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The Best Antioxidant Serums to Slow Down Aging and Brighten Skin

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Written by Jenna Cartusciello
Best Antioxidant Serums

A good cleanser, moisturizer and sunscreen are the basics of an excellent skin care routine, but without a good antioxidant serum, you may not see a big improvement in your skin’s complexion. The right antioxidants in the right dosage are key to reducing hyperpigmentation, diminishing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and improving tone and texture.

How does this happen? For those who need a refresh, here’s a quick chemistry lesson: Antioxidants neutralize free radicals, or reactive molecules that can damage cells. Skin cells create free radicals in response to internal and external stressors, including pollution, sunlight, alcohol consumption and stress. So, applying antioxidant-rich products to skin may help combat free radicals and therefore reduce the damage they cause (also known as oxidative stress).

Of course, it’s a little more complicated than that. Some serums contain just one potent antioxidant while others contain a slew of them in smaller concentrations. Also, no brand can guarantee that their product will fend off free radicals and reduce signs of aging, since potency, pH and antioxidant stability are all at play. Some brands perform extensive testing in order to create high-quality serums, but more testing often results in a higher price tag.

Finding an effective serum that doesn’t drain your savings as you re-purchase it is the name of the game. With all of these factors in mind, we created a list of the best antioxidant serums on the market, all of which are under $50.

The 16 Best Antioxidant Serums to Slow Down Aging and Brighten Skin

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Finding the Best Antioxidant Serums

Narrowing down our selection of the best antioxidant serums on the market wasn’t easy. “Antioxidant serums” is a broad category that includes many different formula types, from vitamin C-only products to products rich in plant extracts. Ultimately, we decided to recommend serums based on their ingredients, potency, risk of irritation, compatibility with different skin types and skincare products and price. We also included each product’s toxicity and irritation rating as determined by the Environmental Working Group (EWG).

What to Consider When Choosing the Best Antioxidant Serums


While there is no one antioxidant formula that is necessarily better than others, having at least one potent antioxidant or multiple, less-potent ingredients in a product is ideal. Potent antioxidants that work well on their own or with certain other antioxidants include l-ascorbic acid (vitamin C), niacinamide (vitamin B3), resveratrol (found in grapes and berries), ferulic acid (found in rice, wheat, oats and pineapple) and coenzyme Q10 (found in salmon, tuna and whole grains).

Additional antioxidant sources that may be effective include aloe vera and extracts from sea buckthorn, raspberry, elderberry, oat, cranberry, centella asiatica, mushroom, carrot, kale, green tea, apple, chamomile flower and basil flower.

Other Ingredients

Other ingredients in an antioxidant serum are nearly as important as the antioxidants, because they help keep the formula shelf stable and help skin cells absorb the product. They can also moisturize and soothe skin, counteracting the potentially irritating effects of certain antioxidants. Beneficial ingredients to look for in serums include hyaluronic acid (hydrating), glycerin (hydrating), ceramides (repairing) and peptides (hydrating and plumping).

Skin Type

Before selecting an antioxidant serum, it’s important to think about how it will affect your skin type. Every skin type benefits from some form of moisturizer, but heavier serums may work better for dry skin while lightweight serums may be ideal for oily skin. Generally, brands indicate what skin types their serums target, making it easier on the consumer.


Unfortunately, many good antioxidant serums don’t get their fair shot because they aren’t compatible with the other products in your skincare routine. Applying an oil-based serum before a water-based moisturizer, for example, will likely result in pilling.

However, it isn’t easy to determine which products are compatible. The best way to know is to test your products together on your skin.


Most antioxidant serums run out in 30 to 45 days, so finding an inexpensive formula can make your skincare routine more sustainable. While there are many excellent serums on the market that cost well over $50, we chose to keep budgets in mind and only recommended products below $50.

What Are the Different Types of Antioxidant Serums?

Oil Based

An oil-based serum is a serum with an oil (or multiple oils) as its base ingredient. These serums usually deliver intense, long-lasting hydration and improve the skin’s lipid barrier, making it more resilient. While most oil-based serums are noncomedogenic, meaning they won’t clog pores, they aren’t always ideal for oily and acne-prone skin because they can feel heavy and prevent the skin from “breathing.”

