skinceuticals silymarin cf review

My fave Vitamin C serum for oily skin – and the one I recommend to all my oily-skinned clients, is Mad Hippie Vitamin C Serum.

It contains Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate, the only form of Vitamin C that actively tackles acne. The catch? It’s not as good at fighting premature aging as L-Ascorbic Acid (LAA), the pure form of Vitamin C.

If you ask me, the trade-off is more than worth it. Until now.

Skinceuticals has recently launched Silymarin CF, a Vitamin C with L-Ascorbic Acid that tackles both wrinkles and acne.

How does it do?! And more importantly, does it work? I’ve put it to the test to find out:

What’s In Skinceuticals Silymarin 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.

P.S. Some women with oily skin report an increase in acne when using L-Ascorbic Acid. If this is you, stick to Mad Hippie and Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate.

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


Ferulic acid is an antioxidant on steroids.

While most antioxidants destroy only one or two types of free radicals (that’s why you need to use a dozen in your skincare routine), ferulic acid neutralises THREE: superoxide, hydroxyl radical, and nitric oxide.

Ferulic acid kicks ass on its own. But, it’s even more powerful when used together with vitamins C and E. This trio boosts one another’s effectiveness and the protection of your sunscreen.

A study conducted by Duke University has found that “its [ferulic acid] incorporation into a topical solution of 15%l-ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) and 1%alpha-tocopherol (Vitamin E) improved chemical stability of the vitamins (C+E) and doubled photoprotection. This combination provides meaningful synergistic protection against oxidative stress in skin and should be useful for protection against photoaging and skin cancer.”

Skinceuticals Silymarin CF has no vitamin E. But it’s such a common ingredients in moisturisers and sunscreens, your skin probably gets its regular fix of it, too.

Just one thing: if you’re allergic to grains such as wheat, corn or barley, consult a doctor before adding ferulic acid to your skincare routine. Just in case.

Related: Why You Should Add Ferulic Acid To Your Skincare Routine

skinceuticals silymarin cf


Skinceuticals Silymarin CF has replaced Vitamin E with Silymarin. Scientific name: Silybum marianum L. Nickname: Milk thistle.

What’s special about Silymarin?

According to a 2019 study, Silymarin has powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that fight free radicals and boost protection from UVB rays. Scientists concluded it “may be useful agents for skin protection against the harmful effects of full-spectrum solar radiation including slowing down skin (photo)aging.”

We don’t know yet if Vitamin C + Ferulic Acid + Silymarin is more effective than the old, tried and tested combo of Vitamin C, Ferulic Acid, and Vitamin E. But it’s interesting enough to be worth a try.


All the ingredients mentioned so far tackle anti-aging. But what makes Skinceuticals Silymarin CF a great choice for oily skin is the addition of salicylic acid, an exfoliant on steroids. It helps treat acne in three ways:

  1. Surface exfoliation: Salicylic acid dissolves the glue that holds skin cells together so they can slough off. Once they’re off your skin, they won’t accidentally fall into your pores and clog them up.
  2. Pore exfoliation: Salicylic acid is oil-soluble, so it easily penetrates the skin’s lipid barrier and gets inside the pores, removing all the gunk that’s clogging them up and giving you blackheads and pimples.
  3. Soothing: Salicylic Acid has anti-inflammatory properties that reduce the redness that always comes along with pimples.

The catch? Skinceuticals Silymarin CF has only 0.5% salicylic acid. It’ll do something, but I’d still use a separate salicylic acid exfoliant on acne-prone areas.

