best vitamin c serum for sensitive skin

If you have sensitive skin, you may have tried some popular vitamin C serums, only to realize that they’re too harsh for your skin. And maybe you’re thinking of giving up on these products altogether because you can’t seem to find the right fit. Well, don’t give up just yet because in this article we’re going to look at the best vitamin C serum for sensitive skin, plus some alternatives that you might want to consider.

Not only will I be sharing seven serums that are ideal for sensitive skin, but we’re also going to look at:

  • What to look for when buying a vitamin C serum.
  • Things to keep in mind when adding vitamin C to your skincare routine.

Note: this post contains affiliate links and I earn a commission (at no additional cost to you) if you use them to make a purchase.


Serum NameAscorbic Acid?Other vitamin C sources
Active Moisture Botanical C Serum from One Love OrganicsNoascorbyl palmitate
Mad Hippie Vitamin C SerumNosodium ascorbyl phosphate
Marie Veronique C-Therapy SerumNo– sodium ascorbyl phosphate
– glyceryl ascorbate
– tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate
– magnesium ascorbyl phosphate
Ursa Major Brighten Up Vitamin C SerumNo– ascorbic acid polypeptide
– aloe vera juice
– edelweiss extract
Marie Veronique Vitamin C+E+Ferulic SerumYes (5%)– L-Ascorbyl Palmitate
– tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate
– magnesium ascorbyl phosphate

1. TOP PICK: Botanical C Facial Serum

What do you get when you combine a gentle vitamin C derivative (ascorbyl palmitate) with natural emollients like meadowfoam oil and shea butter? You get a serum that is gentle enough for sensitive skin, while still delivering quality active ingredients.

This serum is loaded with various sources of vitamin C, plus supporting ingredients that boost vitamin C’s action and vitamin absorption.

In addition, there are plenty of ingredients that are soothing for delicate skin.

Here’s a closer look at some of the ingredients in this Active Moisture Botanical C Serum:

  • Ascorbyl palmitate: a stable vitamin C derivative that is considered gentle enough for sensitive skin.
  • Rosehip oil: a natural source of fatty acids, vitamin A and vitamin E.
  • Meadowfoam seed oil: a natural source of vitamins B and E; has emollient properties that leave the skin very soft and supple.
  • Sea Buckthorn oil: a very soothing, antioxidant-rich and anti-inflammatory oil; known to improve skin tone and improve inflammatory skin conditions (including acne) (source).
  • Jojoba oil: contains vitamins B and E, both of which support vitamin C; non-comedogenic and has chemical properties that make it quite similar to our natural sebum.
  • Shea butter: a natural emollient that is great for softening the skin and locking in moisture; contains vitamin A and E, along with other antioxidants.

If your skin is not only sensitive but very dry, then you definitely want to check out this serum. You’ll be getting great quality, natural sources of vitamin C along with other ingredients that are incredibly soothing to the skin.

2. Mad Hippie Vitamin C Serum

Not only does this serum use a very gentle form of vitamin C (sodium ascorbyl phosphate) but it’s also packed with lots of hydrating and moisturizing ingredients that are soothing to the skin. Here are the note-worthy ingredients in this product:

  • SAP (Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate): this is one of the most stable forms of vitamin C, which means it won’t spoil or degrade the way L-ascorbic acid does. Once absorbed into the skin, SAP converts to L-ascorbic acid. Do keep in mind that SAP isn’t as strong as L-ascorbic. So, while this characteristic makes it more suitable for sensitive skin, this also means that it works slower than L-ascorbic acid (source).
  • Konjac root: one of the key ingredients in konjac root is glucomannan. Glucomannan hydrates the skin, fights oxidative damage and helps to curb the spread of acne (source).
  • Hyaluronic acid: hydrates and plumps up the skin.
  • Aloe vera leaf: hydrates and moisturizes the skin.
  • Glycerin: a natural humectant (i.e. it draws moisture to the skin).
  • Chamomile flower extract: chamomile is known for being very soothing for ultra sensitive, inflamed or irritated skin.
  • Vitamin E: antioxidant that supports vitamin C and helps to improve oxidative damage to the skin.
  • Ferulic acid: boosts the effects of other antioxidants like vitamins C and E.

