SkinCeuticals vs Obagi: Which Vitamin C Serum is Best?

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vitamin c serum comparison - which is the best vitamin c serum

Meg Phillips

As we start to think about turning back the clock on our face, one of the first additions to our skin care routine is usually the vitamin C serum.

Whether you’ve been recommended it by your dermatologist, or come across it in your research online, vitamin C can benefit our skin in a number of ways:

  1. It stimulates the growth of collagen, preventing premature wrinkles.
  2. It protects the skin from damage from the sun’s UV light.
  3. It helps to create a more even skin tone by reducing the appearance of darker pigmentation.

In this comparison, we’ll be delving into the 2 most well-respected brands. Each produce seriously well-reviewed vitamin C serums:

SkinCeuticals’ C E Ferulic and Obagi’s Professional-C.

We’ll be discussing the pros and cons of each serum so that you can decide which one might suit you best.

In this comparison, I’ll be covering:

  • SkinCeuticals vs Obagi: Comparison Table
  • SkinCeuticals Vitamin C Serum Review
  • Obagi Vitamin C Serum Review
  • So How Do Vitamin C Serums Really Work?
  • SkinCeuticals or Obagi, Which Vitamin C Serum is Best?

SkinCeuticals vs Obagi: Comparison Table

Before we get into the nitty gritty details of each Vitamin C serum, here is an overview of how they compare:

Bottle size 30ml 30ml
Active ingredients 15% vitamin C (L-ascorbic acid)
1% vitamin E (alpha tocopherol)
0.5% ferulic acid
10-20% vitamin C (L-ascorbic acid)
Hyaluronic acid
Antioxidants
Concentration options 1 concentration:

15% vitamin C (L-ascorbic acid)

3 concentration options:
10% vitamin C (L-ascorbic acid)
15% vitamin C (L-ascorbic acid)
20% vitamin C (L-ascorbic acid)
pH Level 2.5-3 2-3
(depending on concentration)
Oil or water based Both water and oil based. Both water and oil based.
Shelf life Up to 6 months opened
3 years unopened
3-6 months opened
1-3 years unopened
How to apply (often and much) Apply each morning.
4-5 drops.
On dry face, neck, and chest.
Before moisturiser or sunscreen.
Apply morning (and evening if not using retinol).
6-7 drops.
On dry face, neck, and chest.
Before moisturiser or sunscreen.
Smell Users reported a slightly unpleasant smell due to ferulic acid. No harsh smell.
Texture Watery. Thin.
Residue Fast-absorbing serum.
Small amount of light residue left behind.
Lightweight.
Little to no residue left.
Potential side effects Tingling
Itching
Redness
Peeling
Tingling
Itching
Redness
Peeling
(you can switch to a lower concentration to reduce side effects)
Effectiveness according to reviews 4.6 out of 5 stars from 159 reviews on 3 platforms. 4.8 out of 5 stars from 799 reviews across 3 platforms.
Cost and availability $166 per 30ml $72-$107.95 per 30ml
(depending on concentration)
Delivery cost Free US shipping through Skinstore Free US Shipping through Skinstore
Special Offers 20% Off (until 23rd Sept) 20% Off  (until 23rd Sept)
Where to Buy SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic Obagi’s Professional-C

skinceuticals review - vitamin c serum review

SkinCeuticals Vitamin C Serum Review

SkinCeuticals was founded in 1997 by scientist Sheldon Pinnell M.D.

He spent many years researching antioxidants, focusing particularly on the effects of Vitamin C.

He ended up pioneering a breakthrough discovery which has created a whole new category in skin care. He also created the first Vitamin C serum patent.

Although it started as a brand in London, UK in 2005, the company was acquired by L’Oreal. Now you can find their products all over the world in shops and spas.

SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic Ingredients

The active ingredient in their Vitamin C serum is the Vitamin C itself. It’s included in the pure form of L-ascorbic acid.

In addition it has the key ingredients of vitamin E and ferulic acid which are also antioxidants.

This is their breakdown of what’s in their vitamin C serum:

  1. 15% pure vitamin C (L-asorbic acid). L-ascorbic acid is a very potent form of vitamin C. In this pure form, the ingredient is able to travel deeper into the skin and have more of an impact on it.
  2. 1% vitamin E (alpha tocopherol). Vitamin E (alpha tocopherol) contributes to the serum’s ability to neutralise free radicals. According to co-founder Morgan Rabach it also helps to stabilise the vitamin C in the serum.
  3. 5% Ferulic acid. Ferulic acid is a plant-based antioxidant. It too contributes to the serum’s ability to neutralise free radicals. It has a dual function of also lowering the pH level of the serum, which is essential for it to be absorbed into the skin.

