A GUIDE TO VITAMIN C
Orange you glad I didn't say C? But then again, Vitamin C isn't exclusive to the citrus family... I digress. Let's talk C! But first, we can't forget this gem. I mean Lady Saw was featured for goodness sake (!!!!!!)
This topic has been highly requested since I mentioned it briefly a month ago. I get it. Vitamin C is one of the most talked about ingredients in the skincare world, and for very good reason. Some of you may be here because you watched my video discussing the same topic. If you haven't seen it yet, here it is:
Why Vitamin C?
Y'all I love Vitamin C. It's such a complex and effective ingredient. Any negatives are totally overshadowed by the positives. Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant. Antioxidants seek out free radicals - which are rogue molecules that seek out another molecule to latch onto and will wreak havoc when they do. Free radicals can come from pollution, sunlight, or the environment in general. They destroy healthy cells, which means premature aging in the form of fine lines, dark spots, and dullness. If you live anywhere near a car, production facility, or you've been outside recently, free radicals are present. Vitamin C is a sure way to neutralize them by resisting oxidative stress on the skin.
Many ingredients are antioxidants. All plant oils, most vitamins, and even some forms of preservatives resist oxidative stress. Vitamin C does that and so much more. In short, here's what it can do:
Help to lighten dark spots induced by sun exposure or post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. Works by inhibiting tyrosinase, the chemical that signals melanin production.
Decrease the appearance of fine lines.
Correct the appearance of large pores.
Work to create an even skin tone.
Provide protection against free radical damage.
Supports UV protection from your sunscreen. Helps your sunscreen work better.
May reduce various forms of irritation on the skin, such as dermatitis
Just like anything good in life, there's a downside to all this. Vitamin C is highly unstable and needs to be in the correct formulary context, packaging, and application. More on that later.
Vitamin C is great for treatment, but I think its strong suit is protection. Sure it has some corrective abilities, but I'm much more likely to recommend a nighttime retinoid to repair signs of damage on the skin. With that said, using Vitamin C during the daytime as a pseudo-"shield" will help to preserve all of the hard work that the retinoids will do over time. That paired with a reparative nighttime treatment will work to give you results just a little bit faster.
Different Forms of Vitamin C
The type of Vitamin C you use really does make all the difference. My favorite is l-ascorbic acid (often listed as ascorbic acid) because it can stay in the skin for up to 72 hours. This means that daily usage works to create an internal shield against the environment. I am invincible. Hulk smash. Not only that, l-ascorbic in the right concentration (see next section) is the most researched in its ability to truly lighten dark spots.
Brands are exploring new versions of C all the time. Here's a very short list of ones you'll commonly see, both classic and upcoming:
L-Ascorbic Acid / Ascorbic Acid - Most frequently talked about due to the enormous amount of research behind it supporting its efficacy. Highly unstable. Not fat soluble, so it must be paired with a solvent (glycols, alcohol, etc.). Potentially drying.
Ascorbyl Palmitate - Ascorbic Acid paired with the ester of Palm Oil. It's an antioxidant, but you may not see as much in terms of dark spot correction. Moderately stable. The fatty acid nature may be nice if your skin is on the sensitive side. Effective at treating the appearance of large pores.
Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate - A form of C that has a fatty acid component. Light and air stable. Fat soluble. Check!
3-O Ethyl Ascorbic Acid - An ethered form of C that is more stable than traditional Ascorbic Acid. It is metabolized by the body as Vitamin C. Water and fat soluble. Potentially drying. Still fairly new to the industry.
Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate - A stabilized version of C that is water soluble and may help to curtail the frequency of breakouts.
Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate - Less stable than other forms of C, but still may provide some antioxidant protection.
Ascorbyl Glucoside - Vitamin C plus sugar, essentially. A bit more mild than other forms of C.
I know I'm forgetting at least a dozen other versions, but these are the versions that I feel have the most promise to them.
It's not just about the type of C that's being used; Concentration plays a big role on the function (and its effects) on the skin.
In order to truly impact dark spot presence on the skin, you'll want to find an ascorbic acid that's concentrated at 15%-20%. This has been the most researched in terms of efficacy. All it takes is a quick look around at some of the well known C serums - SkinCeuticals' C E Ferulic, Drunk Elephant C-Firma, etc. to notice that legit brands are very serious about concentration.
If you're seeking to keep breakouts at bay, Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate is said to be most effective in concentrations of 1%-5%.
I haven't found much information on concentrations needed to be effective with other forms of C, so if you know any factual tidbits feel free send them my way!
