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Finding the Perfect Vitamin C Product

Finding the Perfect Vitamin C Product - Harben House

Which Vitamin C serum is right for me?

Ask any physician or skincare expert what your skincare routine should include, and you will hear many different opinions. All or most of which will include some sort of Vitamin C product.  Why is that?  The benefits of a well formulated Vitamin C product are immense. These range from correcting your skin by firming, lightening, and brightening to preventing future damage by neutralizing free radicals.

Vitamin C comes in many different forms. There are extensive (and complicated) debates over which form of topical Vitamin C can best penetrate the skin and therefore reap the best benefits. The two top forms used in medical grade products are L-Ascorbic Acid and Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate. Which is better? Well that depends on who you ask. Every company will say their Vitamin C ingredient is superior. As for the scientific evidence, the jury is still out. Here is a concise version of the debate between the two. 

L- Ascorbic Acid is Vitamin C in its purest form. All other forms are derivatives and must convert to L-Ascorbic Acid after entering your skin. But L- Ascorbic Acid has some problems. Mainly it is incredibly hard to stabilize and is only able to penetrate your skin at a pH lower than 3.5. Since your skin’s natural pH is 5.5, the low pH of stable L-Ascorbic Acid can cause some irritation. All products containing L- Ascorbic Acid are not equal, and you need to be wary when choosing an L-AA product.

Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate (THDA) is a oil-soluble derivative of Vitamin C. With a neutral pH of 7, this product is less irritating and much more stable than L- Ascorbic Acid. Although the fat solubility of this ingredient can make it easier to penetrate the skin, the debate lies in how much is actually converted to L- Ascorbic Acid once it enters the dermis. Lastly, THDA is a much more expensive ingredient than L-Ascobic Acid, therefore products containing Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate are typically pricey as well.

So which form should you choose? Choose a reputable medical grade Vitamin C product that is right for your skin type. Both of these ingredients have benefits, and you want to choose one best suited for your specific skin type. Medical grade products are backed by clinical trials or data proving their efficacy. Considering Vitamin C products can be pricey and useless if unstable, you only want to use one that has been scientifically backed and proven to be effective. 


Best Vitamin C for Any Skin Type

1. skinbetter science - Alto Defense Serum -$145


Vitamin C: Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate

Allure award winning antioxidant serum containing 19 antioxidants. Skinbetter is known for their innovative delivery system and power packed products. Alto is a golden serum that is not oily and dries fast. Great for all skin types.

The Good: 19 Antioxidants that can be used by all skin types! Need we say more?

The Bad: Skinbetter keeps their formulations confidential, and therefore will not release the exact percentage of Vitamin C that the product contains. 

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2. Revision Vitamin C Lotion 30% -$115

Vitamin C: Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate

Being the highest concentration of Vitamin C in any medical grade product, this lotion is great for the Vitamin C lover. Revision is the only company to successfully make a 30% Vitamin C product that does not cause irritation. The product comes in a silky lotion.

The Good: Highest quantity of Vitamin C on the market! With little to no irritation! 

The Bad: The debate lies in how much Vitamin C  your skin can actually absorb

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Best Vitamin C for Oily Skin

All Water Based Serums

1. SkinCeuticals Phloretin CF - $165


Vitamin C: L- Ascorbic Acid 

Powerful product for oily, combination, and sensitive skin. A 15% Vitamin C serum also containing Phloretin which helps with pigmentation. This product is a water based serum that should be applied first after washing face in the morning and left to dry for a few minutes before applying a moisturizer or sunscreen.

The Good: SkinCeuticals has a plethora of clinically studies backing all of their products, especially Phloretin CF. Great for most skin types. Contains Phloretin to further assist with pigmentation and dark spots.

The Bad: Can cause some irritation to extremely sensitive skin. Phloretin CF also has a very distinct smell that some find displeasing. 

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2. Obagi Professional -C 15% Serum -$93


Vitamin C: L- Ascorbic Acid

A simple water based formula which contains only 6 ingredients. A fan favorite which is perfect for oily skin.

The Good: A lower price point than most other C serums. Obagi also puts another form of Vitamin C in this product, Ascorbyl Glucoside.

The Bad: Contains Alcohol and Fragrance which can be irritating to some.


Best Vitamin C for Dry Skin

All containing Vitamin E

1. SkinCeuticals CE Ferulic -$165

Vitamin C: L- Ascorbic Acid 

Considered the "Gold Standard" by many experts. This patented Vitamin C Serum has won the best of beauty award over 24 times and continues to be the best in its class. The serum is water based and great for all skin types, but the Vitamin E makes it more suitable for aging skin not prone to breakouts. 

 The Good: Probably the most researched and scientifically backed Vitamin C on the market. SkinCeuticals has a patent on this reward winning product that makes it one of a kind and the gold standard for many. The patent is for the stability of the product in a .5% Ferulic Acid. Great for all skin types, but designed for mature, dry skin. 

The Bad: Very Pricey- $165. CE Ferulic has seen many price increases, but the formulation has stayed the same. 

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2. SkinMedica Vitamin C+E Complex -$102

Vitamin C: Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate

An encapsulated, time released Vitamin C formulation that wears well. This silky lotion contains Vitamin E which makes it more suitable for dryer skin types. 

 The Good: SkinMedica a proprietary time release formula that releases small amounts of the Vitamin CE throughout the day. The price point is also relatively low for a THDA product and for the SkinMedica line. 

The Bad: Being a silicone based product, it does not layer perfectly under some products.


 An honorable mention goes to NeoCutis ReACTIVE Antioxidant Serum which contains Ascrobic Acid and two forms of Vitamin E. 



What do you think of the product Isdin Flavo-C by Isdinceutics?

It’s substantially cheaper than others so am wondering if you have any experience with it.


courtney broder

Hi Sarah,

I’m glad that you received your skinbetter Alto. Please let us know your thoughts on the product. It is by far one of our favorites!

I will actually write another article on Vitamin E so I can give you a deeper understanding. But in short Vitamin E is typically thought to clog pores and be a greasy and “oily” oil. For this reason it is not recommended for patients with extremely oily skin or some patient who are prone to breakouts. Look for a up and coming blog post that will take a dive deeper into this questions. Any any topics you would like to hear us talk about please let us know! We would love to hear what you want to read/know about.

Courtney Broder

Sarah Trotman

Loved this article and looking forward to starting my Skinbetter Alto defence.

Really interested to understand why vitamin E needs to be avoided on blemish prone skin if you could kindly provide an explanation that would be great.

Many thanks,


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