I am a vitamin c serum enthusiast. As far as topical skincare is concerned, vitamin c is a superstar and one of a small group of ingredients proven to work. If you’re in search of a serum yourself there are several options that will get the job done. For the past year I have been testing out five of the most popular ones. Initially I was going to have a ranking system for this post, 5 stars meaning the product was amazing and so on. But none of these serums are horrible and, as with most skincare products, it comes down to personal preference so I instead have chronicled my experience using each one in an effort to shed some light and help you make a decision.
Skinceuticals CE Ferulic.
This serum needs no introduction. CE Ferulic by Skinceuticals is the OG of vitamin c serums. The product’s patented and research-backed formula definitely work in the brand’s favour to lure even the most skeptical of skincare lovers. But after all is said and done, does it work? Yes. Yes it does. I was almost afraid it would be good because then I wouldn’t want to live without it and I’d have to fork out the big bucks. But Alas, it lives up to the hype.
The serum is a clearish/very light yellow colour with an almost water-like consistency. It does have the tiniest bit of stickiness which completely disappears after a minute or so. Overall, I didn’t find Skinceuticals CE Ferulic irritating on my skin but if I was experiencing sensitivity I would opt for a gentler serum just to let my skin a rest.
Skinceuticals CE Ferulic Ingredients
water, ethoxydiglycol, ascorbic acid, glycerin, propylene glycol, laureth-23, phenoxyethanol, tocopherol, triethanolamine, ferulic acid, panthenol, sodium hyaluronate
Drunk Elephant C Firma Day Serum
C Firma is by far the most moisturizing of the bunch. Like Skinceuticals CE Ferulic it contains the power trio of 15% L-ascorbic acid, vitamin e, and ferulic acid but went a few steps further and added plant extracts, peptides, and enzymes. I would reach for C Firma when my skin was feeling dryer. If you have oily skin or don’t want any weight added from a serum then this serum is not for you. It’s worth noting that due to the enzymes some light exfoliation will take place so if you’re already using chemical or enzyme exfoliants be careful not to overdo it.
There has been a lot of concern from consumers regarding the freshness of this serum. This concern stems from the yellowy orange colour of the serum which usually signals that a vitamin c product has oxidized. In the case of C-Firma, it is the turmeric and pumpkin ferment that is responsible for the colour. Still, this vitamin c serum is a natural product so the company recommends using it up within 6 months of purchase. I like this serum but if you can’t get over the colour you may want to invest another serum.
Drunk Elephant C Firma 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
Timeless CE Ferulic
Timeless has gained a cult following based mainly on the idea of it being a dupe of Skinceuticals CE Ferulic and costing about 1/7 the price. The two serums both contain generous amounts of the power trio ce ferulic but that’s where it stops. Timeless contains various ingredients to prolong the life and integrity of the serum but not a straight up pH stabilzer which has always left me feeling a bit unsettled. L-ascorbic acid works best in a stabilized formula. Skinceuticals CE Ferulic contains triethanolamine, an ingredient that helps to fine tune the pH of a product and plays an important role in the overall efficacy of the vitamin c serum. However the ingredients in the Timeless serum are still potent enough to give your skin antioxidant protection and help with pigmentation.
I like Timeless CE Ferulic, so much so that I am on my third bottle of it. I’m aware of its formulas shortcomings but it makes my skin happy and there’s no arguing that. Of all five serums it has the most water-like consistency. Because of the high amount of vitamin c some of you may find it irritating. This serum struck the perfect balance of affordability and efficacy.
Water, Ethoxydiglycol, L-Ascorbic Acid, Propylene Glycol, Alpha Tocopherol, Polysorbate 80, Panthenol, Ferulic Acid, Sodium Hyaluronate, Benzylalcohol, Dehydroacetic Acid.
Cosmetic Skincare Solutions Vitamin C+E Serum
This one is my least favorite of the five. I didn’t notice much except that my skin felt dehydrated whenever I used it. I suspect that if this serum still included all of the same ingredients but was formulated better, a tweak here and there, it would make all the difference in its overall performance. I suspect it is the formula and am not holding a particular ingredient responsible because the ingredient list is startlelingly similar to Skinceutical’s CE Ferulic just not as well executed in the lab.
Cosmetic Skincare Solutions Vitamin C+E Serum Ingredients
Water/Aqua/Eau, L-Ascorbic Acid (Topical Vitamin C), Propylene Glycol, Ethoxydiglycol, Butylene Glycol, Laureth-23, Zinc Sulfate, Glycerol, Alpha Tocopherol (Vitamin E), Triethanolamine, Ferulic Acid, Phenoxyethanol, D-Panthenol, Hyaluronic Acid.
Skinceuticals 10 AOX +
I initially tried this serum because I was a tad concerned Skinceuticals CE Ferulic was a bit too much for my skin everyday. It does contain l-ascorbic and ferulic acid but no vitamin E. Instead they’ve added zinc sulfate. Zinc sulfate can irritate skin but I found this snip-it on Beautypedia:
There is little research showing this to be beneficial for skin. The information that is available shows that it can be a skin sensitizer when used in large amounts. A small amount of zinc sulfate is sometimes used in high-strength vitamin C treatments to stabilize the vitamin C (typically seen on the ingredient list as ascorbic acid). In these instances, the zinc sulfate is unlikely to be a source of skin sensitivity.
It is definitely less potent than some of the others on this list but still packs a potent vitamin c punch. If you’re sensitive to vitamin c serums this one may be worth a try.
One concern I do have is that studies documenting the benefits of vitamin c on the skin are usually done with 15-20 percent l-ascorbic acid. There is simply not nearly as much solid evidence for 10 percent solutions. Still, too much of a good thing can be bad when it means irritation. Irritation and inflammation are two things that’ll wreck your skin real quick. Any vitamin c, in a well-formulated product, is better than no vitamin c.
Skinceuticals 10 AOX+ Ingredients
Water, L-Ascorbic Acid, Ethoxydiglycol, Propylene Glycol, Glycerin, Zinc Sulfate, Phenoxyethanol, Ferulic Acid, Panthenol, Sodium Hyaluronate, Sodium Hydroxide
Hopefully I’ve provided enough insight to help make your search for a vitamin c serum a bit easier. All of these serums offer a healthy dose of antioxidant protection but it will come down to what works for your particular skin and personal preference. Have you already tried any of these serums? Have any questions about my time with them? I’d love to hear from you!