Look No Further: These Are The Best Antioxidant Serums To Protect Your Skin From Free Radicals

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Best Antioxidant Serums

Antioxidant serums have been dominating the bathroom shelves of fellow skin-conscious people. For those who think it’s all hype, let me tell you that it’s a well-deserving one. In fact, I’ve been relying on antioxidant serums to gently but effectively deal with my skin concerns. And I’m here to introduce you to the best antioxidant serums on the market that give the most noticeable results. Just like any other person in my circle that I give unsolicited skincare advice, I know you’ll thank me later. So you might want to clear up some space on that beauty cabinet of yours.

But in case you’re new to the trend and skipped our guide, here’s the recap. Antioxidants are compounds that prevent oxidation (1). Oxidation is usually caused by external sources like UV exposure and results in the formation of molecules called free radicals. And free radicals are capable of damaging your skin and causing wrinkles, rough skin texture, and dark spots. Antioxidants prevent this whole cycle of events by neutralizing free radicals and stopping oxidation at its tracks (2).

What Is an Antioxidant Serum?

An antioxidant serum is a skincare product made with a notable concentration of antioxidants to treat and prevent free radical damage. Some of the most common antioxidants found in face serums are vitamin C, vitamin E, green tea, coenyzmeQ10, and resveratrol. Though there’s a sea of antioxidants out there, the best antioxidant serums contain antioxidants with the most research behind them validating their efficiency.

But what does an antioxidant serum do, exactly? An antioxidant serum neutralizes free radicals. This is its working mechanism. This is where it differs from other treatment serums.

For example, an exfoliating serum helps with wrinkles and dark spots too. But it stimulates skin turnover, which usually causes a certain level of skin peeling and even irritation. An antioxidant serum, on the other hand, simply blocks free radicals.

What Are the Benefits of Antioxidant Serums?

Below are the most important benefits of antioxidant serums for your skin:

  • Antioxidant serums protect your skin by preventing free radicals from damaging your skin.
  • Antioxidant serums are, by nature, anti-aging serums. So you can use them to prevent premature signs of aging like fine lines and wrinkles.
  • They strengthen your skin against external aggressors and prevent the formation of dark spots and discolorations that give you uneven skin tone.
  • Antioxidant serums prevent oxidation from damaging your collagen and elastin, helping your skin stay firm, tight, and bouncy.
  • Antioxidant serums also help repair existing skin damage and aid in skin repair.
  • Antioxidants are anti-inflammatory. So antioxidant serums help with skin irritation and redness too.
  • They’re usually much gentler on the skin compared to other anti-aging serums.

Who Should Use an Antioxidant Serum?

Anyone, regardless of their skin type and issues, should use an antioxidant serum. Our skin is prone to oxidation one way or another. None of us is immune to the formation of free radicals.

So you should use an antioxidant serum if you want to:

  • be proactive about preventing premature aging
  • have fine lines and wrinkles you’re not happy about
  • have mature skin and visible sun damage
  • are dealing with uneven skin tone and hyperpigmentation
  • don’t want to use potentially irritating anti-aging serums
  • have dull, lackluster skin

How To Choose an Antioxidant Serum

While choosing your antioxidant serum, you should consider the ingredients of the serum, your skin concerns, skin type, the packaging of the serum, and the price. Here’s your guide in more detail.

Antioxidants

Again, there is no shortage of antioxidants in skincare or in nature. But some are more effective and have more research behind them. For that reason, look for antioxidants like vitamin C, vitamin B3, vitamin E, vitamin A, and polyphenolic antioxidants like green tea, resveratrol, and ferulic acid. Other highly effective antioxidants are nourishing plant extracts like licorice, turmeric, and caffeine (3).

Your Skin Concerns

All antioxidants neutralize free radicals. But all of them have unique benefits too. And that’s why you should keep your skin concerns in mind when choosing an antioxidant serum. For example, use an antioxidant serum formulated with vitamin C to reduce hyperpigmentation, even out the skin tone, and fade skin discolorations (4). Vitamin E has moisturizing benefits too. If you have dry skin or a compromised skin barrier, prioritize serums with vitamin E. Similarly, if you have sensitive skin, look for antioxidant serums with green tea and niacinamide which have superior anti-inflammatory benefits.