This comes down to personal preference and your reasoning for purchasing a C product, but there's a few classifications that I tend to seek out:
Serum - I really find that C products give my skin the best results when they're in serum format. It makes sense too. Serums are designed to be the most potent element in your ritual
Size - Anywhere from 0.5 fl oz to 1 fl oz is preferred. You simply wouldn't be able to finish up the product in time if it is any larger than 1 fl oz. That means throwing your money away, and that's just no fun.
Formula - Sure I'm buying the product because it has a potent amount of Vitamin C, but the ingredients in the rest of the formula are just as important. Pairing ascorbic acid with ferulic acid is a common practice, and so are the addition of other robust antioxidants.
Color - Let's be very clear: Vitamin C is not orange in color. Oranges are not the only source of Vitamin C in the world. Even then, magnesium ascorbyl phosphate is not orange juice. Most Vitamin C ingredients are synthetic. If I see that a gross amount of synthetic colorant has been added to my Vitamin C product, I am not a happy camper.
Packaging - It needs to be light-proof and airtight if the version of C requires it (ascorbic acid, 3-O ethyl ascorbic, or ascorbyl palmitate). If it's not, I'm not interested. Please note though that certain forms of C are stable in the presence of light and air and will not go AWOL if they are in a clear package or a jar. It's not ideal, but it won't kill you.
Some tips and tricks to keep in mind.
Vitamin C expires quickly. Do not keep using it after it has gone bad. It will have a very negative impact on the skin. Almost like reverse antioxidant protection. Not cute. The general rule is 3-6 months, but 6 months is really pushing it. Most C serums are clear and will start to turn brown when they've gone off. At that point, toss it.
If you find your C serum to be a little drying, mix in a bit of a hydration serum. My absolute go-to is Jordan Samuel Skin Hydrate, but anything you find incredibly cushioning will do.
In my opinion, C's during the day, everything else at night. Because Vitamin C has so many antioxidant properties to it, I find that using it only at night limits its potential as an ingredient. At night, there's no pollution or sunlight to ward off.
pH may play a part in ascorbic acid's efficacy. You may often find that your C serum has a semi-low pH. This will also help the skin maintain a healthy level of bacteria to ward off acne causing angry little men.
Do not (and I repeat, do NOT) attempt to make your own Vitamin C serum. I shouldn't have to say this, but I do. Crushing up Vitamin C capsules and mixing them with your serum will do absolutely nothing. Vitamin C is much too volatile to be toyed with. You could end up doing some serious harm to your skin.
Vitamin C is not the end-all be-all. I find so many people focus solely on Vitamin C, but ignore other vitamins, plant-based ingredients, amino acids, peptides, etc. Sure, finding and implementing a really effective C serum is a great thing to do for your skin. But try not to put all of your eggs in one basket. Skin responds to variety.
If you aren't going to wear sunscreen, there's no point in wearing a C serum. Vitamin C and sunscreen are like peanut butter and jelly. They really work best when paired together.
When you refine the "treatments" category by Vitamin C on Sephora.com, a lot of products come up. A large majority of them are products that have some sort of Vitamin C contained in the INCI list somewhere, but they are not solely designed to be Vitamin C serums. The products I'm going to be discussing have engineered Vitamin C in them - not "natural traces of Vitamin C found in botanicals." There's nothing wrong with your products being packed full with natural sources of vitamins, trace elements, minerals, etc., but when it comes to Vitamin C, I want to know that I'm getting pure Vitamin C - full stop.
Vitamin C as an ingredient is expensive. Good formulas cost a lot to produce. You're much better off investing - if possible - in a high quality Vitamin C serum than one that's cheaper and less potent.
When in doubt, go for one of the "classic" C products. All of the formulas are fine tuned to perfection and will likely give you the results you may be looking to achieve.
SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic - Probably the most iconic Vitamin C serum on the market. I haven't personally tried it, but there's not a person I know who uses it and doesn't feel utterly in love with it.
Paula's Choice C15 Super Booster - I'm on my third bottle!
Drunk Elephant C-Firma - The best Vitamin C you can buy in Sephora
I want to introduce the product reviews with a bit of a disclaimer:
I haven't used every C product on the face of the Earth. There are some that I'm frequently asked about but have yet to try. The products I'll be mentioning have touched my face at some point. If you don't see a product listed here, it's because I haven't tried it yet :)
I'd also like to mention that the products listed below are formulas in which Vitamin C is the focal point. A sprinkling of ascorbyl palmitate at the end of the INCI list isn't enough for me!
