I feel like I’ve had spots, scars, and acne-induced post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) on my face ever since I was born. Now that my acne is a bit more under control, meaning I don’t get as much new PIH as I used to, I figured now is a good time to try something new to even out my skin tone. I’d also love to clear away some of these little freckles from almost two decades spent under that darn Hawaiian sun…Although let’s be honest, that’s probably from the three months I spent in Thailand with zero sun protection.
But anyway, I didn’t want to undo all of my hard work in acne treatment by introducing a harsh new active like an AHA! Plus, my skin has been on the dehydrated side lately. What do?
Vitamin C, that’s what!
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Vitamin C: The Juicy Benefits and Sour Issues
Vitamin C has a long history as an antioxidant found in foods like citrus fruits, as well as a beneficial ingredient in topical skincare. There’s a LOT of information out there, so here’s a summary of why vitamin C may be a good addition to your routine:
- Combats photodamage (sun damage), though with some reservations in research
- Boosts collagen production to combat wrinkles and promote firmer skin
- Reduces skin inflammation and irritation
- Helps the skin repair itself and “[creates] scar tissue and ligaments”
- Has photoprotective qualities, especially when formulated in conjunction with vitamin E (that’s a lot of studies). However, it does not replace your sunscreen; it only boosts your sun protection
- And lots more!
Huh? So what’s the issue here?
The purest form of vitamin C in the skincare industry, called L-ascorbic acid (L-AA), is widely effective yet unstable on its own. This means it’s more likely to oxidize (go bad) due to light, heat, and air exposure if the L-AA has not been formulated to keep well/stable for long periods of time, even when sealed. When it oxidizes, it becomes not just ineffective/inactive, but potentially harmful if used on the skin. The OST C20 Vitamin C Serum is a favorite, yet is famously delicate due of its unstable formulation; some people even avoid buying it in the summer due to the potential for excessive heat exposure during shipping. Commonly, these serums have a 3-month shelf life after opening. If it’s gone from the clear/light champagne color to an amber color, then it’s done for. Doesn’t that seem like a waste? 😦
More “stable, [sic] formulations of L-AA” include sodium ascorbyl phosphate (SAP) and magnesium ascorbyl phosphate (MAP) (thanks to my SO for helping me with the chemistry research). SAP and MAP have seen increased use in skincare products, but L-AA, vitamin C’s “purest” form, is almost always more effective than its stabilized forms when used in similar amounts and methods.
Plus, L-ascorbic acid “must be formulated at pH levels less than 3.5 to enter the skin,” and the maximum concentration for best absorption is 20%. This is where I realize I need to get some damn pH testing strips. In the meantime, I’ll defer to Snow White and the Asian Pear to best explain the importance of pH! pH level comes into play in multiple steps of your routine, from cleansing to toning.
And this is why I’m initially wary of yet overall curious about L-AA-based vitamin C serums. Also, Klairs Freshly Juiced Vitamin Drop uses 5% L-AA, probably the smallest amount I’ve seen thus far in serums that feature vitamin C. Let’s see how it does.
Klairs (sometimes listed as Dear, Klairs) was established in Seoul, South Korea in 2010. Their products cater especially to those with sensitive skin. Their Freshly Juiced Vitamin Drop reflects that philosophy:
“Designed with naturally effective ingredients that are safe and non-irritating, the Freshly Juiced Vitamin Drop is made to energize and rejuvenate your skin with the power of pure vitamin C !”
It claims the following:
- Treats dull skin tone
- Treats enlarged pores
And recommends these tips:
- Use during the day
- “minor tingling may be experienced” if you’re a vitamin C virgin, apparently.
It doesn’t specify evening skin tone, though it’s a pretty standard by-effect among vitamin C serums in my observation.