Why is SkinCeuticals so Good?

The SkinCeuticals’ vitamin C serum (C E Ferulic) is probably the best-known and best-loved of all their products.

In 2020, Glamour named it the best vitamin C serum on the market and raved about the product.

Byrdie also published a finding in 2020 and claimed that impressive results began to show in as little as 3 days.

What makes it so great, starts with the very first patent that Dr Pinnell created around the product.

In it he incorporated the 3 main criteria needed for an effective vitamin C serum:

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It Contains Pure Vitamin C

It’s important the Vitamin C comes in a pure form with a 10-15% concentration.

C E Ferulic uses L-ascorbic and has 15% concentration which is compatible with most skin types.

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It Has a Low pH

A low pH is essential for a topical vitamin C serum to work.

Dr Pinnell stated that any serum must have a pH of below 3.5 to be effective.

SkinCeuticals’ C E Ferulic has a pH of 2.5-3. 

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It Combines Vitamin C With Other Antioxidants

Dr Pinnell found that combining vitamin C with other antioxidants made it more effective than vitamin C alone.

Their vitamin C serum (C E Ferulic) is actually a triple antioxidant treatment. It contains the antioxidants vitamin E and ferulic acid as well as the vitamin C (L-ascorbic).

Are SkinCeuticals’ Products Worth the Money?

SkinCeuticals is one of the most reputable beauty brands. With it you can feel assured that significant scientific research is behind their products.

The fact that the founder pioneered research into the vitamin C serum space is testament to the quality of the product.

Their Vitamin C serum (C E Ferulic) can help to:

  • reinforce the skin’s protective layer against free radicals.
  • neutralise free radicals to reduce the effects of ozone damage.
  • provide noticeable anti-ageing effects, such as reducing fine lines.
  • combine with SPF to protect the skin from UV rays.

Most reviews rave about the product for its potent, high quality ingredients and its impressive, fast results.

SkinCeuticals Vitamin C Serum Shelf Life and Oxidation

Vitamin C reacts with air, light and heat and has a tendency to oxidise, which is a natural biological process.

When this happens the product can become less effective. It could even start to harm the skin, so it’s important to check the use-by date carefully.

When vitamin C oxidises, it degrades to erythrulose. This is actually an ingredient used in self-tanners so the vitamin C could also darken the skin if it has oxidised.

With the SkinCeuticals serum, oxidation has been somewhat prevented by the dark brown bottle.

This helps give it a longer shelf life than some other vitamin C serums on the market. It is tested to stay stable for:

  • 36 months (3 years) unopened.
  • up to 6 months once opened.

How to Use SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic

In order to get the best results out of the serum, it’s important that it is applied correctly. It should also be part of a good skincare routine.

Here is SkinCeuticals’ recommendation for application:

  • It’s usually recommended to use once a day, ideally as part of the morning skincare routine.
  • Place 4-5 drops on a dry face, neck, and chest. Gently pat in the serum.
  • As the vitamin C needs to be absorbed by the skin it’s recommended that it is applied before any moisturiser or protective SPF. You can put these on afterwards.

The Experience Using the Serum

The serum is light brown and watery. Some reviewers reported that it had a ‘slightly sticky’ feel to it after application. A few felt a small tingling in the skin.

It does have a slightly bitter smell (one user even compared the scent to that of a hot dog!).

This is a result of the product’s natural ingredient L-ascorbic. SkinCeuticals doesn’t use artificial scents to conceal the natural smell.

Skinceuticals vitamin c serum review - skinceuticals review

SkinCeuticals Vitamin C Serum Reviews

Let’s take a look at what users think of the serum. Does it actually do everything it claims?

Based on an average of 159 reviews across three websites (SkinCeuticals, Skin City, and lookfantastic), this product has an average rating of 4.6 out of 5 stars.

Overall, users reported the following results:

  • Smoother skin
  • Glowing skin
  • Fewer skin impurities
  • Plumper skin
  • Fewer signs of aging over time

This 51 year old user noticed glowing, smooth skin in just 10 days.

