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Drunk Elephant C-Firma Fresh Vitamin C Day Serum
Powerful 15 percent concentration
Made with formula stabilizing ferulic acid
Longer shelf life due to home activation
Leaves a slightly tacky texture behind
Drunk Elephant C-Firma Fresh Vitamin C Day Serum
Ask any dermatologist and they'll tell you that vitamin C is one of those powerhouse ingredients that's actually worth your money. But if you're familiar with this ingredient, then you know that all vitamin C serums are not created equal. When it comes to shelf life, vitamin C derivatives can be a bit fickle; they're extremely sensitive, and the formula's efficacy can degrade fairly easily when exposed to light, heat, and air.
It's a common obstacle for vitamin C formulators, and it's precisely the challenge that Drunk Elephant faced with its original vitamin C serum—C-Firma—after its inception in 2013. While the formula was a best-seller and beloved by dermatologists, beauty editors, and Drunk Elephant consumers alike, founder Tiffany Masterson had a hunch that the product's fan base—particularly overseas consumers with longer shipping times—weren't getting the freshest vitamin C possible.
"I originally made C-Firma in 2013 to be my ultimate brightening vitamin C serum," she says, "As always, I put myself in the shoes of the consumer, so I knew I had to use L-ascorbic acid, which is the most effective and most well-researched form of vitamin C." She continues, "L-ascorbic acid is the gold standard form of vitamin C—the only downside is that L-ascorbic acid has a shorter shelf life in liquid than other actives. After about six months, it begins to lose its potency, as well as a shift in color. That’s always bothered me."
It gnawed at Masterson so much that she and her team have spent the last three years re-formulating the brand's iconic, best-selling vitamin C serum. And thus, C-Firma Fresh was born. The new formula features the same ingredients and packaging that consumers already know and love, but with a new modality that keeps the formula effective for longer.
Curious how Drunk Elephant's new C-Firma Fresh serum stacks up against the original formula? Read on for my full review.
BEST FOR: Brightening, protecting from photoaging
ACTIVE INGREDIENTS: L-Ascorbic Acid, Ferulic Acid, Vitamin E
ABOUT THE BRAND: Drunk Elephant is known for its effective, "bio-compatible" products formulated without essential oils, drying alcohols, silicones, chemical sunscreens, fragrances, dyes, or sulfates.
About My Skin: Dull and Acne-Prone
While I'm blessed with skin that isn't too sensitive or reactive, I do have some skin concerns that I'm actively treating. I'm extremely pale, so my skin tends to look a bit dull—especially in the morning when I haven't applied any skincare. I'm also actively treating hormonal breakouts concentrated along my chin and jawline. They tend to cycle in and out with my period, but I still like to avoid heavy oils and comedogenic formulas.
The Feel: Light and Breezy
If you're a fan of the original C-Firma formula, I'm thrilled to report that there are no detectable changes in viscosity between the original and the new C-Firma Fresh. You'll experience the same lightweight, slightly thicker-than-water texture that doesn't feel even the slightest bit heavy on the skin. It doesn't pill under my sunscreen, drag my skin down, or make me feel like I've inundated my face with product. The finish also leaves my skin feeling light, luminous, and ready for SPF—it's exactly what I want in a morning serum. Just be aware that it does leave the subtlest tacky feeling behind—it's definitely not sticky. Still, it's something you might notice before you layer your moisturizer or SPF on top (then it's undetectable).
The Results: Luminous and Protected
C-Firma Fresh is clear with a slightly amber tone, which instantly gives some warmth and luminosity to my skin. (My skin looks better the second I put it on.) I've found that this luminosity even shines through my sunscreen to give me a gorgeous, healthy-looking glow throughout the day.
And while I love the immediate cosmetic benefits that C-Firma Fresh delivers, the more important work is happening behind the scenes. Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant, and it protects my skin from free radicals and photoaging throughout the day. It works in tandem with my SPF to drastically reduce the harmful effects of UV rays, which can damage (and age) the skin faster.