Water Based

A water-based serum is a serum with water as its base ingredient. Generally, these serums are lightweight and absorb quickly into the skin, and they work well for all skin types. Typical water-based serums often include glycerin, hyaluronic acid and antioxidants that don’t need oil in order to penetrate the skin.


An emulsion serum is a serum that uses both water and oil as its base. Processing helps the oil and water blend together in an emulsified form, so that the final serum is either oil suspended in water or water suspended in oil. Most antioxidant serums contain a blend of water and oil, which is effectively the best of both worlds: Products are typically lightweight and breathable and help the skin better absorb certain antioxidants.


Best Budget: The Ordinary Resveratrol 3% + Ferulic Acid 3%


  • Good for morning and night use
  • 3 ingredients
  • Good for hormonal acne and aging skin


  • Can’t use with peptide products
  • Feels oily

Toxicity and Irritation Rating: 1/10

We like The Ordinary’s Resveratrol and Ferulic Acid serum because it’s not only affordable but also effective. Resveratrol and ferulic acid are two potent antioxidants (the former is found in grapes, nuts and certain berries, and the latter appears in tomato, sweet corn and rice bran) that can help reduce the effects of aging by neutralizing free radicals, reduce hormonal acne and lower inflammation. Plus, the only other ingredient in this formula is propanediol — a solvent that improves absorbency and softens the skin.

The downsides: The Ordinary states that this serum should not be used in combination with peptide-containing products. The formula also feels oily, so buyers with oily skin may not enjoy using it.


Best Drugstore: CeraVe Skin Renewing Vitamin C Serum with Hyaluronic Acid


  • Contains l-ascorbic acid
  • Contains ceramides and hyaluronic acid
  • Great for daily use


  • Efficacy diminishes over time
  • Product quality issues when buying from Amazon

Toxicity and Irritation Rating: 4/10

What we like about the CeraVe Skin Renewing Vitamin C Serum: This formula contains pure l-ascorbic acid, a form of vitamin C that has the most research to back up its anti-aging benefits. It also contains ceramides to strengthen the skin barrier and hyaluronic acid, another antioxidant that moisturizes skin.

However, l-ascorbic acid is unstable, and as with all products that contain this form of vitamin C, it’s unclear how effective the formula is at reducing hyperpigmentation and other signs of aging. We therefore recommend using the product within three months of purchasing and opening. In addition, some buyers have experienced product quality issues when purchasing this serum off of Amazon.


Best for Dry Skin: The Inkey List Q10 Antioxidant Serum


  • Affordable
  • Co-Q10 and peptides reduce signs of aging
  • Great for sensitive, dry skin


  • Quantity of Co-Q10 unknown
  • Bottle could have a better design
  • May not be ideal for oily skin

Toxicity and Irritation Rating: 4/10

Coenzyme Q10 is a natural antioxidant that supports collagen and elastin production, and it may provide many anti-aging benefits in topical form. We like The Inkey List’s Q10 Antioxidant Serum because the Co-Q10 works to gently prevent signs of aging while peptides increase skin elasticity. Squalane also helps hydrate the skin and reduce inflammation. Overall, this is a great formula for sensitive and dry skin.

On the other hand, the Co-Q10 (ubiquinone) is pretty far down the list of ingredients, so the serum mostly contains hydrating and stabilizing ingredients. Others wish the bottle had a different design, as it’s not always easy to squeeze out product.


Best for Oily Skin: Paula’s Choice Earth Sourced Power Berry Serum


  • Naturally-sourced ingredients
  • Contains anti-inflammatory squalane
  • Lightweight


  • Natural extracts may cause allergic reaction or irritation
  • Pricey
  • Not available at most retailers

Toxicity and Irritation Rating: not yet determined

If you’re looking for a lightweight, oily-skin-friendly serum packed with antioxidants, the Paula’s Choice Earth Sourced Power Berry Serum is a great option. It contains a host of naturally-sourced ingredients that fend off free radicals, including extracts from sea buckthorn, raspberry, elderberry and more. It also contains squalane, a non-comedogenic and anti-inflammatory moisturizer.

The downsides: This product is pricey, and some of the extracts could cause an allergic reaction depending on your sensitivities.


