We put BeautyStat’s Universal C Skin Refiner to the test after receiving a complimentary sample from the brand. Keep reading for our full review.
In my quest to enter my 30s with better skin than I had in my 20s, vitamin C has quickly become a staple in my daily beauty regimen—which is why I was excited to try BeautyStat’s Universal C Skin Refiner, an innovative gel-cream serum that pairs pure vitamin C with green tea, squalane, and tartaric acid.
And apparently, I'm not the only one who was curious—when this serum hit the market in 2019, it sold out in less than 24 hours. Needless to say, I was interested to see how it would stack up to other popular vitamin C formulas. So did it help me achieve the glowing, vibrant complexion of my dreams? Read on to find out.
BeautyStat Universal C Skin Refiner
Best For: All skin types
Star Rating: 4.7/5
Uses: Refining skin texture, brightening complexion, and reducing the appearance of pores, fine lines, wrinkles, dark spots, and redness
Potential allergens: L-ascorbic acid
Active ingredients: L-ascorbic acid, EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate), squalane, tartaric acid
Byrdie Clean?: No, contains petrolatum
About the Brand: Founded by former beauty chemist and product developer Ron Robinson, BeautyStat is a beauty influencer agency and blog that has produced trusted beauty reviews for over a decade. The company ventured into its own line of skincare in 2019, when Robinson teamed up with Jules Zecchino, who formerly worked in R&D at Estée Lauder Cos. Inc., to launch its first two products: this vitamin C gel-cream and also a moisturizer.
About My Skin: Healthy but could use a boost
Springtime is when my skin thrives the most. By now, I’ve fully bounced back from cold weather-induced dryness and flakiness, and the gross humidity of summertime in New York hasn't yet turned me into an oily, shiny disaster. That said, because of our current health situation, I've been spending the majority of my time indoors, which means I’m extra pasty and dull. Plus, the added uncertainty of this moment has caused me to stress-pick a pimple or two. All things considered, I could benefit from a radiance boost.
I had only just started getting my daily vitamin C fix about two months ago (after reviewing SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic, the holy grail of vitamin C serums), and it has helped improve the texture and radiance of my skin immensely. I typically kick off my daily routine by washing my face with an oil cleanser, follow it with vitamin C (I swapped in the Universal C Skin Refiner for my current bottle of C E Ferulic), and then finish with a facial oil or moisturizer. BeautyStat recommends using Universal C once or twice a day—twice yielding quicker results—so I began applying once a day, working my way up to twice a day halfway through the three-week testing period.
Ingredient Quality: Contains the highest percentage of pure vitamin C allowable
The key ingredient in the Universal C Skin Refiner is, of course, vitamin C, which is known to improve the radiance and texture of the skin while diminishing the appearance of dark spots, fine lines, and wrinkles. Formulated with 20% of L-ascorbic acid, this product contains the highest percentage of pure vitamin C allowable in skincare products, meaning this stuff is potent.
In addition to vitamin C, it contains three other key ingredients: EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate), squalane, and tartaric acid. EGCG is an active component of green tea that works synergistically with vitamin C to protect against aging, while squalane hydrates. Tartaric acid evens out skin texture and tone while providing the optimum skin pH level for product absorption. Squalane is listed as the fifth ingredient while EGCG and tartaric acid are last, respectively, but as there are only nine ingredients in the product (and based on my personal results), I do feel that they are present in effective concentrations.
Due to its inclusion of petrolatum, a petroleum-derived ingredient, the Universal C Skin Refiner is not considered clean by Byrdie’s standards, but it is alcohol-, paraben-, phthalate-, and fragrance-free.
The Feel: Light with a luxurious satin finish
The Universal C Skin Refiner is formulated as a gel-cream serum, which squeezes out of the pump as a light, semi-gritty substance that instantly melts into my skin. The grittiness dissipates upon application, leaving my skin with a luxurious, satin-like finish sans any residue (meaning it's also the perfect base for makeup).
The Formulation: A patented delivery system prevents oxidation
Vitamin C is tough to stabilize when in its purest form, so often, beauty products containing it tend to oxidize over time, turning brown in color and becoming less effective. BeautyStat developed an innovative encapsulation delivery method that protects each particle until it’s rubbed into the skin, preventing oxidation from taking place and thus increasing its shelf life.
