The Best Vitamin C Serum For Your Skin

Not all vitamin C serums are created equal.  There are different forms of topical vitamin C and a lot of ambiguous information out there.   So, what is the best vitamin C serum for your skin?  I’ve invested a lot of time researching this topic and speaking to different product manufacturers.  I will share what my research has uncovered and what products I’ve discovered as the best to incorporate a vitamin C serum into your skin care routine.

Best vitamin C serum ascorbic acid

If you are using a vitamin C serum today and it does nothing for your skin, the formula may not be effective or stable.  As a result, you aren’t reaping the benefits vitamin C has to offer.  Many vitamin C products (Ok, let’s just be frank here – all the vitamin C products) promise to yield more radiant and even-toned skin.  The problem is many formulations are flawed and consumers are unaware.  You may not only find products are ineffective but due to challenges with stabilizing the active component of vitamin C, l-ascorbic acid,  products could be harmful to your skin if a certain stage of oxidation sets in.  It’s a frustrating thought that a product promising so much could be poorly formulated and irritate your skin or become something toxic to you.   Plus, you’ve wasted money!   However,  with the right product and diligent care in how you handle it, using a vitamin C serum can be a serious game changer.

What does topical Vitamin C Serum do for your skin?

Best Vitamin C serums

Vitamin C is naturally occurring in the skin of humans and there is clear information available from many sources that explains the role of this chemical in our bodies.  Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant which helps prevent damage to your skin.   There is also evidence that vitamin C plays a role in collagen production.  Topical vitamin C is believed to help heal acne, prevent age spots, and decrease moisture loss.  It also helps protect against UV radiation but it is not a sunscreen and shouldn’t be substituted for one.

Vitamin C regulates the synthesis of collagen and it does this by hydroxylating collagen which makes it more stable and improves the way it supports the epidermis.  Ok, let’s simplify that one!  Think of it as a substance that attaches itself to collagen to reduce damage and make it stronger.  This allows the collagen to better support skin which means less wrinkles.  Vitamin C is also known to even out the skin tone by reducing the production and oxidation of melanin.  This is not all that vitamin C is known to do within our body but a good enough overview to know what to expect from using it and how powerful it is.

In general, vitamin C is believed to keep your skin looking younger for longer.  In my experience, vitamin C has led to a more even skin tone and increased radiance.  Results have been dramatic since I began using a top quality C serum and I will never go a day without it.  You can read more about my experience when I started using vitamin C here.

Different forms of vitamin C in skin care

There are seven or eight different forms of vitamin C used in skin products.  It’s important you know which type is in a product in order to evaluate the efficacy of the product.  The active form of vitamin C is l-ascorbic acid.  The important thing to note here is l-ascorbic acid is not a derivative of Vitamin C.  It is the pure form and I’m just going to refer to it as ascorbic acid going forward.  All the other forms of vitamin C used in skin care are derivatives of the pure form and there’s nothing wrong with that.

I have chosen a vitamin C serum with ascorbic acid because this is the substance that has been studied the most.  Could a derivative prove to be better at some point in time?  Sure, but there isn’t strong enough evidence today to convince me that this is the case.  There are quite a few products on the market that I have using derivatives of vitamin C that I believe are beneficial to my skin.  However, I don’t believe they perform better than serums with ascorbic acid.  Many years of research have gone into the use of ascorbic acid in skin care.  We can be 100% confident of the variables that result in the best absorption, stability, and efficacy.  Any derivative of vitamin C must be converted on your skin to ascorbic acid to be absorbed.  Also, not all vitamin C derivatives have been proven to yield the same results as ascorbic acid.  So, which product is best and what sacrifices are made when choosing one over another?  I don’t know there is a definitive answer to that question.  Therefore, I stick with the ascorbic acid which is proven to deliver the maximum benefits.

Every company will tout their formula is the best and refrain from sharing weaknesses within their formulations.  Claims are made about vitamin C derivatives that simply don’t have enough scientific evidence to back them up.  What may lead to a less effective product varies depending on the form of vitamin C being used.  Many variables come into play during the manufacturing process, how it is packaged, carrier agents, exposure to light, additional ingredients added, how it is stored, and how you consume it.  All these things affect the performance of the product.  Ascorbic acid is very difficult to keep stable.    Products with the pure form of vitamin C will have ascorbic acid or l-ascorbic acid on the label.

What is scientifically proven to result in the best performance of a serum with ascorbic acid?

