vitamin C serums (1)


Based on material previously posted on MakeupAlley, in response to questions; plus a few additions for this version. With apologies in advance to non-MUAers: the links will mean that you have an excuse for joining. It’s OK, you don’t need to sell your soul; as with this blog and online identity, you can invent and deploy a separate self (from your real life one), set up a separate email address, sign up to MUA (and whatever else online) as that alter ego. Alas, I’m not affiliated, any more than any other MUAer: sadly members, even long-standing productive ones, get no financial or other benefits. Like I’ve said before on here, this is a flaw. And one reason why I’m doing further comment and expanded fuller versions of MUA stuff off-MUA.

(All product names are linked either to the manufaturer’s website, or to that of one of the standard etailers–,, iherb, luckyvitamin,  skincarerx, skinstore, vitacost, etc.; as usual, links open in new tabs.

Information here—as on any other blog-post (such being the nature of a blog)—is date-specific. If you are reading this after that date, the information here may have changed: prices, products, etc. It is not being updated regularly. There may be occasional updates, but these will not be systematic. I’m mainly adding products that have caught my eye because they’re cheaper and look good on paper. If you know of a product that you think I should add here, please add a comment further down.

UPDATED 2013-02, to include NuFountain’s new C20+ Lightening serum, and Silk Naturals’ current five vitamin C serums (updated list) plus their product comparison chart.
UPDATED 2013-10, to include ASDM Beverly Hills: not tried/used it myself yet, but on paper, in theory, looks like a winner for ingredients and price.
UPDATED 2013-11, to include Garden of Wisdom Majik C Serum, Malibu C serums, updated the information on NuFountain and Silk Naturals serums
UPDATED 2014-05, to reinstate NuFountain’s MAP serum (CelSignal), which had been discontinued but has now been recontinued for some months (sorry, that was slow of me)
UPDATED 2017-07, to add The Ordinary and Timeless serums



I’m looking for a vit C serum and many of the natural options I’ve seen don’t list ascorbic acid in the ingredients; instead they have mostly plant/ fruit oils and extracts. I assume that since some of these are rich in Vit. C they would also have benefits, but will they be comparable to ascorbic acid serums? I don’t want something really strong anyway…
But what ingredients should I be looking for? Rosehip?
I would also consider a facial oil or even a toner, if it was effective.

the jason c-effects looks pretty good, no?
Aqua (Purified Water), Polyglyceryl-3 Diisostearate, Caprylic/ Capric Triglyceride, Isostearyl Isostearate, Cyclomethicone, Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis (Sweet Almond) Oil, Polysorbate 60, Silica Silylate, Ascorbic Acid, Rosa Canina (Dog Rose) Hip Oil, Ethyl Macadamiate, Fragrance Oil Blend, Ester-C Calcium Ascorbate, Ester C Sorbitol (and) Glycerine (and) Calcium Ascorbate, Tocopheryl Acetate (Vit. E), Sodium Hyaluronate, Thioctic Acid (Alpha Lipoic Acid) Camellia Sinensis (Green Tea) Leaf Extract Gel*, Aleurites Moluccana (Kukui Nut) Seed Oil, Polysorbate 20, Benzyl Alcohol, Annatto.


Jason C-Effects Hyper-C Serum—$34.98 / 30 ml (1 oz), $21.00 to $25.00 elsewhere online—is a good serum that contains some vitamin C; but probably not much. Entirely different from a vitamin C serum.