Best for Combination Skin: Paula’s Choice RESIST Ultra-Light Super Antioxidant Concentrate Serum


  • Lightweight
  • Wide range of potent antioxidants
  • Hydrating


  • Expensive
  • Airless pump dispenser may not work well
  • May be irritating

Toxicity and Irritation Rating: 3/10

Oily, irritated and flaky skin isn’t easy to take care of, but an antioxidant serum like the RESIST Ultra-Light Super Antioxidant Concentrate Serum from Paula’s Choice makes it manageable. This lightweight formula contains a host of potent antioxidants that soothe irritation and slow down skin aging, including tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate (a stable form of vitamin C), niacinamide, ubiquinone (coenzyme Q10), resveratrol and more. It also contains dimethicone and glycerin for light hydration.

However, this serum is expensive, and some customers complain that the airless pump dispenser does not work well. A few also found that this product irritated their skin.


Best for Sensitive Skin: Aveeno Calm + Restore Age Renewal Serum


  • Gentle antioxidants
  • Soothing
  • Hydrating


  • Unlikely to brighten hyperpigmentation
  • May not make a dramatic difference

Toxicity and Irritation Rating: not yet determined

While the Aveeno Calm + Restore Age Renewal Serum doesn’t seem like an antioxidant serum at first, it contains two key ingredients with antioxidant properties: cranberry extract and oat extract. Cranberry extract acts as a retinol alternative to gently reduce signs of aging while oat extract strengthens the skin barrier and reduces inflammation. In addition, it contains skin-brightening niacinamide, but not enough to cause irritation. Overall, this is an excellent serum for those who are sensitive to strong antioxidants.

Note that this serum is unlikely to brighten hyperpigmentation like other antioxidant-rich serums. It may also not have as dramatic of an effect as other products.


Best for Aging Skin: Eau Thermale Avène A-Oxitive Antioxidant Defense Serum


  • Lightweight
  • Contains stable vitamin C
  • Contains vitamin E


  • Pricey
  • Contains fragrance

Toxicity and Irritation Rating: not yet determined

What we like about the Avène A-Oxitive Antioxidant Defense Serum: This lightweight formula contains the antioxidant ascorbyl glucoside, a stable form of vitamin C that is less likely to cause irritation as compared to l-ascorbic acid. It also contains vitamin E, another antioxidant that may reduce signs of aging and lower inflammation.

Bear in mind that ascorbyl glucoside doesn’t have as much research to support its efficacy as l-ascorbic acid. In addition, this formula contains fragrance, which is a common cause of irritation.


Best K-Beauty: Beauty of Joseon Light On Serum : Centella + Vita C


  • Lightweight
  • Percentages of antioxidants shown
  • Anti-inflammatory ingredients


  • May cause irritation
  • Small tube

Toxicity and Irritation Rating: 3/10

Korean skincare is known for its innovation, and Beauty of Joseon’s Light On Serum lives up to the expectations. We like that this product contains 10% 3-O-ethyl ascorbic acid, a stable form of vitamin C that may help lighten dark spots and reduce signs of aging. It also contains 68% centella asiatica extract, which may also increase your skin’s hydration while preventing the negative effects of free radicals.

However, this product has caused an allergic reaction for a few customers, and the tube is small when compared to similar products.


Best Bang for Your Buck: TruSkin Vitamin C Facial Serum


  • Gentle form of vitamin C
  • Contains antioxidant-rich aloe vera
  • Vitamin E and hyaluronic acid


  • Geranium may cause irritation
  • May not be as effective as l-ascorbic acid
  • May cause allergic reactions

Toxicity and Irritation Rating: 2/10

There are a few reasons the TruSkin Vitamin C Facial Serum is one of the top antioxidant serums on Amazon. Firstly, it contains sodium ascorbyl phosphate, a gentler form of vitamin C that doesn’t break down as easily as l-ascorbic acid, and is also less likely to cause irritation. It also contains aloe vera, which has antioxidant properties, as well as vitamin E and hyaluronic acid which help hydrate and soothe skin.

While studies show that sodium ascorbyl phosphate has antioxidant properties and may be beneficial for acne, it doesn’t have as much research behind it as l-ascorbic acid. In addition, this product contains geranium, a natural fragrance that may cause irritation. It has also caused an allergic reaction for a few buyers.