My most preferred method of delivering C to the skin. It has a much better chance of absorbing and getting to work on the skin. Products are listed alphabetically by brand.
Algenist Genius Vitamin C+ Serum $118 for 1 fl oz, or 30 mL
This is a jelly serum that has a bit of slip and a fair amount of moisture. It smooths over and quickly absorbs into the skin, but occasionally leaves some tackiness if you apply too much product. All in all, though, the texture is beautifully executed. I think in general, Algenist does a pretty good job of making sure their textures are cosmetically elegant, and their formulas have some backbone to them.
The formula is robust and features lots of great ingredients alongside the Vitamin C - niacinamide, algae exopolysaccharides, peptides, and some ceramides to name a few. I love when brands do that.
I like this serum a lot, it's just quite expensive. Especially when other equally effective serums exist that may even be more cosmetically elegant. Arguably, you could say that the Dr. Dennis Gross C+Collagen features a similar formula and costs $40 less. The only downside to this formula is not knowing the concentration of C that it contains. For some reason, I want to say that I've heard 10% mentioned in relation to this at some point, but don't quote me on that.
I get it, brands don't want to disclose their percentages for fear of another company ripping them off. It's happened before. But when it comes to something like Vitamin C or Retinoids, I prefer to know the strength from a consumer standpoint,.
However, I'll say that the Algenist C is one of the most hydrating C formulas I've used to date. It does not dehydrate in the slightest, it doesn't leave much of a lingering Vitamin C scent, and my skin really drinks it up.
Ingredients: Water, Glycerin, Butylene Glycol, 3-O-Ethyl Ascorbic Acid, Polymethylsilsesquioxane, Sodium Citrate, Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer, Niacinamide, Ethoxydiglycol, Algae Exopolysaccharides, Chlorella Protothecoides Oil, Vinyl Dimethicone/ Methicone Silsesquioxane Crosspolymer, Citric Acid, Algae Extract, Peg-12 Dimethicone, Palmitoyl Oligopeptide, Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-7, Caprylyl Glycol, Xanthan Gum, Vegetable Collagen, Ethylhexylglycerin, Hexylene Glycol, Disodium EDTA, Plantago Lanceolata Leaf Extract, Sorbitan Isostearate, Polysorbate 60, Sodium Lauroyl Lactylate, Carbomer, Polysorbate 20, Ceramide NP, Ceramide AP, Ceramide EOP, Phytosphingosine, Cholesterol, Leuconostoc/Radish Root Ferment Filtrate, Phenoxyethanol, Fragrance, Coumarin.
Rating: 4/5 - It's a great C serum with a great texture and great ingredients. It's hydrating, fast-absorbing, and the scent is quite enjoyable. It's just so expensive. Repurchase: No.
Brooklyn Botany Ultra Pure Vitamin C Serum $20 for 1 fl oz, or 30 mL
Forms of C: L-Ascorbic Acid, Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate Concentration: 10%, 3%, 0.9% - respectively. Available from: Amazon
I'm going to be very real with you. If you Google this product, it comes up as one of those pseudo-sketchy skincare brands that you find on Amazon and have never heard of. The whole thing is very sketchy to be honest - I'm weary of skincare sold on Amazon unless it's by a brand that I am familiar with. With that said, I saw quite a few of my friends on Instagram using it and experiencing great results. When Brooklyn Botany reached out, I decided to go for it. I'm very pleasantly surprised.
In practice, it's lovely. It's similar in texture to the Dr. Dennis Gross C+Collagen - almost jelly like. Certainly thinner and more fluid, but I wouldn't describe it as a liquid serum. There's no film or tackiness left behind after absorption, and the ferulic acid scent is more tolerable than in other formulas. Again, the presence of alcohol in the formula has not dried or irritated my skin. In this context, it's the solvent that helps the Vitamin C absorb thoroughly. Based on the concentration of ascorbic acid, this may not be enough - at 10% - to correct stubborn dark spots the way a 15%-20% is guaranteed to. If you're looking for daily protection, overall skin brightness, and improved texture, this may be a viable option. It's priced quite well at under $20 too. If you haven't played around with Vitamin C and want to give it a try, this is where I'd say to start.
*Note: some people may be bothered by the presence of orange and lavender in this formula. I'm personally not. I really don't notice any scent from either ingredients when I apply it, so it makes me think that they are in a low enough concentration where they wouldn't cause a negative reaction on the skin. If you believe differently, though, then just be aware that those ingredients are contained in this formula.
