While beautiful sunsets are always welcome, this weekend, I caught sight of one that was particularly surprising. The blend of purples, pinks, and oranges reminded me that, as the days begin to shorten, we’re quickly saying goodbye to summer. And while there are so many things to love about fall—cozy candles, cooler weather, and the ubiquitous PSL, of course—it always comes too soon. With that are the dimmer days and duller skin. Oh, what I would do for another rooftop pool day or weekend trip to the beach! Book a vacation? Expensive. Browsing the best affordable vitamin C serums? More likely.

Now that summer is almost officially over, the days are shorter and nights are earlier, I always regret not getting more sun. Fresh-faced, glowy, sun-kissed skin will always be my favorite beauty look. To me, that’s what summer is about—soaking in the sun all day (with ample sunscreen of course) and going out almost barefaced at night.

But the coming of fall means switching out my minimal summer beauty for products that can recreate that summer glow all year round. There’s no need to let dry, dull skin get you down! The key to a natural glow is easier—and more affordable—than it seems. All it takes are the best affordable vitamin C serums in the game.

Featured image by Michelle Nash.

Image by Teal Thomsen

Vitamin C is a staple ingredient in any skincare routine. Suitable for all skin types, this gentle active is a powerful antioxidant. Antioxidants reduce oxidative stress caused by free radicals, environmental stressors, and pollution. TL;DR: they prevent aging, dark spots, and skin damage.

Because it’s such a powerful ingredient, a good vitamin C Serum can set you back hundreds of dollars. But know this: an effective product doesn’t have to. You can get just as much bang for your buck with some of the best affordable vitamin C serums, which combine their star ingredient with other nourishing actives to give you summer-like skin on a budget.

Image by Belathée Photography

What are the benefits of using a vitamin C serum?

Vitamin C is an antioxidant that neutralizes free radicals. This means that it both repairs existing damage to your skin while helping build up your skin barrier to prevent future damage. Vitamin C is unique because of its ability to rebuild your skin at the cellular level by boosting collagen production. This helps increase cell turnover to reveal brighter, clearer, smoother skin.

What should you look for in the best affordable vitamin C serums?

Start by looking at the concentration of vitamin C in a serum (the higher the better). Highly concentrated forms of actives are usually known to work faster for more visible results. Anything over 10% concentration will give you supercharged results, but the benefits cap out around 20%. You’re more likely to experience irritation without seeing any extra results.

Vitamin C also comes in many forms, the most potent being ascorbic acid, also known as L-ascorbic acid. Look for serums that contain this form of vitamin C for the most effective results. However, sensitive skin types might experience irritation, so if you’re new to vitamin C or have acne-prone skin, other forms might be better suited to your needs.

How often should you use a vitamin C serum?

Vitamin C can be used every day, and it’s most effective when incorporated into your morning routine. Use it after your toner every morning for the best results. If you’re new to active ingredients or experience sensitive skin, start using it every other day and build up to daily use.

What products pair best with a vitamin C serum?

The ingredients that pair best with vitamin C include:

  • Niacinamide: to fight dark spots
  • Hyaluronic acid: to pack in extra hydration
  • Vitamin E: for extra antioxidant protection against free radicals
  • SPF: For supercharged sun protection
  • Retinol: Switch between night and day for faster cell turnover

Trying these product combinations can help you hone in on your specifc skin needs. In the best affordable vitamin C serums, you might find a synergistic blend of these ingredients already included. Or you can mix and match your favorite products with your vitamin C serum. Whatever you choose, you’re one step closer to glowy skin year-round.

Image by Teal Thomsen

The 10 Best Affordable Vitamin C Serums for a Sun-Kissed Skincare Routine

The Inkey List 15% Vitamin C and EGF Brightening Serum

15% vitamin C makes this a powerful brightening agent to reset and rejuvenate dull, fall skin. The powerful formula gives your skin an energizing kick for visible results, fast.

Naturium Vitamin C Complex Serum

This super stable vitamin C concentrate combines active forms of vitamin C with a unique bioactive fruit blend that brightens your complexion and shields your skin from environmental stressors.

Rosen Skincare Bright Citrus Serum

This serum is sunshine in a bottle. The citrusy blend of Mulberry Extract and vitamin C heals and prevents acne scars and dark spots. Clear and even skin starts here.

Acure Brightening Vitamin C & Ferulic Acid Oil Free Serum

Finally! An affordable dupe for the infamous Skin Ceuticals CE Ferulic serum. This oil-free glow-getter is the ideal solution for acne-prone skin, packed with antioxidants to heal damage without clogging your pores.

Buttah Skin Vitamin C Serum

This smooth serum glides onto your face to create a butter-soft complexion. It absorbs fast to buff away texture, shrink your pores, and give you a brightening boost.

First Aid Beauty 10% Vitamin C Brightening Serum

Formulated for all skin types, this 10% serum packs a punch without any of the irritation that can come with active ingredients. Soothe redness and firm your skin with the help of powerful antioxidants.

Hyper Skin Hyper Even Brightening Dark Spot Vitamin C Serum

This cult-favorite brightening serum has devoted fans for a reason. Kojic Acid, Hyaluronic Acid, Licorice Root, and more make this a one-step treatment for dull, dry skin.

EADEM Milk Marvel Dark Spot Serum with Niacinamide and Vitamin C

The dynamic duo of Vitamin C and Niacinamide are two of the strongest ingredients against dullness and darkspots. Together, they protect from free radicals, reduce pores and texture, and erase acne scars. This milky serum is formulated to give you the best of both worlds in one product.

Youth to the People 15% Vitamin C + Caffeine Energy Serum

Like an espresso shot for your skin, this energizing serum is the perfect reset to add to your routine this fall. The unique formulation wakes up skin with the caffeine and vitamin C blend that brightens and smoothes away fine lines.

Dr. Rose MD Complexion Brightening Booster

This booster serum is the dermatologist-approved answer to your fall skin woes. Add it to your serum rotation or drop some into your moisturizer to see instantly brighter skin.

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