14 of the Best Antioxidant Serums Your Skin Needs

SKIN CARE REVIEWS

02.01.22DISCLAIMER

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Best bet. The Carrot & Stick skincare bundle worth up to $240 for $88. Details below

When it comes to protecting the skin from damaging free radicals, few ingredients are as effective as antioxidants found in antioxidant skincare. Today, there are countless antioxidant serums on the market, the best of which include several different types of antioxidants and supporting elements (think hyaluronic acid, peptides, alpha, and beta hydroxy acids) that help promote stability, strength, and skin function.

The terminology and trends in the skincare world can get a bit complicated. Still, one thing’s for sure: Most skincare professionals believe an antioxidant serum for the face should be a part of your skincare routine. The more of them you use, the better.

What are the Best Skin Care Products of 2022?

Best antioxidant serum, you ask?  Look no further. Here at the Deep Science, we’ve reviewed hundreds of products with a scientific lens to ensure you’re creating a skincare routine that’s safe and effective.

Ahead,14 antioxidant serums to protect, strengthen, and restore your complexion. 

Related: Best Face Oils

Antioxidant Serums: The List

BEST OVERALL

BEST: Carrot & Stick Defence Serum, $80

Best bet. The Carrot & Stick skincare bundle worth up to $240 for $88. Select 3 products, including our favorite Carrot & Stick Defence Serum. Use code DERM20 for 20% off.

Carrot & Stick The Repair Serum, $80

FULL LIST

Formulyst Active Serum, $80

The Ordinary EUK 134 0.1%, $8.80

Dermalogica Biolumin-C Serum, $89

Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum ($80)

Murad Vitamin C Glycolic Brightening Serum ($80)

La Roche Posay Vitamin C Serum, $39.99

Dr. Dennis Gross C + Collagen Brighten and Firm Vitamin C Serum ($80)

iS Clinical Pro-Heal Serum Advance + ($155)

Olay Regenerist Max Tone Serum With Vitamin C, $32.99 

Avène A-Oxitive Antioxidant Defense Serum, $44

SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic With 15% L-Ascorbic Acid, $166

Lancome Genifique Sensitive Antioxidant Serum, $80

SkinMedica TNS Essential Serum, $281

The Science Behind Antioxidants

Antioxidants protect the skin by reducing and neutralizing free radical production. To be clear, free radicals are molecules with unpaired electrons. They rob other cells of electrons, causing damage to the skin cells, resulting in fine lines, wrinkles, and loss of tone and elasticity. By counteracting free radicals, the skin is protected and repaired.

Here’s a visual: think of an apple that starts to turn brown after a bite has been taken out of it. That process is known as oxidation, which is caused by free radicals. While our bodies naturally produce free radicals, they are also derived from environmental factors such as pollution, UV rays, cigarette smoke, and other chemicals.

Free radical overload leads to oxidative stress, an imbalance between free radicals and the body’s ability to counteract their damaging effects. The good news is that studies suggest that including antioxidants into your skincare routine can help battle free radical damage and recoup from oxidative stress.

Related: Best Vitamin C Serums

Antioxidants Benefits 

 

Age-Fighting

The inflammation caused by oxidative stress leads to fine lines, wrinkles, uneven skin tone, loss of tone and elasticity, and even acne breakouts. By neutralizing free radicals, antioxidants can prevent and correct visible signs of aging, thus restoring the skin’s appearance.

 

Reparative

Again, by reducing inflammation, antioxidants help the skin repair itself — some antioxidants (think vitamin C) can even stimulate collagen production.

 

Preventative

When you’re in the sun, your skin’s inflammatory response kicks in. Though they’re not a replacement for sun protection, antioxidants do have the power to help prevent sunburn by providing anti-inflammatory protection against harmful UV rays that can lead to photoaging.

 

Brightening

Excessive sun exposure and the resulting free radicals can cause dark spots and an uneven skin tone due to changes in the skin’s melanin production — the pigments responsible for giving the skin its color. By reducing sun damage, antioxidants can help brighten and even out the skin tone.

