This $15 vitamin C serum sells every 4 minutes, so I tried it to see what all the fuss is about


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Beneath the foundation I’ve been dutifully applying for many years lies a map of my past: acne scars from the time before my college best friend told me she’d stop hanging out with me unless I went on Accutane (yes, I did regretfully go on Accutane, and no, the friendship did not make it very far into adulthood); sun spots from the carefree days of a childhood spent under the not-so-watchful eye of a hippie mother who did not “believe” in sunscreen; and now, wrinkles that even the foundation can not cover from lots of subsequent sun, so many smiles, and a smattering of super aggressive sobs.

I don’t dislike this map; however, I’m not evolved enough to display it for all the world to see on a regular basis and yet I do dislike being enslaved by foundation. So, I’ve been working hard to even out my skin tone in pursuit of the glow-y complexion mere non-model mortals like myself find it difficult to achieve. This endeavor led me to a serum which, according to the brand that makes it, sells every four minutes on Amazon. InstaNatural Vitamin C Serum (currently on sale for $15) includes hero ingredients like hyaluronic acid, ferulic acid, and sea buckthorn oil, alongside its star component. It promises to brighten the skin (yes, please), lighten dark spots (good luck), and reduce the appearance of fine lines (okay, show-off!).

Before I add-to-cart on any product, however, I make sure not just to read reviews but also to do due diligence on its claims. First and foremost, vitamin C is indeed the go-to ingredient for reducing skin discoloration. It’s an antioxidant that repairs environmental damage and, as an added bonus for my purposes, it boosts collagen production as well. The one used for this product is sorta special, too, according to licensed esthetician Heather Wilson, director of brand development at InstaNatural. “It’s formulated with a form of vitamin C that has improved stability over other derivatives, yet less potential for irritation,” she explains. “We intentionally have chosen this form of vitamin C because it provides the same anti-aging results as other options, but is much gentler on the skin and has demonstrated efficacy to reduce the appearance of breakouts and blemishes.”

Hyaluronic acid is also for sure a skincare superstar. It’s known for its work as a hydrator, which can certainly aid in creating a glow as well as potentially help to “fill” fine lines via moisture. Ferulic acid, meanwhile, helps to stabilize the vitamin C and fend off free radicals. And finally, sea buckthorn oil is antioxidant and fatty acid-rich, which means it can protect and repair the skin while also boosting collagen production and aiding in moisture retention.

This all looks pretty legit to me, but I double-checked with a dermatologist. “This is a multitasking antioxidant serum,” says Joshua Zeichner, MD. “Besides neutralizing free radicals and brightening, it helps plump and soothe inflammation.” He tells me it’s a safe serum for all skin types, including those which are oily; however, he does caveat that those with “extremely” sensitive skin or who have rosacea should be cautious. “If you develop an irritation, you should remove this serum and right away,” he says.

Though my skin is pretty sensitive, I’m not sure it falls into the “extremely” category, and since the ingredient list checks out as legit I’m down to give the popular product a go. So, I order it up to take it for a spin on my needy skin.

My first impression is that is smells like fruit juice, which is a big plus for me. I know I shouldn’t choose skincare based so much on its scent, but for some reason, fragrance (natural, of course) is important to me. (It’s one of the reasons I love True Botanicals.) This particular scent, combined with my knowledge of the product’s clean, plant-based ingredient list, makes me feel as though I’m actually feeding my skin nourishment it, as the largest organ in my body, likely needs. Especially given that as we get older, recommended treatments more often involve peels, lasers, and injections which—while effective—seem super harsh and almost violent in comparison.

My skin drinks in the lightweight serum thirstily, and literally no grease or residue is left behind. I immediately sense a glow, but this may just be because the dry summer heat of Los Angeles means any moisture helps revitalize my default-dehydrated skin. Consistent use proves the product has real glow-enhancing potential, however, as I do start to notice an overall healthier vibe to my skin. I’m not quite ready to go foundation-free just yet, but Wilson says it will take a few more weeks (four to six total) to see “advanced results,” so I plan to continue my new juice-forward regimen.

Sea buckthorn helps protect the skin’s barrier—here’s why that’s important. Plus, while you’re juicing your skin, might it want to try a cold brew, too? 

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