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If you’re even remotely interested in skincare, you probably already know that incorporating an antioxidant-rich vitamin C serum into your daily routine is essential to fighting off visible signs of aging while also protecting the skin from—and reversing—pollution damage, free radicals and the sun’s harmful rays.
Vitamin C is lauded for its unrivaled power to visibly fade dark spots, soften the appearance of fine lines, combat dullness, and improve overall elasticity (read: firmness). Unfortunately, it’s an active ingredient that’s pretty challenging to stabilize, making skincare products made with it among the pricier ones on the market.
While there’s a slew of popular (and effective) vitamin C skincare products available in an array of different price points and formulations, the coveted C E Ferulic Serum by SkinCeuticals is one of the most raved about and best-selling options you’ll find today. It’s also one of the most expensive. While paying the price for good skin is considered a worthy investment for some, we did some research to track down actual dupes for this coveted serum that have similar formulations of active ingredients but cost a fraction of the price.
One of the reasons that the SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic Serum is so hard to mimic is its unique and patented blend of active ingredients (15 percent L-ascorbic acid, 1 percent vitamin E, and 0.5 percent ferulic acid) in each bottle. This is important because if the formulation isn’t properly balanced, not only might it be less effective, but because vitamin C has a pretty short shelf life, it can go “bad” as early as one to two months after opening the bottle. To prevent this from happening, SkinCeuticals has formulated and packaged the serum to remain stable and effective for up to six months after opening the bottle. (Light exposure can essentially destroy vitamin C’s potency, by the way.)
If you Google this ever-popular serum, you’ll find plenty of reviews from beauty editors, dermatologists and loyal users of the product touting its skin-transforming benefits and promising that it’s worth the steep price tag. However, if you can’t fathom tossing out nearly $200 on a serum, you don’t have to. We gathered up six solid options that reviewers swear deliver comparable results without the price tag.
Timeless 20% C + E + Ferulic Acid Serum
Like the SkinCeuticals serum, this $20 dupe is formulated with 20 percent vitamin C in the form of L-ascorbic acid, one percent vitamin E and 0.5 percent ferulic acid. It also contains hydration-boosting hyaluronic acid for added anti-aging power. This serum’s blend of active ingredients is a near dupe to the original.
Mad Hippie Vitamin C Serum with Vitamin E
In addition to vitamin C, Mad Hippie’s serum contains vitamin E, ferulic acid, konjac root and hyaluronic acid. One reviewer who has tried both serums wrote, “The Mad Hippie formula works just as well, feels better going on because it has more slip and has produced the results that I expected of it. My skin’s overall texture has improved, brown spots have faded and my complexion is brighter. As a skincare junky who has tried just about everything, I highly recommend it!”
Paula’s Choice BOOST C15 Super Booster 15% Vitamin C with Vitamin E + Ferulic Acid
Like the SkinCeuticals serum, this $50 vitamin C product contains nearly the same blend of the holy trinity of actives. It contains 15 percent stabilized vitamin C with a pH of 3.0 and a blend of peptides. Another bonus of this product is that you can either wear it alone or mix it in with your favorite moisturizer or primer without it pilling up under your foundation.
Peter Thomas Roth Potent-C Power Serum
The trio of powerhouse ingredients, 20 percent vitamin C, three percent vitamin E, and two percent ferulic acid, combine in this rich and moisturizing serum. The opaque jar with a pump dispenser is designed to keep light, air and bacteria from mixing with the delicate vitamins and actives in the formula so that it stays potent (as the name suggests) and stable for longer—meaning the last drop will be just as strong as the first.
Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum
While the Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum is another cult favorite when it comes to skincare—and certainly not the most wallet-friendly option on the list—it’s still almost 50 percent cheaper than the SkinCeuticals serum. This serum also is formulated with its own patented blend of antioxidants, including 15 percent of vitamin C, as well as vitamin E and ferulic acids (these percentage levels aren’t listed), plus pumpkin ferment extract and pomegranate enzyme, which help to accelerate the turnover of dead skin cells.
It has a 3.3 pH level, making it less irritating on sensitive skin, and claims to last up to 72 hours—even when the product’s been rubbed off. Endless reviewers of this serum claim that it reduces the appearance of their pores, restores luminosity to their skin and is less sticky (and therefore under-makeup-friendly) than other vitamin C serums on the market.