For years, I’ve gotten my vitamin C fix from Paula’s Choice C15 Booster.
It’s a dupe for Skinceuticals CE Ferulic serum, the original CEF serum (CEF stands for vitamin C, vitamin E and Ferulic acid). Same benefits for way less than half the price.
Sure, I tried different vitamin C serums over the years (hey, I’m a skincare blogger – I can’t not cheat on my HGs!), but I always came back to Paula’s Choice C15 Booster. I thought I always would.
Until Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum finally hit the UK. After testing it for a month, I’m not sure I want to go back to my first love this time. Here’s why:
- About The Brand: Drunk Elephant
- Key Ingredients In Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum: What Makes It Work?
- The Rest Of The Formula & Ingredients
- How To Use It
- Performance & Personal Opinion
- How Does Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Compare To Other Popular Vitamin C Serums?
- What I Like About Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day
- What I Like About Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day
- Who Should Use This?
- Does Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum Live Up To Its Claims?
- Is Drunk Elephant Cruelty-Free?
- Price & Availability
- The Verdict: Should You buy It?
- Dupes & Alternatives
About The Brand: Drunk Elephant
Drunk Elephant takes its name from the urban legend that elephants get drunk on the natural content of the marula fruit. Tiffany Masterson created the brand out of frustration with her own skin. Tired from jumping from product to product to heal her acne-prone, rosacea-prone skin without success.
She started delving into the science and identified 6 ingredients that, completely removed from her skincare, helped her finally heal her skin. FYI, just because these ingredients didn’t agree with Tiffany’s skin, it doesn’t mean they’re bad in general and no one else should use them.
Still, these 6 ingredients are now banned from Drunk Elephant’s products. These 6 ingredients are essential oils (agree, so irritating!), drying alcohols (bad only when poorly formulated), silicones (nothing wrong with them), chemical sunscreens (bad only for sensitive skin), fragrances/dyes (totally agree on fragrances, very irritating), and SLS (agree, super irritating!).
Key Ingredients In Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum: What Makes It Work?
15% ASCORBIC ACID, VITAMIN E AND FERULIC ACID TO FIGHT PREMATURE AGING
Wondering what’s the best antioxidant out there?
None. When it comes to antioxidants, the more, the merrier. The more antioxidants you feed your skin, the more free radicals you destroy. It’s as easy as that.
One of the most powerful combinations of antioxidants is 15% vitamin C (ascorbic acid), 1% vitamin E (tocopherol) and 0.5% Ferulic acid. It’s the one you’ll find in Skinceuticals CE Ferulic, Paula’s C15 Booster and plenty of other vitamin C serums.
Ascorbic acid is an antiaging superstar. Studies show it can:
- Fight the free radicals that give you wrinkles
- Boost the production of collagen, the protein that keeps skin firm
- Reduces transepidermal water loss, helping to keep skin hydrated
- Has skin-lightening properties that can fade away hyperpigmentation
Problem is, ascorbic acid is unstable AF. That means it loses its antiaging superpowers quickly. If it came in a see-through tube, you’ll see it turn brown (a sign it’s going bad) within a few short days.
Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum has the packaging nailed right to help vitamin C last as long as possible. Vitamin E and ferulic acid help with that too.
These two antioxidants don’t just fight their own free radicals too. They also help stabilise vitamin C, making it last (and be effective) for longer. Plus, all 3 together help prevent sun damage.
P.S. Drunk Elephant gave ascorbic acid the best chance to last as long as possible. But this isn’t something you can buy now and use six months later or buy in bulk. It won’t go bad within a week but won’t last you for too many months either. Be quick!
P.P. S. This combination works best at a pH range between 2.5-3.5. Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum has a pH of 3.5. The higher pH makes it less irritating than Skinceuticals CE Ferulic (pH 2.5-3) and Paula’s Choice C15 Booster (pH 3).
Related: The Complete Guide To Vitamin C: What It Does & Why You Should Use It
ANTIOXIDANTS TO FIGHT FREE RADICALS
CEF aren’t the only antioxidants in Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum. It’d take too long to list them all (and this review is already long enough), so here are the highlights:
- Green tea: It destroys free radicals, soothes inflammation and helps protects skin from sun damage
- Licorice extract: It fights free radicals and fades away dark spots
- Grape extract: Another free-radical fighter with anti-inflammatory properties
See what I mean when I say that this vitamin C serum goes the extra mile? It’s half the price of Skinceuticals CE Ferulic yet it gives you way more antioxidants to prevent those pesky wrinkles.