If you have been using a C serum and not seeing results, it likely because the product doesn’t have an effective delivery system (various additives used to ensure your skin can absorb it) and/or the pH level is too high.  A formula must contain a certain amount of ascorbic acid to be effective.  That is documented as 10% – 20%.  Another factor that must be considered is the ph level of the formula.  For ascorbic acid to be absorbed, the ph level must be less than 3.5 and in a water based solution (or a crystallized form that we rarely see).  If the pH is higher than 3.5, your skin cannot absorb the Vitamin C.

Many serums on the shelves have a pH level that is too high rendering them ineffective.  Manufacturers also add coloring to hide potential oxidation.  Different forms of vitamin C have optimal pH ranges.  With ascorbic acid to be effective, the ph range must be between 2.0 – 3.5.  A product with a pH of 3.0 vs 3.4 makes a significant difference in how well it can perform.  Once you exceed 3.5, your skin cannot absorb the ascorbic acid.

Scientists are actively working to create derivatives of ascorbic acid that are stable and  confirmed to deliver all the benefits of the pure form.  We aren’t going to get into the discussion of all the different derivatives here but rather focus on the most stable and effective serums using the pure form of vitamin C with no color or fragrance additives.   What I’ve found is many companies will not share the pH level of their product and that’s a red flag.  If they have managed to produce a vitamin C serum using ascorbic acid at a pH level low enough to be effective, they are going to share that information.  When I’ve reached out to companies, I am often told the information is not available.  Without that information, you don’t know what you are getting.  That’s when I cross the product off my list.

Tips to ensure stability of your serum when you get it home

  • Minimize the amount of time you allow your serum to be exposed to air.  If it has a  dropper, put it back in the jar as quickly as possible and keep the lid tight.
  • Use the product within 6 months of opening it.
  • Refrigeration is not necessary and those I have spoken to do not recommend it.
  • Store the product in a cool, dark place.  Do not leave it on a vanity allowing light exposure.
  • As batches are produced, the color may vary from clear to pale amber.  A pale amber serum doesn’t mean it has oxidized.  However, check with the company if you are concerned about the color.
  • Call the companies if you have questions about using your product in combination with others from different product lines.  Some products have ingredients that are not compatible with ascorbic acid and you could be losing efficacy.  Go to the source for information.  These companies have customer service teams with product experts who can answer very specific questions.

The best vitamin C serums

#1  SkinCeuticals – C E Ferulic Serum                                                                        The gold standard vitamin C serum with ascorbic acid

SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic Best Vitamin C serum

Ingredients:  aqua / water / eau, ethoxydiglycol, ascorbic acid, glycerin, propylene glycol, laureth-23, phenoxyethanol, tocopherol (Vitamin E), triethanolamine, ferulic acid, panthenol, sodium hyaluronate

At this time,  SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic (serum) is the best product on the market.  It comes with a higher price of approximately $160 / fluid ounce but is well worth it.  C E Ferulic is a vitamin C serum formulated under the Duke Antioxidant patent.  The Duke Antioxidant patent describes effective delivery of vitamin C to skin and protects the formulation used in SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic.  C E Ferulic features a combination of 15% pure vitamin C (L-ascorbic acid), 1% vitamin E (alpha tocopherol), and 0.5% ferulic acid.  The remainder of the ingredients are primarily carrier agents that ensure the antioxidants can be absorbed by your skin.

The Duke Antioxidant patent was the brilliant work of Dr. Sheldon R. Pinnell, the founding scientist of SkinCeuticals.  He was a distinguished scholar and expert of antioxidant use in skin care.  A total of ten patents were obtained by Dr. Pinnell over the years that protect formulations in SkinCeuticals antioxidant products.  SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic serum has pH between 2.5 – 3.0 and  typically comes in on the lower end.  Each batch produced can vary slightly but they can produce the product with the lowest pH.  No other company can produce a product with a better delivery system and a pH lower than what SkinCeuticals can do.  There is no question when it comes to antioxidants and skin care, SkinCeuticals is the gold standard.  With their patents, they currently hold the master key.  This is the best vitamin C serum available with many years of conclusive research to back up the claim.