The Packaging: Pump bottle allows for mess-free application
Most vitamin C serums I’ve tried are packaged in a glass bottle with a dropper, which tends to get messy, especially when the formula is a runny liquid. I loved that Universal C’s gel-cream formula is dispensed through a pump nozzle, allowing for a mess-free application process. The pump disperses all the product you’ll need in just two pumps, so you can be sure none of it goes to waste.
Drying & Irritation: Slight stinging sensation, no irritation
Some people are more sensitive to vitamin C, especially in higher concentrations. While I experienced a slight stinging sensation almost every time I applied the product (a common side effect of vitamin C products), it dissipated quickly and I experienced no other irritation or dryness.
Robinson, the brand's founder, explained to me via email that Universal C has been tested to be safe for sensitive skin, but mentioned that those with more reactive complexions should start slow by applying a little product in the evening before building up to two times a day.
Interactions & Sensitivity: Retin-A is okay for non-sensitive skin
Typically, if you’re using vitamin C daily, you’ll want to avoid layering it with retinols, copper peptides, and alpha-hydroxy acids, which can destabilize it and render it ineffective. However, according to the brand, you can use Universal C with Retin-A (and that you should apply the Retin-A first), noting that you may find you no longer need to use Retin-A over time “due to the skin-perfecting effects of Universal C.” However, Robinson said that he only recommends pairing the two if your skin can tolerate it.
The Scent: Surprisingly minimal
Vitamin C products are infamous for having a not-so-pleasant scent reminiscent of hot dog water. I am pleased to report that while this fragrance-free product has a very light, faint scent due to its ingredients, it does not smell like processed meat—a major plus for vitamin C enthusiasts.
The Science: Clinical test proves powerful results
Universal C was put to the test in an independent clinical study where 32 users applied the product twice a day for four weeks. Based on instrumentation measurements and image analysis, the study proved that Universal C significantly fades dark spots and discoloration, reduces the look of deep lines and wrinkles, and leaves the skin appearing firmer and tighter. Over 90% of the users noted a reduction in the appearance of fine lines, improvement in skin texture, and overall a healthier, firmer, and younger-looking complexion. All users noted a more even skin tone and improved pore size. You can read more about the results here.
The Results: Instantly smoother skin, brighter complexion over time
I loved how Universal C immediately improved my skin’s texture—even after the very first use. As soon as the product was absorbed, my skin was instantly smoother, and the satin-like finish created the perfect base for makeup without any sticky residue. After removing my makeup and washing my face at the end of the day, my skin was still soft to the touch.
Over the course of the three-week testing period, I noticed my skin began to brighten as its texture continued to improve. By the time I was done testing, some major changes had taken place: My complexion was overall much smoother and more radiant, some of my dark spots had slightly lifted, and the scar on my chin from stress-picking a blemish had faded significantly. I had a vibrant, healthy glow, despite being cooped up indoors.
The Value: A worthy investment
When it comes to skincare, I’m always down to shell out for a product if I know it’s truly high-quality and delivers real, lasting results. At $80 per fluid ounce, the Universal C Skin Refiner will definitely cost you a pretty penny, but its efficacy makes it worth it. This is definitely a product that has earned its place in my daily skincare arsenal in the future.
Similar Products: One of the best options out there
SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic: Before testing Universal C, I had the opportunity to test a cult-favorite vitamin C serum, SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic. Both are investments, with C E Ferulic ringing in at more than twice the price of Universal C. Universal C works synergistically with EGCG to boost the antioxidant benefits of vitamin C, while C E Ferulic does the same with vitamin E and ferulic acid. Both products delivered powerful brightening and smoothing effects, though I felt that C E Ferulic resulted in plumper, more supple skin in addition to the other benefits. Still, I’d opt to spend $80 on Universal C again before spending $166 on C E Ferulic.
The Nue Co. Topical C: Another great vitamin C product I’ve used in the past is The Nue Co.’s Topical C. While Universal C combines vitamin C with EGCG, squalane, and tartaric acid, Topical C blends vitamin C with ferulic acid, tapioca starch, colloidal oatmeal, and aloe vera for an exfoliating product that soothes and heals the skin. I love that both products won’t oxidize over time, as Topical C is in powder form and Universal C has an encapsulated formula. Both products are effective, but I prefer Universal C’s gel-cream formulation over The Nue Co.’s messier powder application.
Our Verdict: I’m in love!
Overall, the Universal C Skin Refiner totally transformed the look and feel of my skin. Not only is my complexion brighter and livelier, but I noticed significant fading of scars and dark spots and a much smoother, softer appearance. Consider this my new skin hero!