This post will review the best non-toxic vitamin C serums that not only are made with safe ingredients, but also work well and are effective in improving the appearance of your skin.
Vitamin C serums are great for your skin. They can have many beneficial effects including, but not limited to:
- Vitamin C can help reduce the appearance of dark spots and hyperpigmentation and help protect against the development of new dark spots or hyper-pigmented areas (reference).
- They have powerful anti-aging effects (reference).
- They can help decrease acne and acne scarring.
- Can help defend skin from the damaging effects of environmental stressors such as pollution and smoke (reference).
- Help decrease melasma (reference).
- Supports the skin’s natural collagen production to help make skin appear more youthful (reference).
- Help decrease sun damage from both UVA and UVB rays (reference).
- Prevent sun damage by neutralizing free radicals, an effect which is not seen with sunscreens - under laboratory conditions, the application of a 10% topical vitamin C shows a reduction of UVB-induced redness by 52% and sunburn cell formation by 40-60% (reference).
- They act as a potent anti-oxidant which helps protect the skin from oxidative stress and environmental damage (reference).
- They have anti-inflammatory effects which is helpful for treating many different skin conditions and can promote wound healing and help prevent scarring (reference).
- Vitamin C can help replenish the skin's vitamin E levels, which has anti-oxidant effects and helps prevent against oxidative stress and maintains the collagen network in the skin (reference).
- They can help brighten the skin, even skin tone, and improve skin radiance.
Almost everyone could benefit from adding a vitamin C serum to their skincare routine. However, when considering which vitamin C serum to buy, you want to be sure to choose one that is not only effective, but is also safe and non-toxic.
Unfortunately, the personal care industries in many countries, including the USA and Canada are currently under-regulated, so that harmful ingredients including carcinogens, endocrine disruptors, skin irritants, allergens, respiratory irritants, neurotoxins and other potentially toxic ingredients can be used in skincare products (please refer to the reference section at the end of this post for further reading on this issue). And knowing that our skin is the largest organ in our body and that many of these ingredients can be absorbed directly into the blood stream, it is very important that you avoid products with any potentially harmful ingredients in them.
Luckily, in recent years there have been more and more brands that are focused on producing safe, non-toxic skincare products, including vitamin C serums, so there are many non-toxic vitamin C serums on the market to choose from.
In this post I have included a list of the 20 best non toxic vitamin C serums including organic, natural and vegan options and options at varying price points, so there should be something here for everyone. Here you will find vitamin C serums that are great for all ages including beginners and those over 50 who are more experienced and may require more concentrated and even more effective ingredients.
The 20 best non-toxic vitamin C serums:
Beautycounter All Bright Vitamin C Serum
The Beautycounter All Bright Vitamin C serum is my personal favourite vitamin C serum. I have seen such dramatic improvements in my skin since I started using it (see my before and after photos below). Compared with most vitamin C serums on the market that are made with L-ascorbic acid which is an unstable form of vitamin C that starts to oxidize and lose effectiveness quickly when exposed to light, the Beautycounter All Bright C Serum is instead formulated with two ultra stable forms of vitamin C - 5% bis-glyceryl ascorbate and 5% tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate.
This vitamin C serum is also made with Curcuma Longa (turmeric) root extract and Myrciaria Dubia (camu camu) fruit extract. These extracts are powerful antioxidants that help decrease the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, reduce dark spots and improve signs of skin fatigue. It is also EWG verified, cruelty free and vegan.
In addition to formulating their products with safe ingredients, Beautycounter also tests their products for contaminants to ensure that no unwanted harmful ingredients end up in their products by mistake somewhere during the manufacturing process.
And if you are new to Beautycounter, they have been kind enough to give me a 20% off code for my readers! Simply shop through this link and use the code CLEANFORALL20 at checkout to get 20% off your order.
My before and after results from using the Beautycounter vitamin C serum:
MARA Chlorella + Reishi Sea Vitamin C Serum
The MARA Chlorella + Reishi Sea Vitamin C Serum is a clean a facial serum rich in vitamin C and age-defying ingredients. It is made with supercharged ingredients, including a stable form of vitamin C, as well as 14 additional vitamin C rich fruit extracts, herbs and botanicals to help further improve skin brightness. This serum also contains algae, which works to help firm skin and improve the appearance of dark spots and sun damage, as well as adaptogens, which work to calm and sooth skin, and moringa and squalane oil to deeply hydrate the skin.