#2  Cosmetic Skin Solutions – Vitamin C+E Serum                                                                                          The next best option if SkinCeuticals is out of your price range

Cosmetic Skin Solutions C serum

Ingredients:  Water/Aqua/Eau, L-Ascorbic Acid, Propylene Glycol, Ethoxydiglcol, Butylene Glycol, Laureth-23, Zinc Sulfate, Glycerol, Alpha Tocopherol (Vitamin E), Triethanolamine, Ferulic Acid, Phenoxyethanol, D-Panthenol, Hyaluronic Acid.

The Cosmetic Skin Care Solutions C & E with ferulic acid contains a combination of 15% ascorbic acid, 1% vitamin, and 0.5% ferulic acid.  This is similar to SkinCeuticals with regards to active ingredients.  The inactive ingredients in the formula are primarily carrier agents to ensure absorption and adjust pH values but you can see the formulation varies in that regard.  The pH of all their topical vitamin C antioxidant serums is low ranging between 2.8 – 3.0.  At approximately $40 / fluid ounce, this is an excellent option.  The company has a great customer service team prepared to answer questions about all their products and how to best incorporate them into a healthy skin care regimen.

#3  Drunk Elephant – C-Firma Day Serum                                          Another good option for a Vitamin C serum with ascorbic acid with some reservations

Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum

Ingredients:  Water/Aqua/Eau, Ethoxydiglycol, Ascorbic Acid, Glycerin, Laureth-23, Lactobacillus/Pumpkin Ferment Extract, Sclerocarya Birrea Seed Oil, Ferulic Acid, Sodium Hyaluronate, Chondrus Crispus Extract, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Lactobacillus/Punica Granatum Fruit Ferment Extract, Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract, Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Juice Extract, Phyllanthus Emblica Fruit Extract, Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein, Tocopherol, Caprylhydroxamic Acid, Acetyl Glucosamine, Hydrolyzed Quinoa, Glutamylamidoethyl Imidazole, Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate, Tetrahydrodiferuloylmethane, Tetrahydrodemethoxydiferuloylmethane, Tetrahydrobisdemethoxydiferuloylmethane, Sodium Hyaluronate Crosspolymer, Glycine, Sucrose, Maltodextrin, Propanediol, Caprylyl Glycol, Sodium Hydroxide, Xanthan gum, Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer, Isohexadecane, Polysorbate 60

Drunk Elephant is a newer skin care line and they have produced a vitamin C serum with ascorbic acid.  Their C-Firma Day Serum contains an ascorbic acid concentration of 15% and also contains ferulic and vitamin E in the same percentage as Cosmetic Skin Solutions and SkinCeuticals.  The product retails at approximately $80 / fluid ounce.

Drunk Elephant has included additional antioxidants, nutrients, and other ingredients to benefit the skin and help eliminate dead skin surface cells.  Their formula has a pH level of 3.3 – 3.5 which falls within the range of effectiveness for the delivery of ascorbic acid.  My only concern with this formula and why I rank it third is because it is on the cusp of what is documented to ensure ascorbic acid can be absorbed.  With a pH of 3.3 – 3.5, there is big difference in performance relative to SkinCeuticals and Cosmetic Skin Solutions.  Also, while the addition of more antioxidants and nutrients in the formula, there is not enough evidence to determine if those ingredients may cause the ascorbic acid absorption to be negatively affected.  Sometimes less is more.  The years of research by Dr.  Sheldon Pinnell didn’t test how these additional products may or may not affect the efficacy of the star ingredient.


While there are many good vitamin C serums on the market, products using vitamin C derivatives do not have the same research to back up their claims.  In addition, the extensive research performed over the course of 30 years incorporated combinations of specific antioxidants.  The best product available is SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic and due to their patented antioxidant formulations, they have what is scientifically proven to be the most effective antioxidant formulas on the market.  With the information companies are willing to provide, I’ve shared what I believe are the next best options to consider if SkinCeuticals is not within your budget.

Over the course of he last year, it wasn’t until I began using C E Ferulic from SkinCeuticals that I noticed a major difference with my skin.  With other products I used, I never saw a difference.  It wasn’t until I used SkinCeuticals that everything changed.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic and if this information was helpful to you.  Please leave me a comment below.

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57 thoughts on “The Best Vitamin C Serum For Your Skin

  1. Pingback: Maggie O'Harris
    1. To be honest, the scent bothered me at first too! But after I used it for a little while, it didn’t anymore and the scent doesn’t linger after the product is absorbed. If you want to spend less and get a great product, I’d say try the Drunk Elephant serum. However, nothing that I am aware of is “better” in quality than the SkinCeuticals one. If you can just get past the scent after a week or two, it’s an amazing formula.