Overall this serum offers a clean list of ingredients for delicate skin types.

NOTE: Mad Hippie’s website points out that this serum is equivalent to using a 15 – 20% ascorbic acid serum. While that concentration sounds high, there are reviews from users with sensitive who say this serum is the only one that has worked out for them. Sensitive skin covers a wide range of skin types, so those reviews are not surprising. Depending on just how sensitive your skin is you can give this a try or consider using the Marie Veronique serum below.

3. Marie Veronique C-Therapy Serum

This is one of two products from Marie Veronique that are on this list. The first thing that stands out about this formula is that it contain 4 vitamin C derivatives:

  • Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate
  • Glyceryl Ascorbate
  • Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate
  • Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate

The other thing that stands out about this serum is that the first ingredient is green tea infusion. Green tea is very soothing and also has anti-inflammatory properties. When used used topically it can help to reduce redness, swelling and overall signs of irritation (source).

In addition, there are oils like jojoba and grapeseed which are naturally nourishing carrier oils. 

Furthermore, there’s ferulic acid and vitamin E which are both excellent complements to vitamin C.

Last but not least, I reached out to the team at Marie Veronique to get some more details about this serum. Here’s what they told me:

  • this particular serum is ideal for ultra inflamed/sensitive skin (think severe acne or rosacea).
  • once the vitamin C derivatives are absorbed into the skin, they’re converted into ascorbic acid. Based on the information they gave me, this serum would be equivalent to using a 5 – 7% L-ascorbic acid serum.

By the way, there are no essential oils, artificial fragrance or synthetic preservatives in this serum. So again, if your skin is ultra sensitive, you won’t have to worry about those nasties.

4. Marie Veronique Vitamin C+E+Ferulic Serum

This is the second Marie Veronique product on this list and the main thing that stands out about this one is that it contains vitamin C in the form of L-ascorbic acid. Even though L-ascorbic acid is very potent and can be too strong for those with ultra sensitive skin.

In addition to L-ascorbic acid, there are also vitamin C derivatives, which are much gentler on the skin.

After speaking with a rep from the company, they made it clear that this formula is suitable for sensitive mature skin that doesn’t have signs of inflammation (i.e. no severe acne or rosacea, for example). She also added that they usually recommend that people with problematic skin start with the C-Therapy Serum. Then as their skin improves, they can transition to this C+E+Ferulic serum.

Overall here are the main sources of vitamin C in this serum:

  • 5% ascorbic acid
  • L-Ascorbyl Palmitate
  • Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate
  • Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate

Other nourishing and beneficial ingredients that are in this serum include:

  • Green tea infusion
  • Ferulic acid
  • Vitamin E
  • Olive oil
  • Apricot oil
  • Ceramide NP

5. Ursa Major Brighten Up Vitamin C Serum

Brighten Up Vitamin C Serum

This hybrid serum combines a vitamin C derivative with other natural sources of vitamin C, for a one-two punch.

The main source of vitamin C is ascorbic acid polypeptide, which is more stable than L-ascorbic acid. However, depending on just how sensitive your skin is, ascorbic acid polypeptide may still be irritating (you may be better off going with one of the other derivatives mentioned in the other products).

As for the natural sources of vitamin C that appear in this formula, they include:

  • Aloe vera juice.
  • Edelweiss extract.
  • Rosehip extract.

As for moisturization, the main ingredients that deliver this are shea butter, glycerin and sunflower oil.

As I mentioned, depending on how sensitive your skin is, the vitamin C derivative used in this serum may still be irritating. But since everyone’s skin is different, I included this product on the list to give you options to explore.


