I Tried the SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic—Here Is My Honest Review

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The SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic ($182) is widely touted as a cult classic that has revolutionized vitamin C serums. It’s frequently given beauty awards and included in “best of” skin-care lists—but why? Firstly, it’s developed from a well-respected brand among dermatologists and plastic surgeons because of its simple formulations, clinical testing, product quality, and ethics that are held to the highest standard. Secondly, it’s the most researched, studied, and scientifically backed vitamin C antioxidant serum that contains vitamins C, E, and ferulic acid. It consists of a unique form of vitamin C patented for its specific pH level and percentage. Plus, it promises to help reduce visible signs of aging, increase collagen production, promote a brighter complexion, and help with free-radical damage.

Experts In This Article
  • Jane Tsui, cosmetic chemist
  • Jenny Liu, MD, FAAD, board-certified dermatologist and assistant professor of dermatology at University of Minnesota Medical School

But still, in such a saturated market with so many vitamin C serums and even face masks, moisturizers, eye creams, and more out there, why is the C E Ferulic the one that is the most talked about, the one that has been featured in many peer-reviewed scientific journals and clinical studies worldwide? And most importantly, why does it cost a whopping $182?

As a shopping writer whose job is to report on popular products, I did what had to be done. I tested the SkinCeuticals Vitamin C E Ferulic Serum to spill the tea on whether it’s the holy grail of all vitamin C serums. And since I’m not a chemist or a doctor, I tapped board-certified dermatologist Jenny “Jing” Liu, MD, FAAD, and cosmetic chemist Jane Tsui to give expert insights about how the C E Ferulic works and why it’s unlike any other vitamin C serum on the market.

SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic
SkinCeuticals, Vitamin C E Ferulic — $182.00


  • Unique form of vitamin C
  • Makes skin look radiant
  • Helps to improve signs of aging and photodamage
  • Helps to improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles
  • Dermatologist-approved
  • Not sticky
  • Little to no filler ingredients
  • No fragrance
  • No drying alcohol


  • Expensive
  • Unpleasant smell
  • Not suitable for all skin types
  • It can sting if skin is sensitive

About my skin

Yes, all skin is sensitive, but mine is hypersensitive. So, I strive to manage the sensitivity by strengthening my skin’s barrier using products that treat water loss and dryness. Many products irritate my skin, giving me redness or an under-the-skin rash around my eyes and cheeks. I always try to reach for clean beauty products and avoid anything that has a fragrance as it’s too much for my skin.

Since I’ve read many studies that show how vitamin C may enhance skin barrier function and help reduce water loss, which may help prevent dry skin, I always reach for vitamin C products. However, I am always cautious because while I know the ingredient has the power to fade hyperpigmentation and boost radiance, I also know (from firsthand experience) that its oxygenating effects can create breakouts or a rash. While I’ve been hesitant to put vitamin C on my skin since my most recent poor experience with it, I put all my thoughts about the irritating side effects of vitamin C behind me to test the cult-classic C E Ferulic serum and see if it lived up to its icon status.

About SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic

When a beauty product has an in-depth history that supports its efficacy, it makes you feel closer to the product and more eager to learn about and try it. That’s the case with SkinCeuticals’ C E Ferulic.

The serum’s back story is traced to the early 2000s when SkinCeuticals’s founding scientist, Sheldon Pinnell, studied and published a review in The Journal of Dermatologic Surgery about formulating a stable and effective Vitamin C serum. This product would soon be called the C E Ferulic, which consisted of 15% L-ascorbic acid (AKA vitamin C), 1% Alpha Tocopherol (AKA vitamin E), and .5% ferulic acid.

“Dr. Pinnell’s in-depth experience researching vitamin C, even before founding SkinCeuticals, allowed him to come up with an innovative combination of antioxidants that worked better than vitamin C on its own,” says Dr. Liu. “They found that when all three are used together, these ingredients work synergistically to provide powerful protection against environmental damage while also improving the overall health and appearance of the skin.”

They also came up with the best form of vitamin C that improves the effectiveness and penetration of the product. They decided to use 15% L-ascorbic acid, the star ingredient of the product and the most researched form of vitamin C, as it is the most naturally occurring in our skin. When used between 5 percent and 20 percent, which we see with the C E Ferulic, it can combat anti-aging, discoloration, wrinkles, and much more.

This formula was and is groundbreaking to the skin-care industry—it created a vitamin C skin-care revolution. SkinCeuticals recognized how its single-solution solution compositions of L-ascorbic acid provided enhanced stability, solubility, and photoprotective effect for the treatment of radical-induced skin as compared to past products and competitors, so in 2007, they created the first patent on a vitamin C serum. The formulation standards, a pH level of 2 to 3.5 and a vitamin C percentage of 10 to 20 are now known as the Duke Antioxidant patent. Because SkinCeuticals holds the patent, “no other beauty labels can copy the percentage of L-ascorbic acid, the pH level, and the specific ingredient combination that makes the C E Ferulic serum effective and stable,” says Dr. Liu. “The C E Ferulic has a patent unlike other vitamin C serums on the market,” adds Tsui. “L’Oreal (the parent company) patented the ratio of ascorbic acid to vitamin C and ferulic acid, along with the pH range that makes the product most stable. The vitamin E and ferulic acid ratio was optimized to keep the ascorbic acid from oxidizing too fast (although this formula still oxidizes quite rapidly).” It was published in 8 peer-reviewed scientific journals, accounting for the serum’s efficacy.