    1. I have heard that some people do refrigerate theirs. I contacted SkinCeuticals product support a couple of years ago and they said it is a preference. They said to store the bottle in a dark place (e.g. cupboard or medicine cabinet) and use the solution within 6 months of opening it. And you will do that if you apply it twice a day. =)

  2. I’m in my 40s and also use retin a and was using de c firms. I’ll try the c esta though.

    What else do you suggest….eye cream? Moisturizer? And do you add something to retin a at night?

    1. I think the Skin Ceuticals C E Ferulic is the best but it’s expensive. If you want a more affordable option, I’d try the Drunk Elephant for sure! I use the C serum in the AM and the Retin-A in the PM. Sometimes, I combine the Retin-A with Obagi Blender to skin lightening. But I do that for a few months and then I break from him as it contains 4% hydroquinone. I’d recommend an eye cream. Take a look at IS Clinicals Youth Eye Serum (I reviewed it) and Neocutis Lumiere Rich. I think those two are really great. A good moisturizer will also help and you can use that plus the eye cream twice daily. There are many moisturizers out there and I change mine all the time. I also found that using a glycolic wash in the morning also helps brighten the skin quite a bit! I hope this helps to give you some good ideas! =) xox

  3. Loving these posts!!! I am starting the retin-a and CE this weekend. Question?? Do you drop CE in your hands and rub together? Do u apply with your fingers or use an applicator? What do you suggest for application of both, CE and Retin-A?

    1. Hi. So glad you like the posts! For the C E Ferulic, I put a few drops into my palm, then I dab my index finger into the serum and dot it around my face and gently spread it around. I go right up under my eyes. I use the Retin-A at night. Well, I use Trentinoin which is the generic and it’s in the form of a cream. I use it on clean dry skin (same as C serum) and get about pea size. Dot it around and then spread it in. Several doctors have told me to go right up under the eyes, so I always do. A few have said not to. I do concentrate on that area though with both products. I’m using the tretinoin .1% which is the strongest. It takes a while to build up to that. When you start with .025% or .05%, it may cause redness, flakiness, and peeling. Keep going! Just back down a couple days, moisturize and start up again. You will get past the irritation part! It’s so great for the skin! XOXO LET ME KNOW HOW IT GOES FOR YOU!

      1. Hi Janine, thanks for the great article Vitamin C. I’ve used SC C E Ferulic for years and love it. Theres a lot of talk about Drunk Elephant which made me wonder if I should try that but your article convinced me I have the best. A question though. Do you mix your Trentinoin with anything. Obagi recommends mixing it with their blender. I wasn’t sure if that was needed. Do you use your Treninoin alone.

        1. You absolutely, hands down, have the best if you are using SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic. Sometimes I mix the Tretinoin with Obagi Blender and sometimes I use it alone. The Blender and Tretinoin from Obagi are formulated to be absorbed better when used together. Right now, I don’t have Blender but I have Clear so I’m not mixing them. I always use a hydroquinone product before and after any laser treatments I do to avoid hyper-pigmentation because of my skin type but I switch back and forth between Clear and Blender when I’m using hydroquinone. =)

          Thank you so much for stopping in! Enjoy your SC! That is one product I will never switch up in my routine. Fan for life!!

  4. This is an old topic so I really hope you are still monitoring your blog. I’ve been fortunate enough tot receive 4 tiny samples of skinceuticals and it’s amazing. Each bottle has lasted about 2 weeks. I am unfortunately about to run out and need to make a purchase. Do you recommend C E over the 20% also sold by skinceuticals? I have samples for both and both seem to be amazing. I can’t really tell which is more effective for me.

    1. Hello, yes – I’m still monitoring it! I personally use the SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic (the one I posted about). I think it’s the best product. I have asked at my cosmetic surgeon’s office if they recommended a different C serum within the same line but they were also very committed to the C E Ferulic. I think it’s their flagship serum and it really is the best. I think it’s absolutely fantastic. I’m sure you couldn’t go wrong with either but I stick with the C E Ferulic and I LOVE IT!! I hope this helps. =)

  5. Hi sorry I’m so late in the game. I’d like to know your thoughts about Dermadoctor KAKADU C 20% VITAMIN C SERUM. TIA!

    1. I haven’t tried it. I actually don’t wander away from the SkinCeuticals product. While it’s a costly one, I believe they have the best product available on the market today. It’s recognized as the gold star of C serums. So, the other one may be good but SkinCeuticals does have a patent and no one can produce something as effective using pure ascorbic acid.

