My biggest concern in the summer is sun damage and pigmentation. That means it’s time for vitamin C! I did a skincare 101 post about sun damage and antioxidants before and vitamin C serums are my favorite way of combating pigmentation. While the higher percentage of vitamin C the better, there are a few other things you have to watch out for as well when buying vitamin C products. When vitamin C oxidizes, it turns dark and can actually generate free radicals instead of stopping them. Some form of vitamin C can also react negatively with plastic, so dark glass bottles are preferred.
And do you also know that different forms of vitamin C have different level of effectiveness and stability? Pure vitamin C is called Ascorbic Acid. It is the most potent form of vitamin C but it can also irritate the skin if it’s not formulated well. It is stable up to only 6 months by itself (experiment showing it oxidizing here) so proper storage and effective stabilizing agents are important. Other popular forms of vitamin C are Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate and Magnesium Ascorbyl Palmitate. They are more stable and less irritating than Asorbic Acid, which means they last much longer and are better for sensitive skin. For more details and list of vitamin C you see on ingredients list, check out here. I’ve been using Ole Henriksen Truth Serum for years, and I really like it so I never tried anything else. After some nitpicking, I finally picked up three promising vitamin C serums to try out.
Algenist Genius Ultimate Anti-Aging Vitamin C+ Serum
Description: A serum formulated to minimize the appearance of deep wrinkles and to strengthen the most fragile skin texture while visibly reducing the look of age spots and discoloration.This serum joins with Alguronic Acid to improve skin firmness and smoothness. It is formulated with microalgae oil to achieve intense skin hydration and a Vitamin C derivative to help reduce the appearance of stubborn discoloration—boosting radiance in the skin while plant collagen promotes a youthful skin appearance. 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.
My take: The serum is a liquidy gel with a scent of vanilla. It spreads well and absorbs quickly into the skin. It is quite moisturizing so I would recommend it for dry or aging skin. If you have oily skin, you might not need a moisturizer afterward. I didn’t see or feel the effect of vitamin C from the 4-5 applications but my skin did feel more moisturized and comfortable.
Philosophy Turbo Booster C Powder
Description: The benefits of a topical antioxidant is as simple as adding a little sprinkle of this easy-to-use vitamin C powder to your moisturizer. Featuring 99.8% potency, this treatment powder protects skin from premature aging during the day. Vitamin C also gently lightens hyperpigmentation, for a more even and radiant complexion.Ingredients: Ascorbic Acid, Panthenol, Zinc Pca, Copper Pca, Camellia Oleifera Leaf Juice, Dipotassium Glycyrrhizinate, Arginine, Cysteine, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice.
My take: It is a white powder that you add to moisturizer or lotions for a boost of vitamin C right before application. It is best to add it to a basic moisturizer or lotion since too many active ingredients together (retinol, glycolic acid, salicylic acid, ascorbic acid) may irritate the skin. I added one scoop (comes with the full size product, about half pea size) to my moisturizer, it made the consistency a tad watery/powdery but the mixture absorbs fine on the skin. It does sting a little when applied, so start with adding a smaller amount if you have sensitive skin. There was no irritation after application and my pores do look nicer the next day.
Perricone MD Vitamin C Ester Serum
Description: This radiating serum is designed for face, eyes, and lips—proven to instantly boost skin’s radiance. It imparts an even, luminous glow and a brighter complexion while minimizing the appearance of fine lines, smoothing crows feet, and brightening dark circles. It tackles vertical lines and makes lips appear more defined, keeping lipstick from feathering, and leaving skin looking and feeling refreshed and refined.Ingredients: Water, Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate, Caprylyl Methicone, Hydrogenated Lecithin, Behenyl Alcohol, Benzyl Alcohol, Squalane, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract, Ferulic Acid, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Sodium Hyaluronate, Polysorbate 20, Xanthan Gum, Beta-Glucan, Fragrance/Parfum, Sorbitol, Limonene, Stearyl Glycyrrhetinate, Disodium EDTA, Elaeis Guineensis (Palm) Oil, Tocotrienols, Linalool, Tocopherol, Citral, Citronellol.
My take: The white serum has a powdery, citrus candy smell. It absorbs well, hydrates slightly and I felt no irritation whatsoever. Even when applied sparingly, my skin feels soft and looks smooth with nice pores the second day. This is Vitamin C Easter Serum, not to be confused with the Perricone MD Vitamin C Easter 15, which comes in set of small white tubes. The Easter 15 (tube ones) have a higher concentration of vitamin C, but it is a white lotion/creamy texture and doesn’t absorb as well as this serum on my skin.
The samples of the three serum I got were about enough for 4-6 applications each, not enough for me to verify the claim about lighten pigmentation or reduce wrinkles. However, I do see more refined pores and clearer complexion after two uses with Philosophy and Perricone. Algenist is more moisturizing and gentle, so it’s great for dry, fragile or sensitive skin. Philosophy is great if you want to add a little vitamin C to your basic hydrating serum or moisturizer. But if you don’t want the hassle of DIYing and want a stable vitamin C serum that is effective and works for all skin types, Perricone it is.
The percentage of vitamin C is not the only thing that determines if a serum is good. The type of vitamin C, what it is formulated with and the packaging also matters. My favorite vitamin C serum so far is Perricone (although I will continue to use the cheaper Ole Henriksen Truth Serum until I see a good deal). As for whether it’s Holy Grail worthy, well, I still need to try a few more vitamin C serums before making the decision (currently eyeing the Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum, Skinceutical C E Ferulic Serum, Klairs Freshly Juiced Vitamin C Serum and Skin Inc Vitamin C Serum). So, what’s your favorite vitamin C serum?