skinceuticals phloretin cf review

Skinceuticals CE Ferulic is the gold standard for Vitamin C serums. All the brands are duping it. So why did Skinceuticals make another Vitamin C serum?

It’s called Phloretin CF. Instead of the classic 15% L-Ascorbic Acid, 1% Vitamin E, and 0.5% Ferulic Acid, Phloretin CF jazzed things up a bit. It lowered the amount of L-Ascorbic Acid to 10%, replaced Vitamin E with 2% Phloretin and kept the same dose of ferulic acid.

Does it work better than CE Ferulic? Let’s find out:

What’s In Skinceuticals Phloretin CF?


L-Ascorbic Acid is the pure form of vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant that:

If you’re serious about antiaging, you need this baby in your skincare routine. But be careful! L-Ascorbic Acid has a couple of side effects you should be aware of:

  • Unstable: It goes bad quickly when exposed to light and air. Buy it only when you’re ready to use it daily. If the serum has turned brown, it’s too late. It’s useless. Throw it away!
  • Irritation: High concentrations (%15) of L-Ascorbic Acid – especially at the low pH (below 3) it needs to work its magic – can irritate skin, especially if it’s sensitive. Phloretin CF uses 10%, a concentration that’s sensitive skin-friendly.

Related: Everything You Need To Know About Vitamin C In Skincare


Phloretin is a flavonoid found in apples with powerful antioxidant properties. It slow down aging in several ways:

According to a 2008 study, it gives similar results to the classic combo of Vitamin C + Vitamin E + Ferulic Acid:

“This study confirms the protective role of a unique mixture of antioxidants containing vitamin C, ferulic acid, and phloretin on human skin from the harmful effects of UV irradiation. Phloretin, in addition to being a potent antioxidant, may stabilize and increase the skin availability of topically applied vitamin C and ferulic acid. We propose that antioxidant mixture will complement and synergize with sunscreens in providing photoprotection for human skin.”

I still prefer Vitamin C + Vitamin E + Ferulic acid to the Phloretin version, just because it’s been more researched during the years. But Phloretin is very promising, too.

Related: Skinceuticals CE Ferulic VS Phloretin CF: Which One Is Better?


Alcohol Denat is one of the most misunderstood ingredients in skincare. Word on the street is that it’s terribly drying and irritating.

To an extent, that’s true. The reason you feel so bad after you gulp down one too many cocktails is that alcohol is drying out every cell in your body, giving you a bad case of dehydration.

Does the same thing apply to skin when you slather alcohol on it? It depends. If alcohol’s all you’re slathering on, then yes, it will dry out your skin.

But if you use alcohol together with moisturizing ingredients, they’ll counteract its drying effects. Science confirms this. Recent studies show that alcohol isn’t as drying as we once thought.

Having said this, everyone’s skin is different. If your skin is particularly sensitive to alcohol denat and doesn’t tolerate it well, this serum isn’t for you.

But what does alcohol do here? It’s a volatile carrier that helps the active ingredients penetrate skin, so they can work better and faster.

Related: The Truth About Alcohol-Free Skincare: What Does It Really Mean? (Hint: It’s Not What You Think)

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

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?!

The serum has a very short ingredient list. I like that for two reasons.

One: it removes everything that’s not absolutely necessary, like fragrance and fancy plant extracts that look good in the marketing copy but do absolutely nothing for your skin.

Two: Every ingredient has the potential to be irritating for someone. Believe it or not, there are people who are allergic to plain old water. The fewer ingredients you use, the lower the chance of causing someone an irritation. Well done, Skinceuticals.

So, what’s in the formula, apart from the active ingredients mentioned above?

  • Aqua / water / eau: The base of this (and most) skincare products.
  • Dipropylene glycol: It’s used to improve the texture and stability of a formulation.
  • Butylene glycol: It has moisturising properties, but it’s mostly used here to stabilise and thicken products.
  • Triethyl citrate: It’s a preservative that helps the serum last longer.


The serum has an unusual consistency. It’s watery, yet it has a slight oil feel to it. It sinks into the skin immediately. I personally don’t mind it, but if you have very oily skin, it’s something to consider.


The serum is fragrance-free. I know some people don’t like fragrance-free products because they don’t smell like a fragrant bouquet of roses or like a salty ocean breeze. If that’s you, this may be a deal-breaker for you.

But I love fragrance-free products. Fragrance is one of the most (if not the most) irritating ingredient in skincare products. By taking it out, you greatly lower the risk someone will have an allergic reaction to it.

The catch? Fragrance-free products are not 100% fragrance-free. Every skincare ingredient has its own smell, so that’s what you’re smelling when you pour the serum onto your skin. In this case, the serum has a large dollop of alcohol, so it feels like you’ve just poured a lot of alcohol in your coffee (please, don’t do that, ladies!).

How To Use It

In the morning, after cleanser and before sunscreen to boost its sun protection. You could potentially use it in the evening as well, but I prefer to alternate my actives and use Vitamin C in the morning and retinol or an exfoliant at night.

Using everything all the time just leads to irritation and dryness. By alternating your actives, you give your skin everything it needs – without the irritation.

Performance & Personal Opinion

Based on reviews I’ve read online, Skinceuticals Phloretin CF is a love or hate product. I totally see why.

Antioxidant serums are preventative. If you’re expecting them to make your wrinkles disappear in a week (or ten), hard luck. They can’t do that. Phloretin CF is no exception.

Instead, you have to trust the science here. Vitamin C + Phloretin + Ferulic Acid can protect your skin from environmental damage so that it ages slowly – but it takes years to see results.

What you can see straight away is the brightening effect. Phloretin CF makes my skin glow! It also makes it a little softer and smoother.

skinceuticals phloretin cf

Who Is This For?

  • Those who can’t tolerate 15% L-Ascorbic Acid
  • Those who are curious to try an alternative to Vitamin C + Vitamin E + ferulic acid

Who Is This NOT For?

  • If you’re already using Skinceuticals CE Ferulic (or one of these dupes), you don’t need to switch

Does Skinceuticals Phloretin CF Live Up To Its Claims?

Helps prevent free radical damage, diminishes the appearance of discolouration and improves skin tone and texture.True. Keep in mind that all Vitamin C serums do this.
Excellent complement to sunscreen for enhanced protection.True.
Paraben-free and ideal for normal, oily, combination, and ageing skin types.True.


The serum comes in a dark bottle with a dropper applicator. The dark colour keeps the actives inside (especially sun sensitive Vitamin C) safe from UV rays that would degrade it and compromise its effectiveness.

The dropper applicator makes the serum easy to use. You could argue that, every time you open the bottle, oxygen gets in and degrades Vitamin C a little, but every type of package has its trade-off. A different applicator wouldn’t be suitable for such a watery formula. The best thing you can do is be quick with application and seal the bottle again quickly.

Price & Availability

$166.00/£150.00 at Blue Mercury, Dermstore, and Look Fantastic

Do You Need It?

Vitamin C is a must for anti-aging, but no particular serum is an absolute must – especially at this price point. But if your skin can’t tolerate high doses of Vitamin C (and your wallet can take the hit), this is an effective alternative to consider.

Dupes & Alternatives


aqua / water / eau, dipropylene glycol, alcohol denat., ascorbic acid, butylene glycol, triethyl citrate, phloretin, ferulic acid