Skin Type

The importance of your skin type has a lot to do with the formulation of the serum rather than the ingredients. Vitamin C is great for all skin types. But a water-based vitamin C serum is better if you have oily and acne-prone skin. Similarly, go for oil-based, slightly emollient antioxidant serums if you have dry skin.

Packaging

The packing of your antioxidant serum is important because some antioxidants, especially vitamin C, are difficult to stabilize and formulate. They oxidize and go bad easily when they’re exposed to air or UV light. Make sure your serum has airtight packaging preferably in a dark container.

Price

Antioxidant serums are not cheap including the ones from the drugstore. Because antioxidants are challenging ingredients. A properly stabilized antioxidant serum formulated with complementing skincare ingredients and has UV protective packaging and leaves a pleasant feeling on the skin all add up to the price. But if you’re on a budget, sacrifice the non-essentials like a glowy finish or a pleasant scent.

So these are some of the things you should keep in mind when looking for an antioxidant serum. Don’t fret. I considered all of these. Here’s what you’ll find in this round-up.

How I Created This List

I made sure my recommendations are the ones with a rich blend of antioxidants. I considered all skin types and issues and added my own suggestions. But you can check by looking at the info box under the product if an antioxidant serum for dry skin is also suitable for combination skin. I also included both high-end and drugstore options. Plus, I mentioned what I like about the serums and what you may not like about them. After all, I only have one skin type. And lastly, call me crazy but I pay attention to the finish of my serum. So I’ll mention if it’s dewy or natural too.

The Best Antioxidant Serums

I’ve listed down below the best antioxidant serums and included everything you need to know about them to help you make a better choice.

1. Caudalie Resveratrol-Lift Instant Firming Serum

Best Overall Antioxidant Serum

Caudalie Resveratrol-Lift Instant Firming Serum - Best Antioxidant Serum
Pros: Oil-free, smells amazing, gives instant results
Cons: None

This is one of the gentlest antioxidant serums out there. And I’m saying this as someone dealing with redness and rosacea. This serum is made with vitamin E and patented resveratrol. FYI, resveratrol helps with sun damage and wrinkles but also brightens the skin (5). I saw results starting from day 1. My skin looks radiant and bouncy. And it’s very easy to layer moisturizer on top of it. I once used this twice a day for 7 days in a row and I noticed that the wrinkles between my brows were almost gone. But the better part is the supporting goodies. Peptides, squalane, hyaluronic acid, and vegan collagen make my skin instantly smooth and glowy. If you’re an instant gratification seeker like me, this is your antioxidant serum for visibly plump, wrinkle-free skin.

Key Antioxidants: Resveratrol, vitamin E. Key Benefits: Brightens, smooths fine lines. Skin Type: All. Finish: Radiant. Size: 1 oz.

2. SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic with 15% L-Ascorbic Acid

Best Antioxidant Serum For Hyperpigmentation

SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic with 15% L-Ascorbic Acid - Best Antioxidant Serum For Hyperpigmentation
Pros: Patented formula, suitable for sensitive skin, protective container
Cons: Pricey

Most people think of a vitamin C serum when looking for an antioxidant serum. And it’s understandable. It helps reduce lines and wrinkles, brighten skin, fade discolorations, and stimulate collagen production. So it’s a bit more popular than the rest of the antioxidant crew. And it’s no secret that dark spots and other skin discolorations are some of the most difficult skin concerns to deal with. But when hyperpigmentation is concerned, I think this serum is superior because SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic is made with a patented antioxidant complex (6). It’s unrivaled. It’s made with pure vitamin C as well as vitamin E and ferulic acid. These two both stabilize vitamin C and enhance your skin protection. My skin absorbs it super fast and feels firmer and bouncier.

Key Antioxidants: Vitamins C and E, ferulic acid. Key Benefits: Repairs free radical damage, fades hyperpigmentation. Skin Type: Normal, dry, combination, sensitive. Finish: Dewy. Size: 1 oz.