Best for Beginners: Honest Beauty Daily Green Juice Antioxidant Super Serum


  • Clean ingredients
  • Wide range of antioxidant-rich extracts
  • Gentle and hydrating


  • May not have a big effect on skin
  • Unscented scent may be off-putting
  • A few quality issues when purchasing from Amazon

Toxicity and Irritation Rating: not yet determined

Looking for a gentle, antioxidant-rich serum that isn’t likely to cause irritation on a beginner? If so, try Honest Beauty’s Daily Green Juice Antioxidant Super Serum. This gentle, hydrating and lightweight formula contains a host of antioxidant-rich extracts, including a mushroom complex, carrot, kale and lemon extract, green tea oil and apple extract. It also has niacinamide, which can help brighten skin and reduce redness.

Since this formula is gentle, it may not have a dramatic effect in terms of skin brightening or the reduced appearance of fine lines. A few customers also disliked the product’s unscented scent.


Best Niacinamide Only Serum: Neutrogena Hydro Boost + Niacinamide Serum


  • High niacinamide percentage effectively brightens skin
  • Hydrating
  • Lightweight


  • May not be ideal for dry skin
  • Tacky finish
  • High niacinamide concentration could cause irritation

Toxicity and Irritation Rating: 3/10

What we like about the Neutrogena Hydro Boost + Niacinamide Serum: This fragrance free formula is designed to improve skin texture, discoloration and signs of aging with just two key ingredients: niacinamide and hyaluronic acid. At a 10% concentration, the niacinamide in this formula is strong enough to brighten skin, reduce redness and diminish signs of aging. Hyaluronic acid then helps hydrate and soothe skin.

While this formula is a great pick for oily and combination skin, it may not be hydrating enough for dry skin. It also has a tacky finish, and the high percentage of niacinamide may make the skin more susceptible to irritation.


Best Vitamin C Only Serum for Beginners: The Ordinary Ascorbyl Glucoside Solution 12%


  • Great for all skin types
  • Gentler on skin than l-ascorbic acid
  • Simple formula, great for daily use


  • May not be as effective as l-ascorbic acid
  • Slightly tacky finish
  • May pill when paired with certain moisturizers

Toxicity and Irritation Rating: 3/10

If you want to start incorporating vitamin C into your routine but you’re afraid of the irritation it can cause, consider trying The Ordinary’s Ascorbyl Glucoside Solution. Ascorbyl glucoside is a gentler and stabler form of vitamin C as compared to l-ascorbic acid, so it is usually easier for the skin to tolerate and doesn’t oxidize (and lose its potency) as quickly.

Note that ascorbyl glucoside does not have as much research behind it as l-ascorbic acid. In addition, the serum has a slightly tacky finish which may bother some users, though applying a moisturizer on top should mitigate this issue. Keep in mind that certain moisturizers will not be compatible and may cause the product to pill.


Best Oil-Based Serum: Versed Sunday Morning Antioxidant Oil Serum


  • Non comedogenic oils
  • Antioxidant-rich
  • Lightweight, absorbs quickly


  • May not be hydrating enough for dry skin
  • Thin consistency; hard to apply
  • Quality issues when buying from Amazon

Toxicity and Irritation Rating: 4/10

An oil-based serum helps strengthen your skin’s lipid barrier, which in turn may make it easier for your skin to tolerate potent antioxidants. If you are ready to try an oil-based product, we recommend the Versed Sunday Morning Antioxidant Oil Serum. It contains non comedogenic, non-greasy oils like jojoba oil and camellia oil which also work as antioxidants. Other ingredients like sea buckthorn extract, chamomile flower extract and basil flower extract help reduce inflammation as well.

Though this product absorbs into the skin quickly and doesn’t leave a greasy feeling, it may not be hydrating enough for dry skin types. It also has a thin consistency and can be tricky to apply. A few customers have experienced quality issues when buying from Amazon.


Best CoEnzyme Q10 Serum: Timeless Skin Care Coenzyme Q10 Serum


  • Simple ingredient list
  • Gentle antioxidants
  • Great for all skin types


  • Runny
  • May not deliver dramatic results

Toxicity and Irritation Rating: 2/10

The best features of the Timeless Skin Care Coenzyme Q10 Serum: This product has a simple ingredient list designed to deliver hydration and reduce signs of aging without causing irritation. In addition to Co-Q10, it contains Matrixyl 3000, a peptide-based ingredient that reduces the appearance of fine lines, as well as hyaluronic acid and aloe vera. Overall, this is a lightweight serum that would work well on all skin types.