Related: Best Hyaluronic Acid Serums

What to Look for in the Best Antioxidant Serum 

The best antioxidant serum should contain the best antioxidants to boot.  There are several different antioxidants, each bringing something a bit different to the table. While all of the following can be used alone, they provide more protective power when used in conjunction.

 

Vitamin C

C tops the list of antioxidants due to its incredible ability to brighten the skin, fade hyperpigmentation, and stimulate collagen production.

 

Vitamin E

E is another vital antioxidant because it helps several of the body’s organs (including the skin) function properly. It’s also an incredible healer, which is why it’s included in so many skincare products. When you see vitamin E, chances are you’ll see other antioxidants, too, because it helps with their stability and effectiveness.

 

Vitamin A

Retinol (vitamin A) is one of the best age-fighting ingredients available. It’s also one of the most effective antioxidants due to its small molecular structure, meaning it can deeply penetrate the skin to stimulate collagen production and expedite cell repair and renewal. The result is softened fine lines and wrinkles and improved skin texture and tone.

 

Resveratrol

Resveratrol is found in the skin of fruits such as grapes and certain berries. It uses the same self-defense mechanism on the skin as it does naturally in plants. It also has antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory properties.

 

Niacinamide

Niacinamide (vitamin B3) is an excellent antioxidant for treating pigmentation issues. It’s also known to reduce fine lines and wrinkles, improve the skin’s texture and tone, and reduce redness due to its anti-inflammatory properties. For this reason, you’ll often see niacinamide in products that target acne or rosacea.

 

Coenzyme Q10

Our body naturally produces coenzyme Q10 (ubiquinone), but it diminishes with age, resulting in fine lines, wrinkles, sun damage, and fatigued-looking skin. Along with warding off free radical damage, Q10 also helps stimulate collagen production, improving the skin’s texture and tone.

Related: Best Face Serums

How Antioxidant Serums Should Be Packaged and Stored

Clear packaging should be reserved for skincare products that don’t contain sensitive ingredients at high concentrations, so steer clear of antioxidant serums packaged in clear glass bottles. Instead, look for dark, opaque bottles that block UV light that deactivates the formula.

To increase shelf life, it’s best to store your antioxidant serum away from sunlight in cool, dark places — not a steamy bathroom. You can even keep it in the refrigerator.

When to Use an Antioxidant Serum

Woman buying serum

Most skincare professionals would tell you to apply an antioxidant serum after cleansing and toning and before moisturizing in the morning to protect your skin from sun damage and pigmentation issues (though you should still always be wearing sun protection, too!). 

However, resveratrol is one exception because UV exposure can make this ingredient less effective. Many people also opt to wear retinol at night because it makes the skin more sensitive to the sun.

The Best Antioxidant Serums

BEST OVERALL

BEST: Carrot & Stick Defence Serum, $80
Packed with antioxidants, this revitalizing serum helps promote collagen production and visibly brightens skin. Three distinct vitamin C derivatives work together to fight visible free radical damage and enhance cellular longevity. Regular use transforms dull, uneven-looking skin into clear, radiant beauty.

Carrot & Stick The Repair Serum, $80
Niacinamide is the hero ingredient in this ingredient-packed formula, so it’s perfect for lightening any discoloration that pops up in your 40s. It visibly lifts, tightens, and firms while defending against damaging free radicals. Hyaluronic acid and vitamin E deliver an instant boost of hydration, and a blend of synthesized growth factors encourages elasticity, cell turnover, and nutrient absorption to support revitalization. 

Seven plant-based neuropeptides enhance the skin’s structural integrity from the inside out, promoting smoother, more resilient-looking skin. Finally, soothing and brightening botanicals impart an ageless glow, including chamomile, licorice root, and green tea.

