In case you haven’t noticed, active ingredients sprang out of face serums and wormed their way into our cleansers! Before, active ingredients like vitamin C would only come in a fancy face serum. Today, we have vitamin C cleansers! But it all makes sense because incorporating one active ingredient into several skincare products makes your routine more targeted. That’s why vitamin C cleansers can seriously enhance your skincare routine.
Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is a widely-researched antioxidant used in skincare (1). And it’s proven to be helpful in neutralizing free radicals to reduce hyperpigmentation and signs of aging. It also stimulates collagen production, brightens skin, and reduces skin discolorations (2).
So it’s the perfect ingredient that fits into any anti-aging, anti-acne, or anti-pigmentation routine. That’s why we have vitamin C creams, serums, toners, and now, cleansers. But how would that work, exactly?
Is Vitamin C Effective in a Cleanser?
We’ve established that topical vitamin C helps with signs of aging and hyperpigmentation. But a face wash/cleanser is a rinse-off product.
For that reason, a vitamin C cleanser won’t be as effective as a leave-on vitamin C face serum. But that doesn’t make it useless in a cleanser. It can seriously amplify the benefits of your other products.
For example, if you want to hydrate your skin, you don’t grab a hyaluronic acid cleanser. You grab a hyaluronic acid serum, and then a hyaluronic acid cleanser. Your cleanser will prevent dehydration and support your serum.
Similarly, using a vitamin C cleanser will make your routine, whichever it is, more potent. You’ll be able to better target dark spots, dullness, wrinkles, and acne. So it’s more about collective results rather than relying on one single product.
How to Choose a Vitamin C Cleanser
While choosing your vitamin C cleanser, you should keep your skin type, and skin concerns in mind and look for the right type of vitamin C. Keep reading to learn more.
Your Skin Concerns
Most vitamin C face washes and facial cleansers are formulated for targeting hyperpigmentation. If your major skin concern is hyperpigmentation, dark spots, or acne scars, look for other brighteners in your cleanser. For example, niacinamide, and licorice extract are also helpful in reducing discolorations.
If your major concern is wrinkles or signs of aging, look for other potent anti-agers in your cleanser. For example, green tea, and vitamin E will make your vitamin C cleanser more potent and more effective in softening and minimizing wrinkles.
Your Skin Type
At the end of the day, this is a facial cleanser you’re going to use twice daily. So it has to be suitable for your skin type. Gel-based cleansers usually work for most skin types whereas creamy cleansers tend to work better for people with dry skin. Foaming, lathering cleansers are better for people with oily and acne-prone skin.
Type of Vitamin C
As vitamin C is difficult to stabilize, cleansers usually utilize vitamin C derivatives instead of pure ascorbic acid. Some of the names you’ll see are sodium ascorbyl phosphate or ascorbyl palmitate. This doesn’t reduce the potency, but it ensures your products don’t oxidize and lose efficiency.
But also, vitamin C derivatives are gentler than pure ascorbic acid. So if you have sensitive skin, go for vitamin C cleansers made with vitamin C derivatives to avoid irritation. Remember, only l-ascorbic acid or ascorbic acid is the pure form of vitamin C.
The Best Vitamin C Cleansers
Whether you want to tackle pigmentation, aging, or acne, below are the best vitamin C cleansers and face washes. Enjoy!
This is an antioxidant-packed cleanser! The formula contains vitamin C in addition to vitamins E and A to amplify the effects. The combo is great for addressing free radical damage. Soothing allantoin and vitamin B5 are added into the mix to avoid irritation too. The gel cleanser removes makeup and dirt and helps to fade away dark spots with every wash. Murad also has a vitamin C toner you can pair with your cleanser for a potent anti-pigmentation routine.
Type of Vitamin C: Ascorbic acid, ascorbyl palmitate Other Ingredients: Vitamin B5, vitamin E, vitamin A Benefits: Brightens, reduces hyperpigmentation, softens wrinkles Skin Type: Dry, combination, oily Size: 6.75 oz
In addition to vitamin C, this gel cleanser also has vitamin-rich botanicals to detoxify the skin while infusing it with antioxidants. It’s brimming with leafy green extracts, which alone are all antioxidant powerhouses to help neutralize free radical damage on the skin. The formula is gentle, vegan, alcohol-free, and one of the best vitamin C cleansers any skin type can use. And it doesn’t strip the skin. On the contrary, it leaves it super soft and radiant. I have rosacea and my skin loves it!
Type of Vitamin C: Tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate Other Ingredients: Green tea, vitamin E, vitamin B5, aloe Benefits: Fades dark spots, evens skin tone, reduces signs of aging Skin Type: All Size: 8 oz
Powder cleansers are the most potent form of cleansing in terms of texture. They are as purifying as it gets because of the fewer additives. These are single-use vitamin C powder cleansers. The powder form makes it easier to accommodate pure vitamin C without sacrificing stability. This means that you get the most benefits! The powder foams up and removes any trace of makeup and dirt from the skin. If you have oily/combination skin, you’re going to love this type of cleansing.