Related: Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Green Tea In Skincare
LACTOBACILLUS/PUMPKIN FERMENT EXTRACT TO EXFOLIATE SKIN
Pumpkins ain’t just a Halloween treat. When fermented with lactobacillus lactic, they create an enzyme with exfoliating properties.
It works by breaking down keratin, the protein that keeps those dull and rough outer layers of your skin stuck on your face. Once those are off your skin, your face looks smoother and brighter.
I prefer glycolic acid (a member of the Alpha Hydroxy Acids family) to do the job. But if you find AHAs too harsh for your skin – or simply don’t like the idea of using acids – this is a good alternative for you.
It goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyway) that if you want to use Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum but aren’t ready to give up on exfoliating acids just yet, cut back on exfoliation.
Exfoliation ain’t like antioxidants. The more you exfoliate, the higher the chance of irritating your skin. Be careful!
Related: The Complete Guide To Enzyme Exfoliants: Should You Use Them?
MARULA OIL & HYALURONIC ACID TO HYDRATE SKIN
I’m pairing them together because they both moisturize skin – just in different ways.
Marula oil is what gave Drunk Elephant its name. Legend has it, elephants get drunk when they eat too much marula fruit.
True or false, you can’t deny its benefits for your skin. Marula oil is loaded with moisturising fatty acids that create a barrier on the skin that slows down water loss. Plus, it has its fair share of antioxidants, too.
Hyaluronic acid, on the other hand, is a moisture magnet: it attracts moisture into the skin and binds it there. It’s so powerful, it can hold up to 1000 times its weight in water!
Related: Why You Should Add Hyaluronic Acid To Your Skincare Routine
Struggling to put together a skincare routine that minimises wrinkles, prevents premature aging, and gives your complexion a youthful glow? Download your FREE “Best Anti-Aging Skincare Routine” to get started (it features product recommendations + right application order):
The Rest Of The Formula & Ingredients
NOTE: The colours indicate the effectiveness of an ingredient. It is ILLEGAL to put toxic and harmful ingredients in skincare products.
- Green: It’s effective, proven to work, and helps the product do the best possible job for your skin.
- Yellow: There’s not much proof it works (at least, yet).
- Red: What is this doing here?!
- Water/Aqua/Eau: The base of the product and the main solvent here.
- Dimethyl Isosorbide: It helps active ingredients penetrate skin deeper, so they work better and faster.
- Laureth-23: It helps the oily and watery parts of a formula blend together effortlessly.
- Glycerin: A powerful humectant that draws moisture from the air into your skin, helping to keep it hydrated.
- Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate: An anti-inflammatory compound found in licorice, it soothes redness and irritations.
- Phyllanthus Emblica Fruit Extract: A plant extract with powerful antioxidant and soothing properties that slows down premature aging.
- Lactobacillus/Punica Granatum Fruit Ferment Extract: A pomegranate enzyme that’s obtained by fermenting the pomegranate fruit with Lactobacillus lactis. It’s an alternative to chemical exfoliation, although it doesn’t work as well as glycolic acid & co.
- Hydrolyzed Quinoa: The protein in quinoa has powerful hydrating properties that keeps skin softer and smoother.
- Phytosterols: Naturally occurring, cholesterol-like molecules found in all plant foods and vegetable oils, they have powerful moisturising and soothing properties.
- Glutamylamidoethyl Imidazole: A peptide the manufacturer claims helps your skin produce more Vitamin D and stimulate the skin’s natural defense system. I have yet to see independent proof it works as claimed.
- Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein: Loaded with amino acids, it has powerful moisturising properties that makes skin softer and smoother.
- Acetyl Glucosamine: An amino acid with powerful hydrating properties that makes skin softer and smoother.
- Tetrahydrobisdemethoxydiferuloylmethane: A potent antioxidant in the turmeric plant that helps you fight premature aging.
- Tetrahydrodemethoxydiferuloylmethane: Found in the root of the turmeric plant, it has powerful antioxidant properties that fight the free radicals that give you premature wrinkles.
- Tetrahydrodiferuloylmethane: Another powerful antioxidant with soothing properties that comes from turmeric. It helps reduce irritations and slow down premature aging.
- Glycine: An essential amino acid that moisturises skin and helps wounds heal faster.