Ingredients: Aqua (Water), Hamamelis Virginiana (Witch Hazel) Water, Ascorbic Acid (L), Alcohol Denat, Glycerin, Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate, Tocopheryl Acetate (D-alpha), Vanilla Planifolia Fruit Oil, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Peel Oil*, Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Oil, Jasminum Officinale (Jasmine) Oil, Santalum Austrocaledonicum (Sandalwood) Oil, Rosa Damascena Flower Oil, Glycine Soja (Soybean) Oil, Xanthan Gum, Polysorbate 20, Caprylyl Glycol, Phenoxyethanol.
Rating: 4.5/5 - It's an affordable way to experiment with Vitamin C - especially if you're younger and you're more concerned about prevention. I like that there is a blend of Vitamin C's, and the texture is really well done. The whole unknown brand identity and Amazon availability freaked me out at first, but I don't think there's anything to be worried about.
Repurchase: No - Simply because I prefer a slightly higher percentage of C in my daily serums.
Caudalie Polyphenol C15 Anti-Wrinkle Defense Serum $62 for 1 fl oz or 30 mL
Here's the thing. I see the letter C - that usually stands for Vitamin C. I see the number 15, that often stands for 15%. However, I can't find any information on if the Vitamin C in this formula is in fact 15%. I really liked this serum - used up an entire bottle in fact. The main benefits I found it provided my skin were hydration and a bit of glow.
However, the version of C they're using - ascorbyl tetraisopalmitate - is fairly new to the market. It's Vitamin C plus isopalmitic acid. It is oil soluble, and has shown it can absorb faster into the skin than other forms of C. Future Derm did a fantastic overview on it. However it has also shown, in one study, that it can cause contact dermatitis. I'm torn.
It's hard to know percentages because they aren't listed. It's hard to say if this form of C is really as promising as the classic ascorbic acid or the newer 3-O ethyl ascorbic acid. The formula has a lot of fragrance and the mouth of the serum bottle is ginormous - making it easy for oxygen to enter the packaging.
The texture is one of the best serum textures I've used in a long time. It's milky and slightly creamy, but absorbs without much effort at all. It was hydrating, smoothing, and softening. There was no sense of filminess or tightness afterwards. Caudalie knows texture though - I'm sure we can all agree on that!
I enjoyed using this while I had it, but I'm not immediately seeking out another bottle now that it's empty. Caudalie does a lot of things really well, but personally I wouldn't say Vitamin C is necessarily their strong suit.
Ingredients: AQUA/WATER/EAU, BUTYLENE GLYCOL, GLYCERIN*, SQUALANE*, ASCORBYL TETRAISOPALMITATE, TOCOPHEROL*, CETEARETH-20, PALMITOYL GRAPE SEED EXTRACT*, PARFUM (FRAGRANCE), GLYCERYL STEARATE SE*, POTASSIUM SORBATE, ACRYLATES/C10-30 ALKYL ACRYLATE CROSSPOLYMER, CAPRYLYL GLYCOL, XANTHAN GUM, HYALURONIC ACID, CARBOMER, SODIUM PHYTATE*, SODIUM HYDROXIDE. (139/086)
Rating: 3/5 - As a glow-boosting and hydrating serum, I found it to be lovely. As a Vitamin C serum, there was a part of me that was hesitant and unsure the entire time I was using the bottle. Repurchase: Yes - but only with the intention of using it as a glowy hydration serum.
Dr. Dennis Gross C + Collagen Brighten & Firm Vitamin C Serum $78 for 1 fl oz, or 30 mL
This is a very nice serum. The thing I love and appreciate about Dr. Dennis Gross' products is they never short-change you. You're getting potent Vitamin C paired with niacinamide, superoxide dismutase, CoQ10, hexylresorcinol *my voice slowly trails off as I continue to name stellar ingredients.* You get what you pay for.
This is one of the few C's that doesn't dry or dehydrate my skin on contact. It's more of a gel serum and smooths into the skin and forms a cushiony layer around it. It doesn't leave a residue or film and it hasn't rolled in my experience. There is SD Alcohol 40-B listed moderately high on the ingredient list, but I have not found it to negatively impact my skin. In this context, I'm assuming it is the solvent that helps the C to absorb. Worth noting, but in my experience it hasn't dried or irritated my skin.
I'm unsure of the actual percentage of C in this formula, but it's the third ingredient on the INCI list. I'd imagine it's likely in a concentration that is efficacious. It definitely smells like Vitamin C!