Note that this formula is runny, so it isn’t easy to apply. It also isn’t as potent as other antioxidant serums, so may not deliver dramatic results.


Best Antioxidant and Sunscreen Serum: La Roche-Posay Anthelios AOX Daily Antioxidant Face Serum SPF 50


  • High UVA and UVB protection
  • Includes vitamins C and E
  • Lightweight


  • May irritate skin sensitive skin
  • Noticeable sunscreen scent
  • Expensive

Toxicity and Irritation Rating: 3/10

Dermatologist and influencer Dr. Andrea Suarez notes that the research on combining antioxidants with sunscreen is mixed (ie. it may make antioxidants ineffective). However, she says some studies suggest that it is beneficial, and that it makes for an easier skincare routine. If you’re hoping to try a combination product, we recommend the La Roche-Posay Daily Antioxidant Face Serum SPF 50. This lightweight serum uses chemical sunscreens to protect the skin while vitamins C and E help reduce damage from oxidative stress.

On the other hand, some buyers note that this serum left their skin sensitive and irritated, especially around the eyes. It also has a noticeable sunscreen scent which may be off putting, and it’s expensive.


Best on Amazon: DERMA E Vitamin C Concentrated Serum


  • Multiple antioxidants
  • Hydrating
  • Easily absorbed by skin


  • May not be as effective as other vitamin C serums
  • May cause irritation
  • Contains fragrance

Toxicity and Irritation Rating: 4/10

What we like about the DERMA E Vitamin C Concentrated Serum: It contains multiple antioxidants, including vitamins C and E and aloe vera, all of which may combat signs of aging. It also has deeply hydrating ingredients such as hyaluronic acid to increase moisture and help deliver the antioxidants into skin cells. Overall, we like that this formula is absorbent and lightweight, and it works well under moisturizer.

Bear in mind that this formula uses sodium ascorbyl phosphate, a form of vitamin C that is more stable than l-ascorbic acid but may not be as effective. Indeed, a few buyers found that the product wasn’t very effective at reducing signs of aging. Lastly, this product contains fragrance which may be irritating.

People Also Ask

  • Q: What are good antioxidant serums?

    A:Our top three antioxidant serum recommendations include The Ordinary Resveratrol 3% + Ferulic Acid 3%, CeraVe Skin Renewing Vitamin C Serum with Hyaluronic Acid and The Inkey List Q10 Antioxidant Serum.

  • Q: What is the most powerful antioxidant in skincare?

    A:Vitamin C in the form of l-ascorbic acid is considered the most powerful antioxidant in terms of its ability to reduce signs of aging and brighten skin. However, it can also be irritating.

  • Q: Do antioxidant serums actually work?

    A:The short answer? Yes! The long answer: Antioxidant serums vary in terms of potency and antioxidants used, so some serums may be more effective than others.

  • Q: How much do antioxidant serums cost?

    A:Antioxidant serums vary widely in price and range between $5 and $200 for a 20 to 40 day supply.

Why trust Us

At Us Weekly, we aim to inform readers to make smart purchasing decisions, saving you both time and money. Our editors are obsessed with finding products in a variety of categories from fashion and beauty, to home and fitness.

We try various products, so we can recommend our favorites, and we also summarize feedback and data from other customers. Data, like product reviews and ratings, helps us recommend the best product choices for individual price points and needs.

On top of that, we highlight unique product features for special use cases, ingredients preferences, and more. We strive to make sure you are discovering new products that can make your life easier, while keeping you up to date with the best product choices for types of items you already know and love.

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By Jenna Cartusciello

Affiliate Commerce Writer Jenna loves recommending great products to her friends and family, so helping the rest of the internet on their quest to find the best stuff makes tremendous sense! Though she mainly writes in-depth buyer’s guides these days, Jenna still enjoys crafting the occasional health article. In her spare time, she loves immersing herself in creative writing. Her favorite authors (for anyone who is willing to geek out with her) include Neil Gaiman, Cheryl Strayed, and Jennifer Egan.

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