Ingredient list from manufacturers:

Aqua (Water), Glycerin, Sorbitol, Calcium Ascorbate, Polysorbate 20, Biosaccharide Gum-1, Scleroglucan, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice (1), Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract (1), Carthamus Tinctorius (Safflower) Oleosomes , Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Fruit Extract, Myrtus Communis Leaf Extract (1), Opuntia Coccinellifera, Ascorbic Acid, Citric Acid, Maltodextrin, Sodium Hyaluronate, Thioctic Acid, Tocopheryl Acetate, Xanthan Gum, Alcohol (1), Benzyl Alcohol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Gluconolactone, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Benzoate, Benzyl Benzoate, Benzyl Salicylate, Butylphenyl Methylpropional , Coumarin, Limonene, Linalool, Fragrance (Parfum)

It’s a jolly decent nice antioxidant serum, at a decent price, and at least as good (for most people, better) than the million and one overpriced antioxidant serums out there. If the “ascorbic acid” is the l-form (= almost certainly, and almost certainly just sloppy labelling), there might be nearly enough here (generally, at least 10% to be useful, more are in the 15-20% range). Ester-C is great when ingested, and slow release; but it’s not one of the most usable bioavailable forms when applied to skin. And there will be some more (and usable) vitamin C from the rosehip seed oil. Some further antioxidant boost from the green tea extract (depending on how much is there, and how much EGCG). Fatty acids and more vitamin E from the almond and kukui nut oils.

Rosehip seed oil contains some vitamin C, but not as much as an actual vitamin C serum (nor as bioavailable). On the other hand, it contains other things too (retinol, essential fatty acids, etc.). Same thing goes for assorted other skincare things containing vitamin C: little impact (other than possibly a little antioxidant effect, but the jury’s still out on whether that does anything other than sit on the skin) unless you’re applying at least 10% vitamin C, stable form, at the right pH, directly to bare skin.

If you’ve got dry sensitive skin and you’re OK with the fragrance, essential oils, and other potential irritants (all very individual, but I couldn’t use this stuff myself), this serum would be a good idea: enough slip and moisture, compared to vitamin C serums proper which (with few exceptions) will feel very dry on the skin, may indeed be too dry. I’ve had that issue. You apply the stuff to bare skin. Skin feels sucked dry and sore before you’ve even finished spreading the stuff on it.

And if you can’t use (or indeed afford) a vitamin C serum that you can use, on your skin: some antioxidants on the skin are better than none, so the Jason could still be a very good choice. Or indeed antioxidant toners rather than serums: there may be little to no difference between a toner, a water, and a serum: the most basic DIY vitamin C is just LAA dispersed in water. Or oils: the Jason will feel much like an oil, given the base is a mix of oils and silicones (and the ethyl macadamiate, which feels very like silicone).

That’s compared to MAP serums (the cheapest of which are in the $15.00 – 20.00 range + shipping), or LAA serums. For LAA, prices vary: this is actually the cheapest kind of vitamin C serum if you make your own, but not all skins can tolerate LAA. In which case, we’re back round to balancing what your skin can tolerate + what you can afford. Another reason that Jason one (and other cheaper antioxidant serums) could be brilliant and the best thing possible. For you and your skin: better in practice/reality, rather than better in theory. On MAP vs. LAA, see for example this essentialdayspa thread and

BUT: So long as your skin is OK with it, you’ll be better off with a vitamin C serum. And, as you’ll see below, they don’t necessarily have to break the bank: those I’m suggesting are in the same price-bracket at Jason C-Effects, or cheaper.

You can tell the difference between “a serum containing vitamin C” and “a vitamin C serum” from the ingredient list. In an actual vitamin C serum, you’ll see vitamin C (the commonest forms being l-ascorbic acid or magnesium ascorbyl phosphate) around about no. 2 in the ingredient list (there should be at least 10% for LAA; for MAP, around 3 – 5%). Water or other base no. 1. The list should be very short, about half the length of that Jason one, max. Most I’ve seen are under two lines long.