FULL LIST

Formulyst Active Serum, $80
Since pollution can contribute to significant aging, we created a serum that safeguards your skin against damage. It contains a remarkable blend of vitamins B, C, E, ferulic, and niacinamide at the highest concentration. It’s the ultimate antioxidant formulation, leaving your skin looking brighter, healthier, and more youthful.

The Ordinary EUK 134 0.1%, $8.80
Considered the best cheap antioxidant serum, The Ordinary antioxidant serum is water-free and highly potent despite the small price. EUK-134 is a duplication of superoxide dismutase and catalase, which creates an exceptional self-generating molecule that neutralizes free radicals. The serum contains an extremely high 0.1% concentration, quite possibly the highest on the market. It’s not to be used immediately after strong acids as it will destroy the efficacy of EUK-134.

Dermalogica Biolumin-C Serum, $89
As the name suggests, C is the critical antioxidant in this high-performing serum that bolsters the skin’s natural defense system to brighten, firm and help dramatically reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Advanced biotechnology and an incredibly stable vitamin C complex work together to fight oxidative stress and the formation of aging before it commences.

Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum ($80)
Here’s the fascinating thing about this serum: It has what Drunk Elephant calls a “reservoir effect,” which means the product stays active on the skin for up to 72 hours — even if you’ve washed your face or rubbed your skin. It’s desirable for sensitive skin because it has a pH of 3.3 and is void of essential oils, silicones, and fragrance.

It’s formulated with a powerful blend of l-ascorbic and ferulic acids to promote a brighter, firmer, and more even-looking complexion. The addition of sodium hyaluronate crosspolymer (a modified form of hyaluronic acid) provides a serious moisture boost while pumpkin ferment extract gently sweeps away dead skin cells.

Murad Vitamin C Glycolic Brightening Serum ($80)
This unique serum harnesses the power of gold-stabilized vitamin c and glycolic acid to provide optimal brightening results — 83% of users noticed a difference in four weeks. Vitamin C also helps with uneven skin tone and hyperpigmentation, while glycolic acid increases cell turnover rate, removes dead skin cells, and promotes a smooth and radiant complexion. This formula has no fragrances or artificial colors, so it’s suitable for all skin types.

La Roche Posay Vitamin C Serum, $39.99
This vitamin C serum by La Roche Posay is said to leave skin more radiant, softer, and hydrated. This serum contains 10% ascorbic acid, the active form of vitamin C, providing several different skin benefits. Perhaps the most well-known use is its ability to protect the skin from free radicals due to its potent antioxidant activity. Ascorbic acid also supports collagen synthesis and helps to fade dark spots/brighten the skin tone.

Unfortunately, this serum contains a high concentration of denatured alcohol (it is the fifth-highest concentration ingredient). Alcohol gives products a quick-drying finish, immediately degreases the skin, and imparts a weightless feel. However, these short-term benefits can lead to long-term problems such as skin dryness, irritation, and even skin barrier disruption.

Dr. Dennis Gross C + Collagen Brighten and Firm Vitamin C Serum ($80)
While technically, vitamin C is vital for collagen synthesis, this serum takes it to another level with the addition of collagen amino acids. There’s also lactic and mandelic (a form of alpha hydroxy acid) acids to dissolve dead skin cells, and a proprietary Energy Complex (CoQ10, superoxide dismutase, carnitine, and niacinamide) to boost radiance, improve firmness, and diminish the appearance of pigmentation spots over time.

iS Clinical Pro-Heal Serum Advance + ($155)
It can be tricky for those with rosacea to find active products that don’t irritate their condition, but this one hits the mark — even though it’s a bit on the pricey side. Vitamin C works synergistically with vitamins E and A to calm, heal, and restore the skin — everything inflamed, acne-prone rosacea skin needs. Other star ingredients include anti-aging olive leaf extract and skin-lightening kojic acid, which helps repair pigmentation issues.