So while this protection isn't necessarily an immediate benefit, it's still essential, and I look forward to reaping the benefits down the line.
Ingredients: Antioxidant Powerhouse
"C-Firma Fresh contains the same blend of actives as in our original formula that the Drunk Elephant customer already knows and loves: 15 percent ascorbic acid, 1.0 percent vitamin E, and 0.5 percent ferulic acid combined with other potent antioxidants and fruit enzymes," says Masterson. "However, while we were working on this change, we made a few other upgrades: We lowered the pH (from 3.3 to 2.5), which increases the penetration and potency of the ascorbic acid in C-Firma and made it vegan, too."
How to Use: Mix well
Here's where the "fresh" in C-Firma Fresh really comes into play. As part of the reformulation, Drunk Elephant separated the liquid serum from the actual powdered vitamin C so that users can activate the formula at home, which keeps it fresher for longer. When you order C-Firma Fresh, you'll receive two vials: one containing the liquid serum and one containing the powdered vitamin C. You mix the two for a full minute (this is important!), and then you have your fresh, activated formula.
Important: Once you combine the liquid serum with the powdered vitamin C, be sure to shake your product for a full minute to fully mix and activate your formula. You only have to do this the first time you open a new bottle of C-Firma Fresh—then your product is ready to use every morning.
"By separating the liquid serum phase from the vitamin C, the user is able to determine the time of 'activation' for their C-Firma Fresh, which is the moment they mix the two together," says Masterson. "Not only will your C-Firma Fresh always be at its most potent and effective, but now you can stock up, which has never been possible before now. The formula never touches the air after it’s mixed, so it’s truly as fresh as can be."
Once you've mixed your brand new bottle, you don't have to shake it again. Just apply 1-3 pumps to a clean face and neck in the morning and follow up with your favorite sunscreen (or moisturizer and sunscreen).
Similar Products: You Have Options
SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic ($166): While this product comes with similar ingredients and the same lofty recommendations from dermatologists, it's also double the price. But if vitamin C is a product you're looking to splurge on, then this is definitely the formula to use.
The Ordinary Resveratrol 3% + Ferulic Acid 3% Serum ($8): While this serum doesn't contain L-ascorbic acid, it does contain resveratrol and ferulic acid (both powerful antioxidants). It's also a fraction of the price, so it's. a great place to start if you're brand new to vitamin C and looking for a "test" product to see how well your skin can tolerate strong antioxidants.
Team Byrdie has always been a fan of the original C-Firma formula, but I love that C-Firma Fresh means I'm getting the freshest, most potent vitamin C every time. (And TBH, I kind of love playing chemist and mixing up the formula in my bathroom.) I truly only believe in spending money on ingredients that are clinically proven to improve and protect your skin, and vitamin C is one of those ingredients. If the immediate cosmetic benefits don't justify the purchase, consider what this formula will do for your skin years down the road. The science is there; when used in tandem with sunscreen, the consistent use of a topical vitamin C serum like C-Firma Fresh protects against photoaging, free radicals and promotes a more youthful appearance down the line. To me, that makes it well worth the price.
- Product Name C-Firma Fresh Vitamin C Day Serum
- Product Brand Drunk Elephant
- Price $78.00
Oregon State University Linus Pauling Institute. Vitamin C and skin health. Updated September, 2011.
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Munyaka AW, Makule EE, Oey I, Van Loey A, Hendrickx M. Thermal stability of L-ascorbic acid and ascorbic acid oxidase in broccoli (Brassica oleracea var. italica). J Food Sci. 2010;75(4):C336-340.
Arrigoni O, De Tullio MC. Ascorbic acid: much more than just an antioxidant. Biochim Biophys Acta. 2002;1569(1-3):1-9.
Oresajo C, Stephens T, Hino PD, et al. Protective effects of a topical antioxidant mixture containing vitamin C, ferulic acid, and phloretin against ultraviolet-induced photodamage in human skin. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2008;7(4):290-297.
Pullar JM, Carr AC, Vissers MCM. The roles of vitamin c in skin health. Nutrients. 2017;9(8):866.