With over 250,000 searches per month and thousands of reviews between them, these two brands have been destined for a head-to-head review. That’s right, today we’re serving you a comprehensive guide to Skinceuticals vs Drunk Elephant: Vitamin C edition.
We like to think of Skinceuticals as the older sister coming on the skincare scene in 1997. She’s mature, medical grade and has a proven history and reputation. Jump to 2008 and the younger, trendier sister, Drunk Elephant steps onto the scene. She’s passionate, has to-die-for packaging and utilizes some of the best science available. You might already have your favorite in mind but keep scrolling with us as we identify our top runner!
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Drunk Elephant vs SkinCeuticals Vitamin C
Let’s get into what we’re all really here for—Drunk Elephant’s vitamin C versus Skinceuticals vitamin C! If you’re not already on board with the vitamin C train, sis, what are you doing? We. All. Need. Vitamin. C. It’s packed with antioxidants, helps create a bright even complexion, stimulates collagen production and even makes your SPF work better. Vitamin C should be used in your AM skincare routine at a bare minimum, but we even use it in our PM skincare routine. The more you use it, the more you’ll see the vitamin C levels in your skin increase—yes, please!
Skinceuticals C E Ferulic Acid Serum has been winning awards and stealing hearts since 2005, but did you know that in 2021 Drunk Elephant reformulated their vitamin C serum? It has us doing a double take!
Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum vs. Skinceuticals C E Ferulic Acid Serum
Today we’re comparing Drunk Elephant’s C-Firma Day Serum and Skinceuticals C E Ferulic Acid Serum. These brands have both made strong names for themselves in the skincare world and for good reason. As we mentioned above, Skinceuticals seems to be marketed towards more mature skin whereas Drunk Elephant’s bright packaging and word play attract millennials and gen z-ers, but let’s look past the marketing and dive into the history, ingredients, formulations, and efficacy of these products to give a proper review.
We’ll start with the OG vitamin C that started all the dupe spin-offs, Skinceuticals C E Ferulic Acid Serum. Since 2005, this vitamin C formula has been Skinceuticals’ flagship product. The entire brand started with its founder, Dr. Sheldon Pinnell, a dermatologist, chemist, and professor who revolutionized the way we use antioxidants. Using years of research in skin aging and skin cancer, Skinceuticals focuses on technology and formulas that prevent aging and reverse sun damage. At the pinnacle of this research is their C E Ferulic Acid serum.
As we mentioned above, Drunk Elephant was born of passion and necessity. Its founder, Tiffany Masterson, was struggling with rosacea, sensitive skin, and frequent breakouts. She tried countless products but couldn’t find skincare that worked for her. She realized she was lathering herself with irritating additives and chemicals and launched Drunk Elephant to exclude essential oils, alcohols, silicones, chemical sunscreens, fragrances, dyes and SLS. In doing so, she essentially launched the clean skincare movement. Can you say, queen?
Now that we’ve covered how the brands began, let’s get into the formulas! You’re going to see a surprising number of similarities here. Both Skinceuticals C E Ferulic acid and Drunk Elephant C-Firma include THE SAME key ingredients—15% l-ascorbic acid vitamin C, 1% vitamin E and .5% ferulic acid.
Drunk Elephant is formulated with a pH level of 2.5 and Skinceuticals guarantees a range of 2-3.5%. As you probably know, formulas are EVERYTHING in skincare. Both products are using the most recommended and effective form of vitamin C, at the best dosage level (between 10%-20%). The addition of vitamin E and ferulic acid also make their vitamin C’s more stable and more well tolerated. Their pH levels are also significant because studies have found that the sweet spot of vitamin C absorption is, you guessed it, a pH level between 2-3.5%!
The similarities don’t end there, both formulas are also alcohol-, fragrance-, and essential oil-free. Which means they’re even kinder to sensitive, highly reactive skin.
Don’t worry, we have found a few differences for you. For one, Skinceuticals C E Ferulic acid is medical grade. And although that’s not actually an FDA-regulated term, it generally means it’s created with high-quality active ingredients backed by clinical studies. Drunk Elephant’s vitamin C is not medical grade, but it is made with high-quality active ingredients as well. Another difference is in the delivery. Skinceuticals C E Ferulic acid comes in a semi-opaque bottle with a dropper. This is important because vitamin C is known for its instability and exposure to light and air speeds up the breakdown of vitamin C. Drunk Elephant takes their packaging up a notch with a powder and liquid formula that you have to combine to activate before you can begin use. This preserves the product until you’re ready to use it and means that you’re getting the most potent and effective formula! So no, it’s not just a gimmick, it’s actually an effective delivery method.
If you’ve been following along with our comprehensive guides, you know that when two products are so close, we like to use Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Skin Deep database to see how they stack up. EWG is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that works to help people live their healthiest lives through product and chemical research, consumer education, as well as lobbying for appropriate regulation. Kourtney Kardashian began supporting them after having her kids and realizing that American companies don’t have as much oversight and many of our products are more harmful than we’re told. Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum is rated a 3 on EWG’s Skin Deep database making it a moderate hazard, whereas Skinceuticals C E Ferulic Acid is rated a 2 making it a low hazard.
After having both on our shelves for the past several weeks (not long enough to see results, you need at least 8-12 weeks, but long enough to assess texture and skin feel), we can say that they’re pretty similar in application. Both are slightly thicker than water and leave a slight tackiness to the skin. We didn’t notice any product pilling and our other products glided on top smoothly.
We never thought we’d say this, but at less than half the cost and with all the same actives we’ve come to know and love in Skinceuticals’ vitamin c, we’re endorsing Drunk Elephant’s C-Firma Day Serum as the best overall vitamin C serum!
C-Firma Fresh Day Serum by Drunk Elephant
Our rating: ★★★★★
A super-potent 15% vitamin C day serum.
What makes it special? C-Firma™ Fresh Day Serum is designed to be mixed by you before its first use, which maximizes the potency of its delicate (but powerful) ingredients while keeping the formula fresh. This revolutionary vitamin C serum is packed with a powerful antioxidant complex of 15% l-ascorbic acid, 0.5% ferulic acid, and 1% vitamin E to reveal a brighter, firmer, and more even-looking complexion. The result is a noticeably diminished appearance of signs of aging and photodamage—replaced by incredible radiance and luminosity.
Which skin types? For all skin types.
CE Ferulic Serum by SkinCeuticals
Our rating: ★★★★★
High potency triple antioxidant treatment.
What makes it special? This patented serum is clinically proven to reduce the damage of environmental free radicals by nearly 50%! With 15% L-ascorbic acid, 1% vitamin E and .5% ferulic acid, this serum reverses signs of aging, firms skin and brightens your complexion.
Which skin types? For all skin types.