While retinol often steals the spotlight when it comes to anti-aging skincare products that produce visible results, vitamin C is an absolute all-star in its own right. It protects the skin from the signs of aging and addresses a host of skincare concerns.
Like other anti-aging skincare products, products with vitamin C can get pretty pricey. I’ve tried a few of the more expensive vitamin C products, and while I liked the results, I wanted to find a drugstore vitamin C treatment that delivers results without the high cost. The drugstore has really stepped up recently when it comes to anti-aging skincare and vitamin C treatment products are no exception.
I’ve been on the hunt for a vitamin C treatment to be worn during the day and have tried my fair share over the past several months. Before we take a look at a few, let’s look at how vitamin C works in skincare and how it can benefit your skin.
This post contains affiliate links, and any purchases made through these links will result in a commission for me at no extra cost to you. Please read my Disclosure for additional information.
The Benefits of Vitamin C in Skincare
Vitamin C is a heavy hitter when it comes to addressing many different anti-aging skincare concerns. It’s known for brightening the skin, but it also addresses issues such as hyperpigmentation, rough texture, age spots, and acne scars. It improves elasticity, supports collagen production and even helps repair sun damage.
A potent antioxidant, vitamin C helps fend off free radicals that wreak havoc on our skin causing oxidative stress, which results in the visible signs of aging, i.e. fine lines and wrinkles. Although vitamin C does not work as a sunscreen, it can be used in conjunction with a sunscreen to protect the skin from UV damage. Ascorbic acid, also called L-ascorbic acid, which is a stable form of vitamin C, is considered to be the most effective form of the antioxidant.
Vitamin C is temperamental and must be stabilized. Light and air will cause vitamin C to break down and decompose. As a result, it will turn a deep yellow color and lose its effectiveness over time. So take notice of how the vitamin C product that you are using is packaged. When it comes to vitamin C, packaging matters.
Vitamin C in your Skincare Routine
Vitamin C should be added as the treatment step of your skincare routine. Since I use actives like retinol at night, which need to be used when your skin is not exposed to UV rays, I save vitamin C for my morning skincare routine. I also like that vitamin C products help to protect the skin from damaging free radicals that you are exposed to during the day.
A Note on Water-Based Vitamin C Serums
Certain products work for certain skin types. My preference has always been non-water based vitamin C formulas. As a result, there is only one water-based drugstore vitamin C product in the group that I review. But water-based vitamin Cs can be very effective.
Just look at dermatologist favorite and best-selling SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic Serum. No doubt this is an effective serum. Skinceuticals holds a patent on stabilized ascorbic acid composition and has the clinical studies to back up the effectiveness of their formula. Does this warrant a $166 price tag? You can be the one to decide.
A lower-priced vitamin C water-based serum similar to SkinCeuticals is Timeless 20% Vitamin C Plus E Ferulic Acid Serum. This serum contains 20% vitamin C. Timeless does not disclose that amount of vitamin E and ferulic acid in the formula. For comparison, SkinCeuticals serum contains 15% vitamin C. If you are looking for a drugstore alternative for SkinCeuticals, Timeless is a great option.
Drugstore Vitamin C Treatments
Let’s take a look at a few vitamin C treatments that I’ve recently tried:
L’Oreal Paris, Revitalift Derm Intensives 10% Pure Vitamin C Concentrate contains 10% Ascorbic Acid. This formula is packaged in an air-tight metal tube to protect it from light and minimize it’s exposure to air. It is formulated in a silicone base for a smooth application.
I get a warming sensation after applying this serum to my skin. No irritation, but a strange warming sensation for a minute or two. Makeup applies easily and smoothly thanks to the silicone in the formula. I am on my second tube of this and I love this serum!