3. Drunk Elephant C-Firma Fresh Vitamin-C Day Serum

Best Brightening Antioxidant Serum

Drunk Elephant C-Firma Fresh Vitamin-C Day Serum
Pros: Fresh, stable vitamin C, hydrating base, vegan, fragrance-free, cruelty-free
Cons: None

Similar to SkinCeuticals, this is another antioxidant serum that combines 15% vitamin C with ferulic acid and vitamin E. It’s not exactly created by dermatologists after years of research like SkinCeuticals’ formula. But that’s why this one is cheaper than that. Either way, the serum is effective in improving skin texture and tone and brightening your complexion. People love this because as we’ve established, stability is an issue with vitamin C, especially pure vitamin C. For that reason, this serum comes with a liquid base and a powder you’re supposed to mix together. So you make your own antioxidant serum that hopefully has a better shelf life. The serum also packs enzymes that work as exfoliators to gently remove dead skin cells too. And of course, with exfoliation comes brighter, smoother skin.

Key Antioxidants: Vitamins C and E, ferulic acid. Key Benefits: Reduces discolorations, increases radiance, gently exfoliates. Skin Type: All. Finish: Radiant. Size: 0.94 oz.

4. La Roche Posay 10% Pure Vitamin C Face Serum

Best Antioxidant Serum For Oily Skin

La Roche Posay 10% Pure Vitamin C Face Serum - Best Antioxidant Serum For Oily Skin
Pros: Oil-free, non-comedogenic, goopy replenishing texture
Cons: Contains fragrance

This is a great option for people with oily skin because of the serum’s formulation. It’s oil-free. So it won’t cause congestion or blemishes on oily skin. But it also has salicylic acid in it, which helps unclog pores, and reduces blemishes (7). So while you get a nice dose of antioxidants with pure vitamin C, you also target acne. And because vitamin C is brightening for the skin, the serum can help fade stubborn acne scars too. The texture of it is transparent but it leaves a nice, subtle radiance on the skin. Not grease! It contains fragrance but it’s not unpleasant. My sensitive skin doesn’t mind, yours may not like it.

Key Antioxidants: Vitamins C and E. Key Benefits: Softens wrinkles, minimizes pores. Skin Type: All. Finish: Natural. Size: 1 oz.

5. The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%

Best Antioxidant Serum For Acne-Prone Skin

The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% - Best Antioxidant Serum For Acne-Prone Skin
Pros: Oil-free, fragrance-free, great price
Cons: Not suitable for very sensitive skin

If vitamin C is not your cup of tea, meet niacinamide, aka vitamin B3. Niacinamide is a gentler antioxidant that repairs free radical damage too. But it has an advantage because it’s replenishing and brightening for the skin. For people with acne-prone skin, that means smoother skin texture, reduced acne and pores, and a healthier skin barrier. The serum combines 10% niacinamide with anti-bacterial zinc (8) in an oil-free base. So The Ordinary Niacinamide Serum is a great option for oily and acne-prone skin. Plus it’s budget-friendly. So slather on!

Key Antioxidants: Vitamin B3. Key Benefits: Minimizes pores, balances oil production, supports skin barrier. Skin Type: Normal, dry, combination, oily. Finish: Natural. Size: 1 oz.

6. The Inkey List Q10 Antioxidant Serum

Best Budget Antioxidant Serum

The Inkey List Q10 Antioxidant Serum - Best Budget Antioxidant Serum
Pros: Hydrating, lotion-like texture
Cons: None

And speaking of affordable antioxidant serums, The Inkey List has this budget-friendly formula made with coenzymeQ10. And because it’s a very gentle antioxidant, it’s unlikely to irritate your skin. So it’s great for all skin types. The serum includes vitamin E to enhance the effects, and squalane and amino acids to give the skin a nice layer of hydration. While we’re on the subject, know that this isn’t your only option from the brand. The Inkey List has a cheap antioxidant serum made with a vitamin C derivative. They also have a retinol serum. So if Q10 isn’t your cup of tea, you have those two alternatives too.

Key Antioxidants: Coenzyme Q10, vitamin E. Key Benefits: Hydrates, protects against oxidative stress, improves elasticity. Skin Type: Normal, dry, combination, oily. Finish: Natural. Size: 1 oz.

