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The 9 Best Antioxidant Serums That Actually Work

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Ashley Batz / Bustle
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If cleansers and moisturizers are the bread and butter of the skin-care world, antioxidants are like the gourmet cheese that pulls the entire sandwich together. Questionable metaphors aside, the best antioxidant serums also contain hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid, algae, and vitamins, while others help protect your skin from damage with stellar ingredients like CoQ10 and alpha lipoic acid.

First off, antioxidants have the power to protect your skin from the harmful effects of pollution and UV rays by neutralizing the free radicals that can cause skin damage. To put it bluntly: The combination of a powerful antioxidant plus an additional sunscreen equals sun protection the likes of which you've probably never known. And for those of you who prefer to streamline your morning routine, I’ve included an option formulated with sun protection, so you don’t have to apply two products.

Other all-star ingredients to consider: vitamin C to brighten skin and fade dark spots, retinol to promote collagen production and stimulate skin cell turnover, and salicylic acid to exfoliate and prevent breakouts.

Antioxidant serums have concentrated active ingredients and are best to use in the morning, after your cleanser and toner and before moisturizer and sunscreen. No doubt there’s an antioxidant serum out there that's perfect for your skin type, and these nine are more than just hype.

1

The All-In-One Serum With Vitamin C, Retinol & Hyaluronic Acid

Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that protects skin from free radicals and helps even out skin tone so that your complexion appears more radiant. This C+ Serum from Eva Naturals contains 20% Vitamin C, but it also has lots of other ingredients that are beneficial to skin, including smoothing and firming retinol, skin-restoring niacinamide, hydrating hyaluronic acid, and exfoliating salicylic acid. With more than 21,000 five-star reviews on Amazon, it's a clear winner.

Enthusiastic review: "I can honestly see a visible difference. My skin looks brighter and healthier. My acne is minimal and the dark spots are beginning to fade away. I feel like my skin has a bit more glow to it than usual.”

2

The Serum That’s Great For Dry Skin & Hyperpigmentation

Providing one of the biggest "bangs for your buck," this 20% Vitamin C serum is enriched with moisturizing ingredients like hyaluronic acid, Vitamin E, argan oil, and aloe vera. Plus, it has a special guest star: ferulic acid. Ferulic acid is an antioxidant that delivers a super powerful punch: It can soothe redness, prevent breakouts, and decrease hyperpigmentation.

Reviewers are head over heels for this serum, saying it improves skin clarity, fades dark spots and acne scars, and leaves skin soft but never greasy.

Enthusiastic review: "My hyperpigmentation and discoloration has disappeared after using this product religiously. I use it every night right after using my witch hazel toner and it keeps my face plump and moisturized. I notice in the morning that my skin tone color is even and the sun spots I have are fading away.”

3

The Serum Made With Thermal Spring Water From the South Of France

In this French pharmacy serum, vitamins C and E help fight free radicals and reverse the effects of photo-damaged skin, while hyaluronic acid plumps, hydrates, and promotes a more radiant complexion. Like all of Avene's products, their A-Oxitive Antioxidant Defense Serum contains the brand's signature skin-soothing thermal spring water from the south of France, and was made with sensitive skin in mind.

Enthusiastic review: "Absolutely love this stuff. Gives great feel to the skin. Personally helps with my acne spots. Scent is light. It has a permanent spot in my skin care."

4

The SPF 50 Serum For Extra UV Protection

If you're the type who loves to knock out two birds with one stone, this powerful antioxidant serum with Vitamin E, Vitamin Cg, and baicalin protects against free radicals while broad spectrum SPF 50 works to provide all of the sunscreen protection you need. The cherry on top: it's an oil-free formula that contains no parabens or fragrances and is non-comedogenic — oily, acne-prone, and sensitive skin types needn't fear it will clog pores or cause irritation.

Enthusiastic review: "Fabulous product recommend by my dermatologist. Goes on smooth and no need for an additional moisturizer. Improves skin quality quickly.”

5

The Gentle K-Beauty Serum With A Lower Vitamin C Content

It’s no secret that heavy-hitter skin products have the potential to irritate sensitive skin, so if you want to start with something gentle, it’s worth considering this K-beauty vitamin serum with just 5% Vitamin C. This vegan and cruelty-free option protects skin from UV damage and improves texture and skin tone, and reviewers say it can lighten acne scars and hyperpigmentation while making your complexion look smoother.

Enthusiastic review: "This is my first vitamin C serum and I love it! I have sensitive, acne-prone, combination skin that is on the dry side. I researched a lot of serums, but chose this one due to its lower percentage. [...] After a week of use, my skin already feels smoother and I can tell my acne hyperpigmentation is lightening”

6

The All-Natural Serum With Botanicals & Sea Algae

While it’s definitely an investment, Kypris' antioxidant serum has a devoted fan base because of its all-natural, plant-based ingredients and seriously effective formula. The botanical serum is loaded with antioxidant-rich vitamins C, E, and ferulic acid, all of which work together to protect, brighten, and smooth skin. Then, sea algae extracts add softness while amino acids boost luminosity for a dewy, healthy glow. It’s cruelty-free and comes packaged in a glass bottle pretty enough to display.

Enthusiastic review: "I have been so happy with Kypris, I'm on my second bottle & completely hooked. I can absolutely tell a difference in my skin when I don't use it, just looks kind of dull and not as dewy/healthy looking. Yes the price point is a little on the higher side, but this is one of those times it is well worth it.”

7

The Lightweight Serum That Sinks Deeply Into Skin

This lightweight, fragrance-free serum contains skin-plumping Amino-Peptide Complex II, Vitamin E, and carob extract to exfoliate and hydrate skin. This product's claim to fame is that it promises to deliver ingredients 10 layers deep into skin — and it works well on all skin types, even acne-prone skin.

Enthusiastic review: "Works wonders for me. I really like this Serum, it leaves my face feeling so soft but firm. No idea how that works but it does just that.”

8

The Retinol Serum That’s Not Over-Drying

If flaky, dry skin is the norm for you, there's a chance you live in mortal fear of retinol making contact with your sensitive skin. This antioxidant concentrate serum contains retinol, which smoothes skin and promotes collagen while protecting it from free radicals and environmental damage. But it's also extremely forgiving on dry skin and has a slew of antioxidants that add a rich, hydrating layer of nourishment.

Enthusiastic review: "Feels great on my skin. I am a self confessed skin care junkie and I have tried lots of retinol products without ever finding 'the one'. [...] I absolutely love the feel of this on my skin. From first application, my skin seemed to drink this serum up.”

9

The Vitamin C Powder You Can Add To Your Existing Skin-Care Products

This powder booster is perfect for anyone who isn't quite sold on adding another layer to their skin care routine, but still wants their daily dose of Vitamin C. Simply blend a bit of this powder into your favorite toner or moisturizer and let your skin soak it up. Best of all, a little of this 99.8% Vitamin C powder goes a long way.

Enthusiastic review: "I mix it with my SPF 50 moisturizer and in just over 2 weeks my skin is noticeably lighter and even. The other thing I've noticed with this powder is that my lines seem less deep and my skin feels softer.”

Studies referenced:

Poljšak, B., Dahmane, R. (2012, February 29). Free Radicals and Extrinsic Aging. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3299230/.