Related: Why Salicylic Acid Is Key To Spot-Free Skin

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?!
  • Aqua/Water: The best of this (and most) skincare products.
  • Alcohol Denat: This is one of the most controversial ingredients in skincare. Brands love to use it because it’s a cheap solvent that also enhances the penetration of active ingredients. But some people report dryness and irritation when using it. To counteract these side effects, moisturise well afterwards.
  • Propylene Glycol: Like alcohol, this ingredient also enhances the penetration of active ingredients into your skin. Unlike alcohol, it also has hydrating properties. It works by attracting moisture from the air into your skin to keep it softer and suppler for longer.
  • Dipropylene Glycol: This multitasker hydrates skin and helps it retain moisture for a plumper, smoother complexion; it helps suspends ingredients in the formula, resulting in more even distribution during application; and it makes thin formulas easier to spread.
  • Laureth-23: An emulsifier used in oil-in-water emulations. It basically keeps the formula from separating.
  • Sodium Citrate: It’s used to adjust the pH of a product, so that the active ingredients can work better.


I’m on the fence with the texture. I like it’s lightweight and fast-absorbing. But it also feels a little sticky – more than the other Skinceuticals Vitamin C Serums.


Again, I’m on the fence. I like the serum is fragrance-free. Fragrances can easily irritate sensitive skin – and Vitamin C already does that (for this skin type). The difference is that you need Vitamin C for anti-aging, while fragrance is there just for kicks. It doesn’t do anything for skin.

But, that means you’ll be smelling the raw smell of the ingredients (yes, each skincare ingredient has its own smell). This serum is high in alcohol, so that’s all you can smell when you first apply it. Thankfully, it slowly fades away, too. Kinda like a perfume.

How To Use It

I always recommend to use your Vitamin C in the morning. It’s a myth that Vitamin C increases your skin’s sensitivity to the sun.

What Vitamin C does (as shared above) is boost the protection of your sunscreen – something you should be wearing it every day.

For best results, every morning apply Vitamin C in right after cleansing and before sunscreen. If your skin is dry, you can use a moisturiser before sunscreen to counteract the drying effects of the alcohol.

Performance & Personal Opinion

Despite the sticky texture, Skinceuticals Silymarin CF is a better choice for oily skin than Skinceuticals CE Ferulic or Skinceuticals Phloretin CF. Why?

It’s less hydrating. Oily skin (unless dehydrated) usually has more than enough moisture on its own. This serum won’t add more to it, so you won’t need to blot your face as often. That also means less chance of a breakout.

It also helps refine the texture of your skin, making it smoother and brighter. This alone makes you look a little younger too.

What about acne? I don’t suffer from it, so I can’t personally vouch for how well it works against pimples. If your skin regularly breaks out from L-Ascorbic Acid, this is a no-go. But if your skin is doing fine with that, the addition of salicylic acid can help somewhat. But I still recommend you use a separate exfoliant for maximum results.

Who Is This For?

  • Oily skin
  • Combination skin

Who Is This NOT For?

  • If L-Ascorbic Acid breaks you out or irritates your skin, this isn’t for you
  • Dry skin
  • Normal skin
  • If you’re on a budget, a cheaper Vitamin C serum paired with a salicylic acid exfoliant may be more cost-effective for you


A dark bottle with a dropper applicator for ease of use. Unfortunately, the packaging doesn’t completely keep air out, so Vitamin C will spoil overtime. You’ll know when this happen: vitamin C turns brown. Buy this serum only when you’re ready to use it every day.

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

Does Skinceuticals Silymarin CF Live Up To Its Claims?

An oil-free vitamin C serum formulated specifically for oily and blemish-prone skin types that delivers advanced environmental protection and reduces oiliness, refines skin texture, and visibly improves skin clarity and fine lines.True.
Provides advanced antioxidant protection from environmental aggressors.True.
Minimizes pore appearance and refines skin texture.True.
Improves skin clarity, radiance, and uneven skin tone.True.
Improves the appearance of fine lines.True. But keep in mind that it can only reduce their appearance, not their size/depth.
Helps prevent oil oxidation that can lead to breakouts.Salicylic acid can do this, but there’s not too much of it here.
Reduces oiliness.Barely.

Price & Availability

£145.00 at Dermstore, Feel Unique and Look Fantastic

Do You Need It?

It’s not a need, but if you have oily skin and a fat wallet, this is a good option to consider.

Dupes & Alternatives

I don’t know of any exact dupes for this serum.