Here’s what I find attractive in particular about this serum compared to some other vitamin C faves, like the unstable OST C20 Vitamin C Serum I mentioned earlier, Paula’s Choice Resist C15 Super Booster, and the $162 Skinceuticals CE Ferulic Vitamin C Serum (hyperventilates):
- It’s non-active, meaning non-exfoliating, mostly because of its low percentage of L-AA (OST C20 and C21.5 have 20% and 21.5% respectively)
- Claims to have an “innovative formula” gentle enough for sensitive skin
- Claims that any slight color change does not influence the effects of the product
- Pretty affordable at $23 per 35ml bottle…I’m all about that affordability
That being said, I am initially doubtful of its low L-AA percentage. It currently seems uncommon for vitamin C serums with this small amount of vitamin C to make a tangible difference within the 3-month expiration date after opening. Plus, like I mentioned earlier, the maximum amount for good absorption is 20% vitamin C. We shall see…
Water, Propylen Glycol, Ascorbic Acid(5%, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Centella Asiatica Extract, Citrus Junos Fruit Extract, Illicium Verum(Anise) Fruit Extract, Citrus Paradisi(Grapefruit) Fruit Extract, Nelumbium Speciosum Flower Extract, Paeonia Suffruticosa Root Extract, Scutellaria Baicalensis Root Extract, Polysorbate 60, Brassica Oleracea Italica (Broccoli) Extract, Chaenomeles Sinensis Fruit Extract, Orange Oil Brazil, Sodium Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer, Disodium EDTA, Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Oil, Camellia Sinensis Callus Culture Extract, Larix Europaea Wood Extract, Chrysanthellum Indicum Extract, Rheum Palmatum Root Extract, Asarum Sieboldi Root Extract, Quercus Mongolia Leaf Extract, Persicaria Hydropiper Extract, Corydalis Turtschaninovii Root Extract, Coptis Chinensis Root Extract, Magnolia Obovata Bark Extract, Lysine HCL, Proline, Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Acetyl Methionine, Theanine, Lecithin, Acetyl Glutamine,SH-Olgopeptide-1, SH-Olgopeptide-2, SH-Polypeptide-1, SH-Polypeptide-9, SH-Polypeptide-11, Bacillus/Soybean/Folic Acid Ferment Extract, Sodium Hyaluronate, Caprylyl Glycol, Butylene Glycol, 1,2-Hexanediol
*Note that these values do not indicate universal truths. The amount of ingredient actually in the product, as well as the product’s overall formulation, greatly affect the potential for irritation. Not everyone will be sensitive to these bolded ingredients, and you may be sensitive to ingredients that are not bolded. Every individual’s skin may react differently. Your Mileage May Vary (YMMV).
Only one ingredient bolded. Not too shabby. But again, it’s not recommended to rely on Cosdna too much, as YMMV!
First of all, a biiiiig shoutout to /u/snailslimeandbeespit for pH-testing this after I was all like, “I NEED TO MAKE SURE THIS ISN’T AT AN EXFOLIATING pH BUT I CAN’T TEST IT PLS HALP”:
“…My results are kind of wonky because two of the boxes turned colors that put them in completely different ranges–one box appeared to test almost at 7, the other closer to 5, and this happened two times. Maybe something weird is going on with my serum, or maybe the oiliness of the product is skewing results? In any case, it’s not in a pH range where it’s going to be exfoliating.
…Okay, I tested it again, and I’m going to give a reading of “5-ish.””
Seriously, thanks for SOS (saving our skins). If you’re out there, let me know so I can, uhh, send more snail slime and bee spit in your direction!
Anyway, because we’ve established this isn’t an “active,” I use this right after putting on Dr. Jart+ Ceramidin Liquid during my PM routine. You can also use this in the morning, especially because of vitamin C’s photoprotective qualities. I started using this at the end of November and took my “after” photos about five weeks later. You usually won’t see an effect with the naked eye until 4-8 weeks of use.
I like to put about 3-4 drops on my face to start: forehead, nose, and each cheek. The box suggests half a dropper full for normal to combination/oily skin, but I find that using more than 3-4 drops is a bit much (and I’ll tell you why in a minute). The serum goes on smoothly, and it even warms up as I rub and pat it all over my face. It isn’t uncomfortable, but it might be slightly alarming if you aren’t expecting it. It’s all good. It’s fine. You’re not dying.
