We put SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic to the test after receiving a complimentary sample from the brand. Keep reading for our full product review.
Let me put it this way: SkinCeuticals’ C E Ferulic isn't just a vitamin C serum. It is the vitamin C serum. Since it launched in 2005, dermatologists and beauty editors alike have sworn that its formula—which features vitamin C, vitamin E, and ferulic acid—is the stuff skin dreams are made of. TL;DR: the hype is real.
But does it actually live up to its reputation? To see for myself, I tested it for three weeks, evaluating its effects both daily and over time. Read on to find out if the pricey antioxidant concoction was the magic formula my skin needed.
SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic
Star Rating: 4.8/5
Best For: Dry, normal, and sensitive skin
Uses: Improves the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, brightens complexion, reduces free radical damage
Potential Allergens: Ascorbic acid, propylene glycol, triethanolamine
Active ingredients: 15% L-ascorbic acid, 1% alpha-tocopherol, 0.5% ferulic acid
Byrdie Clean?: No, contains triethanolamine
About the Brand: Founded in 1997, SkinCeuticals is an innovative and trusted skincare brand. Its mission is to develop science-backed skincare products that protect the skin, correct signs of aging, and prevent future damage.
About My Skin: In need of a pick-me-up
Wintertime causes my skin to become extremely dull and dry, so by the time spring gets here, it’s in need of a serious pick-me-up. Naturally, I jumped at the chance to test out C E Ferulic, which boasts brightening benefits in addition to protecting against free radicals and environmental stressors, which is exactly what my skin needs this time of year.
Because I don’t want to use anything too harsh that would irritate or dry out my skin further, I typically wash my face with a light but soothing oil cleanser. My daytime skincare regimen consists of a spritz of hydrating facial spray followed by a facial oil or moisturizer. My bedtime routine is also pretty simple: I remove my makeup with the same oil cleanser, follow with a few spritzes of facial spray, and end with a heavier night cream.
When testing C E Ferulic over the course of three weeks, I added the extra step between my facial spray and moisturizer, before moving on to sunscreen and my makeup routine. I would dab four to five drops onto clean hands, then pat into my clean and dry skin (including my neck and chest, as per the directions), allowing it to absorb before moving on to my next step.
Ingredient Quality: Vitamins C and E join forces with ferulic acid
SkinCeuticals lists three ingredients as key players in this serum: 15% L-ascorbic acid, a highly potent form of pure vitamin C that neutralizes free radicals, protects against oxidative stress, and provides visible anti-aging benefits; 1% alpha-tocopherol, the pure form of vitamin E that works together with vitamin C to neutralize free radicals and replenish the skin’s lipids; and 0.5% ferulic acid, a plant-based antioxidant that neutralizes free radicals and enhances the antioxidant benefits and stability of vitamins C and E.
While these ingredients are spread out on the ingredient list, the brand lists the concentration of each—and even though some are in small concentrations, these ingredients are potent! However, C E Ferulic is not considered clean by Byrdie’s standards due to its inclusion of triethanolamine.
The Science: Research proves efficacy
Over the years, SkinCeuticals has funded multiple studies that prove C E Ferulic’s potency. For example, in 2008, a double-blind, peer-reviewed study in The Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology found that the product provided the skin with "significant and meaningful photoprotection." Additionally, the brand claims that using C E Ferulic immediately after a laser session can decrease patient downtime by up to two days.
The Feel: Slightly sticky with subtle tingling
C E Ferulic applies as a very light but slightly sticky serum. It leaves behind a bit of residue as it dries, though it doesn’t feel heavy. Once the product is fully absorbed and worn under other products, the stickiness subsides. When I applied it on days when my skin felt drier than normal, I noticed a slight tingling sensation, though it didn’t result in any irritation or an allergic reaction.
Drying & Irritation: None whatsoever
Despite the slightly tingly sensation I experienced from time to time, C E Ferulic is gentle and I had no issues applying it every morning. However, if you have extremely sensitive skin, there’s a chance you may not be able to tolerate using it daily.