7. Lancome Advanced Genifique Face Serum

Best Antioxidant Serum For Sensitive Skin

Lancome Advanced Genifique Face Serum - Best Antioxidant Serum For Sensitive Skin
Pros: Instantly hydrating, energizing citrus scent, gentle
Cons: Contains fragrance

Most people with sensitive skin are intimidated by antioxidant serums because most of these serums contain a higher concentration of pure vitamin C. But trust me, you’re going to love this one! This antioxidant serum packs 10% probiotics. And probiotics are exceptionally helpful for sensitive, dry skin. And L’Oreal claims (9) that they’re beneficial for reactive skin to repair the skin barrier and make it stronger against the damaging effects of free radicals. After all, your skin barrier is your first line of defense. So the serum covers a lot of basis with that. But that’s not all, its replenishing base is formulated with antioxidant vitamin C and anti-inflammatory adenosine. I haven’t experienced any irritation whatsoever! The lightweight formula is madly hydrating and leaves my skin fresh as a daisy.

Key Antioxidants: Vitamin C, adenosine. Key Benefits: Repairs sun damage and skin barrier, hydrates, reduces dehydration lines. Skin Type: All. Finish: Subtly radiant. Size: 1 oz.

8. Paula’s Choice Resist Super Antioxidant Serum

Another Antioxidant Serum For Sensitive Skin

Paula's Choice Resist Super Antioxidant Serum
Pros: Antioxidant-packed, gentle vitamin C derivative, fragrance-free
Cons: None

If Lancome is out of your budget or you have very sensitive skin and don’t like fragrance, this is another gentle antioxidant serum for sensitive skin. And the whole antioxidant crew is here; vitamin C, vitamin E, ferulic acid, coenzymeQ10, and green tea extract. And it has superoxide dismutase, a lesser-known antioxidant with major free-radical scavenging benefits. So if you deal with dryness, redness, or rosacea, you’re going to love the fact that the serum packs ceramides to boost moisture.

Key Antioxidants: Vitamins C and E, ferulic acid, coenzymeQ10, green tea. Key Benefits: Wards off free radicals, repairs sun damage, softens wrinkles, hydrates. Skin Type: All. Finish: Radiant. Size: 1 oz.

9. Allies of Skin Multi Hyaluronic Antioxidant Hydration Serum

Best Antioxidant Serum For Dry Skin

Allies of Skin Multi Hyaluronic Antioxidant Hydration Serum - Best Antioxidant Serum For Dry Skin
Pros: Lots of antioxidants, very hydrating, fragrance-free
Cons: Prominent scent from essential oils

A face serum can’t be as hydrating as a moisturizer. But this one sure does push the limits! Think of this as a hydrating face serum for dry skin with an element of surprise; it’s incredibly rich in antioxidants! It’s got 5% resveratrol and 2% superoxide dismutase to guard your skin against free radicals (10), and help your skin catch a breath and repair! And that’s not it, it also infuses the skin with other restorative antioxidants like niacinamide, green tea, vitamin E, and astaxanthin. All this comes in a replenishing base made of hyaluronic acid in different molecular weights and other humectants like vitamin B5, honey, and non-greasy emollients. Your skin is going to look smoother, plumper, healthier, and absolutely glowing!

Key Antioxidants: Resveratrol, niacinamide, superoxide dismutase, green tea, vitamin E. Key Benefits: Brightens, evens skin tone, hydrates, plumps skin. Skin Type: All except for very sensitive skin. Finish: Natural. Size: 1 oz.

10. Peter Thomas Roth Retinol Fusion PM Night Serum

Best Antioxidant Serum For Wrinkles

Peter Thomas Roth Retinol Fusion PM Night Serum - Best Antioxidant Serum For Aging Skin
Pros: Encapsulated retinol, fragrance-free, heavy-duty anti-aging serum
Cons: None

This is a retinol (vitamin A) serum. And this antioxidant is superior because retinol is one of the most effective ingredients to reverse visible signs of aging (11). It encourages skin turnover to reveal brighter, smoother skin. But that’s not it. Retinol is 1.5% and encapsulated to avoid irritating your skin. The night serum also has the antioxidants vitamin C, and E to ensure your skin is brighter than ever. So if you have mature or aging skin, and you need something stronger, this retinol serum brings the whole alphabet of antioxidants to retexturize your complexion. It comes at wrinkles, lines, and dark spots from all possible angles!