The opalescent, cleanly-designed packaging is lovely, aside from the clear bottle; vitamin C serums are usually best stored in darker bottles like amber, because of the aforementioned oxidation issue. I always put this serum in the box after using it and I noticed absolutely no discoloration after a couple of months. And as mentioned above, Klairs claims discoloration would not signify a decreased effectiveness anyway.
Now, I say I try not to use too much because while it is smooth, it also feels quite oily. It may be uncomfortable especially if you’re oily-skinned like me. However, my skin actually turns oily-dehydrated occasionally—like during the cooler, slightly-less-humid “winter” I’m experiencing now!—and my skin feels fine the next morning after using this serum. It does feel somewhat hydrating, actually.
If you’re like me and like to minimize your wait times, you can blot with a face towel or tissue if there’s still some residue. The box actually suggests adding a few drops of this in a “serum or lotion” especially if you have sensitive skin. I recommend that too, as it can also eliminate a whole step from your routine. Charlotte Cho does it, so if you won’t listen to me, then listen to her.
Alright, alright. Did it help with my PIH? I’m sure you want the results. Well, you got ’em!
(I did my best to adjust the photos for color balance/white balance only. Also, please excuse my unkempt brows and inability to take selfies.)
Did you catch that?
Aside from that one newly-formed PIH spot (due to some slight sleep deprivation and stress, woops), what do you think? Here are some closer shots:
Did it work? I think so. My skin looks slightly brighter, and those PIH spots are fading more quickly than usual! Like I explained earlier, I had my doubts with low-percentage vitamin C serum. I suppose because this has L-AA, albeit a much smaller percentage of 5%, this is still more effective than SAP- or MAP-based serums (I have yet to have a worthwhile experience with those). Very interesting (anecdotal) discovery! I imagine this PIH would be almost totally gone within a total of 3 months, which is actually the shelf life of this and most other vitamin C serums. Like everything you usually see everyday, I didn’t notice the PIH very gradually fading as I checked them daily. But this is where I truly discovered the importance of taking “before” and “after” shots, because those are where you can see that change is actually happening.
Not much to speak of. There’s a somewhat herbal-ointment-ish scent, but it isn’t strong and doesn’t irritate me. However, it did initially make me tear up a little when the serum got too close to my eyes. So just don’t do that.
It worked! It didn’t play as nicely with the rest of my routine as I wish it did, but the bottom line is: it worked.
My main issue with Klairs Freshly Juiced Vitamin Drop is how oily it can feel if you use more than, say, 3-4 drops. That is, unless you decide to mix it in with another serum or lotion as suggested. However, despite having only 5% L-ascorbic acid, it clearly works the way it’s intended. It’s not quite maximum-strength, but it really doesn’t mean to be. And that’s totally fine. Everyone certainly reacts differently, and it seems Klairs has successfully formulated a product that is friendly for sensitive-skinned folks while maintaining efficiency.
This should work for all skin types, but its place in your routine can vary depending on your skin type. Normal to combination/oily folks may be more comfortable using it in cooler/drier seasons, or mixed in with another skincare product rather than by itself. For my own personal skin type and skincare goals, I am still willing to check out other, tougher vitamin C serums, but I’m quite happy to use up this entire bottle if I can.
Overall Rating: 3.75 / 5
5 / 5: HOLY GRAIL STATUS. I dare you to pry this from my cold, dead, kpop-glowy hands.
4 / 5: I really liked this! Would repurchase until I find a better alternative.
3 / 5: So-so. Unimpressive results, but may work better for others with different conditions.
2 / 5: Would not repurchase. Possibly caused some issues for me, but may work for others.
1 / 5: This lied to me. It did nothing that it said it would, and caused some issues.
0 / 5: Do not buy this. No one should have to suffer the way I did.
Have you tried anything by Klairs before? What are your vitamin C recommendations? ☺