You can shop for the MARA Chlorella + Reishi Sea Vitamin C Serum here.
Marie Veronique Vitamins C+E+Ferulic Serum
The Marie Veronique Vitamins C + E + Ferulic Serum is rich in antioxidants and can be used both day and night. During the day, this serum helps provide sun protection and at night, the combination of vitamin C and tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate works to provide nutrients to help repair skin and rebuild collagen. This powerful serum promotes skin health and a radiant complexion, and replenishes the skin with antioxidants. It is great for all skin types and is gentle enough for sensitive skin.
You can shop for the Marie Veronique Vitamins C + E + Ferulic Serum here.
Ursa Major Brighten Up Vitamin C Serum
The Ursa Major Brighten Up Vitamin C Serum is a lightweight facial serum that penetrates deeply into the skin to provide instant hydration while brightening and smoothing skin tone and its appearance. It can be used alone as a lightweight moisturizer, or layered beneath another face lotion, sunscreen or night cream. This clean vitamin C serum is rich in antioxidants and is good for all skin types including dry, mature, sensitive, blemish-prone, combination and normal skin.
You can shop for the Ursa Major Brighten Up Vitamin C Serum here.
Josh Rosenbrook C Bright Complex Vitamin C Serum
The Josh Rosenbrook C Bright Complex Vitamin C Serum is a potent vitamin C serum that harnesses two types of vitamin C complexes to visibly reduce dark spots and improve skin tone and texture. This clean serum is designed to transform the skin through the renewal of the skin's surface, provide deep hydration, and help fortify the skin barrier function. It's great for those with sensitive skin, acne, rosacea, and eczema.
You can shop for the Josh Rosenbrook C Bright Complex Vitamin C Serum here.
Alpyn Beauty Bearberry & Vitamin C Glow Serum
The Alpyn Beauty Bearberry & Vitamin C Glow Serum is a vitamin C and bearberry infused serum that provides an instant glow as it fades the look of dark spots for a visibly brighter, more even skin tone. This serum provides many skin benefits as the vitamin C and bearberry provide the brightening benefits, while bakuchiol and gentle, plant-based AHA resurface and smooth skin for added luminosity. Alpyn Beauty is the only skincare brand to sustainably harvest wild plants from the mountains of Jackson Hole, Wyoming use in their skincare products.
You can shop for the Alpyn Beauty Bearberry & Vitamin C Glow Serum here.
Common Heir 10% Vitamin C Serum
The Common Heir 10% Vitamin C Serum is a gentle, vitamin C facial serum that has powerful skincare benefits and is also good for the planet. This award winning vitamin C serum is EWG verified and is formulated with a concentrated and deeply-penetrating blend of vitamin C, THD, licorice root and marshmallow root extracts. This facial treatment has been clinically proven to brighten skin and improve it's texture. It comes in biodegradable, plant-based capsules which can be composted, thrown out, or even melted down in hot water.
You can shop for the Common Heir 10% Vitamin C Serum here.
Goop Beauty GOOPGLOW 20% Vitamin C + Hyaluronic Glow Serum
The GOOPGLOW 20% Vitamin C + Hyaluronic Glow Serum is a two-part daily serum with L-ascorbic acid and hyaluronic acid. This serums also contains the antioxidant super fruit Australian kakadu plum in addition to three different molecular sizes of hyaluronic acid which allows it to penetrate different layers of the skin and to help brighten skin and improve firmness, tone and hydration. This is a vitamin C serum that you mix right before using to help it stay active.
You can shop for the GOOPGLOW 20% Vitamin C + Hyaluronic Glow Serum here.
Saint Jane Beauty The C Drops
The Saint Jane Beauty The C Drops is a potent brightening treatment packed with 20% active vitamin C to help create healthy, glowing skin. This C serum is great for dullness, dark spots and uneven skin texture. It helps to transform dull complexions and helps leave your skin balanced and visibly smoother.