Key Antioxidants: Retinol, vitamins C and E. Key Benefits: Stimulates skin turnover, encourages collagen production, delivers antioxidants. Skin Type: All. Finish: Natural. Size: 1 oz.

11. The Ordinary Caffeine 5% + EGCG Depuffing Eye Serum

Best Antioxidant Serum For Eyes

The Ordinary Caffeine 5% + EGCG Depuffing Eye Serum - Best Antioxidant Eye Serum
Pros: Non-greasy texture, gentle antioxidant formula, oil-free
Cons: None

When you think about it, the under-eye area is the first place to show signs of aging. So it’s important to not neglect that area. This is an antioxidant eye serum but you’re free to use it all over the face. But here’s why your eye area needs it more. Caffeine is an antioxidant too (12). But it also reduces the visibility of dark circles under the eyes. And let me spell the EGCG out for you. It’s epigallocatechin gallate, the compound found in green tea. And there’s your second powerful antioxidant. Green tea is one of the gentlest antioxidants you can use in your skincare to prevent wrinkles, calm redness, brighten the skin, and reduce inflammation. The antioxidant serum is oil-free so you can comfortably use it as your face serum or just your eye serum.

The Ordinary Caffeine 5% + EGCG Depuffing Eye Serum - Best Antioxidant Eye Serum
The Ordinary Caffeine 5% + EGCG Eye Serum Image by Ejollify

Key Antioxidants: Caffeine, EGCG. Key Benefits: Reduces dark circles and discolorations, brightens, calms inflammation. Skin Type: All. Finish: Natural. Size: 1 oz.

12. Avene A-Oxitive Antioxidant Defense Serum

Best Drugstore Antioxidant Serum

Avene A-Oxitive Antioxidant Defense Serum - Best Drugstore Antioxidant Serum
Pros: Suitable for sensitive skin, encapsulated antioxidants
Cons: None

Avene is loved by dermatologists all over the world because it’s gentle, hypoallergenic, and suitable for people with sensitive skin. And this antioxidant serum is no exception. The unique formula contains encapsulated antioxidants vitamin C and E. So your antioxidants are released into the skin gradually and overtime for gentler, longer effects. Its texture is lotion-like too. It disappears into the skin but that increased moisture leaves a visible dew on your complexion.

Key Antioxidants: Vitamin C, vitamin E. Key Benefits: Improves skin texture and tone, hydrates. Skin Type: All. Finish: Subtly radiant. Size: 1 oz.

13. 100% Pure Multi-Vitamin + Antioxidants Potent PM Serum

Best Antioxidant Serum For PM Routine

100% Pure Multi-Vitamin + Antioxidants Potent PM Serum - Best Antioxidant Night Serum
Pros: Clean, non-toxic formula, pleasant smell, lotion-like texture
Cons: None

Assuming you get proper daily beauty sleep, a rich antioxidant night serum is your best friend. And this one has all the right goodies to replenish your skin’s antioxidants, hydration, and overall glow. Whatever your skin needs, this has it! Just like most of their products, this serum is an antioxidant medley too! You get 10% vitamin C, 10% vitamin E, 10% niacinamide, 1% retinol as well as coenzymeQ10 and natural superfoods with skin benefits. The pH of the formula is 6, which allows for skin-friendly absorption rather than an irritating one. Whether you’re dealing with fine lines, hyperpigmentation, dullness, scarring, or loss of elasticity, this one is going to help.

Key Antioxidants: Vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin B3, retinol, coenzymeQ10. Key Benefits: Renews skin with high-strength antioxidants, brightens, softens wrinkles and discolorations. Skin Type: All. Finish: Natural. Size: 1 oz.

So these are some of the best antioxidant serums you can use to target multiple signs of aging. I’ve been writing about skincare for over 3 years now. And I practically wrote about every single one of these science-backed antioxidants I mentioned above. So I know my antioxidants! And trust me when I say that antioxidant serums deserve your attention if you want youthful, healthy, and glowing skin.