—Reasonable decent price-range: same price-point as Jason C-Effects; ranging from pennies up to $35.00 for 1 oz, mostly in the $15.00 – 25.00 area.
—I’m including ingredient lists, type of vitamin C, and percentage: so you can see what I mean by “an actual vitamin C serum”
—ideally, stabilised by also including vitamin E or coenzyme Q10 (ubiquinone) for MAP serums, and/or ferulic acid for LAA serums

  • DIY: here’s some MUA recipes.
    $5.00 and less / 1 oz: most of the cost will be the container, unless you reuse an old one.
    —Wayyyy cheap, pennies rather than whole dollars let alone tens of dollars or $100.00+.
    —Best to make these up fresh in small batches; start with a low concentration of LAA powder and work up, to reduce risks of irritation. Some skins can’t handle concentrated LAA: see further down for MAP-based serums (which are, unfortunately, somewhat more tricky and expensive to DIY).
    —NB: these recipes below use l-ascorbic acid in the form of soluble powder or crushable solids that will dissolve. NOT vitamin C tablets, capsules, other dietary supplements, etc… Though you may be able to use some of them: depending on form, not containing other ingredients (blackcurrant-flavour powder with added artificial sweetners for making up drinks = probably not); and in the case of tablets, how patient you are about grinding things down to a fine powder, and whether you have the tools available (yes to an electric coffee-grinder, no to a mortar and pestle).
    INGREDIENTS FOR BASIC VERSION: distilled water and l-ascorbic acid
    VERSION TWO: distilled water, propylene glycol, LAA
    VERSION THREE: distilled water, KY jelly or Monistat/sim, LAA
    VERSION FOUR: distilled water, glycerin, LAA
    FURTHER VARIATIONS: using rosewater, aloe vera juice or gel, witch hazel hydrosol, green tea, white tea, etc.
  • ASDM Beverly Hills Vitamin C Serum 15%
    $30.00 / 2 oz
    vitamin C: magnesium ascorbyl phosphate (MAP) 15%
    + vitamin E
    ✻ Ingredients: Distilled water, Hyaluronic Acid (15%), Vitamin C [MAP] 15%, Grape seed Extract, Green Tea Extract, [Bees Wax, HE-Cellulose, Polyglyceryl Oleate],  Rice bran Oil, Argan Oil, Vitamin E, Matrixyl 3000, Silk Amino Acids, Honey Extract, EDTA Tetrasodium, Silk Powder, Germall, Potassium, Allantoin, Aloe Vera Leaf Extract
  • Cosmetic Skin Solutions (CSS) Vitamin C + E Serum
    $39.95 / 1 oz
    vitamin C: l-ascorbic acid (LAA) 15%
    + vitamin E
    + ferulic acid
    Ingredients: Water/Aqua/Eau, L-Ascorbic Acid (Topical Vitamin C), Propylene Glycol, Ethoxydiglycol, Butylene Glycol, Laureth-23, Zinc Sulfate, Glycerol [=glycerin], Alpha Tocopherol (Vitamin E), Triethanolamine, Ferulic Acid, Phenoxyethanol, D-Panthenol, Hyaluronic Acid.—Even though it’s slightly pricier than the others here, I’m including this as it’s well-regarded and the exact same ingredients as the very popular, much-touted, much-lauded, prize-winning SkinCeuticals CE Ferulic Serum that’s $100 more and not cruelty-free (CSS, like the others in this group here, are cruelty-free).

—Both serums have 15% vitamin C (LAA), 1% vitamin E (alpha tocopherol), 0.5% ferulic acid, in a water-silicone base with glycerin, panthenol, and hyaluronic acid.
—Difference between the two: three of the inactive base ingredients are in a different order, and CSI has zinc sulfate too, which is a nice useful skin soother.
SkinCeuticals CE Ferulic Serum (RRP $146.00 / 1 oz)
✻ Ingredients: Water, Ethoxydiglycol, L-Ascorbic Acid, Propylene Glycol, Glycerin, Laureth-23, Alpha Tocopherol, Phenoxyethanol, Triethanolamine, Ferulic Acid, Panthenol, Sodium Hyaluronate