You can shop for the Saint Jane Beauty The C Drops here.
Evolve Organic Beauty Bio-Retinol + C Booster
The Evolve Organic Beauty Bio-Retinol + C Booster is an oil-based booster that can be used on it's own, or added to your favourite moisturizer to add additional nourishment and active ingredients to skin. It is made with vitamins A, C, F and E, all blended in a gentle base of rosehip oil, so this booster oil works to penetrate deep into the skin to deliver anti-aging benefits and hydration. This vitamin packed serum is great for all skin types, especially dull or tired skin.
You can shop for the Evolve Organic Beauty Bio-Retinol + C Booster Oil here.
Three Ships Dew Drops Mushroom Hyaluronic Acid + Vitamin C Serum
The Three Ships Dew Drops Mushroom Hyaluronic Acid + Vitamin C Serum is one of the more affordable vitamin C serums on this list. This is an award-winning hyaluronic acid serum that firms and brightens skin. It is made with a natural source of hyaluronic acid from the tremella mushroom and kakadu plum, which is 100x richer in vitamin C than oranges. This serum brightens the complexion and helps rejuvenate, firm, and hydrate the skin.
You can shop for the Three Ships Dew Drops Mushroom Hyaluronic Acid + Vitamin C Serum here.
African Botanics Vita-C Corrector
The African Botanics Vita-C Corrector is a a waterless booster serum that is used to help brighten skin and promote skin's radiance. This C serum is made with the most stable form of vitamin C, THD ascorbate, that works to penetrate deep into the skin and deliver brightening benefits. This serum combines a 20% concentration of vitamin C with marine blue micro-algae, as well as vitamin E and antioxidant rich marula oil to deliver benefits including improving the appearance of hyperpigmentation, helping to brighten skin and helping to speed up cellular renewal. This vitamin C serum is great for all skin types including dry, mature, sensitive, blemish-prone, combination and normal skin.
You can shop for the African Botanics Vita-C Corrector here.
One Love Organics Botanical C Facial Serum
The One Love Organics Botanical C Facial Serum is a moisturizing vitamin C serum that is good for all skin types including dry, mature, sensitive, blemish-prone, combination and normal skin. It is made with natural ingredients and plant based ingredients including two potent sources of Vitamin C, plus organic green tea and Vitamin E. This serum can help increase skin's luminosity and nourish the skin for a more radiant, even complexion.
Shop for the One Love Organics Botanical C Facial Serum here.
Marie Veronique C-Therapy Serum
The Marie Veronique C-Therapy Serum is a vitamin C serum that's meant for sensitive skin. It is made with 4 powerful derivatives of vitamin C that are better suited to sensitive skin but still help with collagen production, antioxidant protection, and skin brightening. This formula also includes the antioxidants glutathione and alpha-lipoic acid that help improve skin brightness and have anti-aging benefits. This vitamin C serum can also be used both day and night.
You can shop for the Marie Veronique C-Therapy Serum here.
Maya Chia The Super Lift Vitamin C-More Treatment
The Maya Chia The Super Lift Vitamin C-More Treatment is a high-tech, concentrated, patent-pending facial serum that contains three types of bio-available vitamin C: tranexamic acid, ferulic acid esters, niacinamide peptides and stem cells to help improve brightness and the appearance of uneven skin.
This formula helps to firm the skin temporarily upon contact, as well as showing improvement in firmness over time. This gentle vitamin c serum is ultra lightweight and penetrates deep into the skin to help reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. You can also use this serum as a makeup primer thanks to ingredients that are clinically proven to extend the life of your makeup for up to 6 hours.
You can shop for the Maya Chia The Super Lift Vitamin C-More Treatment here.
Herbivore Botanicals Nova 15% Vitamin C + Turmeric Brightening Serum
The Herbivore Botanicals Nova 15% Vitamin C + Turmeric Brightening Serum is a potent brightening serum that combines 15% THD vitamin C with turmeric to help reduce dark spots and even out skin tone. This serum is great for those with normal, dry, combination, and oily skin. This naturally derived vitamin C serum contains antioxidants which help tighten the look of pores.