Final Verdict

I think Caudalie Resveratrol Lift Instant Firming Serum is the best antioxidant serum because it’s non-irritating, oil-free, gives instant and long-term results, and is suitable for all skin types. Every single person I recommended it to loved it. If you can splurge on a vitamin C serum, SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic reigns supreme because it targets most signs of aging with an effective formula. An alternative to that would be Avene A-Oxitive Antioxidant Defense Serum because it’s suitable for all skin types, and super hydrating and brightening for the skin.

Tips on How To Use Antioxidant Serums

When to Use an Antioxidant Serum

You can use your antioxidant serum both in the morning and in the evening. But remember to read the product instructions because some are suggested for PM routine.

How to Apply an Antioxidant Serum

Use your antioxidant serum on your clean skin after you apply your toners and essences. Because serums are lightweight products and they should be applied before thicker products like creams. You only need 3 drops of your serum to cover your entire face. Instead of spreading the product, get a few drops into the palm of your hands and gently press it onto your skin. Remember to top it off with a moisturizer suitable for your skin type. And finish with SPF for daytime use.

How to Layer Antioxidant Serums

You can layer your antioxidant serum with pretty much any other product. Most antioxidant serums are gentle on the skin. But there are exceptions. As a rule of thumb, any ingredient that’s potentially irritating on its own is going to irritate more when combined with a similar ingredient. So, avoid layering your vitamin C serum or your vitamin A (retinol) serum with other products that contain the same ingredients or exfoliants.

References:

  1. Addor F. (2017). Antioxidants in dermatology. Anais brasileiros de dermatologia92(3), 356–362. https://doi.org/10.1590/abd1806-4841.20175697
  2. Oresajo, C., Pillai, S., Manco, M., Yatskayer, M. and McDaniel, D. (2012), Antioxidant formulations and efficacy tests. Dermatol Ther, 25: 252-259. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1529-8019.2012.01505.x
  3. Michalak M. (2022). Plant-Derived Antioxidants: Significance in Skin Health and the Ageing Process. International journal of molecular sciences23(2), 585. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms23020585
  4. Telang P. S. (2013). Vitamin C in dermatology. Indian dermatology online journal4(2), 143–146. https://doi.org/10.4103/2229-5178.110593
  5. Boo Y. C. (2019). Human Skin Lightening Efficacy of Resveratrol and Its Analogs: From in Vitro Studies to Cosmetic Applications. Antioxidants (Basel, Switzerland)8(9), 332. https://doi.org/10.3390/antiox8090332
  6. Zielinski, J. (2004, January 13). Stabilized ascorbic acid compositions and methods therefor. Google Patents. Retrieved May 30, 2022, from https://patents.google.com/patent/US20050154054A1/en
  7. Arif T. (2015). Salicylic acid as a peeling agent: a comprehensive review. Clinical, cosmetic and investigational dermatology8, 455–461. https://doi.org/10.2147/CCID.S84765
  8. Gupta, M., Mahajan, V. K., Mehta, K. S., & Chauhan, P. S. (2014). Zinc therapy in dermatology: a review. Dermatology research and practice2014, 709152. https://doi.org/10.1155/2014/709152
  9. Guéniche, A., Bastien, P., Ovigne, J.M., Kermici, M., Courchay, G., Chevalier, .V., Breton, L. and Castiel-Higounenc, I. (2010), Bifidobacterium longum lysate, a new ingredient for reactive skin. Experimental Dermatology, 19: e1-e8. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1600-0625.2009.00932.x
  10. Lods, L. M., Dres, C., Johnson, C., Scholz, D. B., & Brooks, G. J. (2000). The future of enzymes in cosmetics. International journal of cosmetic science22(2), 85–94. https://doi.org/10.1046/j.1467-2494.2000.00012.x
  11. Zasada, M., & Budzisz, E. (2019). Retinoids: active molecules influencing skin structure formation in cosmetic and dermatological treatments. Postepy dermatologii i alergologii36(4), 392–397. https://doi.org/10.5114/ada.2019.87443
  12. Herman, A., & Herman, A. P. (2013). Caffeine’s mechanisms of action and its cosmetic use. Skin pharmacology and physiology26(1), 8–14. https://doi.org/10.1159/000343174
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