Ingredients: Water, Glycerin, 3-O-Ethyl Ascorbic Acid, Niacinamide, Glycereth-7 Triacetate, Lactic Acid, SD Alcohol 40-B, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Dimethyl Isosorbide, Ascorbic Acid, Collagen Amino Acids, Superoxide Dismutase, Glycine, Carnitine HCl, Ubiquinone, Hexylresorcinol, Emblica Officinalis Fruit Extract, Hydrolyzed Soy Protein, Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate, Isoquercetin, Mandelic Acid, Pueraria Lobata Root Extract, Curcuma Longa (Turmeric) Root Extract, Phytic Acid, Citric Acid, Tetrasodium EDTA, Sodium Citrate, Butylene Glycol, Xanthan Gum, Polysorbate 20, T-Butyl Alcohol, Sodium Hydroxide, Polysorbate 80, Denatonium Benzoate, Benzyl Alcohol, Phenoxyethanol, Sodium Benzoate, Potassium Sorbate, Caramel.
Rating: 4.5/5 - If there is a way to formulate this without a solvent alcohol, and Dennis Gross did, it'd be a solid 5/5. I also wish they listed percentages. Repurchase: Yes
Dr. Dennis Gross Triple C Peptide Firming Oil $64 for 1 fl oz, or 30 mL
I view this as a well rounded serum housed in an oil. It features a nice variety of C's and countless other vitamins, plant extracts, peptides, and skin-identical ingredients. It smells like absolute heaven and absorbs softly into the skin. I'm on my second bottle and I've turned quite a few people onto it as well. You may consider switching your regular C serum out with this during the winter if you need a bit more comfort in the hydration department. It's lightweight and wears well under makeup during the day but really nourishes the skin at night. I'm a fan, Stan.
Ingredients: Squalane, Silica, Silica Silylate, Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis (Sweet Almond) Oil, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Ascorbyl Glucoside (Vitamin C), Ascorbyl Palmitate (Vitamin C), Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate (Vitamin C), Rose Flower Oil, Tetrapeptide-21, Tocopheryl Acetate (Vitamin E), Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Oil, Oenothera Biennis (Evening Primrose) Oil, Palmitoyl Tripeptide-1, Palmitoyl Tripeptide-28, Retinol, Emblica Officinalis Fruit Extract, Ergocalciferol (Vitamin D), Phytonadione (Vitamin K), Retinyl Palmitate (Vitamin A), Panthenol (Vitamin B), Argania Spinosa Kernel Oil, Chlorella Protothecoides Oil, Hippophae Rhamnoides Fruit Extract, Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Oil, Macadamia Ternifolia Seed Oil, Persea Gratissima (Avocado) Oil, Phospholipids, Prunus Armeniaca (Apricot) Kernel Oil, Pyrus Malus (Apple) Fruit Extract, Salix Alba (Willow) Bark Extract, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Geranium Maculatum Oil, Glycine Soja (Soybean) Oil, Sodium Hyaluronate, Linoleic Acid (Vitamin F), Biotin (Vitamin H), Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter Extract, Triticum Vulgare (Wheat) Germ Oil, Ubiquinone, Glycolic Acid, Lactic Acid, Salicylic Acid, Acrylates/Carbamate Copolymer, Ethylhexyl Palmitate, Ethylhexylglycerin, Butylene Glycol, Tribehenin, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Hydroxyethyl Behenamidopropyl Dimonium Chloride, Bentonite, Corn Starch Modified, Mentha Piperita (Peppermint) Oil, VP/Eicosene Copolymer, Water/Aqua/Eau, Polysorbate 20, Carbomer, Glycerin, Curcuma Longa (Turmeric) Root Extract, Behenyl Alcohol, Sorbitan Isostearate, Cyclodextrin, Phytic Acid, Phenoxyethanol.
Rating: 5/5 - Blending three forms of C in an oil that conditions but remains lightweight is a unique approach that has been executed beautifully. I love this serum-oil and I'll continue to use it as the years progress! Repurchase: Yes
Drunk Elephant C-Firma $80 for 1 fl oz or 30 mL
I know this is beloved by many of you. The first iteration of it - with the removable cap - didn't sit too well on my skin. I found it severely dehydrated my skin and the packaging created waste and a huge mess. I haven't tried the updated version - which is the version I think has really made it a the success it is today - for a number of reasons.
For starters, I wasn't impressed with the first version. Secondly, there are already a ton of Vitamin C serums I'm already so in love with. Third, I think there are other Vitamin C serums with formulas that are just as beautiful (but let's be fair, Drunk Elephant knows how to formulate) and cost less money.