- Leuconostoc/Radish Root Ferment Filtrate: A natural preservative that comes from radishes fermented with Leuconostoc kimchii. But it’s not as effective as other preservatives, like parabens.
- Sucrose: A type of sugar with water-binding properties that keeps skin hydrated.
- Maltodextrin: A sugar with hydrating and oil-absorbing properties.
- Chondrus Crispus Extract: A type of red algae with hydrating and antioxidant properties that helps your skin stay soft, supple, and younger-looking.
- Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer: A synthetic polymer that acts as a stabiliser, texture enhancer, dispersing agent, and opacifier.
- Isohexadecane: A solvent that helps dissolve the other ingredient in the formula.
- Phenoxyethanol: A preservative that kills a wide range of bacteria to keep your serum safe and effective for longer.
- Caprylhydroxamic Acid: A chelating agent that binds to the metal ions in the water, neutralising them before they can spoil the formula.
- Caprylyl Glycol: A preservative with hydrating properties. It extends the shelf life of your serum while hydrating your skin.
- Sorbitan Isostearate: An emulsifier that helps water and oil mix and stay together.
- Propanediol: A solvent with hydrating properties. It helps to dissolve the other ingredients in the formula and hydrate skin.
- Pentylene Glycol: It stabilises emulsions and acts as a solvent.
- XanthaN Gum: It’s a thickener that helps adjust the texture of the product.
- Butylene Glycol: It’s a solvent with hydrating properties that keeps skin softer and smooth.
- Sodium Hydroxide: It helps adjust the pH of skincare products, maximising their effectiveness.
- Chlorphenesin: A weak preservative that helps prevent bacteria contamination. But it needs to be used together with other preservatives to be effective.
- Polysorbate 60: It’s used to improve the texture and feel of skincare products.
- Sodium Dehydroacetate: A preservative that prevents the growth of bacteria and fungi.
- Potassium Sorbate: A mild preservative that extends the shelf life of your products by killing bacteria and fungi.
- Sorbic Acid: A preservative naturally derived from mountain ash berries used to prevent the growth of bacteria, mold, and fungi.
- Ethylhexylglycerin: A skin-conditioning agent with preservative properties.
The only thing I DON’T like about Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum? The texture’s a little sticky. Blame it on the addition of marula oil. It’s not the most pleasant to use, and if you have oily skin, I’ll go as far as to say that you should stay away from it. Dry skin types can be more forgiving and enjoy the results the serum gives you, if not its texture.
It’s fragrance-free. I dig that. I know fragrances are lovely and makes the application process even more pleasant. But, they can be irritating. If you have sensitive skin and react badly to a product, 9 times out of 10, the fragrance is the culprit. So I command Drunk Elephant for leaving it out.
How To Use It
Like all Vitamin C serums, I recommend you use every morning, right after cleansing and before sunscreen. You apply it right after cleansing to give the active ingredients the best chance of penetrating skin for maximum effectiveness. And then follow up with sunscreen to boost its sun protection.
I adore the packaging of Drunk Elephant products, it’s so sleek! A white tube with an orange cap and a pump applicator, it looks beautiful on your vanity and dispenses just the right amount of product you need. Plus, it keeps the antioxidants inside safe from the light and air that can reduce their effectiveness.
Performance & Personal Opinion
Despite its sticky texture, Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum still works well under sunscreen and makeup. But if you’ve got oily skin, this could be a dealbreaker for you. Try to get hold of a sample if you can.
Instead, don’t worry about the golden hue of the serum. Usually, that’s a sign vitamin C is already going bad, but that’s not what’s going on here. It’s the curcuminoids (a group of anti-irritants) that gives the serum its colour.
I use Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum every morning to enhance the effectiveness of my sunscreen (CEF boosts photoprotection, remember?). But you can totally use it at night too if the stickiness bothers you that much.
After a few days, I’ve already noticed my skin getting brighter. It gives it a luminous, healthy glow I really like. If you’ve got any dark spots on your skin, it brightens those up and fades them away, too.
I’m also confident the serum is helping me keep premature wrinkles away. Antioxidants prevent wrinkles so you won’t see results anytime soon (in this area anyway).
But there’s plenty of research that shows the antioxidants Drunk Elephant picked work. That’s good enough for me.
I’m hooked. Don’t try it if you don’t want to get addicted too!
How Does Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Compare To Other Popular Vitamin C Serums?
