5 best antioxidant serums

What are the best antioxidant serums? You better know because your skin is under attack. Every single day. UV rays, pollution, a poor diet and smoking all send their armies of free radicals to wreak havoc on your skin and give you wrinkles and dark spots. How can you defend yourself against them?

Antioxidants. These little soldiers incessantly patrol your body every day looking for free radicals to destroy. But which one to choose? You’ve probably heard that vitamin C + vitamin E + ferulic acid (CEF) is the way to go. I totally agree with that. That’s an essential weapon in any anti-aging arsenal. But, on its own, it’s not enough. The sad truth is that every antioxidant can kill only one or two types of free radicals (ferulic acid kills three because it’s awesome like that).

So, the more antioxidants you add into your skincare routine, the  better. But, just to be clear, you don’t need to get all your antioxidants fix from one serum. If you want to keep your routine short, you can pick a hydrating serum and supplement with a moisturiser or toner full of antioxidants.

I love serums. They contain a higher concentration of antioxidants so they work better and faster. That’ why I’m dedicating this entire post to them. Without further ado, here are my fave antioxidant serums:

How Do Antioxidants Work?

Let me tell you about free radicals first. They’re highly unstable molecules caused by unprotected sun exposure, an unhealthy diet, smoking, pollution, and even metabolic processes like breathing. These processes damage molecules, making them lose one of their electron. A molecule with a missing electron turns into a free radical.

Free radicals want to be whole again, so they attack healthy molecules to get one of their electrons. The robbed molecule is now a free radicals. It’s the start of a chain reaction that leads to wrinkled, dark spots, and saggy skin. How do you stop this damage from happening in the first place?

That’s where antioxidants come in. Think of them as your skin’s police. They patrol your body looking for free radicals. Once they spot one, they destroy it before it can wreak its damage They do this in one of two ways:

  • Chain-breakers: These antioxidant break the free radical chain after it’s started. Examples include vitamins C and E.
  • Chain-neutralizers: These antioxidants neutralize the initiating free radicals, slowing down or even preventing the chain reaction. Examples include Superoxide Dismutase.

What To Look For In An Antioxidant Serum?

Here are the most common antioxidants found in skincare products that help you fight free radicals, prevent wrinkles, and keep your skin looking younger for longer:

  • Coenzyme Q10: Also known as Ubiquinone, it’s an antioxidant present in all human cells. It helps fight free radicals, stimulate the production of collagen and reduce UV damage.
  • Ferulic Acid: A plant-based antioxidant naturally present in the cell walls of whole grains, spinach, orange, apples, and other vegs and fruits. It fights three types of free radicals (superoxide, hydroxyl radical, and nitric oxide) and boosts sun protection.
  • Green Tea: It’s loaded with polyphenols, a group of antioxidants with anti-inflammatory properties that fight free radicals, soothe inflammation, protect skin from the harmful sun rays. Epigallocatechin-3-gallate, the most powerful antioxidant in green tea, reduces collagen breakdown, too.
  • Resveratrol: An antioxidant found in grapes and wine, it fights the free radicals that cause premature wrinkles, helps prevent UVB-induced damage, and has anti-inflammatory properties that soothe irritations and inflammation.
  • Superoxide Dismutase (SOD): An enzyme found in all living cells, it can destroy the worst type of free radical ever, Super Oxide. It also reduces UV damage and soothes sunburn-induced redness.
  • Vitamin A: Retinol, retinaldehyde and granactive retinoid are all forms of this antioxidant. They reduce wrinkles in three ways: it speeds up cellular turnover (the skin’s natural exfoliating process) and boosts collagen.
  • Vitamin C: A water soluble vitamin that comes in many forms, including L-Ascorbic Acid, Ascorbic Palmitate, Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Sodium ascorbyl Phosphate and Ascorbyl Glucoside. It fights free radicals, increases the production of collagen, reduces inflammation, and boosts the protection of your sunscreen (it does this better when paired with Vitamin E and Ferulic Acid).
  • Vitamin E: A fat soluble vitamin that comes in many forms, including Alpha-Tocopherol and tocotrienols. It fights free radicals and boosts sun protection (it does this better when paired with Vitamin C and Ferulic Acid).


What can antioxidant serums do?

Antioxidants can prevent wrinkles and sagging skin.Some antioxidants also have anti-inflammatory properties that can reduce inflammation, one of the main causes or premature aging.

What can’t antioxidants do?

With the exception of retinol, antioxidants can’t reduce the wrinkles you already have.

Who should use an antioxidant serum?

Anyone who is older than 25 and wants to prevent premature aging.

Who should NOT use an antioxidant serum?

If you’re younger than 25, you don’t need an antioxidant serum. You may still use one, but I don’t personally believe in spending money on things you don’t need yet – especially if you already follow a healthy diet.

Can I use an antioxidant serum if I have sensitive skin?