Skinceuticals vitamin c review, skinceuticals c e ferulic review

This user found her skin looked clear, plumped, and healthy, however, she found that it made her foundation start to peel.

Skinceuticals vitamin c review, skinceuticals c e ferulic review

It’s also frequently recommended by professional dermatologists.

Skinceuticals vitamin c review, skinceuticals c e ferulic review

Get 20% Off until 23rd September:

SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic Serum

What Other Products Does SkinCeuticals Offer?

Their vitamin C serum is definitely one of SkinCeuticals’ best-loved products.

However, they also offer range of other well-reviewed items.

A few of their other impressive products include:

  • AOX eye gel.
  • A. (Hyaluronic Acid Intensifier) – provides excellent hydration.
  • Glycolic 10 Renew Overnight – peeling agent for overnight skin renewal.
  • Gentle Cleanser – a cleanser suitable for all skin types.
  • Phyto Corrective – light serum to soothe irritated skin.

Obagi review - obagi vitamin c serum review

Obagi Vitamin C Serum Review

Obagi is a well regarded skincare brand that, like SkinCeuticals, has a strong focus on scientific research.

Their aim is to create ‘inclusive products’ with ‘clinical-quality formulations.’

Dr. Suzan Obagi is the cosmetic surgeon and dermatologist behind the brand.

She also acts as the brand’s medical consultant. She makes sure that their products are all high quality and produce noticeable results.

Obagi Vitamin C Serum Ingredients

Obagi offers a number of vitamin C serums and creams, which part of their  Professional-C Products range.

This line is primarily designed to target the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. 

In it, Obagi offers 3 vitamin C serums of varying concentrations. The serums are all sold in 30ml containers.

Here are the details of each one and what skin type they’re most suited to:

Obagi Serum Concentration pH Level Skin Type
Professional-C 10 10% L-ascorbic acid 2.0-3.0 Dry or sensitive skin types.
Professional-C 15 15% L-ascorbic acid 2.0-2.4 Suitable for most skin types.
Professional-C 20 20% L-ascorbic acid 2.0-2.4 Oily and normal skin types.

 

Obagi’s Professional-C does not use the vitamin E and ferulic acid that SkinCeuticals’ serum has. It does have other key ingredients in it that support the vitamin C and its effectiveness.

These are:

  • hyaluronic acid which prevents dryness of the skin. Some dryness and irritation can happen with vitamin C serums. This helps to lock in the moisture.
  • anitoxidants which support the function of the vitamin C.

Vitamin C Serum Shelf Life and Oxidation

This serum, like the SkinCeuticals serum, is packaged in a dark blue bottle, which helps to prevent oxidation.

Again, it’s key to watch out for the product’s expiry date.

This product usually lasts 3 to 4 months once opened (1-3 years unopened). It helps to store it in a dark, cool place, such as the refrigerator.

How to Use Obagi Professional C Serum

Obagi’s vitamin C serum can be used in the morning or evening.

It should be applied after cleaning, exfoliating, and toning the skin (if you have a longer skincare routine).

It’s recommended that you use 5 to 7 drops of the product dabbed over a clean, dry face, neck, and chest.

If you’re using the product in the morning, it’s recommended that you apply an SPF or moisturiser afterwards. This is so that it doesn’t prevent it from being absorbed into the skin.

The Experience Using the Serum

According to several reviews of the product, the serum is easy to use and presents few issues.

Unlike C E Ferulic, Obagi’s serum has no strong smell (some reviewers even found it smelled great). It also does not affect the application of other products, including makeup.

It leaves little to no residue, and immediately creates a glow.

Most users claimed to see results within a few months.

Obagi Vitamin C Serum Reviews

Based on an average of 799 reviews across 3 websites (Lovely Skin,Influenster, and Dermstore), this product has an impressive average rating of 4.8 out of 5 stars.

Overall, users reported the following results:

  • Greatly reduced appearance of wrinkles
  • Fewer dark spots
  • No greasy residue

One reviewer experienced a breakout in spots, but this seems to have been a one-off instance as there are not other reviews of this happening.

Here are a few recent reviews online:

This user is a super loyal Obagi fan who thinks the serum has helped her stay (almost) wrinkle free into her ‘60s:

Obagi vitamin c serum review - Obagi Professional C review

This user loves the lightweight, absorbent nature of the product:

Obagi vitamin c serum review - Obagi Professional C review

Get 20% Off until 23rd September:

Obagi Professional-C Serum

What Other Products Does Obagi Offer?