Let me tell you how Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum compares to other popular CEF Serums on the market, so you can make the best choice for your skin.
- MaeLove The Glow Maker ($29.95): An anti-aging and brightening serum with hydrating aloe vera and Hyaluronic Acid for dry, aging skin. Unfortunately, it has a citrusy extract that can be irritating for sensitive skin. But if you’re on a budget and looking for a CEF serum that does the job without breaking the bank, this is it. Available at MaeLove.
- Paula’s Choice C15 Booster ($46.75): A lightweight, fast-absorbing Vitamin C serum that brightens skin, prevents premature aging, and boosts sun protection. It’s enriched with Hyaluronic Acid and glycerin to add a burst of moisture to your skin, making it a better alternative for dry and dehydrated skin types. Available at Cult Beauty, Dermstore, Net-A-Porter, Paula’s Choice, Sephora, and SpaceNK.
- Skinceuticals CE Ferulic ($169.00): The original CEF serum, this baby is the most expensive serum of the lot – but worth every penny. It just works. It brightens skin, fights free radicals, and boosts sun protection. Its lightweight texture absorbs quickly into your skin, leaving no greasy residue behind. If you can afford the splurge, go for it. Available at Dermstore, Look Fantastic and Skinceuticals.
- Timeless 20% Vitamin C + E Ferulic Acid Serum ($22.90): This serum contains a higher concentration of Vitamin C, 20%. Higher doesn’t mean better. Yes, it’s faster at brightening skin, but it can also irritate sensitive skin. I recommend it only to women (and men) with resistant skin that want to fade hyperpigmentation. Available at Yes Style.
What I Like About Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day
- Beautiful and practical packaging.
- Helps prevent wrinkles and premature aging.
- Boosts the sun protection of your sunscreen.
- Brightens the complexion.
- Makes skin softer and smoother.
What I Like About Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day
- Sticky texture.
Who Should Use This?
It’s best suitable for dry and mature skin that want to fight premature aging while hydrating skin. Instead, I don’t recommend it to oily skin: you won’t like the sticky texture.
Does Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum Live Up To Its Claims?
|This revolutionary vitamin C serum is jam-packed with a powerful antioxidant complex of l-ascorbic and ferulic acids to reveal a brighter, firmer, and more even-looking complexion.||True. But it’s not the only serum with this combo, so I wouldn’t call it revolutionary.|
|The result is a noticeably diminished appearance of |
photodamage and aging, replaced by incredible radiance and luminosity.
Is Drunk Elephant Cruelty-Free?
Yes, Drunk Elephant is truly cruelty-free. It doesn’t test on animals and doesn’t outsource this process to anyone else.
Price & Availability
£67/$80.00 at Cult Beauty, Sephora and SpaceNK
The Verdict: Should You buy It?
If you’re looking for an effective Vitamin C serum for dry skin and you don’t mind the sticky texture and don’t want to pay insane money for Skinceuticals CE Ferulic, this is a great option to consider.
Dupes & Alternatives
Check out the comparison section above for full details about the dupes and alternatives below.
- Maelove The Glow Maker ($27.95)
- Paula’s Choice C15 Booster ($49.00)
- Skinceuticals CE Ferulic ($169.00)
Water/Aqua/Eau, Dimethyl Isosorbide, Ascorbic Acid, Laureth-23, Glycerin, Lactobacillus/Pumpkin Ferment Extract, Sclerocarya Birrea Seed Oil, Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate, Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract, Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Juice Extract, Phyllanthus Emblica Fruit Extract, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Tocopherol, Lactobacillus/Punica Granatum Fruit Ferment Extract, Sodium Hyaluronate Crosspolymer, Hydrolyzed Quinoa, Phytosterols, Glutamylamidoethyl Imidazole, Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein, Ferulic Acid, Acetyl Glucosamine, Sodium Hyaluronate, Tetrahydrobisdemethoxydiferuloylmethane, Tetrahydrodemethoxydiferuloylmethane, Tetrahydrodiferuloylmethane, Glycine, Leuconostoc/Radish Root Ferment Filtrate, Sucrose, Maltodextrin, Chondrus Crispus Extract, Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer, Isohexadecane, Phenoxyethanol, Caprylhydroxamic Acid, Caprylyl Glycol, Sorbitan Isostearate, Propanediol, Pentylene Glycol, XanthaN Gum, Butylene Glycol, Sodium Hydroxide, Chlorphenesin, Polysorbate 60, Sodium Dehydroacetate, Potassium Sorbate, Sorbic Acid, Ethylhexylglycerin
Have you heard about L’Oréal’s lawsuit against Drunk Elephant? I wonder how that will affect all the companies who make it.