  6. What a great post on Vitamin C Janine. I totally agree with you that Skinceuticals makes the best Vitamin C serum. I’ve tried many products out there but nothing can compare to Skinceuticals. I have been using Drunk Elephant C-Firma for awhile now and still don’t like it as much as Skinceuticals. The only thing that would keep me from buying Skinceuticals is the price but I plan on going back to this serum soon.

    1. It is expensive and despite that, I simply can’t live without this one. I’ve bumped up usage to twice a day so I’m burning through the product really fast. I just got the Jan Marini C Esta Serum so I am going to try that one at night and keep SkinCeuticals in the morning and see how that goes. I think I’ve repurchased this product about 5 times now and I absolutely love it. And I love their service and transparency in research findings. I hope you have an opportunity to get a wonderful bottle of this soon! =)

  7. Hi Janine great post . I used the ce ferulic initially, then to the c firma. I only liked the c firma more for it’s airless dispensing system, and friendlier price. But I’m going back to ce ferulic, mainly for it’s scientific validity and pH. I made an order yesterday on the Zest Beauty site, they are having an unbelievable sale at the moment. They ship internationally (I’m in Australia) . And to overcome the oxidation problem, I’ve ordered an airless refillable cosmetic pump to decant the ce ferulic into.

    1. The C E Ferulic really is the best and I notice a difference with it. That sounds like a good idea to change the container! I know SkinCeuticals recommends using the product within 6 months of opening it (which isn’t an issue if used daily). So, if it’s fresh – you shouldn’t have it oxidize but your idea to move it to the other dispenser is excellent. I wonder why they don’t repackage it? Maybe one day they will. Thank you so much for stopping in. I’m glad you enjoyed the post! =)

      1. Hi Janine, just wanted to give you an update about my decanting CE ferulic into an airless pump etc. I had got one off ebay, but it wasn’t the best, and would leak my precious CE ferulic around the top of the pump etc. I think it’s because the CE ferulic is a thin fluid and those pumps suit thicker lotions and creams etc. So…..I took apart my old C-firma pump, cleaned it really well and disinfected with alcohol. I decanted the CE ferulic into it and now use that as my airless pump. It is PERFECT….it is a high quality pump designed for thin fluids and serums. Better still, I have a perfectly metered dose of CE ferulic dispensed, and it isn’t exposed to air so I have seen NO oxidisation of the product. I’m feeling quite proud of myself and feeling very “eco” for reusing such a great pump rather than throwing it out. So that’s my best tip on that all. I don’t have to compromise using CE ferulic against a better dispensing system.

        Happy new year!

        1. Oh thank you so much!! This is an awesome tip! I wish SkinCeuticals changed their package on this product! I’ll have o ping them and see if there is anything in the works or testing. What a great idea you had with that C-Firma Pump! Seriously fabulous idea! Perhaps, SkinCeuticals hasn’t changed the packaging because it would cost most and the product is quite expensive. I’d go for a tad less in better packaging because I think it be more effective, for longer, and less waste! I think you have the best tip of 2017 here! Probably 2018! Thank you so so much for sharing!

          Happy New Year! And than you for your support and fabulous sharing of information! If I hear anything from SkinCeuticals about the packaging, I’ll post an update and some social media stuff. I hope they are testing or thinking about this!! xoxo

  8. Thank you for the informative post. I was going to purchase Drunk Elephant before you brought up some good points about its ph being too close to 3.5 and how the addition of other ingredients might alter the vitamin c affect. Now I’m curious to hear from someone who can compare both through usage over time.

  9. Thanks so much for that super detailed reply Janine! I’m in my 40s too and wish I’d started all this ten years ago. I get your reasoning on the Skinceuticals product though. Just need them to have a half price sale 😉

    1. I know. It’s really expensive. I cringe overtime. Every now and then some of the offices that carry the products will offer 20% off the products but you might want to reach out to SkinCeuticals and ask them if they offer incentives to their providers as then you might know when to expect discounts. They aren’t typically more than about 20% though. My doctor does is once or twice a year. You might be able to get a few samples though!

  10. Ahh, Vitamin C is sooo confusing! i’ve been using a non-prescription retinol for about a year and have just switched up to very careful use of .025% tretinoin. No negative effects so far, probably because i’m keeping all the rules (15-minute dry skin, no other actives, lots of moisturiser) and have maybe acclimatised a bit through the retinol.

