Vitam C serum vs cream - How to choose what's right for you?


Vitamin C has become a staple in skincare routines worldwide, thanks to its ability to brighten, tighten, and rejuvenate the skin. While vitamin C is available in various forms, serums and creams are the most popular. But which one is the better choice for your skin? In this article, we'll explore the chemical properties of serums and creams, uncover the reasons behind serums' superiority, and help you decide which formulation is best for you. So let's dive into the fascinating world of vitamin C serum vs. cream!

Chemical Properties: Serums vs. Creams

Vitamin C serums and creams differ significantly in their chemical properties, mainly due to their base formulations. Serums are lightweight, water-based formulations that contain high concentrations of active ingredients, allowing for rapid absorption and delivery of potent nutrients to the skin (1).

On the other hand, creams are thicker, oil-based formulations that create a protective barrier on the skin's surface. This barrier helps lock in moisture and provides a sustained release of active ingredients, albeit at a slower rate than serums (2).

The Superiority of Serums: Penetration and Efficacy

There are several reasons why serums are considered superior to creams in delivering the benefits of vitamin C:

  1. Enhanced Penetration: Due to their lightweight, water-based nature, serums can penetrate deeper into the skin, allowing for more effective delivery of active ingredients like vitamin C (1). Creams, with their thicker consistency, tend to sit on the skin's surface, providing a barrier that can impede the penetration of active ingredients (2).

  2. Higher Concentrations: Serums typically contain higher concentrations of vitamin C compared to creams. This increased potency allows for more noticeable and faster results, such as reduced hyperpigmentation, improved collagen production, and a brighter complexion (3).

  3. Fewer Interactions: In creams, vitamin C can interact with other ingredients, reducing its stability and potency. Serums, with their simpler formulations, are less likely to contain ingredients that may compromise the efficacy of vitamin C (4).

  4. Customisable Skincare: Serums allow for a more personalised approach to skincare. They can be layered or mixed with other serums to target specific skin concerns, providing a tailored solution that may not be achievable with a single cream.

Why Serums May Be the Better Choice

Given the above factors, serums have several advantages over creams when it comes to delivering the full potential of vitamin C:

  1. More effective delivery of active ingredients due to enhanced penetration and higher concentrations.

  2. Reduced risk of interactions with other ingredients, ensuring the stability and potency of vitamin C.

  3. The ability to create a customised skincare routine by layering or mixing serums.

However, it's essential to consider individual skin types and concerns when choosing a vitamin C product. Those with sensitive skin may prefer a cream formulation, as it can provide a more gentle, sustained release of vitamin C and reduce the risk of irritation.

In the vitamin C serum vs. cream debate, serums emerge as the frontrunners due to their superior penetration, potency, and customisable nature. However, individual skin types and needs should be considered when selecting the most suitable product. By understanding the differences between serums and creams, you can make an informed decision and harness the full power of vitamin C for your skincare needs.


    1. Loden, M., & Wessman, C. (2016). The influence of a humectant-rich serum on the performance of a moisturiser. International Journal of Cosmetic Science, 38(1), 19-25.

    2. P. S. (2013). Vitamin C in dermatology. Indian Dermatology Online Journal, 4(2), 143-146.

    3. Pullar, J. M., Carr, A. C., & Vissers, M. C. (2017). The roles of Vitamin C in skin health. Nutrients, 9(8), 866.

    4. Al-Niaimi, F., & Chiang, N. Y. Z. (2017). Topical Vitamin C and the skin: Mechanisms of action and clinical applications. The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, 10(7), 14-17.