What I will say is that I appreciate how much Drunk Elephant gives you - formula wise - for your money. Yes, this serum is $80. But for $80, you're getting every single penny worth of quality in terms of ingredients. Tons of antioxidant plant extracts, tons of anti-inflammatory ingredients, tons of super beneficial organic-derived and synthetically-engineered powerhouses.
As an aside: I find that is usually the case with Drunk Elephant products. The INCI lists read like beautiful poetry, but in practice I find them to be lackluster. Almost like something is missing. Like 6/10. If I've found products that are a solid 10/10, why would I settle? I'm not saying I'll never try it, because I'm sure I will. Once I run out of my other C's, who knows!
With all of that said, I can still highly recommend this C serum. I rope it in as one of the classics based on its cult-following and formula. It's the most well-rounded C serum (for the best value) you can buy in Sephora, that's for sure.
*Update: I love the new formula quite a lot and I'll be posting about it soon x
Ingredients: Water, 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. Rating: 3/5 - Based on my experience with the old formula, I wasn't too impressed. When I read the ingredient list, I should be blown away, but I wasn't. Repurchase: Maybe. After I've finished with some of my other C formulas, I may give this one a go. But I will do so hesitantly.
Kate Somerville Mega-C Dual Radiance Serum $90 for 1 fl oz (0.5 fl oz each), or 30 mL (15 mL each)
I really did not like this to be very honest. I found the scent to be overpowering and offensive, the texture had a tendency to roll when paired with an oil, and I felt like I had to force myself to use it in order to finish it up.
The concept is novel - housing the Vitamin C in a waterless base that is only combined with a separate serum when pumped out means an increase in stability and increase in enjoyment of use. The Omega formula contains an excessive amount of fragrance and a really high placement of preservative. It wasn't enjoyable to use and it didn't give me the results I wanted. There's many things Kate does extremely well but I haven't found Vitamin C to be one of them.
Ingredients: Omega Formula: Water, Neopentyl Glycol Diethylhexanoate, Propanediol, Methyl Glucose Sesquistearate, Glycerin, Cetyl Alcohol, Diisopropyl Dimer Dilinoleate, PEG-20 Methyl Glucose Sesquistearate, Fragrance (Parfum), HDI/Trimethylol Hexyllactone Crosspolymer, Polymethylsilsesquioxane, Phenoxyethanol, Magnesium Aluminum Silicate, Borago Officinalis Seed Oil, Tocopherol, Elaeis Guineensis (Palm) Oil, Xanthan Gum, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Linoleic Acid, Linolenic Acid, Oryza Sativa (Rice) Bran Extract, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract, Calcium Pantothenate, Niacinamide, Disodium EDTA, Ethylhexylglycerin, Hippophae Rhamnoides Oil, Lecithin, Maltodextrin, Pyridoxine HCl, Silica, Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Sodium Benzoate, Sodium Starch Octenyl Succinate, Tocopheryl Acetate, Tocotrienols, Adenosine, Sea Whip Extract, Citric Acid, Sodium Hydroxide. Vitamin C Formula: Isododecane, Ascorbic Acid, Ethylhexyl Hydroxystearate, Polysilicone-11.
Rating: 1/5 - There was nothing I liked about this serum except the way the packaging looks.
M-61 Vitablast C Serum $92 for 1 fl oz or 30 mL
A simple formula, but an effective formula. It's quite thin and water-like, something along the lines of Paula's Choice C15. There is not a concentration listed for the Vitamin C, but it's the third ingredient. It's safe to assume it's effective enough. It's one of M-61's top selling products, so it definitely seems to be well liked by people.
I enjoy the experience, the texture, and the glow that it gives.
I guess my biggest complaint would be the price. It's a stellar formula, but you're paying $92 for something that doesn't list percentages of Vitamin C. For all we know, it could be 1%. Based on the smell, though, this is definitely a Vitamin C formula. I'm hesitant.
Ingredients: Water, Ethoxydiglycol, Ascorbic Acid, Glycerin, Pentylene Glycol, Gallic Acid, Tocopheryl Acetate, Sodium Hyaluronate, Panthenol, Sodium Hydroxide, Phenoxyethanol, Polysorbate 60
Rating: 4/5 - It's a very good Vitamin C formula, but fairly plain. I think there are other C serums that give you just a bit more in the ingredient department but cost the same or a bit less. Not bad by any means, just not my first choice. Repurchase: No
These are intended to be added with any formula of your liking. I pair mine with a serum, just to make sure I can reap all of the benefits.