SherryG, I wonder why it took them that long to do this. It would be a shame if L’Oreal won. Not everyone can afford $166 every couple of months for a serum. I guess in that case, more brands will start patenting different combinations of antioxidants looking for one that’s more effective than vitamin C, vitamin E and ferulic acid.
Have you reviewed Mad Hippie Vitamin C serum with Ferulic acid, vitamin E, hyaluronic acid & konjac root? This product is even more reasonably priced. I wonder how it stacks up.
Claudia, I haven’t personally tried it yet but judging from the ingredients, it contains a derivative of vitamin C that’s less effective for anti-aging than Ascorbic Acid, the form of vitamin C used in Drunk Elephant. However, the vitamin C in Mad Hippie can help treat acne, so if you’re dealing with that, it’s a great option to consider.
How does this compare to the Dr. Dennis Gross product you reviewed recently? I’ve been using it and I can’t say I see a dramatic difference in my skin, but it is not irritating my skin, which is a big plus for me with Vitamin C.
Yes, I’m curious too! How do you think the Drunk Elephant serum compares to the Dr. Dennis Gross C + Collagen serum?
Rebecca, I too use the Dr. Dennis Gross C + Collagen serum. I didn’t see much of a difference on its own, but when I started following it with The Ordinary hyaluronic serum, within weeks a saw a significant increase in radiance/brightness and disappearance of fine lines. I’ve even gotten a few comments from others that my skin is looking radient and healthy. I’ve been out of the C serum for about 2 weeks now (more is on the way!) so the only treatment serum I’m using is the hyaluronic serum– and I would say that I’m just starting to observe a slight decrease in radiance/brightness. Good luck finding a C that works for you!
Kristina, it’s odd–I never feel like I notice any big difference in my skin when I try a new product, but compared to last year, when I went through a bout of very dry skin because I was overdoing Retin A, my skin this winter is pretty good. I credit that to hyaluronic acid (I use a Korean essence from Hanskin), the addition of lipids (I use Every Lipid Serum from SkinActives), and sparing and careful use of Retin A (just twice a week–always waiting a good while after I wash my face). Everyone tells me I look much younger than my age, so something is working! But yes–I am curious about the best Vitamin C, as I need the brightness. And I tried Drunk Elephant Protini Peptide Cream and I loved it (had ordered The Ordinary’s Copper Peptide serum and am trying it now, but think I like the DE better even though it lacks the copper), so I might really like the DE C-Firma, too. I just wish it were less expensive–obviously, I’ve never sprung for SkinCeuticals!
Rebecca, it really depends on your skin type. Drunk Elephant is a little sticky and more moisturising, so if you have dry skin you’ll love it. For oily skin, Dr Dennis Gross is better.
If you’re asking which one will give you the most glow, both contain high concentrations of ascorbic acid so they perform pretty much the same. Dr Dennis Gross also has Niacinamide, another brightening agent so that’ll help a little too.
Thank you, Gio. I am more on the dry side these days, so I will try the Drunk Elephant.
Rebecca, you’re welcome.
Hello! How would you pair this serum with hydraulic acid?? Before or after the serum? Also, I’m looking into hadalobo hydraulic acid. Have you heard of it? Thanks.
Theresa, yes, that’s a good hyaluronic acid serum. You can use it after Vitamin C.
Hi Gio. My dermatologist swears by Skinceuticals but as you’ve noted here it is super pricy to buy the CE Feurulic every 2-3 months. My routine right now is vitamin c, sunscreen in the morning. Tazorac and the retexturizing activator by Skinceuticals at night. I have really acne prone skin so this keeps me clear but I would love a cheaper alternative for these two products. Any recommendations? I was thinking of trying the Paula’s choice glycolic and now seeing this, the drunk elephant c. I have an oily t-zone but normal skin elsewhere. Thanks!
Elta, I recommend the opposite. Drunk Elephant Glycolic Night Serum because it has both glycolic and salicylic acid (your skin definitely needs the latter) and Paula’s Choice C15 Booster (Drunk Elephant Vitamin C will feel sticky on your oily areas).