skin week

Whenever I Try to Convince Myself I Can Live Without This Serum, I Am Proven Woefully Wrong

Photo-Illustration: retailer

As a skin-care obsessive and occasional beauty writer, I feel that I have mostly perfected my skin-care routine after years of experimentation (and dermatologist appointments). Happily, the majority of my routine is completely affordable (I love the Glossier Milky Jelly Cleanser in the evenings followed by pure rose-hip oil as a moisturiser). But unfortunately, any time I think I can do without the £67 Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum, my skin immediately proves me wrong.

Three years ago, I was feeling frustrated that my (otherwise clear) skin was being plagued with dark marks weeks and even months after the actual spots had disappeared. I tried numerous peels, serums, and treatments, all to little avail. Then one evening, scrolling through YouTube, I came across this extremely convincing Gothamista review for the Drunk Elephant Vitamin C serum, and bought the serum on Cult Beauty, wincing slightly at the £67 price tag. Within a few weeks of constant use, my skin was looking noticeably more uniform in texture and colour — all my dark spots were gone — and my skin was generally glowier and plumper. Sadly for my bank account, I have been replenishing my supply every few months ever since.

The active ingredient in this serum is L-ascorbic acid at 15 percent, making it potent but (in my experience at least), not irritating. My previous experiences with vitamin C–based formulations had given me bad reactions, with my skin being left covered in small, irritated bumps and hives, and others simply had strange, gritty textures. The lack of artificial scent in this serum (it smells earthy, and not sweet) is partly why I am so dedicated to the Drunk Elephant formulation specifically — perfumes and citrus extracts always seem to irritate my skin.

Though the texture can be a little sticky at first, the product absorbs quickly and doesn’t leave behind any residue. It feels very moisturising and nourishing on the skin. And though it is expensive, a little can go a long way: One bottle lasts me about three to four months with daily use of about one or one and a half pumps.

Every time I run out of this serum I try to put off buying a new one — parting with £67 for a single skin-care product always feels a little painful. I try to convince myself that I don’t need it, that my skin is fine without it. Then a few weeks later, with some dark pigmentation spots that just won’t fade, weird dry patches, and far bumpier skin texture, I place another order. Although, it brings me some comfort to note that £67 divided by 90 days is just 75p per day — a small price to pay for luminous skin, and a lot cheaper than a daily coffee.

Some other Strategist-recommended Vitamin C serums

A more budget-friendly option is this “effective” vitamin C serum from L’Oréal Paris, which is formulated with 10 percent ascorbic acid. It comes recommended by dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, the director of cosmetic and clinical research at Mount Sinai Hospital, who says it “has been clinically studied and is available at your local drugstore at a very reasonable price.” It’s also free of fragrance, parabens, mineral oils, and synthetic dyes, so it won’t irritate your skin or cause unwanted breakouts. [Editor’s note: You can shop this product on Amazon U.S., for U.K. delivery. This price does not include shipping costs.]

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I Tried (and Repeatedly Failed) to Live Without This Serum