Type of Vitamin C: Ascorbic acid Other Ingredients: N/A Benefits: Fades stubborn marks and dark spots, brightens Skin Type: All Size: 28 counts of single-use packets
This is an amazing anti-aging cleanser and the formula is clean as a whistle! No fragrance, no SLS -nothing to irritate or dry the skin! It’s a foaming cleanser with a gel texture. And just like the rest of the collection, it’s powered by vitamin C and Kakadu plum extract. Kakadu plum is chock full of vitamin C as well. Moreover, the cleanser also contains gentle alpha-hydroxy acids like lactic and malic. These give you chemical exfoliation and remove dead skin cells. As a result, you get smoother, brighter, and clear skin.
Type of Vitamin C: Magnesium ascorbyl phosphate Other Ingredients: Lactic acid, malic acid, vitamin E, Kakadu plum Benefits: Exfoliates, reduces signs of aging Skin Type: All Size: 7.1 oz
Similarly, this one is also made with vitamin C as well as exfoliants. While vitamin C brightens the skin, the two AHAs, glycolic and lactic, exfoliate the skin and increase radiance. With lactic acid’s additional hydrating benefits, the daily face wash doesn’t leave the skin dry or tight. You can completely remove any makeup and dirt while improving your skin tone for a brighter look.
Type of Vitamin C: Ethyl ascorbic acid Other Ingredients: Glycolic acid, lactic acid Benefits: Exfoliates, smooths, minimizes discolorations Skin Type: Normal, combination, oily Size: 135 ml
Vitamin C cleansers are not just for your face. They’re for your body as well. This is a vitamin C body scrub and it’s as nourishing as a facial cleansing balm. The sugar scrub exfoliates the body and removes dead skin flakes. The super emollient base moisturizes with shea butter. It smooths your skin with physical exfoliation, nourishes it with rich oils, and reduces dark spots and acne marks with vitamin C.
Type of Vitamin C: Ascorbyl palmitate Other Ingredients: Sunflower seed oil, shea oil Benefits: Provides physical exfoliation for body skin, brightens Skin Type: All Size: 6 oz
This has such a skin-hugging base that it turns cleansing into literal skincare. It replenishes with aloe and coconut water and wards off free radicals with its rich formula. In addition to vitamin C, the cleanser has green tea extract for its powerful antioxidant benefits. It’s in gel form and it lightly foams up. Plus, it also soothes the skin with Centella Asiatica and chamomile to avoid disrupting the skin barrier during cleansing.
Type of Vitamin C: Sodium ascorbyl phosphate Other Ingredients: Green tea, aloe, Centella Asiatica Benefits: Reduces dark spots and signs of aging Skin Type: All Size: 6.7 oz
This one is a unique vitamin C face wash. It’s a charcoal cleanser and it feels like a warming charcoal face mask on the skin at first. It comes out black but lathers up into a light foam. Obviously, the charcoal aspect of it makes this one an amazing vitamin C cleanser for oily skin. Because it absorbs oil on the skin and leaves your complexion matte and shine-free. While vitamin C reduces hyperpigmentation, glycolic acid exfoliates the skin and reduces acne.
Type of Vitamin C: Ascorbyl glucoside Other Ingredients: Charcoal powder, licorice extract, glycolic acid Benefits: Exfoliates, decongests, brightens Skin Type: Combination, oily, acne-prone Size: 5 oz
Micellar cleansers are great for people who don’t wear heavy makeup. As they’re usually no-rinse cleansers, it means that you get the most benefits out of the ingredients as well. But they’re also great as step 1 one of a double cleansing routine. This micellar water cleans your skin and brightens it as well. The Korean cleanser contains vitamin C as well as vitamin B3, aka niacinamide, for its brightening benefits. It also has acerola cherry, which is rich in vitamin C too. The gentle water also hydrates and soothes the skin with vitamin B5.
Type of Vitamin C: 3-O-ethyl ascorbic acid Other Ingredients: Niacinamide, vitamin B5, acerola cherry Benefits: Removes makeup while supporting skin barrier, brightens Skin Type: All Size: 10.1 oz
If you’re familiar with their vitamin C serum, then you’re going to love their cleanser as well. The foaming face wash has vitamins C and E to brighten the skin and provide antioxidant benefits. It also has tea tree oil to reduce acne-causing bacteria and inflammation. Plus, it has olive oil to replenish and aloe to calm the skin. It’s also affordable and the best drugstore vitamin C cleanser for smoother and brighter skin.
Type of Vitamin C: Sodium ascorbyl phosphate Other Ingredients: Vitamin E, olive oil, rosehip seed oil Benefits: Rejuvenates with antioxidants, nourishes with botanicals, minimizes signs of aging Skin Type: All Size: 5 oz
So these are some of the best vitamin C cleansers and face washes on the market. My overall recommendation is Youth To The People’s Superfood Cleanser because of the additional antioxidants. It’s also an effective cleanser that leaves the skin pure, and clean, but never dry. Plus, it’s suitable for all skin types including sensitive skin.
Read Next: The Best Cleansers To Use With Retinol
- Al-Niaimi, F., & Chiang, N. (2017). Topical Vitamin C and the Skin: Mechanisms of Action and Clinical Applications. The Journal of clinical and aesthetic dermatology, 10(7), 14–17.
- Telang P. S. (2013). Vitamin C in dermatology. Indian dermatology online journal, 4(2), 143–146. https://doi.org/10.4103/2229-5178.110593