SOS skincare: Vitamin C hits that will brighten dull skin


There’s a reason you are seeing vitamin C products from what feels like every brand

It’s like the beauty world has woken up all of a sudden to the powerhouse that is vitamin C. And it’s not just a marketing trend.

This hardworking ingredient will not only add brightness to the skin, it will also help protect the skin from UV damage, stimulate collagen production and lift dark spots. 

If you want to fend off lines and get your glow back, then adding a vitamin C serum is an essential step for your skincare routine. They can be a little on the pricey side, as it takes a bit of work to stabilise the vitamin C, but more budget-friendly options are becoming available.

How it works

Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant, which gets rid of free radicals in the body. These free radicals are what cause unwanted effects like fine lines, wrinkles, irregular texture and dullness. You’ll no doubt see all sorts of products spiked with vitamin C, but look for serums in particular, as they will be more effective than creams or toners. 

What to look out for


Some products say and some don’t but the percentage of vitamin C is very important, particularly for sensitive skins. Sometimes vitamin C can irritate in the first week or two of use, particularly with high percentage formulas. If the tingling sensation feels too strong, you can dilute certain formulas such as The Ordinary’s Vitamin C 30% suspension, with your favourite serum or cream, though such a high percentage is probably best avoided by sensitive skins. Try 5% if you’re very sensitive, and apply to a test area first. 


There is not much point in investing in lovely skincare jam-packed with vitamin C only for it all to be lost before it reaches your skin. If you want a product with high efficacy vitamin C, look for L-ascorbic acid, the most stable and effective form of vitamin C in skincare. It’s worth researching how brands stabilise the vitamin C content. For example, vitamin C can be suspended in oil or in silicone. Look for a brand that suspends the vitamin C with light rather than heavy silicone bases. With light silicones, there will be improved dermal exposure to the vitamin C. Even ensuring the product is closed properly after use is important to prevent air getting in. If your product changes colour, it means the formula has oxidised and will no longer be effective. 

Some tried and tested vitamin C products:

Vichy Liftactiv

No doubt you have seen Vichy Liftactiv Specialist Peptide-C ampoules, 10 pack for €30, on social media lately. Ampoules ensure freshness of the product, as such ingredients can be sensitive to air. If single-use products aren’t your bag, you can try the Liftactiv Supreme Vitamin C Brightening Skin Corrector €36. With 15% pure vitamin C, it promises to give you brighter skin in just 10 days. It is suggested you do a course of  10 days four times a year, and it comes in a tiny 10ml product so that you will use it up before the formula degrades. This could be a good option if your skin tends to get dull as the seasons change. This is a silicon-free formula and it is recommended for use once a day. Follow up with a minimum of SPF 15 and don’t use with any other peeling products. 

La Roche Posay Pure Vitamin C10 Serum €38 

The launch of this serum in such a flooded market is big news, as it promises to work on reactive skin. With a pH of just 5.5, even sensitive skin should be able to tolerate it. The 10% vitamin C will combat the negative effects of free radicals, as antioxidants are supposed to do. In addition, this formula also contains exfoliating salicylic acid and thermal spa water which helps to restore the skin’s barrier. Apply morning and evening to the face and neck, and use an SPF afterwards. 

The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 30% €6.50

This is a water-free suspension so the ascorbic acid remains completely stable. Apply it at night for best results. Vitamin C powder can be quite gritty so the silicone gives this a much more pleasant texture. 

Kiehl’s Powerful-Strength Line-Reducing Concentrate Vitamin C €58

Formulated with 12.5% pure vitamin C, this water-free concentrate promises visible results in just two weeks. Kiehl’s is considered to be pioneers in stabilising vitamin C, and promises that the formula is highly effective while still being suitable for sensitive skin. Apply morning and night, and you may notice a feeling of warmth as the formula activates. 

The Inkey List Vitamin C 30% Serum €11.50

Formulated with stable 30% pure L-ascorbic acid, this serum will target hyperpigmentation, dullness and fine lines. It also is proven to boost collagen production. This one is best used in the morning before applying SPF. If you experience a tingling sensation, mix with one or two drops of a hyaluronic acid serum. 

Elizabeth Arden Vitamin C Ceramide Capsules Serum €50

Promising to be 178 times more potent than traditional vitamin C, this is a high-efficacy dry oil serum. This is due to the stability of the formula, which is oil-soluble. It claims that the oil in the skin is attracted to the oil-soluble vitamin C, to ensure optimal delivery of the vitamin C to the surface of the skin. The capsules pair the brightening powers of vitamin C with ceramides to help prevent moisture loss. It comes in single dose capsules to guarantee freshness and which also makes them handy for travel. The formula is fragrance-free too. Twist the tab twice to open, then squeeze three drops into the palm of the hand, press palms together and smooth over the face. Then apply what’s left to the neck.