  • Garden of Wisdom Majik C Serum
    $33.00 / 1 oz
    vitamin C: l-ascorbic acid (LAA) 15%
    + ferulic acid
    ✻ Ingredients: Neroli hydrosol [water, citrus aurantium blossom steam distillate], l-ascorbic acid 15%, ferulic acid, optiphen
  • Isomers Vitamin C + E Serum
    $40.00 / 1 oz from the MF
    vitamin C: magnesium ascorbyl phosphate (MAP) 5%
    + vitamin E
    —Though it’s slightly pricier than the others here (around $25.00 – 40.00, cheapest source the Shopping Channel), I’m including this serum as it’s probably the simplest MAP serum on the market; for a cheaper but less minimal one, see Silk Naturals further down.
    Ingredients: Linum Usitatissimum (Linseed) Seed Extract, Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate (MAP), Disodium Lauriminodipropionate Tocopheryl Phosphates (Vitamin E Phosphates), Phenoxyethanol, Tropolone.
  • Malibu C Original C Serum
    $36.00 / 1 oz
    vitamin C: l-ascorbic acid 12%
    ✻ Ingredients: Water, Ascorbic Acid, Glucose, Panthenol, Xanthan Gum, Citric Acid, Disodium EDTA, Allantoin, Potassium Sorbate
  • Malibu C Zinc C Serum
    $36.00 / 1 oz
    vitamin C: l-ascorbic acid 12%
    ✻ Ingredients: Water, Ascorbic Acid, Glucose, Zinc Gluconate, Panthenol, Xanthan Gum, Citric Acid, Disodium EDTA, Allantoin, Potassium Sorbate.
  • UPDATE: DISCONTINUED NuFountain C10 Sensitive ($16.99 / 1 oz )
    Ingredients: Purified Water, 10% L-Ascorbic Acid, Magnesium Sulfate, Glycerin. pH of 2.5
  •  NuFountain C20 L-ascorbic Vitamin C Serum ($19.99 / 1 oz):
    vitamin C: l-ascorbic acid (LAA) 20%
    ✻ Ingredients: Purified Water, 20% L-Ascorbic Acid, Magnesium Sulfate, Glycerin. pH of 2.5.
  • NuFountain C20 + Ferulic Vitamin C Serum ($21.99 / 1 oz):
    vitamin C: l-ascorbic acid (LAA) 20%
    + ferulic acid
    ✻ Ingredients: Purified Water, 20% L-Ascorbic Acid, Glycerin, Ethoxydiglycol, Magnesium Sulfate, DL- Panthenol, Sodium Hyaluronate, Ferulic Acid, Sodium PCA, Phenoxyethanol, Caprylyl Glycol. pH of 2.5 – 3.
  • NuFountain C20 + Lightening Vitamin C Serum ($22.99 / 1 oz):
    vitamin C: l-ascorbic acid (LAA) 20%
    ✻ Ingredients: Purified Water, 20% L-Ascorbic Acid, 6% Alpha Arbutin, 6% Niacinamide (Vitamin B3), Citric Acid, Magnesium Sulfate, Glycerin. pH of 3.25
  • NuFountain CelSignal Support Hydrating Serum ($25.99 / 1 oz):
    vitamin C: magnesium ascorbyl phosphate (MAP) 15%
    ✻ Ingredients: Purified Water, Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate (Vitamin C, anti-oxidant), Niacinamide (Vitamin B3, cell-signaling, anti-inflammatory), DL-Panthenol (Vitamin B5 derivative, humectant, skin-conditioning, anti-inflammatory), Sodium Hyaluronate (hydrating, skin-identical ingredient), Hydrolyzed Oats (humectant), Nannochloropsis Oculata (Algae Extract, anti-oxidant), Pullulan (algal polysaccharide, anti-oxidant, skin-identical ingredient), Glycerin (humectant, skin-identical ingredient), Citric Acid (pH adjuster), Phenoxyethanol (preservative), Benzoic Acid (preservative), Dehydroacetic Acid (preservative). pH of 5-5.5
  • The Ordinary Ascorbyl Glucoside Solution 12%
    (CAN $12.90 / 1 oz):
    vitamin C: ascorbyl glucoside 12%
    ✻ Ingredients: Aqua (Water), Ascorbyl Glucoside, Propanediol, Triethanolamine, Aminomethyl Propanol, Isoceteth-20, Xanthan gum, Dimethyl Isosorbide, Ethoxydiglycol, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, 1,2-Hexanediol, Caprylyl Glycol. pH of 6 – 7
  • The Ordinary Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate Solution 20% in Vitamin F
    (CAN $17.80 / 1 oz):
    vitamin C: ascorbyl tetraisopalmitate 20%
    ✻ Ingredients: Coconut Alkanes, Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate, Ethyl Linoleate, Coco-Caprylate/Caprate, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Solanum Lycopersicum (Tomato) Fruit Extract, Squalane.