Low Concentration of L-ascorbic Acid5% or less
Vitamin C Derivatives– magnesium ascorbyl palmitate
– L-Ascorbyl palmitate
– tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate
– sodium ascorbyl phosphate
– glyceryl ascorbate
Moisturizing and Hydrating Ingredients– aloe vera
– jojoba oil
– shea butter
– rosehip oil
– hyaluronic acid
– green tea infusion
– olive oil
pH Balanced FormulapH between 5 and 6
Complementary or Booster Ingredients– vitamin B
– vitamin E
– ferulic acid
This table lists what to look for in a vitamin C serum for delicate or sensitive skin.

The ideal vitamin C serum for sensitive skin should have the following features (1, 2):

1. Very Low Concentration of L-ascorbic Acid

A 5% concentration of L-ascorbic acid is ideal for most people with sensitive skin (though some people can go as high as 10%).

Overall, it’s best to stay away from anything in the 20% – 30% range because that’s way too much for delicate skin.

2. Vitamin C Derivatives

Most vitamin C serums use the pure form of vitamin C known as L-ascorbic acid. While ascorbic is quite potent and usually delivers quick results, it’s also quite harsh. If you have incredibly sensitive and delicate skin, your skin may not tolerate ascorbic acid.

So, in this case a better option is to use vitamin C derivatives like MAP (magnesium ascorbyl palmitate), tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate and sodium ascorbyl phosphate. 

These derivatives are much more gentle on the skin. 

In addition, once they’re absorbed into the skin, these derivatives are converted into L-ascorbic acid. 

So you’re still getting vitamin C, but without the nasty side effects.

Furthermore, these derivatives are more stable than ascorbic acid (meaning they won’t spoil as quickly).

3. Moisturizing Ingredients

Since vitamin C is drying, you absolutely want to make sure that your serum is formulated with other moisturizing and/or hydrating ingredients. This is a must for sensitive skin. So look for ingredients like hyaluronic acid, carrier oils (like jojoba oil), olive oil and aloe vera…just to name a few.

4. pH Balanced Formula

If your skin is particularly sensitive, look for a vitamin C serum with a pH between 5 and 6.

Do keep in mind that companies are not required to include pH information on product packaging. So you may not always find that information on the packaging.

However, you can try testing the pH of the product with a pH testing strip and see if that works. Otherwise, you could contact the company directly and ask them about the pH.

5. Complementary or Booster Ingredients

Ingredients like vitamin B and E, as well as ferulic acid and hyaluronic acid are great for supporting vitamin C.

For example, ferulic acid helps to stabilize vitamin C while hyaluronic balances out vitamin C’s drying effect.

Here’s a summary of everything to look for in a vitamin C serum:


Can you use vitamin C serum everyday?

Vitamin C serum can be used every day and in many cases, twice a day. However, if your skin is very sensitive, it’s a good idea to start off using it every other day. Then as your skin becomes acclimated to the serum, you can increase to every day and eventually, twice a day (if necessary).

Taking this slow and steady approach is particularly important if you’re using a serum that contains L-ascorbic acid. L-ascorbic acid is the strongest form of vitamin C and tends to be very problematic on sensitive skin.

Can vitamin C irritate the face?

Vitamin C has the potential to irritate the face, especially when used at very high concentrations.

It’s better to start with a low vitamin C concentration and then work your way up to higher amounts.

What can you not mix with vitamin C serum?

It’s best to avoid combining vitamin C with:

  • Retinol
  • Benzoyl peroxide
  • Alpha and beta hydroxy acids
  • Niacinamide


There are two main choices when it comes to vitamin C: L-ascorbic acid and vitamin C derivatives. Depending on just how sensitive your skin, you might be able to use L-ascorbic acid in low concentrations (about 5%).

However, for most people with sensitive or inflamed skin, vitamin C derivatives are generally a better option. Plus, these derivatives are more stable than L-ascorbic acid. So, purchasing a serum made from these derivatives will result in a product that is less likely to spoil quickly.

pin for best vitamin c serum for sensitive skin

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