Following on from my last post on ‘Everything You Need To Know About Vitamin C’, I’m reviewing my first ever vitamin C serum – The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2%. Find out if I stick with it or spin! 🍊
BRAND: The Ordinary
PRODUCT: Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2%
INGREDIENTS: Ascorbic Acid (antioxidant/vitamin – best), Squalane (emollient – best), Isodecyl Neopentanoate (emollient – not rated), Isononyl Isononanoate (emollient – good), Coconut Alkanes (emollient/solvent – not rated), Ethylene/Propylene/Styrene Copolymer (viscosity controller – not rated), Ethylhexyl Palmitate (emollient/texture enhancer – good), Silica Dimethyl Silylate (slip agent – good), Sodium Hyaluronate (salt of HA – best), Glucomannan (hydration – best), Coco-Caprylate/Caprate (emollient/hydration – good), Butylene/Ethylene/Styrene Copolymer (viscosity controller – not rated), Acrylates/Ethylhexyl Acrylate Crosspolymer (texture enhancer – good), Trihydroxystearin (emollient/thickening agent – good), BHT (antioxidant – average).
*Ingredient info & ratings from Paula’s Choice Ingredient Dictionary (my personal choice for ingredient ratings. However, I do use other sources such as Incidecoder)*
- Contains 23% ascorbic acid
- Water-less formula
- Contains 2% sodium hyaluronate
- Cruelty-free & vegan
- No fragrance
I’ve Got *Insert Skin Type Here* Skin, Can I use It?
To put it simply, for someone who has normal to dry skin (i.e. me!), this serum sets on the skin quite oily. As we’ve seen above, it doesn’t actually contain any oils. However, the abundance of emollients (like squalane) in the formula lends itself to the serum feeling quite greasy on application.
On the days that I would use my CeraVe moisturiser, it would help to dull down some of the oiliness left over from the serum. However, on the days that I would use one of my peptide moisturisers, it would only heighten the glow that I had. And when I say glow, I mean my husband would say that he could see his reflection in my nose! 😂 In all fairness he is a fan of the matte look on himself so even the glow of natural skin is a bit much for him 🤦🏼♀️. So let’s not trust his input, I personally didn’t mind it! I did find though that I could control it with some quantity control! More on this further down.
In summary I would say that if you have oily/combination skin or don’t like too much of a glow, this one might be a bit too much for you. In this case I would say perhaps try using it in the PM instead. However, remember that vitamin C can provide protection from pollution, the sun and environmental damage, which you mostly face during the day. It can also enhance the effectiveness of your sunscreen which again is something you would use and benefit from in the daytime.
However, it has been discussed by doctors and scientists that ascorbic acid can accumulate in the skin with overnight usage and so, you can still fight the sun damage the next day. There are plenty of people who choose to use their vitamin C at night – it’s your decision!
So a few things to bear in mind! What I will say is that this is an affordable product so I think perhaps worth trying it out (regardless of skin type) for the potential benefits you may see from using a waterless, pure vitamin C product!
Another thing to mention is that this vitamin C is strong! Ascorbic acid in percentages greater than 15 can be highly irritating to the skin. So, if you have sensitive skin or you have never used vitamin C before, this is something to be very aware of. I was new to vitamin C myself so I will discuss in the ‘how to use’ section, what I did to introduce this strong product to my skin.
High % Of Ascorbic Acid
As discussed in my last blog post, we ideally want an ascorbic acid product with at least a 15% concentration. This is because studies show that in order for vitamin C to produce the effects that it promises to do, you need at least 15% of pure ascorbic acid.
This serum contains 23% of very fine L-ascorbic acid powder within a suspension. The Ordinary state that absorption of ascorbic acid in the skin is different from person to person. So, I can only assume that they used this amount to take into account this and to ensure that everyone using it absorbs at least 15% of the ascorbic acid and thus, sees results.
This was the biggest difference I noticed in my skin! I actually developed a natural glow that stuck around even when not using the serum! With having a poor skincare routine years ago and then going on Roaccutane, I had no natural glow whatsoever. My skin was left very dry and lacking in oils after this medication but my skin cleared up so I have no regrets!
