for their effective, no-nonsense, science-backed formulas
  • Easily purchased on Amazon.

Easily purchased on, $49.40

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