Dr. Brandt Power Dose C $69 for 0.55 fl oz, or 17 mL
I'm going to be honest and say I wasn't initially over the moon to try this. Dr. Brandt hasn't produced many products that I took any interest in, so my perception wasn't necessarily in the most positive light. As time has progressed, I've come to find that this is a C booster I really like.
It's not as fluid as something like Paula's Choice C15, but it's certainly not as thick as a serum. It's gorgeous mixed in with hydration serums for a nice boost that really did make a positive impact on the clarity and firmness of my skin. I found myself wanting to use it quite frequently.
All "tri-blend" claims aside, 3-O-Ethyl Ascorbic Acid is listed as the second ingredient, which means it's likely significant enough to truly change the skin the way Vitamin C has the potential to do. This booster claims to have three different forms of Vitamin C, but there are only two listed in the INCI label. It also claims to contain 20% Vitamin C, but does that mean 20% total? Or 20% of a certain ingredient? I digress.
I think the thing I like the most about this booster is that it is incredibly mild. When mixed with a serum, it gives a potent boost of C that provides definitely glow and radiance over time, but doesn't have any drying qualities or the semi-off-putting scent of many C serums.
Ingredients: Water, 3-0-Ethyl Ascorbic Acid, Butylene Glycol, Glycerin, Ascorbyl Methylsilanol Pectinate, Xanthan Gum, Disodium Edta, Dipotassium Phosphate, Pentasodium Pentetate, Terminalia Ferdinandiana Fruit Extract, Sodium Phytate, Ppg-26-Buteth-26, Phenoxyethanol, Chlorphenesin, Citric Acid, Peg-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Ethylhexylglycerin, Methylpropanediol.
Rating: 4.5/5 - They say it's three forms of C, but I can only find two. With that said, you are getting a total of 20% C, which is nothing to roll your eyes at. Repurchase: Maybe!
Paula's Choice C15 Super Booster $48 for 0.67 fl oz, or 20 mL
This is my most repurchased Vitamin C product ever. I think it's priced so reasonably considering how strong and solid the formula is. It's a booster, so the idea is that you'd mix it with another product. I find applying it straight onto my skin is totally find, but in general I prefer to mix my Vitamin C products anyway.
Ingredients: Water, Ascorbic Acid, Ethoxydiglycol, PPG-26 Buteth-26, PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Tocopherol, Ferulic Acid, Sodium Hyaluronate, Acetyl Octapeptide-3, Glycerin, Panthenol, Sodium Metabisulfite, Triethanolamine, Phenoxyethanol.
Rating: 4/5 - My longest and most repurchased C formula. It's my top recommendation for someone jumping into the world of Vitamin C who is really looking to correct dark spots and other signs of aging. Repurchase: Yes.
Not my first choice as the vehicle for my Vitamin C, but you could do worse for yourself.
Sunday Riley C.E.O. $65 for 1.7 fl oz or 50 mL
Forms of C: Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate Concentration: 5% Available from: Sephora
The product is contained in a jar. Though THD Ascorbate is light-and-air stable, Vitamin C is much better off in light-proof and air-tight packaging if you ask me. The antioxidant qualities seem like they'd be better in more stable packaging. Better to be safe than sorry. Beyond that, the concentration of C is quite low. 5% may be enough to act as an antioxidant, but the corrective properties are likely limited. The preservative is listed at the upper-middle of the ingredient list, which makes me cringe.
There is a significant amount of fragrance in this formula, and it smells as such. I get a very artificial orange vibe from it. While there is tangerine peel oil in the ingredient list, I don't find that it reflects the scent of the product as a whole The texture is very heavy on the silicones and waxes. It feels stiff in a way. I don't find it to be very hydrating or comforting the way most other moisturizers do on my skin.
I returned it, if that tells you anything.
Ingredients: Water, Squalane, Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate (Vitamin C), Dicaprylyl Carbonate, C10-18 Triglycerides, PEG-8 Beeswax, Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil, Tapioca Starch, PPG-12 SMDI Copolymer, Polyglyceryl-6 Distearate, Jojoba Esters, Cetyl Alcohol, Sodium Acrylates Copolymer, Polyglyceryl-3 Beeswax, Lecithin, Glycerin, Microcitrus Australasica Fruit (Lime Pearl) Extract, Butylene Glycol, Alteromonas Ferment Extract (Exopolysaccharides), Phenoxyethanol, Terminalia Ferdinandiana Fruit (Kakadu Plum) Extract, Bisabolol, Chlorphenesin, Caprylyl Glycol, Polymethylsilsesquioxane, Nylon-12, Citrus Reticulata (Tangerine) Peel Oil, Citric Acid, Sodium Phytate, Tocopherol, Sodium Hyaluronate, Fragrance, Rosa Centifolia Flower Wax, Rosa Damascena Flower Wax, Alcohol Denat (found in botanical extracts), Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Curcuma Longa (Turmeric) Root Extract, Citrus Junos Fruit (Yuzu) Extract, Lippia Citriodora Flower (Lemon Verbena) Extract, Euterpe Oleracea (Acai) Fruit, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter Extract, Rosa Canina Fruit (Rosehips)Extract, Oenothera Biennis (Evening Primrose) Seed Extract, Camellia Sinensis Leaf (Oolong Tea).