Olay Regenerist Max Tone Serum With Vitamin C, $32.99
The best antioxidant serum from a drugstore? Read on. You’ll find vitamin B3 in a lot of Olay products (they call it “their unicorn”) because it increases cell turnover, promotes a vibrant complexion, and deeply hydrates. Along with niacinamide, this power-packed serum is formulated with brightening vitamin C and a proprietary Skin Energizing Complex to make skin look and feel smoother and more radiant.

Avène A-Oxitive Antioxidant Defense Serum, $44
This light-weight, fast-absorbing serum promises to defend the skin against the most challenging environmental stressors. It is formulated with popular antioxidant ingredients vitamin C and E, which provide superior antioxidant protection while improving the skin’s appearance. It works to smooth the texture of the skin while reducing the appearance of fine lines and brightening the complexion.

SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic With 15% L-Ascorbic Acid, $166
The price point doesn’t scare people away from purchasing this ultra-popular antioxidant serum by SkinCeuticals. Vitamins C and E, along with ferulic acid, provide the skin with unmatched protection from environmental free radicals and their damaging effects.

This antioxidant serum works to neutralize free radicals, diminish the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and restore the complexion. Once applied to the skin, the serum’s effects last for at least three days.

Lancome Genifique Sensitive Antioxidant Serum, $80
This antioxidant serum protects against environmental stressors such as sun exposure and pollution. It’s formulated with some of the most potent antioxidants, including vitamin E and ferulic acid, which work together to block the skin against environmental assaults known to cause premature aging. The serums’ Centella Asiatica base calms the skin by combating redness and irritation and soothing itchiness and other discomforts.

SkinMedica TNS Essential Serum, $281
Not only does this antioxidant serum protect the skin, but it also works to diminish the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, thanks to the addition of proteins, amino acids, and peptides. It also strengthens the skin, reduces inflammation, and stimulates skin cells, resulting in a smoother, more youthful appearance.

Antioxidants: The Final Word

What’s the best antioxidant serum on the market? Overall, we suggest Carrot & Stick Defense Serum followed by Carrot & Stick The Repair Serum.

When it comes to protecting the skin from damaging free radicals, few ingredients are as effective across the board as antioxidants. They have several benefits, including age-fighting, reparative, brightening, and preventative. The most popular and effective antioxidants include

Vitamins A, C, and E, resveratrol, niacinamide, and coenzyme Q10.

Antioxidants protect the skin by reducing and neutralizing free radical production. To be clear, free radicals are molecules with unpaired electrons. They rob other cells of electrons, causing damage to the skin cells, resulting in issues such as fine lines, wrinkles, and loss of tone and elasticity. By counteracting free radicals, the skin is protected and repaired.

Today, there are countless serums on the market, the best of which include several different types of antioxidants and supporting ingredients (think hyaluronic acid, peptides, alpha, and beta hydroxy acids) that help promote stability, strength, and skin function. Finding the best antioxidant serum starts with understanding your skin needs and how antioxidants can help.

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about antioxidant serums.

 

FAQs
Antioxidants help protect the skin from oxidative damage caused by free radicals and environmental aggressors like UV and pollution. Antioxidants are often found in skincare products because of their ability to help fight the signs of age.
Most skincare professionals agree that an antioxidant serum is one of the best ways to protect your skin from environmental damage from within.
Free radicals and frequent sun exposure can trigger skin melanin production changes (the pigment responsible for skin color), causing dark spots and uneven skin tone. By reducing photodamage, antioxidants can help prevent abnormal skin pigmentation while brightening and evening out the appearance of the skin.
When darker skin tones get pimples, the more severe discoloration can surface. Antioxidants like C help fade those marks. When combined with nourishing vitamin E, the result is more significant.
Everyone can benefit from an antioxidant serum, and it’s not too soon to start in your early 20s, as prevention is the key to slowing down the aging process.

Sources:
Free Radicals, Antioxidants in Disease and Health,” US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, June 2008.
Effect of Vitamin C and its Derivatives on Collagen Synthesis and Cross-Linking by Normal Human Fibroblasts,” National Library of Medicine National Center for Biotechnology Information.

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