    Now I really want to add in a Vit C, but it’s such a big investment I really want to be certain i’m buying something that will work. I have dabbled with the Ordinary 23% but it’s hell to use (stingy, sticky, pills like you wouldn’t believe) so that’s probably headed for the bin. I really can’t afford the Skinceuticals, but the Cosmetic Solutions one looks like a maybe. Given that the concentration of Ascorbic acid, Vit E and Ferulic are identical between Skinceuticals and CS, I’m interested to understand why you think the former is so much better?

    Thanks for any help 🙂

    1. That’s terrific you haven’t experienced any redness or flaking! That’s what usually causes people to stop using it tretinoin (I have a more recent article I published on that). I bet the retinol really helped you adjust to the tretinoin more easily. I was really red when I first started!

      So, on the C serum, the SkinCeuticals product doesn’t smell good (AT ALL!) but once it’s absorbed, the smell is gone and it’s absorbed quickly. It doesn’t feel sticky on the skin and definitely no pilling as it’s a thin watery serum. With Cosmetic Solutions, everything I’ve read and heard seems to me like they are a fantastic option but another reader said she was using it for 6+ months and didn’t observe changes from it. I don’t know how she was using it though and if there was anything in her routine that might have disrupted the efficacy of the C serum.

      I’ve always leaned toward SkinCeuticals because they have a patented process to create their formula. Currently… no one in the market that I’m aware of can produce a serum with a ph as low as they can. So, for ascorbic acid, SkinCeuticals would have the most effective product on the market and they have been the gold standard for many years. Their research is quite extensive in the antioxidant and skin care space. With their product, due to the research and testing, I can be 100% sure of what I’m getting. So, that is why I stick with them despite the high price tag. The founder of the company, who is now passed away, spent many years researching antioxidants and obtaining patents so their formulation methods are highly protected which keeps them in the lead.

      There is a lot of ongoing research with Vitamin C derivatives and often companies claim the derivative they have or their formulation is more effective than ascorbic acid. But your body still has to convert the derivative to ascorbic acid. There isn’t as much research out there as what backs the SkinCeuticals product. So…. for me… I stick with them like glue for C E Ferulic. Also, I’m in my 40s and I’m as aggressive as possible with skin care. So, while Cosmetic Solutions is the best alternative I could find at a reasonable price, it’s not an identical formula and doesn’t have the reputation that SkinCeuticals has with their C E Ferulic. It is what I would try first if SkinCeuticals was not in my budget and so that is why I’d recommend it.

  11. Hi J~ Thanks for the post. I have been using the Cosmetic Skin Solutions vit c for the last 7 months and see absolutely no change in my skin. Then I read about the Ph levels and I could have sworn I read somewhere that Cosmetic SS vit c has a Ph of 6.5. Anyhow, I am now making the switch over to SkinCeuticals. Do you know if this product works for acne dark spots and blemishes? That’s really what I need improvement on. Anyhow, enjoyed your article and going to be checking out some more!

    1. Hmmm! I have not used Cosmetic Skin Solutions but I did speak with them about the formula and they confirmed is was ascorbic acid with a ph that was in the range it should be. I think SkinCeuticals is extremely expensive BUT it is so fabulous that I use it religiously every morning. For dark spots and blemishes … I don’t find it really lightens skin to the degree I’d be satisfied. It helps. For persistent pigmentation I’ve used prescription hydroquinone at 4% – that will LIGHTEN and then I break from it and use Lytera from SkinMedica. Lytera 2.0 just came out but I haven’t tried it yet. I go about 6-8 months on hydroquinone and then break for several months with Lytera. For blemishes, I think the right solution would depend on the cause. Also, for dark spots I do a combo of IPL with Fraxel. Not the Fraxel resurfacing laser though. There is no downtime, peeling, etc with the treatment.

  12. Vit C is my fav topic of skincare conversation 🙂 Have you tried Timeless Vit C. Angie from Hot and Flashy really likes it. Once my Skinceuticals CE F is over, I am definitely looking into Drunk Elephant.

    1. I have not tried Timeless and I haven’t tried the Drunk Elephant one but I thought they made a nice product and it came at a good price. I have tried some other ones in the past but SkinCeuticals is just so amazing. I really love Vitamin C in skin care and it makes such a huge difference. I would love to hear how the Drunk Elephant product works for you. I have their TLC Glycolic which is really wonderful and the LALA cream and the Lip Hydration product. Everything has been fantastic from them.