Interactions & Oxidation: Don’t mix with other acids and pay attention to dates
If you’re going to use vitamin C daily, you should avoid using it with retinols, copper peptides, and alpha-hydroxy acids—these can destabilize it, thus making it ineffective. Also, according to Jennifer Herrmann, MD, you should also avoid using it with benzoyl peroxide, which can oxidize the vitamin C.
Be aware that over time, vitamin C products can oxidize, meaning they become less effective and, in some cases, can cause darkening or discoloration. If the color of your serum begins to turn darker (from clear/yellow to orange or dark brown), it’s most likely oxidized and less effective. Vitamin C degrades to erythrulose, an ingredient found in many self-tanners, which can cause a darkening effect on the skin. However, SkinCeuticals notes on the C E Ferulic box that, “L-ascorbic acid could oxidize and darken with time, but will remain effective.”
Also, make sure to pay attention to the expiration date on your product, and know that, typically, L-ascorbic acid has about a three-month shelf life once the bottle is opened. Based on using C E Ferulic every day for three weeks, I don’t foresee having any left beyond three months.
The Scent: The hot dog rumors are true
There’s a reason that beauty editors say this product smells like hot dog water—it really does. Yes, it smells quite funky, but (I promise) it’s not horrible! The scent subsides pretty quickly after it absorbs, but following this product with a nice-smelling serum or moisturizer also helps.
The Packaging: Protects against oxidation
C E Ferulic is packaged in a dark brown bottle, which helps protect the product from oxidizing. The wide mouth dropper also makes it easy to extract the perfect amount onto your fingertips.
The Results: A visibly smoother, brighter complexion
I can’t stress enough how much I love this product. By the end of my three-week testing period, my skin was visibly smoother, plumper, and brighter.
While I didn’t notice any immediate results on the first day of use, I began to notice changes in my skin’s texture by day three—it felt smoother and significantly more hydrated. By the time I was done testing, my glow was undeniable—it was as if I was reborn! I have a smattering of brown spots from my time spent tanning as a teen (I know, I know), and these were subtly lightened over the course of three weeks. However, I expect to see stronger results with continued use.
What really sold me on this product is how it transformed my skin’s texture. It’s the smoothest and plumpest it’s ever been, and the dryness and dullness I battled all winter long have completely vanished.
The Value: Worth the investment
C E Ferulic is definitely expensive, ringing in at $166 per fluid ounce, but a little goes a long way (only about 4-5 drops are needed per application). In my opinion, it’s worth the price—it really delivers results. Not only will it breathe new life into your skin, but the bottle will last you. Just pay attention to expiration dates and look out for any oxidation.
Similar Products: You have options
The Nue Co. Topical C: Oddly enough, I haven’t tried out many vitamin C products in the past (at least long-term), but one I love is The Nue Co.’s Topical C, which is a powder form of L-ascorbic acid, ferulic acid, tapioca starch, colloidal oatmeal, and aloe vera. Because it’s in powder form, it doesn’t activate until you dissolve it into your favorite serum or moisturizer, which means it won’t oxidize over time and has a much longer shelf life. While I've never used it religiously on a daily basis, I did notice similar changes to my skin’s texture and feel. Overall, though, I did notice more powerful brightening results from C E Ferulic.
This product is priced at $70 for .49 ounces while C E Ferulic costs $166 for 1 fluid ounce, so both can be considered an investment. But if you’re looking to invest in a powerful product but know you won’t end up using it daily, Topical C is a better option.
The Ordinary Resveratrol 3% Ferulic Acid 3%: Another similar product I’ve used in the past would be The Ordinary’s Resveratrol 3% Ferulic Acid 3%. While The Ordinary’s product doesn’t contain vitamin C, it does have the added benefits of resveratrol, another powerful antioxidant that protects against environmental and UV damage while reducing inflammation and brightening the complexion.
Overall, I prefer C E Ferulic as it yielded much more noticeable results in terms of skin texture and feel, but if you’re looking to get your feet wet with ferulic acid products, The Ordinary’s will only set you back $7.90.
Our Verdict: My skin has never looked better
After testing SkinCeuticals' C E Ferulic for three weeks, I am now fully obsessed with it. It completely transformed the texture of my skin while breathing new life into my dull and dry complexion. I’ll be savoring every last drop!
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