Are They Dupes?: Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum VS Paula’s Choice C15 Booster

by Gio
drunk elephant c-firma day serum vs paula's choice c15 booster dupes

If you’re a regular here, you know Paula’s Choice C15 Booster is my fave vitamin C serum. I dig the lightweight texture, the bright glow it gives my complexion, and… it doesn’t break the bank (girl’s gotta eat, too).

I’ve never thought I’d strayed. Why fix it if it ain’t broken, right?

So, when Drunk Elephant launched in the UK last year, I thought I’d try their C-Firma Day Serum for kicks and go back to my beloved C15 Booster once the tube’s run out.

Well, the tube’s almost run out and I’m not sure I want to go back. If there’s one serum that can give Paula’s Choice C15 Booster a run for its money, it’s Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum.

Question is, are they really dupes? Here’s how they compare:

Vitamin C

Both Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum and Paula’s Choice C15 Booster have the same active ingredients: 15% ascorbic acid + 1% vitamin + 0.5% ferulic acid.

Let’s focus on ascorbic acid for now. Ascorbic Acid is the pure form of vitamin C. It’s the most powerful. And the most unstable. I’ll explain what that means in a while. Let’s start with the positives.

Ascorbic acid is an anti-aging superstar that:

The catch? It’s unstable, meaning it goes bad quickly when exposed to light and air. Both brands packaged it in opaque bottles/tubes that keep it away from its natural enemies and extend its shelf life.

Still, even with the right protective packaging, ascorbic acid doesn’t last you too long. These serums aren’t something you can buy today and use in 6 months’ time. You buy a bottle and finish it as soon as you can.

P.S. It’s easy to see when vitamin C goes bad. It changes colour until it slowly turns brown.

P.P.S. Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum is a light orangey in colour. It’s the antioxidants in the formula that give it that colour. It’s not a sign that it’s gone bad before you bought it. Phew!

Related: My Vitamin C Serum Has Turned Brown! Can I Still Use It?

Vitamin E And Ferulic Acid

You can totally use vitamin C alone. But I don’t recommend it. Like all antioxidants, vitamin C works way better when it can play with its antioxidant friends. Its BFFs are vitamin E and ferulic acid.

A study conducted by Duke University has found that adding ferulic acid “into a topical solution of 15%l-ascorbic acid and 1%alpha-tocopherol improved chemical stability of the vitamins (C+E) and doubled photoprotection to solar-simulated irradiation of skin from 4-fold to approximately 8-fold as measured by both erythema and sunburn cell formation. This combination of pure natural low molecular weight antioxidants provides meaningful synergistic protection against oxidative stress in skin and should be useful for protection against photoaging and skin cancer.”

Translation: vitamin C + vitamin E + ferulic acid boost one another’s effectiveness and the protection your sunscreen gives you.

Both Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day and Paula’s Choice C15 Booster have vitamin E AND ferulic acid, so you’re all covered here.

But Drunk Elephant goes the extra mile. C-Firma Day Serum also has licorice, green tea and other antioxidants that can supercharge vitamin C.

Related: Why Your Vitamin C Serum Should Contain Ferulic Acid Too

What Else Do You Need To Know?

Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day and Paula’s Choice C15 Booster share the same active ingredients. If it’s the benefits of vitamin C only you’re after, it doesn’t matter what you pick.

BUT, there are 3 key differences between them that may swing the balance in favour of one of them – depending on your particular needs:

  • Lighter texture: Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum feels a little sticky on. Paula’s Choice C15 Booster has a lighter texture that absorbs more quickly.
  • Hydration: Paula’s Choice C15 Booster is loaded with humectants (like glycerin and hyaluronic acid) that hydrate skin by drawing moisture in from the air. Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum uses humectants AND marula oil (hence the sticky feeling) to attract moisture to the skin and lock it in.
  • Simple formula: Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum has more antioxidant and moisturising ingredients than Paula’s Choice. That’s both good and bad. More goodies equal more benefits. But the more ingredients you add to a formula, the higher the chance one of them will irritate your skin. If yours is sensitive, use products with the least number of ingredients possible.

Related: What The Heck Are Humectants And What Are They Doing In Your Skincare Products?

Which Of The Two Should You Go For?

Imo, the dealbreaker is the texture.

If you have dry or normal skin, you’ll love Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum. Marula oil makes it more moisturising for your skin type.