Rating: 0/5 - The jar is pretty. Repurchase: No.
Dr. Dennis Gross C+Collagen Perfect Skin Set & Refresh Mist $30 for 3 fl oz
A quick spritz over makeup will take away the look of powder, increase the lit-from-within glow, and provide a shielding boost against the environment.
An easy way to deliver a Vitamin C boost midday without having to start your skincare all over again. Great for those that live in urban areas or can easily experience dullness. I respect this product because there's not a mere sprinkling of Vitamin C derivatives. Both forms of C that are being used are likely significant enough to actually do something. But then that's what Dr. Dennis Gross does - he designs products that work.
It's difficult to determine the percentage of Vitamin C you're getting in this formula. With that said, any concentration of C will provide antioxidant and skin-strengthening benefits. I personally wouldn't rely on this as my sole source of Vitamin C, but rather as a supplement.
In practice, it performs beautifully. It provides a very clean glow - nothing sticky or tacky. It smells lovely - slightly citrus, but not in a tangy way. It functions well as a powder-minimizing setting spray, a glow-enhancing refreshing spray, and the formula has enough heft to it that you can count on it to top up your Vitamin C levels throughout the day.
Ingredients: Water, Propylene Glycol, Polysorbate 20, 3-O-Ethyl Ascorbic Acid, Ascorbic Acid, Collagen Amino Acids, Niacinamide, Panthenol, Superoxide Dismutase, Ubiquinone, Sodium Hyaluronate, Phytic Acid, Phospholipids, Sphingolipids, Colloidal Oatmeal, Carnitine HCI, Ascorbyl Palmitate, Tocopheryl Acetate, Soy Isoflavones, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice , Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Cucumis Sativus (Cucumber) Fruit Extract, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Extract, Sodium PCA, Glycerin, Butylene Glycol, Acrylates/Carbamate Copolymer, Glycolic Acid, Citric Acid, Tetrasodium EDTA, Ethylhexylglycerin, Rubus Idaeus (Raspberry) Fruit Extract, Pyrus Malus (Apple) Fruit Extract, Elettaria Cardamomum Seed Extract, Santalum Album (Sandalwood) Wood Extract, Salvia Officinalis (Sage) Leaf Extract, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract, Rose Extract, Jasminum Officinale (Jasmine) Flower Extract, Fucus Vesiculosus Extract, Cupressus Sempervirens Leaf/Stem Extract, Cucumis Melo (Melon) Fruit Extract, Coffea Arabica (Coffee) Seed Extract, Citrus Aurantium Amara (Bitter Orange) Flower Extract, Polysorbate 80, Biosaccharide Gum-4, Cananga Odorata Flower Extract, Citrus Auranitum Bergamia (Bergamot) Fruit Extract, Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Flower/Leaf/Stem Extract, Triethyl Citrate, Linalool, Potassium Sorbate, Phenoxyethanol.
Rating: 5/5 - As a concept, this product stands alone. It's a great way to reintroduce Vitamin C into your skin midday. I just wouldn't rely on it as your sole source of C. Repurchase: Yes
My top three, if I had to pick, would be: Dr. Dennis Gross C+Collagen Brighten & Firm Vitamin C Serum Paula's Choice C15 Super Booster Dr. Dennis Gross Triple C Peptide Firming Oil
I think they all perform exceptionally well, contain the kind of ingredients I usually look for in my C treatments, and are priced quite well in the grand landscape of things.
However, they may not work for you. There may be other C serums that work even better for you. Maybe a moisturizer is your preferred method of delivering C to the skin. The best part about skincare is the fact that we're all different. Everyone will have a different experience, and everyone will find their own holy grail C product.
I hope that this guide has at least helped you to form a foundation in your search for understanding and implementing Vitamin C into your skincare wardrobe.
Which ingredient should we do next?