So, as promised this serum delivered on the brightening front! This was the main outcome I was looking for when starting a vitamin C product.
My skin naturally is very red and blotchy, always has been but this serum really did help me some of that redness. I’ve definitely noticed a calming of the red tone and would say it’s more pink now! That’s a big deal for me 🤣.
See photos further down and decide for yourself if it helped with my redness!
Contains Sodium Hyaluronate
We’ve looked at hyaluronic acid and sodium hyaluronate previously but for a reminder – sodium hyaluronate is the salt derived from HA.
The addition of 2% sodium hyaluronate spheres helps to maximise the absorption, stability and delivery of the ascorbic acid. It also helps to retain water and moisture in the skin.
It Hasn’t Oxidised!
The fact that it hasn’t oxidised is most likely due to the fact that it’s a water- free, stable formula in a tube container. This one has a shelf life of 6 months and I’m 3 months. It hasn’t oxidised or changed colour in any way and to be honest, with daily use, I’ve nearly finished it anyway!
This is a given! I mean it has 23% ascorbic acid so need I say more?! But before I move on, I will say it only stings for a couple of minutes then once I apply my moisturiser, it goes away. I’m 3 months in and it does still sting, not every day but some days it definitely makes me go ‘Ooooo’ 😅.
I’ve talked about this already so I won’t go on about it but this is something you may want to consider if you have oily skin! It was a definite downside for me until I got the amount just right for me.
Because this serum contains powdered ascorbic acid within a suspension, it does have a sandy texture. It’s not sharp at all but you can definitely feel the powder rubbing against your skin as you massage it in.
To overcome this I actually put it straight on after I’ve used a mist and this way I don’t feel the sand like texture anymore! I figured that misting beforehand is a good idea anyway because the serum contains sodium hyaluronate and we all know that that works better on damp skin!
Contains No Vitamin E Or Ferulic Acid
If you read my last blog post you’ll know that these 3 are a powerhouse for your skin and work best when all together to provide great protection for your skin.
Vitamin E is also an antioxidant like vitamin C and together they enhance each other and the photo-protective power of sunscreen. With vitamin C alone you mainly get enhanced UVA protection but with vitamin E you get enhanced UVB protection from your sunscreen. UVB rays are the main ones that cause sunburn and they are also thought to cause most skin cancers. So, I feel like choosing a vitamin C that contains vitamin E really is a good idea!
Ferulic acid can enhance the stability of topical application of vitamin C and E. So, it can slow down oxidation of a vitamin C product. Plus, it can also provide defence against environmental assault. So just another great ingredient to pair with the above!
For me I would really like to use a vitamin C serum that contain the above ingredients. However, the lack of them doesn’t take away from how well this product worked on me!
Ok, so a lot of people say this serum really smells! I’ve heard that it smells like potatoes and that it smells metallic? I don’t know if it’s me and my nose but this serum really doesn’t bother me.
Yes, the first time I used it, I noticed a scent but it didn’t offend me and by the time I had put moisturiser and SPF on top, it was gone! I use it daily now so I’ve probably got used to the scent but I thought worth mentioning for those who are sensitive to smells.
The Ordinary don’t use fragrances in their products so these strong ingredients are naturally going to smell a little odd and chemically!
Neither An Upside Or A Downside…
I totally expected to purge with this serum (hence why it’s not a downside). I had read plenty of reviews that said I would, so I was prepared! And yes, I did purge but for no longer than 2 weeks and I purged in areas where I commonly experience outbreaks. The spots were typically whiteheads (gross, I know!) and after they came to a head and dried up, I was left with smooth, glowing skin.
This is how I knew that this serum was suitable for me though. With a different serum, I broke out in very random places and it lasted longer than 2 weeks so I stopped using the product and the breakouts stopped. The spots were also red bumps with no heads. I now know that that is a breakout which shows that the product is not agreeing with you. I will write a blog post for you guys on the difference between a purge and a breakout one day!
So, what I’m saying is that with a strong product like this one, it’s probably reasonable to expect a small breakout with the first couple of uses. I do think it helped introducing this product slowly to my skin as it gave my skin the time to adjust. However, I will say, monitor the type of spots that you are getting as this says a lot about whether you should persevere with a product! Also, keep an eye on how long the breakouts seem to be happening for.
