A Skincare Scientist Explains Why This Cult $218 Serum Is Worth the Money

SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic serum reviewSkinCeuticals C E Ferulic serum review

One of the questions I'm most often asked is, is expensive skin care better? The answer is… it depends on the product! 

In general, price isn't always an indicator of performance and shouldn’t be the only factor you consider when deciding what skin care to spend your money on.

For example: cleanser, moisturiser and sunscreen are the basic products every skincare routine should included. They perform the boring (but important!) tasks of keeping your skin clean, comfortable, hydrated and protected from the sun. But do you need to spend a lot of money on them? Absolutely not.

In fact, the more money you spend on something like sunscreen, the less likely you are to use enough of it (and research shows most people already don’t use enough sunscreen to get the SPF protection advertised on the bottle).* But that’s a story for another day…

You can learn more about skin care for beginners in our handy YouTube video below!

A large part of my job involves explaining to clients which products they can save money on (and why), and which ones cost more but deliver results and value for money. 

SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic Serum definitely falls into the category of expensive, but totally worth it. But what actually makes this $218 serum so good (and so pricey)?

Let’s unpack how your skin can benefit from topical vitamin C, and why SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic is my preferred vitamin C formulation I've been using every single morning under sunscreen for many years.

What Are Free Radicals and Antioxidants?

Let’s start with a quick refresher on free radicals (also known as ‘reactive oxygen species’ or ROS) and how they damage skin.

Exposure to UV radiation and pollutants such as cigarette smoke, as well the skin’s own day-to-day functioning, result in the generation of free radicals that damage our body's DNA, cellular proteins and structures.

In turn, this leads to inflammation, skin ageing and an increase in enzymes that break down our collagen. Thankfully, the skin uses its own naturally-occurring antioxidants to shut down free radicals and limit this damage.

What Is Vitamin C and Why Is It Important in the Skin?

Vitamin C in its bioactive form (called L-ascorbic acid or LAA) is the skin’s most abundant antioxidant. L-ascorbic acid neutralises damaging free radicals so they can’t wreak havoc in the skin. It also works to regenerate other antioxidants in the skin’s arsenal when they are oxidised by UV exposure.

Humans can’t biosynthesize vitamin C, so we must obtain it from our diet (yet another reason skin health is an inside job).

Luckily, topical vitamin C has some excellent science around its functions in skin care. (You can find out more about vitamin C in this episode of the Beauty IQ Uncensored podcast below!)

Benefits of Vitamin C for Skin.

Taken together, human clinical studies and lab-bench experiments show topical vitamin C in the form of skin care is a powerhouse ingredient for healthy skin.

Evidence shows vitamin C can lessen skin damage arising from UV exposure, which is why it's a great addition to a morning routine under sunscreen.

Vitamin C doesn’t act as a UV filter, but instead can reduce UV-induced issues such as redness, signs of sun damage (such as pigmentation and collagen loss), inflammation and immunosuppression, when used in the correct formulation.**

SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic - What Makes It So Good (and Expensive)?

Skinceuticals C E FerulicSkinceuticals C E Ferulic

When we're talking about vitamin C serums, the majority of evidence supporting the skin benefits of topical vitamin C comprises studies performed with L-ascorbic acid.

Specifically, L-ascorbic acid applied topically in at least a 10 per cent concentration, and at a pH below 3.5, which ensures the ingredient can penetrate past the skin surface.^

But, the thing about L-ascorbic acid is, even thought it's the gold standard of vitamin C, it's notoriously tricky to formulate (as are other vitamin C derivatives) because in aqueous solutions, it oxidises soon after opening.

This is the reason the SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic Serum formulation is superior, and why it’s worth the price tag!

In C E Ferulic, the brand has developed a stable formulation that contains 15 per cent L-ascorbic acid at pH 3.2. Plus, it includes other synergistic antioxidants (ferulic acid and vitamin E) that enhance vitamin C’s photoprotective abilities in the skin.^^

What about all the other vitamin C serums containing different vitamin C derivatives?

Yes, these vitamin C derivatives are more shelf-stable (meaning they're easier and less expensive to formulate), but they also need to be converted to active L-ascorbic acid in the skin. And there's less convincing evidence around the conversion of vitamin C derivatives to L-ascorbic acid, skin penetration, and/or antioxidant ability when compared to the body of evidence supporting topical L-ascorbic acid itself.

How to Use SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic Serum in Your Routine.

An L-ascorbic acid vitamin C serum like SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic Serum isn’t a miracle worker on its own, but it is a great addition to any routine focused on future-proofing, prevention and skin brightening.

A few drops spread onto clean, damp skin in the morning under sunscreen is all you need to add vitamin C’s benefits to your routine.

Repeat: Just a few drops, because this stuff is expensive liquid gold.

Want more great skincare product recommendations? Check out these stories below!


*1. Neale R, Williams G, Green A. Application patterns among participants randomized to daily sunscreen use in a skin cancer prevention trial. Arch Dermatol. 2002. 138(10):1319-25.

*2. Young AR, Greenaway J, Harrison GI, et al. Sub-optimal Application of a High SPF Sunscreen Prevents Epidermal DNA Damage in Vivo. Acta Derm Venereol. 2018. 98(9):880-887.

**3. Cosmeceuticals and Cosmetic Practice, 1st Edition. Patricia K. Farris (Ed). 2014. John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Hoboken, New Jersey.

**4. Antioxidants and the Skin, 2nd edition. Roger L. McMullen. 2019. CRC Press, Taylor & Francis Group. Boca Raton, Florida.

^5. Pinnell SR, Yang HS, Omar M, et al. Topical L-ascorbic acid: percutaneous absorption studies. Dermatol Surg. 2001. 27: 127–142.

^^6. Murray JC, Burch JA, Streilein RD, et al. A topical antioxidant solution containing vitamins C and E stabilized by ferulic acid provides protection for human skin against damage caused by ultraviolet irradiation. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2008. 59:418-425.