Yes, you can use antioxidant serums if you have sensitive skin. You just need to opt for lower doses. For example, 15% L-Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C) is often irritating for sensitive skin, but 10% or lower is fine. Same with ferulic acid. 3% may be too high for your skin type, but lower concentrations give you results without irritations.

How often should you use an antioxidant serums?

Unless your skin is very sensitive, you can use an antioxidant serum every single day.

How do you use an antioxidant serum?

On clean skin, right after cleansing and exfoliation, but before hydrating serums with hyaluronic acid/niacinamide and moisturisers. Dr. Kellie Reed, a board-certified dermatologist in Austin, Texas, says that “it is ideal to use antioxidants in the morning so they can help to neutralize free radicals before sun damage occurs.”

What antioxidants should you NOT use together?

Using retinol and Vitamin C (in the form of L-Ascorbic Acid) together can be too irritating for skin. For best results, use a Vitamin C serum every morning and a retinol serum every other night.

How should antioxidant serums be packaged?

Antioxidants spoil and slowly lose effectiveness when exposed to light and air. Choose serums that are packaged in opaque, air-tight containers that keep the antioxidant inside safe from their “enemies”. I don’t recommend jars, unless they’re airless jars (you need to press down the lid to dispense the product instead of opening up the jar).

Save or splurge?

While The Ordinary has proved you don’t need to spend a fortune on an antioxidant serum, this is one product it’s worth investing in. Each antioxidant only fights one or two types of free radicals, so the more antioxidants your serum contains, the better for your skin. For this reason, I recommend splurging on products that contain a mix of antioxidants instead of relying on a serum with only one antioxidant – no matter how powerful that antioxidant is.

What is the best antioxidant?

There is no best antioxidant. Every brand wants to make you believe the antioxidant they use is the best. Truth is, every antioxidant destroys only one or two types of free radicals. The more antioxidants you use together, the better. Having said that, I’m partial to 15% L-Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C) + 1% Vitamin E + 0.5% ferulic acid in the morning as this combination is proven to fight free radicals and boost sun protection.

What Are The Best Antioxidant Serums?

Best Antioxidant Serum For Sun Protection: Skinceuticals CE Ferulic ($169.00)

Skinceuticals CE Ferulic is one of the few outrageously expensive skincare products I’m happy to splurge on. It was the first serum to come out with CEF: it has  15% L-Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), 1% Alpha-Tocopherol (Vitamin E) and Ferulic Acid. They’re all powerful antioxidants on their own but together, they’re unstoppable. Studies show they boost collagen productionfight free radicals, and enhance the sun protection of your sunscreen when layered underneath it. Vitamin C also goes the extra mile: it brightens the complexion and helps to fade away dark spots. If you’re serious about preventing wrinkles, a CEF serum like this is a must in your skincare routine.

Available at: Dermstore, Look Fantastic and Skinceuticals.

  • Active Ingredients: 15% Vitamin C (L-Ascorbic Acid), 1% Vitamin E, 0.5% Ferulic Acid.
  • Benefits: Fights free radicals, boosts collagen, fades dark spots, and enhances sun protection.
  • Cons: Expensive. 15% Vitamin C can irritate sensitive skin.
  • Skin type: All skin types bar sensitive.
  • Cruelty-free: No (but the dupes below are).

Dupes & Alternatives:

Related: Skinceuticals CE Ferulic Dupe 1 and Skinceuticals CE Ferulic Dupe 2

Best Antioxidant Serum For Oily Skin: Paula’s Choice Skin Balancing Super Antioxidant Concentrate Serum With Retinol ($39.00)

With its lightweight, non-greasy texture, Paula’s Choice Skin Balancing Super Antioxidant Concentrate Serum With Retinol is ideal for oily and combo skin.  Plus, it’s loaded with antioxidants to the brim: it has tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate (a form of Vitamin C that penetrates skin more deeply than L-Ascorbic Acid – the one in Skinceuticals) , vitamin E, green tea and grape seed extract (to name a few!). But the star ingredient is Retinol, a form of Vitamin A that fights free radicals, boosts collagen production, and fades away dark spots. For best results, use it every other night, alternating it with exfoliation.

Available at: Paula’s Choice

  • Active Ingredients: Retinol, Vitamin E, Vitamin C, Green tea & more antioxidants.
  • Benefits: Fights free radicals, boosts collagen, fades dark spots.
  • Cons: Retinol can irritate and dry out sensitive skin.
  • Skin type: Oily and acne-prone skin.
  • Cruelty-free: Yes.

Related: Is Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate The Best Form Of Vitamin C?

Best Antioxidant Serum For Dry Skin: Paula’s Choice Skin Recovery Super Antioxidant Concentrate Serum With Retinol ($39.00)

The formula is similar to that of the Skin Balancing Super Antioxidant Concentrate Serum, so I’ll be brief. Paula’s Choice Skin Recovery Super Antioxidant Concentrate Serum With Retinol is just as loaded with antioxidants BUT it has less retinol and MORE soothing ingredients to calm down redness and irritation. With these little tweaks, Paula’s Choice has created a formula that’s as beneficial but less irritating – in other words, it’s perfect for dry skin. For best results, use it every other night, alternating it with exfoliation.