Remember though – not everyone purges with a new product!
How Do I Use This Product?
The Ordinary state to use this product AM or PM and after water-based serums. They also say that niacinamide is a contraindication (i.e. they shouldn’t be used at the same time). More about this in my last post and further down in this blog.
I personally use vitamin C daily and in the mornings. For 2 days of the week I cleanse, use a chemical exfoliator, mist and then use my vitamin C serum. For 5 days of the week I cleanse, skip the acids, mist and then use my vitamin C serum.
I usually use my rose quartz roller after applying this serum as it helps to push the product into my skin and also helps with the tingling sensation! The Ordinary says that it takes 10-20 seconds for this serum to be absorbed and so the facial roller is not a necessity for the product to work. I just like to do it!
After using my facial roller, I moisturise and apply SPF. If you want to use a facial oil go for oil next and then moisturiser and SPF!
To get to daily use I started by using this serum once in the first week and twice in the second week. By the third week, I was using this serum every other day. At the four week mark I went to daily use to see if my skin could handle it, which it could. At this point if you found daily use too much, you could continue with every other day for a couple of weeks. Don’t rush your skin, take your time with it! It’s easy to get excited about possible results but if you upset your skin, you’ll find you will be right back to square one starting all over again.
One thing I noticed as well is that the amount you use determines the amount of glow you get from the serum. I started off using a 5p size amount of serum and this made me look quite oily from the get-go. When I reduced down to using a pea size amount, the oil effect on my skin was not too strong, just a definite glow which I liked! This amount is just for my face by the way! My neck and chest can’t tolerate this product at the moment so I’m trying to slowly increase my tolerance there.
I definitely think playing around with the amount you use is key (like any product). Especially as we mentioned above, if you have oily skin and have a preference to use your vitamin C in the daytime! I have found the perfect amount for me just by experimenting.
Gimme The Deets…
Price-wise, as always The Ordinary range is exceptionally reasonable.
There’s worldwide shipping on deciem.com. If you’re in the UK however, you need to spend over £25 to qualify for free shipping. Otherwise it costs £4.99.
Alternatively, you can find this product currently on Boots, Look Fantastic, Beauty Bay and Cult Beauty.
In regards to the time you have to use the product in, once opened, it lasts 6 months. In terms of storage, it doesn’t require anything special. I would keep it out of direct light and in a cupboard if you can though, just to be safe!
Stick Or Spin Again?
So, this is a hard one for me! This was my first experience with vitamin C and overall, it was a really positive experience! However, because it was my first experience with vitamin C, I have nothing to compare this to. You can see how conflicted I am! But, in the pursuit of giving you guys good, wide-ranging product reviews, I’m going to SPIN!
I want to try out some vitamin C from other brands, as well as some derivative forms. This way I will be able to tell if this vitamin C serum is truly worth coming back to. Watch this space!
Alternatives That I Would Try
For when the cash is rollllllling/you’ve had too much wine & splurge with a ‘who cares’ attitude 💷:
Allies of Skin 35% Vitamin C + Perfecting Serum – £140 for 30ml
– Ethyl Ascorbic Acid & Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate
Skinceuticals C E Ferulic – £140 for 30ml
– Ascorbic Acid
The middle man for when you ‘should’ be reigning in the spending 🤦🏼♀️:
Sunday Riley C.E.O. Rapid Flash Brightening Serum – £70 for 30ml
– Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate
Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum – £67 for 30ml
– Ascorbic Acid
The ones that won’t make you feel pure rage if they don’t deliver 👹:
The Inkey list Vitamin C 30% – £7.99 for 30ml
– Ascorbic Acid
Mad Hippie Vitamin C Serum – £29.69 for 30ml
– Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate
In the meantime leave me some comments below, I’ll always get back to you. Tell me what you think about The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2% Serum. What’s your experience been with it, if you’ve tried it? Have you tried any other vitamin C products that you want to recommend?
Love & Knowledge,
S A M A N T H A
P.S. None of these links are affiliate links.