Vitamin C has long been lauded as a multipurpose skin-enhancing antioxidant with a solid reputation for being one of the top free-radical protectors and anti-agers, as well as a slew of other benefits that we’ll get into a bit later. Frankly, it really is just one of the most effective actives you can use to improve your skin, whether you’re looking to fade dark spots and hyperpigmentation, restore elasticity, soften the look of fine lines, and crow’s feet, or simply brighten up a lackluster complexion. Best of all, not only does Vitamin C serums help reverse the signs of aging, but it also functions as a barrier, shielding the skin from free radical damage due to environmental aggressors like pollution and UV rays from the sun.

Unfortunately, despite its unrivaled benefits, vitamin C also happens to be a little bit high maintenance. It’s notoriously difficult to stabilize and can be impacted a wide range of variables that can render your serum virtually useless without even knowing it. Because of its less-than-stellar shelf life, many Vitamin C products are suspended in silicone bases, which is a common culprit for triggering breakouts and clogged pores. Fortunately, there are plenty of formulas capable of brightening, smoothing, and fading, but are a bit more foolproof than their conventional counterparts. Check out some of our favorite (relatively stable) formulas below.