  • The Ordinary Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate 10%
    (CAN $9.60 / 1 oz):
    vitamin C: magnesium ascorbyl phosphate (MAP) 10%
    Hydrator / light cream
    ✻ Ingredients: Aqua (Water), Coco Caprylate/caprate, Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Isodecyl Neopentanoate, Plukenetia Volubilis Seed Oil, Coconut Alkanes, Disteardimonium Hectorite, Polyglyceryl-3 Diisostearate, Polyglycerol-3 Polyricinoleate, Glycerin, Hexamethyldisiloxane, Terminalia Ferdinandiana Fruit Extract, Tocopherol, Sodium Chloride, Phenoxyethanol, Chlorphenesin. pH of 6.5 – 7.5.
  • The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2%
    (CAN $5.80 / 1 oz):
    vitamin C: l-ascorbic acid (LAA) 23%
    Water-free, silicone-free stable suspension
    ✻ Ingredients: 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.
  • Silk Naturals Awesome Sauce Antioxidant Serum ($18.95 / 1 oz):
    vitamin C: magnesium ascorbyl phosphate (MAP) 3%
    + co-enzyme Q10
    ✻ Ingredients: Distilled Water, Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Capric Capryllic Triglycerides and Teprenone,  Thermus Thermophilus Ferment (and) Glycerin, Lactobacillus/Wasabia Japonica Root Ferment Extract, Propanediol, Phospholipids,  Ubiquinone, Gluconoactone and Sodium Benzoate, Dehydroxanthan Gum, Panthenol, Sea Buckthorn Berry Oil
  • Silk Naturals Facelift Vitamin C, DMAE, & Peptide ($17.95 / 1 oz):
    vitamin C: magnesium ascorbyl phosphate (MAP) 3%
    ✻ Ingredients: Distilled Water, Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Palmitoyl Tripeptide-5, DMAE, White Tea Extract, Propanediol, Hydroxypropyl starch phosphate, Gluconolactone (and) Sodium Benzoate, Panthenol
  • Silk Naturals Mama’s Helper Serum ($21.95 / 1 oz):
    vitamin C: magnesium ascorbyl phosphate (MAP) 5.5%
    + co-enzyme Q10
    ✻ Ingredients: Distilled water, magnesium ascorbyl phosphate, Lactobacillus/Wasabia Japonica Root Ferment Extract , Hydrolyzed Cucurbita Pepo (Pumpkin) Seedcake Extract, Water (and) Glycerin (and) Glycerrhiza glabra (Licorice) Root Extract, Water, Camellia sinensis (Green Tea) Leaf Extract, Thermus Thermophilus Ferment (and) Glycerin, Propanediol, Phospholipids,  Ubiquinone, Gluconoactone and Sodium Benzoate, Dehydroxanthan Gum, Panthenol
  • Silk Naturals Super Serum ($17.95 / 1 oz):
    vitamin C: magnesium ascorbyl phosphate (MAP) 3%
    ✻ Ingredients: Distilled Water, Niacinamide, Dimethyl Sulfone, Hydrolyzed Cucurbita Pepo (Pumpkin) Seedcake, Thermus Thermophilus Ferment (and) Glycerin, Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Tamarind Seed Extract, Hydroxypropyl starch phosphate, Gluconoactone and Sodium Benzoate, Green Tea,  Panthenol
  • Silk Naturals Vitamin C Peptide ($15.95 / 1 oz):
    vitamin C: magnesium ascorbyl phosphate (MAP) 3%
    ✻ Ingredients: Distilled Water, Tamarind Seed Extract, Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Palmitoyl Tripeptide-5, White Tea Extract, Hydroxypropyl starch phosphate, Gluconolactone (and) Sodium Benzoate, Panthenol 
  • Timeless 20% Vitamin C + E Ferulic serum ($24.95 / 1 oz; refill $69.95 / 4 oz):
    vitamin C: l-ascorbic acid (LAA) 20%
    ✻ Ingredients: Water, Ethoxydiglycol, L-Ascorbic Acid, Propylene Glycol, Alpha Tocopherol, Polysorbate 80, Panthenol, Ferulic Acid, Sodium Hyaluronate, Benzylalcohol, Dehydroacetic Acid.. 
  • Timeless Hyaluronic Acid + Vitamin C serum ($19.95 / 1 oz; refills $59.95 / 4 oz):
    vitamin C: magnesium ascorbyl phosphate (MAP) 5%
    ✻ Ingredients: water, magnesium ascorbyl phosphate, aloe barbadensis, glycerin, hyaluronic acid, matrixyl 3000™, benzylalcohol, dehydroacetic acid. 