What sets C E Ferulic apart from other vitamin C serums is its offering of triple antioxidant protection for up to 48 percent less oxidative damage in the skin from free radicals that are caused by UV, Ozone, pollution, and metals. “Once applied, the serum is effective for at least 72 hours,” says Dr. Liu. “It improves the skin’s brightness and the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.”

Aside from working as a great antioxidant, it also helps to uneven skin tone, texture, and skin aging. “This serum helps fade dark spots, provides protection against free radicals, and evens overall skin tone,” says Tsui. “I am a fan of the product since I truly think this serum is what put vitamin C on the map—it created a chain effect for all the other brands that launched vitamin C serums and taught us the importance of using vitamin C in our routines.”

How to use the SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic Serum

As SkinCeuticals recommends, Dr. Liu notes C E Ferulic is best used every morning. This is because vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that can help protect your skin from things you will encounter throughout your day, such as UV rays. “You can also use it at night to help with dark spots,” Tsui notes. To apply it, shake the bottle well and dispense four to five drops into the palm of your hands. Next, massage the serum onto your face, neck, and chest, and then immediately wash your hands, as the product smells unpleasant.

As with most vitamin C serums, this one is best to apply after cleansing and toning and before using a moisturizer and sunscreen. “If you are new to vitamin C, I recommend introducing it on its own before layering with other actives,” says Tsui. “If not, you can use it with mostly all ingredients. People often say you can’t use it with retinol; however, it's completely fine if your skin can tolerate it. If anything, wait a few minutes before each step of your skin-care routine and monitor for irritation.” It may tingle slightly upon application, which is normal, but it should subside quickly. “However, if it irritates or creates a rash/breakouts, I suggest discontinuing use,” says Tsu. “Because ascorbic acid can be strong, it may be sensitizing for sensitive skin.”

When storing the serum, “make sure you keep it somewhere away from sunlight and heat,” says Dr. Liu. When beauty products are exposed to high temperatures and light, the ingredients can break down and become less effective. If you live in a place with high temperatures, keep it in the refrigerator.

How long does it last?

While the C E Ferulic has a high price tag, the good news is that a little goes a long way so that the serum will last you a long time. “The serum lasts five months since you only need a few drops,” says Dr. Liu.

Plus, unlike other vitamin C serums, which, when oxidized, are less potent, C E Ferulic is still effective once it turns from clear to orange. “SkinCeuticals has actually done testing on their serum formula in final packaging, and it’s been confirmed to remain stable and effective for up to 6 months from opening, even when it turns color or oxidizes,” says Dr. Liu. Don’t believe us? Check out SkinCeuticals’s video where they performed an apple test to show how both formulas, the oxidized one and the non-oxidized one are both effective.

The results

The $182 debate: Is SkinCeutcials’s C E Ferulic really a game0changer or just an expensive hype? To truly find out, I tested the serum for a month to deliver an accurate, long-term review.

To be honest, the serum didn’t start on the right foot for me. On my first day of using it, there were two things I was taken aback by—the unpleasant aroma and the slight rash that developed on my cheeks. I could get past the smell, reminiscent of a combination of burnt food and nail polish since I knew it was from the clean, simple ingredients; however, the irritation I couldn’t. I was agitated that my skin reacted poorly to the serum, especially after Dr. Liu told me, “This is my holy grail as it is for many dermatologists. I see great results in patients, and honestly have not had one person not have good results when using, aside from the cost.”

Even though I knew I should stop using the product, for the sake of the story, I decided to use it every other day rather than every day and see if my hypersensitive skin could build up a tolerance for it. And I am happy I did. The rash was still there on days two and three, but the good news was it wasn’t getting worse. On days three and four, it was slightly subsiding, so I felt comfortable sticking to my plan of less frequent usage.

Despite the setbacks, I enjoyed using the serum because it was less sticky than other vitamin C serums I have tried. Plus, it wasn’t greasy and didn’t interfere with any makeup I applied after my skin-care routine.

Tsui warned me it would take about six to eight weeks to notice visible effects, and she was right. It wasn’t until the fifth week that I saw a subtle difference. The chronic redness on my cheeks from my rosacea and hypersensitive skin was reduced, giving me an almost entirely even complexion.

Final verdict 

I really wanted the C E Ferulic to be my next skin-care obsession. After all, it is the queen of all vitamin C serums. Sadly, I didn’t see the dramatic effects I thought I would (read: the most radiant glow of my life). Yes, It did help slightly with my discoloration and reduced some of my redness, but it also took five weeks to get there.

So, is it worth it? Short answer: Yes and no.

I didn’t see as much improvement as I would have liked for the price tag. But it’s also important to note that I didn’t use any other SkinCeuticals products when testing the C E Ferulic. So I’d be interested to see if I used all skin-care products from SkinCeuticals if the C E Ferulic would perform better on my skin.

However, if you love clinically backed, researched-based skin-care products with a limited ingredient list and little to no fillers, you'll enjoy the C E Ferulic. There’s also something to be said about the fact that it’s the vitamin C serum dermatologists recommend to their patients and that all other skin-care brands use SkinCeuticals’ findings from the C E Ferulic as best practices when formulating their vitamin C serums. With all of the science, research, and dermatologists backing it, the product really can’t steer you wrong.

So if C E Ferulic is within your budget, and you want to treat your skin as an investment, then it’s a no-brainer. Just proceed with caution if you have hypersensitive skin like I do. “For sensitive skin, I don't normally recommend SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic or a Vitamin C, but it’s not to say sensitive skin people can’t use it,” adds Dr. Liu. If the high price tag doesn’t fit in with your lifestyle or you simply just don’t want to splurge on it, the good news is there are more budget-friendly alternatives that will help you get similar results. Check them out below.

The best SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic alternatives

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