Available at: Paula’s Choice

  • Active Ingredients: Retinol, Vitamin E, Vitamin C, Green tea & more antioxidants.
  • Benefits: Fights free radicals, boosts collagen, fades dark spots.
  • Cons: Retinol can irritate and dry out sensitive skin.
  • Skin type: Dry skin.
  • Cruelty-free: Yes.

Related: The Complete Guide To Retinol: What It Is, What It Does And How To Use It

Best Antioxidant Serum To Use As A Supplement: The Ordinary EUK 134 0.1% (£6.90)

The Ordinary EUK 134 0.1% is an anomaly. It has only ONE antioxidant. But that tiny little molecule packs a punch. EUK 134 is a mimetic of Superoxide Dismutase and Catalase, a fancy way to call an antioxidants that destroys Hydrogen Peroxide (the worst type of free radical). Plus, it’s self-regenerating. While other antioxidants die after destroying a free radical, EUK 134 survives to destroy more little buggers. The problem? Very few antioxidant serums use it. That’s why I recommend you supplement one of the antioxidants serum above with this (just don’t use it with Vitamin C – that completely destroys it!).

Available at: Beauty Bay, Boots, Cult Beauty, Sephora, SpaceNK, and The Ordinary

  • Active Ingredients: EUK.
  • Benefits: Fights the worst type of free radical (Hydrogen Peroxide).
  • Cons: Only contains one antioxidant.
  • Skin type: All skin types.
  • Cruelty-free: Yes.

Related: Is Superoxide Dismutase The Most Powerful Antioxidant Of Them All?

Best Antioxidant Serum For Sensitive Skin: Paula’s Choice Resist Super Antioxidant Concentrate ($43.00)

15% Vitamin C (in the form of L-Ascorbic Acid) is often too irritating for sensitive skin. If that’s you, try this serum. It has a derivative of Vitamin C, Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate, that penetrates deeper into the skin to fight free radicals. Although it’s less effective than L-Ascorbic Acid, it’s gentler and still gives you great results, especially when paired with Vitamin E and ferulic acid (they’re here too!). Plus, a gazillion other antioxidants to destroy as many free radicals as possible and slow down premature aging. Who said skincare needs to be harsh to deliver results?

Available at: Paula’s Choice and Sephora

  • Active Ingredients: Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate (Vitamin C), Vitamin E, Ferulic Acid, and many other antioxidants.
  • Benefits: Fights free radicals.
  • Cons: Less effective than other forms of Vitamin C.
  • Skin type: Sensitive skin.
  • Cruelty-free: Yes.

Best Antioxidant Serum To Use With Vitamin C: The Ordinary Resveratrol 3% + Ferulic Acid 3% ($10.00)

The science is clear: Vitamin C serums work best when paired with Vitamin E and Ferulic Acid. Yet, most Vitamin C serums don’t have a drop of Ferulic Acid in them. What’s a girl to do? If you’ve found a great formula and don’t want to give it up, supplement it with The Ordinary Resveratrol 3% + Ferulic Acid 3%. It has an oily texture you can layer on top of your Vitamin C serum to help it fight free radicals and boost sun protection. Plus, it has a generous dose of Resveratrol, another powerful antioxidants rarely found in skincare products.

Available at: Beauty BayBootsCult BeautySephoraThe Ordinary, and Ulta

  • Active Ingredients: Ferulic Acid and Resveratrol.
  • Benefits: Fights free radicals and boost sun protection.
  • Cons: Only two antioxidants.
  • Skin type: All skin types can use it, but it’s best suitable for dry skin.
  • Cruelty-free: Yes.

Best Hydrating Antioxidant Serum: Mad Hippie Hydrating Nutrient Mist ($19.99)

Technically speaking, Mad Hippie Hydrating Nutrient Mist is a mist, not a serum. But it’s so good, it deserves a place in this list. It’s loaded with antioxidants that aren’t used as often in skincare, including white tea and resveratrol, to fight the free radicals that cause premature aging. Plus, hyaluronic acid and glycerin to deeply hydrate your skin and leave it soft and plump. Just spray it on your face right after cleansing in the morning to get your antioxidant fix for the day.

Available at: iHerb and Ulta

  • Active Ingredients: White tea, resveratrol, green tea, hyaluronic acid.
  • Benefits: Fights free radicals and boost sun protection.
  • Cons: Runny texture.
  • Skin type: All skin types can use it, but it’s best suitable for dry skin.
  • Cruelty-free: Yes.

Final Verdict

I recommend everyone use a CEF (15% Vitamin C, 1% Vitamin E, and 0.5% Ferulic acid serum) in the morning to boost sun protection. Plus, one more antioxidant serum, with or without retinol in the evening to further prevent the premature formulation of wrinkles. Which product to go for depends on your skin type and what other antioxidants are missing from your skincare routine.