  13. Excellent review, Janine! I currently use the Drunk Elephant version but absolutely love Skinceuticals. I use the blemish + age defense and it transformed my skin in days. Vast improvement over night…and it keeps it that way. Iv’e heard good things about this C E Ferulic prior as well. I may have to break down and try it. I’d die for a nice set of their most popular oils!

    1. I haven’t used Blemish + Age Defense but of course, I just hit their site to check it out! Right now, I’m using AOX Eye Gel, C E Ferulic, and .1% tretinoin (took a while to build up to that) and I’m about to switch off Hydroquinone and try Lytera 2.0 for pigmentation. I’ll probably get another bottle of the new SkinMedica HA5 hydrating product. I don’t think I have a SkinCeuticals moisturizer right now. I should get one. I just got the Lumiere Bio-Restorative Eye Balm from Neocutis and I’m excited to try that one out. The C E Ferulic I can never ever EVER go a day without. That stuff is liquid gold, seriously! Incredible product.

  14. Such a great post Janine! I am actually allergic to products containing Vitamin C (sigh), but I feel my body is changing overtime and I hope to use these Vit C beauty oils sometime soon in the future! xx

    1. I can definitely say the body changes with time. I grew up in Southern California and I was at the beaches all the time. I had no problem with the sun. And then later, after I had children, I developed an allergy to the sun and I can’t sunbathe or anything. I’ll get an allergic reaction all over my body. Yet, the first half of my life? No issue. So, I’m not sure what it is but allergies definitely come and go over the years. Are you able to eat products with Vitamin C or do you just react to concentrated topical forms?

  15. I definitely need to start using it having read your post! I am in love with your blog too, you should be so proud.. well done gorgeous gal! x

    1. Thank you so much! What a lovely comment! The Vitamin C serum is truly wonderful and you will notice a difference in a few weeks. One day you just start wondering what has changed and then it will dawn on you that the change was Vitamin C. =)

    1. I can’t live without it. I actually waited a long time (years) to buy it thinking it would do nothing for me. But it was the other products that were ineffective and I just never knew. So, when I finally got this one… after a couple of weeks (maybe 3) – I was wondering why my skin was different. And then it dawned on me!

    1. The SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic is the best on the market but it is 160US / ounce. If that’s too high, the other one I suggested in my post is what I think would be next best at 40US / ounce from Skin Cosmetics. I put the links to the products in the post but on the Skin Ceuticals site, it’s worth reading about their patents and scientific research.

  16. I was THIS close to ordering a replacement bottle of the Paula’s Choice C15 Super Booster (which is inspired by the SkinCeuticals). I do REALLY love it but maybe I should try the Cosmetic Skin Solutions one. Then I will probably one day bite the bullet and get the SkinCeuticals…

    1. The SkinCeuticals one is unbelievable. Paula’s Choice (Beautypedia) shits on a lot of good products but even they couldn’t vaguely insult the SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic! LOL I think the Skin Cosmetics is a great option for less but you can see in the ingredients list, the formula is very different (as far as carriers go). However, I believe it would be the next best if you want to use the pure active form of Vitamin C. I like to because there’s extensive research on it vs the derivatives.

    1. Well, they offer a refund policy and I’d return it. At 23% for a pure L-ascorbic acid formula (whether it is water based or crystallized) is outside the effective range and likely will irritate skin. Even 20% is prone to irritating skin if you haven’t been using it a long time. Notice how nowhere they mention the pH level? Well, that’s because it can’t have one since it’s not water based. They tell you on their website that the form of Vitamin C is L-ascorbic acid in that product – that’s actually not true! I called them and asked the question that I’m sure they hate getting because I get so upset when companies do this stuff – their customer service admitted the product you got is NOT L-ascorbic acid, it has NO phLevel (as I expected) and is actually a derivative form of Vitamin C. Shame on them for stating it is L-ascorbic acid! This is also why it is 6.00. It’s too difficult and too expensive to manufacture a stable product with L-Ascorbic acid and it’s not going to be 6.00, for sure. It has to convert to L-ascorbic acid when it’s applied to your skin to be absorbed but how much you get at that point, if can effectively convert, etc etc – I don’t know. You’d have to find out the derivative they are using (there are many available) and then see what research is available on it. This is why I use the pure form daily because the most respected antioxidant studies that have been done over 30 years have yielded that conclusive information.