I had high expectations for CeraVe Skin Renewing Vitamin C Serum since I’ve used many of CeraVe’s products and have had great results. This serum contains 10% pure vitamin C in the form of L-ascorbic acid, plus soothing vitamin B5 to address skin texture, hydrating hyaluronic acid, and three Ceramides to protect skin’s natural barrier. It also contains a stable antioxidant form of vitamin E, which works in conjunction with vitamin C. All of this in a continuous release formula for 24-hour hydration.
This serum sinks in quickly and works well with makeup. I really like the additional ingredients which address hydration and the skin’s barrier. The formula does contain astringent and antimicrobial alcohol, so please take note if alcohol is an issue or drying for your skin. While I wish alcohol was not in the formula, it doesn’t bother my skin. I find that the benefits from the other active ingredients outweigh the drawbacks that come with alcohol.
Related: A Guide to Drugstore Retinol
Skin To You Vitamin C Ya Vitamin C Serum contains 3-O-Ethyl Ascorbic Acid which is a newer form of vitamin C. It is a stable form of vitamin C in a water-based formula. It absorbs quickly and is not sticky. For a water-based vitamin C serum, this is impressive. Works like a dream with makeup and so it definitely passes the test for day wear.
This serum has an interesting delivery system. The dropper fills with serum once you screw the lid on. The dropper also fits into the bottle very snugly which I assume helps to keep air to a minimum. This is a well-designed and very affordable water-based vitamin C serum.
Per Olay, this product provides all of the benefits of a serum in an easy to apply stick form. Olay Serums – Brightening Pressed Serum Stick with Vitamin B3 + Vitamin C includes active ingredients vitamin B3 (niacinamide), vitamin C and glycerin.
Niacinamide is an all-star ingredient in my book. I’ve made my love of niacinamide clear in this post on the benefits of niacinamide. Niacinamide helps to address many of the same skin concerns that vitamin C addresses. This includes dullness, hyperpigmentation, and fine lines and wrinkles. In this product, Vitamin C is in the form of ascorbyl palmitate which is fat-soluble. It is a stable form of vitamin C and well suited for sensitive skin.
I must say, I was a little reluctant to purchase this serum stick. First of all, I’ve never used a serum stick and I couldn’t imagine that I would get a potent vitamin C from a solid product. But I have been pleasantly surprised by this product! You smooth the stick over your face and it melts right into your skin.
The serum stick has a scent which is vaguely reminiscent of citrus, but also a little perfumey at the same time. (I like it!) I have experienced no irritation and have enjoyed the slight glow that the product provides during daytime use. This serum stick would be so convenient for travel or for throwing into your gym bag for use after your workout. The application is fast and easy too!
The Inkey List & The Ordinary Vitamin C Creams
A few months ago, I compared both The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2% and The Inkey List Vitamin C. These formulas are really concentrated and were just a little too harsh for my sensitive skin. Both formulas are non-water-based.
The Inkey List formulates their vitamin C with 30% pure L-ascorbic acid. In fact, there are only four ingredients in The Inkey List Vitamin C: L-ascorbic acid and three silicones for a smooth application. I experienced irritation and stinging from this vitamin C.
The Ordinary formulates their vitamin C with 23% pure L-ascorbic acid and dehydrated spheres of hyaluronic acid for smoothing in the place of silicones plus moisturizing squalane. This formula felt gritty on my skin and was also irritating.
Both treatments are highly concentrated forms of Vitamin C. These are great budget buys and if your skin is not sensitive, they may work well for you. You can read more about these two products in my post: The Inkey List vs. The Ordinary: Anti-Aging Skincare on a Budget.
I hope this post has given you a few reasonably priced drugstore vitamin C treatment options! It’s so great that you can now find quality vitamin C treatment products at the drugstore at budget-friendly prices. No matter your age, incorporating vitamin C into your skincare routine can help prevent future free radical damage and help restore skin that has already experienced damage from free radicals and other environmental factors.
Have you used drugstore vitamin C treatments? Have you had good results? I’d love to know!
Thanks for reading, and until next time…