Two more, on DIY formulation:



How do you naturally preserve vitamin C serum? Would essential oils like lemon or tea tree do it?



1. also, lemon oil would not be a good idea: photosensitizing, high probability of phototoxicity, YMMV but very common irritant. The former two would make it a bizarre choice for a vitamin C serum if you’re using it during the day for one of its main purposes, as a sun protection booster.

2. tea tree: no. For both that and lemon, the main reason is–oversimplifying massively–that Vitamin C serums go off when they oxidise. Neither of these EOs (nor lavender, oops but also photosensitizing etc…) is any use for preventing that. What *would* work: antioxidants (see 4. below) and a delivery system that minimises (small-apperture pump) or removes (ex. the Avène patented ETS delivery system) contact with air.

3. So how would you preserve it? Well, many C serums [see examples above] contain preservatives. Most of the ones that actually do the job properly won’t count as “naturally preserve” (ex. phenoxyethanol). These serums usually contain other ingredients that could spoil, in the bacterial and fungal way.

4. One “natural” option: Some use added vitamin E, as an antioxidant (see 2. above). But watch out on formulation re. fat-soluble vs. water-soluble ingredients in your C serum, if making it yourself–otherwise you risk making something that’s inherently unstable from the start, and might also end up lumpy or worse. […]

5. There’s a reason why decently-formulated vitamin C serums are sold in small quantities (typically around a month’s supply) and why DIY recipes refer to making up small batches. For most, your best option is just to keep the stuff in a cool dark place and use within a month.

This is very exciting, depending on how easy it is for someone to find MAP powder and how expensive it turns out to be:


DIY MAP serum – can this simply be made by adding MAP powder to an existing hyaluronic serum? Just concerned about losing the effectiveness of the MAP. Thanks for any advice!


That’s fine. Just try small batches first. MAP has tendency to go off fast even tho it’s very stable.


Plus some information too; shipping prices are for the cheapest available method to Canada; for other countries, see the website:

NEXT UP, TOMORROW: some near-misses that nearly made it onto the list above…


    • gingerama

      and there’s more, much more to come… realized I’d written a post about 4,000 words long, so thought it would probably be a good idea / a mercy to readers to divide it up…

  1. Becky

    Wow, lots of great info. I hadn’t heard of the Isomer C. I definitely do better with MAP than L-AA so I may have to check that one out.

  2. Anna Lim

    I’m side eyeing that ASDM serum really hard right now … the ingredient list is implying that there is 15% MAP but I’m wondering if it really means that a 15% MAP solution is an ingredient – meaning the final concentration is much lower.
    Wouldn’t be the only company out there pulling such a sleight of hand either, look up Asterwood Naturals 20% Vitamin C serum for another example.

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