You can shop for the Herbivore Botanicals Nova 15% Vitamin C + Turmeric Brightening Serum here.
Blüh Alchemy Multi-C Serum
The Blüh Alchemy Multi-C Serum is formulated with many powerful ingredients. Made with Kakadu plum to to help brighten and revitalize the skin, while Kangaroo paw, tetra c, ferulic acid, and astaxanthin are used to offer a protection against UV damage and environmental stressors, reducing the appearance of lines, wrinkles, and discolouration. Prickly pear and green coffee seed help tighten and firm the skin, while sea buckthorn helps given the skin a healthy glow. This vitamin C serum can be used both day and night.
You can shop for the Blüh Alchemy Multi-C Serum here.
Odacite Vitamin C & E + Hyaluronic Acid Brightening Serum
The Odacite Vitamin C & E + Hyaluronic Acid Brightening Serum is a serum that is great for all skin types, but especially for those looking to target dark spots, uneven skin tone, dullness, and signs of aging. This serum has a soft, gel texture that quickly absorbs into the skin, and uses patented Advanced Encapsulation Technology to deliver maximum results without skin irritation. It is formulated with both Vitamin C and E which have proven benefits of fading pigmentation and promoting even and glowing skin. This vitamin c serums is also hypoallergenic and dermatologist tested.
You can shop for the Odacite Vitamin C & E + Hyaluronic Acid Brightening Serum here.
Kora Organics Noni Bright Vitamin C Serum
The Kora Organics Noni Bright Vitamin C Serum is a lightweight vitamin C serum that is made with a superfruit complex, noni extract, and sodium hyaluronate to promote skin that looks supple, even-toned, and bright. This serums also have anti-aging properties, can help reduce the look of dark spots, help firm the skin and can help with dullness and uneven skin texture.
You can shop the Kora Organics Noni Bright Vitamin C Serum here.
Amala Corrective Vitamin C Concentrate
The Amala Corrective Vitamin C Concentrate an ultra-concentrated serum rich in powerful skin-brightening actives. This vitamin C serum contains the optimal concentration of a highly stable, non-irritating form of Vitamin C combined with plant-based antioxidants. Together, these bio-actives help to even skin tone, reduce pigmentation, and protect the skin from free radicals and environmental stress. It is also great for softening fine lines and giving you a beautiful, dewy, glowing complexion.
You can shop for the Amala Corrective Vitamin C Concentrate here.
Ingredients to avoid in vitamin C serums:
If you are looking for a safe and non-toxic vitamin C serum, when you are reading labels there are a number of ingredients you will want to watch for and avoid including but not limited to:
- Fragrance (also look for the words "parfum" or "perfume" on ingredient lists)
- Formaldehyde-releasing preservatives:
- quaternium ingredients
- DMDM hydantoin
- diazolidinyl urea
- imidazolidinyl urea
- Sodium Laureth Sulfate
- Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
- Petroleum-based ingredients:
- PEG ingredients
- polysorbate ingredients
- propylene glycol
This is just a partial list, so if you are out shopping for skincare and beauty products I have put together a handy printable which includes a list of ingredients to watch for and avoid in skincare and beauty products. Of course, this is not a complete list so be sure you read product labels carefully and stick with brands that are committed to only using safe ingredients in their products. Ideally, you also want to choose brands who check their products for contaminants to ensure their products are truly safe and clean. To get the free printable list, simply leave your email below and it will be sent to you.
Frequently asked questions:
Yes, vitamin C serums are generally recommended to be used daily. If you have sensitive skin you may want to start gradually when you first start using a vitamin C serum and then build up to daily use to make sure that your skin doesn't have any reactions.
It is debatable whether the SkinCeuticals vitamin C serum would be considered to be non-toxic or not as it contains some ingredients that have potentially concerning health effects including triethanolamine and ethoxydiglycol. However it does rate a 3 on the EWG Skin Deep database which is reassuring.
Yes, the Drunk Elephant C-Firma Fresh Vitamin-C Day Serum is another non toxic vitamin C serum.