Obagi has several other products in its Professional-C range, including:

  • 30% L-ascorbic Acid Microdermabrasion Polish + Mask – intense vitamin C treatment for instant glow
  • Suncare SPF 30 Lotion – SPF lotion to protect the skin

In addition to their Professional-C range, they also offer:

  • Hydrate Moisturisers – including shea butter, mango butter, avocado, and glycerin
  • Clenziderm Daily Care Foaming Cleanser – cleanser with salicylic acid to remove dirt and oil. It can also protect skin from breakouts.
  • Clear FX – non-prescription cream for hyperpigmentation.

Vitamin c serum review

So How Do Vitamin C Serums Really Work?

Vitamin C is an antioxidant that works to prevent damage from free radicals and UV rays, while creating a youthful hydrated look.

As well as tackling the signs of aging, vitamin C can also address:

  • skin brightness
  • inflammation
  • pigmentation
  • collagen stimulation
  • sunburn
  • under-eye circles — talk about a super ingredient!

Here’s how they work:

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Antioxidants Prevent Skin Damage From Free Radicals

Sun damage is caused by molecules called free radicals. These molecules are missing an electron which makes them unstable.

They take electrons from skin cells, often causing damage.

Vitamin C is an antioxidant which means it fights off the free radicals. This prevents them from damaging the skin.

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Vitamin C Serums Are Acidic

This means that they are able to take away dead skin cells from the skin.

It also means that they stimulate the skin to build collagen.

Howard Sobel, a dermatologist explained to Allure that,

The skin is triggered to heal itself by accelerating the production of collagen and elastin.

So it helps encourage the skin to produce its naturally occurring fibres. This keeps the skin plump and youthful for longer.

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Vitamin C Serums Brighten Dark Spots on the Skin

Sobel also explained that vitamin C acts as a “superior brightening agent”. It can fade those stubborn dark spots that form on the skin.

There are some incredible transformation stories from users of vitamin C serums with some pigmentation on their face like freckles or sun spots.

Can You Eat Vitamin C Instead of Using a Serum?

Applying vitamin C in serum form is the best way to get the benefits of the ingredient (rather than eating it) as it’s absorbed straight into the skin.

When you ingest it, the vitamin C won’t necessarily go to your facial skin.

Can You Use Vitamin C Serums with Retinol Creams?

You can use both vitamin C serums and retinol creams but it’s not recommended to use them at the same time. It’s better to use one with your morning skincare routine and the other with your evening routine.

This is because vitamin C can cause some mild irritation to the skin (which is part of how it helps stimulate collagen production).

This can be made worse if you use a retinol cream directly afterwards. So that’s why it’s advised to separate the time of day when each is applied.

Vitamin C goes well with a moisturising SPF which can be applied afterwards. For that reason it tends to be used more as part of a morning skincare routine.

Retinols on the other hand contain retinoids, which are thought to be less effective if exposed to light. For that reason they’re recommended for use at nighttime.

Which Vitamin C Serum is Best? SkinCeuticals or Obagi

You can’t go wrong with either vitamin C serum. Obagi’s may be more suitable if you have dry, sensitive or oily skin as they offer 3 different concentration options as opposed to just the 1. SkinCeuticals offers 1 concentration of 15% which is still suitable for most skin types.

Obagi also has lower pH level in its higher concentration serums, at 2.0-2.4 versus SkinCeuticals’ 2.5-3.0. A lower pH may mean Obagi’s serums are absorbed more deeply into the skin. Although any pH under 3.5 is considered to be effective.

SkinCeuticals’ serum has the additional antioxidants vitamin E and ferulic acid. These extra antioxidants can boost the effects of the vitamin C.

On the other hand Obagi’s Professional-C has hyaluronic acid which helps to moisturise the skin. It also has some additional antioxidants included.

In terms of price tag, SkinCeuticals is more expensive than Obagi, but it does also have a more established name and brand behind it. For many it’s a trusted skincare provider that’s often recommended by dermatologists.

Regardless of their differences, it’s clear that both vitamin C serums have been heavily researched in terms of skin absorption, vitamin C content and supporting ingredients.

Both are from established brands in the beauty industry. Each have reviewers reporting that their serum gave them a significant improvement in the youthfulness, glow, and overall protection of the skin.

Whichever you try, I’m confident it will become a valuable addition to your skincare routine.

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