Oily skin? The sticky texture of the Drunk Elephant serum will drive you crazy. Paula’s Choice C15 Booster is way lighter and hydrates your skin without adding more oil.

Sensitive skin? Again, Paula’s Choice C15 Booster is the better choice (no pun intended!). It has a simpler formula that reduces the risk of irritation. Having said that, 15% ascorbic acid itself could be too much for your skin – use it in moderation.


Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum: available at Cult BeautySephora and SpaceNK

Paula’s Choice C15 Booster: available at Feel UniqueNordstrom and Paula’s Choice

Is Paula’s Choice C15 Booster A Dupe For Drunk Elephant Day Serum?

I wouldn’t call Paula’s Choice C15 Booster an exact dupe for Drunk Elephant Day Serum. They have the same active ingredients, so both will give you all the benefits of vitamin C. But Drunk Elephant’s moisturising texture makes it more suitable for dry skin. Lighter and more hydrating, Paula’s Choice is a better option for oily skin.

Have you tried Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day and Paula’s Choice C15 Booster? Share your fave in the comments below.

Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum Ingredients: 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

Paula’s Choice C15 Booster Ingredients: Water, Ascorbic Acid, Butylene Glycol, Ethoxydiglycol, Glycerin, PPG-26-Buteth-26, PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Pentylene Glycol, Tocopherol, Sodium Hyaluronate, Hexanoyl Dipeptide-3 Norleucine Acetate, Lecithin, Ferulic Acid, Panthenol, Bisabolol, Oryza Sativa (Rice) Bran Extract, Hordeum Vulgare Extract, Propyl Gallate, Sodium Gluconate, Sodium Hydroxide, Phenoxyethanol, Ethylhexylglycerin.

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Jeff March 13, 2019 - 2:24 pm

Both of these contain water, doesnt this also break down the Vit C? It could be bad before you even buy it.

Gio March 15, 2019 - 4:50 pm

Jeff, yes, water speeds up the oxidation process, making it go bad faster. Proper packaging and preservative system would slow down the process but if the serum has been sitting on the shelf for a while (and you have no way of knowing that!), it may indeed have gone bad before you buy it.

Having said that, I’ve used both multiple times and I’ve never received an expired product.

Alan March 13, 2019 - 8:15 pm

I personally love the drunk elephant’s C-Firma day serum (I use it day and night) better than Paula’s Choice C15 booster. The reason is, the C15 booster is in a dropper bottle, I’ve experienced that the serum went bad after a month due to the air get into the dropper bottle each time I open it. why I felt the C15 booster might went bad after a month of use? because I felt it stings my skin and that’s not the case when I just open the new bottle and start using it, there is no way I can finish the whole bottle of Paula’s Choice C15 booster within 30 days. On the other hand, Drunk Elephant’s C-Firma serum is stored air-tight in the bottle, it takes me about 2.5 months to finish the bottle, I can see and feel the benefit of the vitamin C and the serum’s quality stays consistent, I love it.

Gio March 15, 2019 - 4:46 pm

Alan, I hear ya! Vitamin C is a wonderful ingredient but when you buy your serum, you have no way of knowing if it’s fresh or if the bottle was sitting on the shelf for months. I agree that in terms of packaging, Drunk Elephant has the upper hand here.

julie March 13, 2019 - 11:13 pm

I love love the Drunk Elephant! I am a total weirdo because I also use the timeless brand 20% vit c + e ferulic which is considered as close to a dupe of the skinscueticals. I have no adverse effects like redness or dryness by layering them (timeless first then drunk elephant). I guess I am just wasting money by using both? Am I totally ridiculous? Thank you!

Gio March 15, 2019 - 4:40 pm

Julie, yes, you’re using 35% of vitamin C, that’s too much! Even if your skin is fine now, it doesn’t mean you won’t have problems in the future. Pick one!!

Nadine B March 16, 2019 - 6:29 pm

I’m in love with Rosehip oil these days. Would the A’kin brand you recommend with vitamin C give the same benefits as these Vit.C boosters/syrums?
Thank you for sharing your knowledge!

Gio March 21, 2019 - 5:03 pm

Nadine, no it wouldn’t. Oils contain way less vitamin C than the serums in this post.

LCmazzit March 30, 2019 - 3:00 am

Can you use a Vitamin C serum with another serum like Lancome Genifique?

Gio April 4, 2019 - 11:40 am

Lcmazzit, yes you can.


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