At Last! A Vitamin C Serum That Won’t Turn Brown Before You Use It Up

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Longevity is one of the biggest conversations taking place in the wellness sphere at the moment. As biologists and doctors question how humans can stay in optimal health for as long as possible–HMU when you find out, PhDs!–Drunk Elephant’s beauty product formulators, meanwhile, are kicking back with a drink in hand, having found a way to extend the lifespan of vitamin C serums. The new C-Firma Fresh allows you to mix the formula at home, adding months to the shelf life of one of the most finicky products on the market.

“Simply put, we found a way to make C-Firma better by maximizing its potency and keeping the formula fresh,” says Tiffany Masterson, the founder of Drunk Elephant. “By separating the formula into two phases, the liquid serum and vitamin C powder, the user is able to determine the time of ‘activation’ for their C-Firma Fresh, which is the moment they mix the two together.” In doing this, the brand has helped to minimize and delay the oxidation of the vitamin C that makes it less potent over time. So, what does that mean for your skin? Keep reading to find out.

Drunk Elephant C Firma Fresh Day Serum — $78.00

This vitamin C is meant to be activated once you purchase it so it will stay fresh for longer.

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What is different about the new Drunk Elephant C-Firma Fresh?

The Drunk Elephant C-Firma serum has always contained a potent blend of antioxidants, combining a 15 percent L-ascorbic acid vitamin C, with vitamin E, ferulic acid, and a supporting cast of skin-benefiting ingredients as well. That will stay the same for the new formula. What is changing, however, is that each box comes with two vials. One looks like the existing cubic Drunk Elephant C-Firma serum that you’re used to, and the other is almost like one of the Drunk Elephant Littles.

There are instructions inside that guide you to uncap the bottle, which is filled with the L-ascorbic acid powder. In the small bottle, you’ll find the activator, a blend of other potent antioxidants. You add the liquid to the powder vial, pop the cap back on and shake for a minute straight. As you shake, bubbles form in the bottle. When your timer goes off, you pop the top back on and you’re ready to use it.

Why change the product?

Good Q. The C-Firma has always been a fan-favorite, but the new formula really all comes down to control. In the manufacturing process, there are a ton of things that you have to account for. How long will the product be exposed to oxygen when it’s being mixed, how long will it sit in a warehouse before being shipped to a store, how long will a store keep it on shelves before you buy it. All of that cuts down on the time that the product is actually good on your shelf.

“The ‘clock’ on the lifespan [of vitamin C] begins when it is mixed, and it gradually loses strength over time,” says Masterson. “There are ways that you can slow that gradual loss, but you can’t prevent it.” Now, you are the manufacturer and the user, so you substantially add to the amount of time that the product can last.

How long is the product good for?

Three years when it’s unmixed and six months once it’s mixed. So, if you’re using the product every day–which you should do to see changes in your skin–you’ll use it up before it goes bad.

The formula goes into an airless pump system that also helps to extend the shelf time of the product. The more L-ascorbic acid is exposed to air and and light, the quicker it oxidizes–having an opaque bottle and an airless pump greatly adds to the length of time it can stay on your shelf.

Remind me what vitamin C does again?

Vitamin C–particularly L-ascorbic acid–is one of the most potent antioxidants we have in skin care. Antioxidants are important because they neutralize unbound electrons known as free radicals. When our skin encounters things like pollution and UV radiation these free radicals scavenge our skin, looking for other electrons to pair with. In doing this, they create damage to our complexions that can result in pigmentation, loss of collagen, and even inflammatory conditions like acne. Antioxidants are electron-rich and help to balance out your complexion on a microscopic level, which can have visible benefits as well.

“Ascorbic acid is one of the few forms of vitamin C that can have a positive effect on healthy collagen production in skin as well as defend against its loss. It’s a powerhouse,” says Masterson. Additionally, it’s been shown to help with a host of other skin conditions, including preventing hyperpigmentation from UV light when worn with SPF, aiding with barrier protection for those with dry skin, speeding up wound repair, decreasing inflammation, and evening the skin barrier.

Anything else that’s different?

Okay yes, I was caught up explaining the mechanism of action, and forgot to also share that the formula is slightly enhanced as well. It’s now vegan. The former formula contained an anti-inflammatory ingedient called acetyl glucosamine, which was derived from seashells. Additionally, the pH of the formula has dropped–or become more acidic–from 3.3 to 2.5, which Masterson tells me “increases the penetration and potency of the ascorbic acid.” Lastly, the team removed some of the thickeners from the product so the new formula glides onto skin and feels incredibly lightweight, and not-at-all sticky.

What did you think?

I have used a lot of vitamin C serums over the years, and my biggest gripes tend to be: they oxidize quickly, sometimes they smell bizarro, and they can feel sort of tacky on skin. C-Firma Fresh doesn’t really have any of these problems.

I’ve been using it for several weeks, and the color hasn’t budged from what it was when I first mixed it. Compared to other vitamin C serums on the market, this one also doesn’t have that hot-dog-adjacent scent that so many do. And what I like best of all is how light and weightless it feels on skin. I feel like I can layer products over it, and wouldn’t get any pilling or have any stickiness on skin.

Lastly, I just really like that the product is all about basic skin health. Drunk Elephant formulations skip common allergens and irritants and boost the barrier with proven ingredients that now have that wellness halo called longevity.

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