The first thing that sticks out about the SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic Serum ($166) might not be its legendary antioxidant properties or its dermatologist-touted ability to brighten skin - it's the smell. People have described its scent in various ways, but the best, in my opinion, is hot dog water. Still, beauty editors and dermatologists alike have religiously slathered four or five drops of C E Ferulic on their face every morning for years - and with good reason.
"The antioxidant combination within C E Ferulic is revolutionary," says board-certified dermatologist Michele Anzilotti, MD, who is also the coleader of the new SkinCeuticals Skin Lab in Manhattan's Upper East Side. "It is truly the industry gold standard for its abilities to reduce oxidative damage while protecting skin against photo aging. Simply put: it's a product that works and works well."
If you're still on the fence, keep reading for a breakdown of the SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic serum and why I consider it well worth the hype (and price tag).
What Makes the SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic Formula Stand Out?
The serum's magic lies in the combination of ingredients, specifically the "synergistic antioxidant combination of 15 percent pure vitamin C (L-ascorbic acid), one percent vitamin E (alpha tocopherol), and 0.5 percent ferulic acid," says Dr. Anzilotti.
It was actually Sheldon Pinnell, MD, SkinCeutical's founder, who first discovered (and patented) the benefits of this combination. He found that adding ferulic acid to L-ascorbic acid and vitamin E at these exact percentages doubled the individual benefits of vitamin C and vitamin E.
On its own, L-ascorbic acid isn't a stable compound, meaning it can oxidize rapidly and cause irritation to your skin. When ferulic acid is added to L-ascorbic acid, however, it effectively stabilizes the vitamin C, boosting the effects and prolonging the shelf life.
According to Dr. Anzilotti, it's this specific combination that makes the C E Ferulic serum so effective at enhancing protection against environmental damage caused by free radicals, which can contribute to atmospheric aging. To this day, SkinCeuticals is the only brand that formulates antioxidants according to these parameters.
What Are the Benefits of Each Ingredient?
Let's break the serum down into its three main components: vitamin C, vitamin E, and ferulic acid. First up: vitamin C. "L-ascorbic acid is the purest form of vitamin C," says Dr. Anzilotti. "It has been proven to provide powerful antioxidant benefits that help protect the skin from environmental damage while improving the visible signs of aging."
Vitamin C is truly a do-it-all product - it can reduce hyperpigmentation and fade dark spots, stimulate the production of collagen, brighten skin, improve texture, soften fine lines and wrinkles, and increase elasticity. Plus, it can be a potent anti-inflammatory and help reduce acne and rosacea. Finally, when used with a broad-spectrum SPF, vitamin C can increase the power of the SPF. "C E Ferulic combined with SPF provides the most protection against visible aging caused by environmental aggressors," says Dr. Anzilotti. Sheesh!
Next, vitamin E, aka alpha tocopherol. Dr. Anzilotti notes that alpha tocopherol is great for neutralizing free radicals and defending against environmental stressors that can weaken the skin.
Last, but not least: ferulic acid. Ferulic acid is first and foremost an antioxidant - it can be used to slow (or even prevent) damage to the cells from free radicals, which can cause a loss of elasticity, dryness, and dark spots.
How to Use SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic
After cleansing in the morning, spread four to five drops of C E Ferulic on your clean, dry face. You can follow up with your gel-based moisturizer of choice, and always finish with a generous amount of broad-spectrum SPF. Avoid using any other active ingredients alongside this serum - think AHAs or retinol - so that you don't irritate and strip your skin.
Does SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic Work?
Speaking from experience, I saw pretty significant results from C E Ferulic after about a week of continuous use. I love nothing more than basking in the sun (sorry to my derms), so I often experience melasma and hyperpigmentation - especially on the highest part of my cheekbones, where the sun's rays really hit. When I use the SkinCeuticals serum every morning (followed by SPF 40), I find that my brown spots fade faster and are often less dark from the get-go.
Let's also talk about texture. Vitamin C serums can often feel sticky or even pill a little bit when you put them on. Not so with C E Ferulic. Once you get past the smell, you can appreciate how lightweight and smooth this stuff is. I like to pat it into my skin, and within 30 seconds or so, I can't even tell I have something on my face. I hate feeling weighed down by my morning skin care, so this is the perfect base. And don't worry - the slight smell fades just as quickly, so you won't walk around all day smelling like a Sabrett cart.
Long story short, anyone who wants to brighten and even out their skin tone, reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and get serious antioxidant protection should add this serum to their morning routine.
Is There Anything to Be Cautious Of?
Whenever you try a new product, you should always do a spot test to make sure your skin doesn't react poorly, especially if you have sensitive skin. The most important thing to note is that the active ingredients in C E Ferulic make your skin more sensitive to UV rays, so a broad-spectrum SPF is essential. Dr. Anzilotti recommends using "a sunscreen with a high SPF such as SkinCeuticals Physical Fusion UV Defense SPF 50 to ensure optimal protection."
You should also ask your dermatologist about continuing use of any active products like a vitamin C or retinol after having any kind of ablative skin treatment - e.g., a chemical peel or laser. You may want to take a break while your skin heals and your barrier is getting back on its feet.
Beyond that, try it out and prepare to call SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic your new hero product - just make sure to breathe through your mouth when applying.