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:

About The Brand: Skinceuticals

Founded in 1997 on the back of the antioxidant research performed by Dr Sheldon Pinnell, Skinceuticals was one of the first brands to sell to dermatologists and other doctors. They were the first to bring to the world the wonders of 15% L-Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C) + Vitamin E + Ferulic Acid, a powerful combination that prevents premature wrinkles, brightens the complexion, and boosts the effectiveness of sunscreen.

Groundbreaking for its day, it has now become the gold standard for Vitamin C serums and inspired a long string of dupes (and lawsuits). Now they’re bringing another innovation, 15% L-Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C) + Ferulic Acid + Phloretin. Will it be as successful as its predecessor? Only time will tell.

Key Ingredients In Skinceuticals Phloretin CF: What Makes It Work?


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 & 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?!

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.


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.

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

How Does Skinceuticals Phloretin CF Compare To Skinceuticals CE Ferulic?

TEXTURE Watery, with an oily feel to it. Lightweight, non-sticky.
HYDRATION Not very hydrating, better for oily skin. Hydrating, better for dry skin.
ANTI-AGING 10% Vitamin C + 1% Vitamin E + 2% Phloretin, less studied combo, but promising. 15% Vitamin C + 1% Vitamin E + 0.5% Ferulic acid, the gold standard for anti-aging
SKIN TYPE Better for oily skin. Better for dry and normal skin types.
IRRITATING POTENTIAL 10% Vitamin C is gentle enough for sensitive skin. 15% Vitamin C may irritate sensitive skin.

Skinceuticals CE Ferulic and Phloretin CF are the two most popular Vitamin C serums from the brand. How do they compare?

CE Ferulic is more hydrating, so it’s a better option for dry skin. It also has a less drying delivery system that makes it more suitable for sensitive skin types. Plus, the combination of Vitamin C + Vitamin E + ferulic acid has been around longer and is more studied than the combination of Vitamin C + Ferulic acid + Phloretin, so I’m more inclined to recommend the former.

In other words, for me, Skinceuticals CE Ferulic wins hands down in every respect. But hey, if you’re curious to try Phloretin, you’ll still get a few antioxidant benefits.

How Does Skinceuticals Phloretin CF Compare To The Other Skinceuticals Vitamin C Serums?

I’ve already told you how Skinceuticals Phloretin CF compares to Skinceuticals CE Ferulic. To me, the latter is the BEST Vitamin C serum on the market (and yes, it makes me cry, it’s so expensive!), so I don’t see the need for more Vitamin C serums. Skinceuticals obviously disagrees with me as they have quite a few options available. Let’s take a look at how Skinceuticals Phloretin CF compares to them:

  • Skinceuticals C + AHA ($138.00): This serum combines the anti-aging power of 15% L-Ascorbic Acid with 10% exfoliating Alpha Hydroxy Acids to fade away dark spots. It’s a good option for dry, sun damaged skin. Just be aware you should only use this 3 nights a week. Over-exfoliation always backfires! Available at Blue Mercury and Skinceuticals.
  • Skinceuticals Phloretin CF Gel ($169.00): You’re getting the Phloretin CF formula, but in a gel texture that’s better for oilier skin types. Available at Look Fantastic and Skinceuticals.
  • Skinceuticals Serum 10 AOX+ ($72.00): This serum contains only 10% L-Ascorbic Acid and 0.2% Ferulic acid. It’s less effective than the other serums, but that means sensitive skin can tolerate it better. If your skin dislike 15% Vitamin C, give this one a go. Available at Dermstore and Skinceuticals.
  • Skinceuticals Serum 20 AOX+ ($128.00): This serum contains a whooping 20% concentration of L-Ascorbic Acid. This concentration can be irritating for some skin types, so use it only if you have very resistant skin and need to fade away stubborn dark spots. For everyone else, 15% L-Ascorbic Acid is more than enough. Available at Skinceuticals.
  • Skinceuticals Silymarin CF (£145.00) This serum contains 15% L-Ascorbic Acid + ferulic acid + Silymarin, a powerful antioxidant with anti-inflammatory properties. To me, this formula has the same problem as Phloretin CF. It’s not as well-researched as 15% Vitamin C + Vitamin E + Ferulic acid. But, it’s enriched with salicylic acid, a powerful exfoliant that unclogs pores and treats acne. If you have oily, acne-prone skin, it’s worth a go. Available at Dermstore and Look Fantastic.

What I Like About Skinceuticals Phloretin CF

  • Fast-absorbing texture.
  • It’s fragrance-free.
  • It makes my skin softer and smoother.
  • It gives my skin a lovely glow.
  • In the long run, it prevents wrinkles.

What I DON’T Like About Skinceuticals Phloretin CF

  • Texture feels oily to the touch.
  • It smells like alcohol (it’s the natural smell of the ingredients).
  • This antioxidant combination isn’t as well-researched as Vitamin C + Vitamin E + ferulic acid, so it may be less effective.
  • Only 10% Vitamin C – the best for anti-aging is 15%.

Who Should Use This?

I recommend this serum to sensitive skin that can’t tolerate 15% L-Ascorbic Acid. If you’re curious to try an alternative to Vitamin C + Vitamin E + ferulic acid and you have the budget for it, you may enjoy this too. But, if you’re already using Skinceuticals CE Ferulic (or one of these dupes), you don’t need to switch. Stick to what works best.

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.

Is Skinceuticals Cruelty-Free?

No, Skinceuticals isn’t cruelty-free. They may test on animals or outsource the process. Their parent company, L’Oreal, surely does.

Price & Availability

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

The Verdict: 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

  • Cosmetics Skin Solutions Supreme Serum Phloretin ($39.85-$74.85): This serum contains 10% Vitamin C and Phloretin to prevent premature wrinkles, plus centella asiatica to soothe skin and exfoliating acids to brighten the complexion. Available at Cosmetics Skin Solution.


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