      Derivatives are great but there’s still a lot to be learned about them. You really have to know what you are getting. If you can return it, and SkinCeuticals is too expensive, I’d get the Cosmetic Skin Solutions serum at for 40US and be confident you have a product that is meets all the criteria for a highly effective L-ascorbic C serum if you were actually in the market for that. It’s definitely not what you got.

      1. Sorry, I haven’t used this Vitamin C product but I’ve been reading about it and would really like to know where you got the 6.0 pH? We get the pH when a product is water based and not when it’s anhydrous. So since this serum is anhydrous I don’t think they need to provide the pH or that it matters?

        About the 23%, it seems fine if you read about it in the “Anhydrous vitamin C” section here:

        But I’d still be carefull because irritation could still happen if your skin is not used to vitamin C. They do state on their site “If desired, this formula can be diluted in a cream base per application to allow the skin to build tolerance over time.” So it would be wise to diluted it in the beginning (better be safe).

        Overall, I feel this line of products is geared towards people who know about skincare and already know not to use 23% straight to the skin if the skin is not ready. Which brings me to say that it wouldn’t hurt if they provided more info (and warnings!) on how to use their products because it’s not that simple.

        1. When I said 6.00 – I was referring to $6.00 (6 dollars – their price is about 5.80). The process to formulate a stable product with L-ascorbic acid would unlikely retail for a cost that low. So, that was a red flag.

          With derivates, the effective ranges, carrier agents, ph levels – if applicable, and all those variables are different and optimal formulas vary for each type.

          Here’s what they say on their website about the 23% product: “This water-free, silicone-free formula provides 23% pure L-Ascorbic Acid which remains completely stable due to the absence of water” – but call them and they will tell you it is a Vitamin C derivative. I kept questioning them until they finally put me on hold, asked a more experienced person, and came back and admitted it was not pure Vitamin C. It might still be great but at such a low cost to produce, I wouldn’t bank on it.

          There are so many misrepresentations or perhaps honest mistakes when it comes to Vitamin C in skin care… This is exactly why I have personally chosen to steer clear of the derivatives and less researched areas and target serums that are scientifically proven by some of the most renown people in the antioxidant space to yield the maximum benefits the amazing vitamin can offer to skin. Maybe one day someone can prove there is something better out there but the best research available is the research done by late Dr. Sheldon R Pinnell. So, that’s a good guideline if you want to be 100% sure you are getting maximum antioxidant benefits from a product. (And while it’s tough to pay 163.00 an ounce for the SkinCeuticals product…. this is the very reason the cost is so high. They have the patents and can give consumers the guarantee they’ve maximized a way to get the most out of ascorbic acid. But that guarantee isn’t necessarily important to every consumer. For me it is, as I’m older and I can’t afford to experiment with something that might not be giving me the maximum benefits. So, I rely on the most reputable and comprehensive research to choose a product in this space. I have to be sure – at 40+ I can’t afford to experiment. =(

          (I don’t have any affiliation or anything to SkinCeuticals or Cosmetic Skin Care – it’s just the scientifically proven most effective product on the market today. The findings are backed by years of research by top scientific teams dedicated to antioxidants in skin care) But … people are making their own serums even in their kitchens! So, I just have to go with what has the best evidence.

          1. Oh sorry! I thought you were still talking about the pH when you wrote 6.00. I didn’t realise you were talking about the price! My mistake.

            The whole thing about them stating it’s pure L-Ascorbic Acid but admitting it’s a Vitamin C derivative instead is not right. It makes me question their ingredient lists (for that serum of course but also for the other products too).

            1. I know what you mean. And there are ton of companies who won’t even answer questions (at least they were truthful when I asked the questions). And then on the other hand, I could tell the person who answered for phone wasn’t an expert and just a customer service person who was walking around trying to get answers. Her response may not have been accurate. I think it comes down to disconnects in putting together content for the website, marketing, etc. If they don’t have the massive team of scientists and experts “owned and operating” under their roof and doing the research and all of that… it’s a less dependable product line, in general. If I emailed SkinCeuticals, I’ll get a less “expert” response from their front line support. But if I call, I get a very mature expert in their product space who can answer any question with confidence. Skin Cosmetic is the same way. I can’t tell you how many places I call that won’t even answer a question!

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