Highly concentrated vitamin C serums can cause irritation so you want to be cautious with the highly concentrated formulas. If you have sensitive skin you would likely be better using vitamin C serums with a lower concentration of vitamin C. Vitamin C can also cause reactions when mixed with other active ingredients, such as retinol and other acids. It can also increase photosensitivity or sensitivity to sunlight, so it is a good idea to apply sunscreen after using a vitamin C serum.
You want to apply your vitamin C serum before your moisturizer and sunscreen (but you can use a face wash and toner before your vitamin C serum). The order you use your skin care products depends on their molecular size and vitamin C serums have smaller molecules than moisturizers, so they should be used first. A moisturizer can then help seal in the vitamin C serum.
Other posts you will want to read:
- The best non-toxic face masks - for all skin types!
- Natural alternatives to botox
- The best non-toxic deodorants
- The best non-toxic body lotions
- The best non-toxic hair products
- The best non-toxic laundry detergents
- The best non-toxic body washes
- Vitamin C in dermatology
- Topical Vitamin C and the Skin: Mechanisms of Action and Clinical Applications
- Vitamin C: One compound, several uses. Advances for delivery, efficiency and stability
- Efficacy and tolerability of a novel antioxidant formulation containing 30% of tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate, a lipid-soluble form of vitamin C
- Skin safety and health prevention: an overview of chemicals in cosmetic products
- The Beast of Beauty: Environmental and Health Concerns of Toxic Components in Cosmetics
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- Panchal, S. R., & Verma, R. J. (2013). Spermatotoxic effect of diethanolamine: An in vitro study. Asian Pacific Journal of Reproduction, 2(3), 196-200.
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- Darbre PD, et al., Concentrations of parabens in human breast tumors. Journal of Applied Toxicology, vol. 24, pp 5-13, 2004.
- Barr L., et al., Measurement of paraben concentrations in human breast tissue at serial locations across the breast from axilla to sternum. J Appl Toxicol, vol. 32, no. 3, pp 219–232, 2012.
- Darbre PD., et al., Paraben esters: review of recent studies of endocrine toxicity, absorption, esterase and human exposure, and discussion of potential human health risks. Journal of Applied Toxicology, 2008.
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- Schlumpf, M., Schmid, P., Durrer, S., Conscience, M., Maerkel, K., Henseler, M., … & Lichtensteiger, W. (2004). Endocrine activity and developmental toxicity of cosmetic UV filters—an update. Toxicology, 205(1), 113-122.
- Boas, M., Feldt-Rasmussen, U., & Main, K. M. (2012). Thyroid effects of endocrine disrupting chemicals. Molecular and Cellular Endocrinology, 355(2), 240-248.
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- Report on Carcinogens, Fifteenth Edition. Butylated Hydroxyanisole. CAS No. 25013-16-5
- Labrador V et al., “Cytotoxicity of butylated hydroxyanisole in Vero cells,” Cell biology and toxicology, vol. 23, no. 3, pp. 189-99, 2007.
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- Health Canada. 2022. List of Prohibited and Restricted Cosmetic Ingredients. Canada's Cosmetic Ingredient Hotlist.
- Burnett CL, Bergfeld WF, Belsito DV, Klaassen CD, Marks JG Jr, Shank RC, Slaga TJ, Snyder PW, Alan Andersen F. Final report of the safety assessment of methylisothiazolinone. Int J Toxicol. 2010 Jul;29(4 Suppl):187S-213S. doi: 10.1177/1091581810374651. PMID: 20634507.
- Vanessa E Melin, Haritha Potineni, Patricia Hunt, Jodi Griswold, Bill Siems, Stephen R. Werre & Terry C. Hrubec. 2014. Exposure to common quaternary ammonium disinfectants decreases fertility in mice. Reproductive toxicology (Elmsford, N.Y.) 50, 163-70.
- Steenland K, Whelan E, Deddens J, Stayner L, Ward E. Ethylene oxide and breast cancer incidence in a cohort study of 7576 women (United States). Cancer Causes Control. 2003;14:531-9.
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- Human exposure to endocrine disrupting compounds: their role in reproductive systems, metabolic syndrome and breast cancer. A review
- Methylparaben stimulates tumor initiating cells in ER+ breast cancer models.
- Fragrance: emerging health and environmental concerns.
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