There are so many serums out on the market but recently I was eyeing on Vitamin C serum due to several skin benefits. I plan to ditch my expensive Lancôme Advanced Génifique Youth Activating Serum and replace it with a cheap but effective serum. But picking a Vitamin C serum could be tricky; there are so many brands, with different forms and concentrations. I was supposed to buy a Korean brand but got skeptical because of the stability of the serum. I was just in luck as a couple of Neutriherbs serums were gifted to me for me to try.
For your reference: My skin type is oily/combination. I used to have acne-prone skin during my teens and early 20’s, good thing my skin already calmed down. I’m starting to notice some fine lines around my eyes, which was probably due to early ageing caused by my years in medical school and residency.
Neutriherbs Vitamin C + Hyaluronic Acid Serum
Active ingredient: Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate is the main ingredient in this serum alongside Sodium Hyaluronate. As you all know, Vitamin C has many forms, the most famous and the most studied is the active form, L-ascorbic acid. This form, however, is very unstable and oxidizes immediately when exposed to light and air that’s why cosmeceuticals developed several Vitamin C derivatives (to give you an idea, the brand The Ordinary has eight Vitamin C products). Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate aka SAP is a more stable form and can penetration of the outer layers of the skin.
Concentration: I’m a bit confused about the exact concentration of SAP in this product. The ingredients list says “Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate-20” and Amazon says “20% Vitamin C.” The concentration of SAP in cosmetic products is within the range of 0.01% to 3%.1 Twenty percent SAP is too much. Or maybe it’s just 0.20%? I dunno.
Claimed Effects: Topical application of Vitamin C reduces fine lines and wrinkles, lightens hyperpigmentation and confers photoprotection against sunburn and UV-induced immunosupression.2
Safety: Topical Vitamin C is generally safe and can be used in combination with other products such as Vitamin A, AHAs (glycolic acid) and sunscreens. Rare side effects of topical vitamin C include stinging, erythema and dryness. These adverse reactions can be addressed by application of moisturiser.4
Neutriherbs Retinol + Vitamin E Serum
Active ingredient & Concentration: Retinol is the main ingredient of this serum with Vitamin E as an add-on. Vitamin A (retinol) and its derivates (retinaldehyde and tretinoin) are a group of agents with antioxidant effects popularly used as anti-aging products. Like the Vitamin C, the concentration of the active ingredient of this product is unclear.
Claimed Effects: Retinol is known to reduce fine lines and wrinkles, improve surface roughness and increase collagen production. It also lightens hyperpigmentation by facilitating removal of melanin from the epidermis.2
Safety: Some would experience adverse effects of peeling and skin redness after the introduction of topical retinoids. This reaction is called Retinoid Dermatitis. It occurs because retinoic acid causes keratinocytes proliferation, epidermal hyperplasia and stratum corneum desquamation.2
Vitamin A is generally teratogenic, meaning it can cause abnormal fetal development, so it’s contraindicated in pregnancy. However, recent studies have shown that the risk of birth defects from topical Vitamin A is unlikely.3 Regardless, I will not recommend this to any pregnant women.
Packaging: I’m relieved that both serums (especially the Vitamin C) are packed in an airtight dark coloured glass bottle protecting it from oxidation. I know I don’t need to worry much about the vitamin C’s stability because it’s not L-Ascorbic Acid, but still, I do prefer the dark coloured glass than transparent ones.
Texture/Scent: Both serums have diluted/ runny consistency almost similar to water. It’s very fluid that the product spreads easily across the face. It takes a longer time to dry and it doesn’t leave any sticky/ tacky residue. The Vitamin C doesn’t have any scent, although I wished it smelled like citrus. The Retinol serum, on the other hand, has a faint floral scent.
Performance: I never experienced any stinging, redness or any form of irritation with both serums. After using the vitamin C serum daily for more than a month I have not yet any significant improvement of my post inflammatory hyper-pigmentation. I also noticed that, even with the presence of the Hyaluronic acid, my skin feels dry in the morning. I highly advise applying moisturizer after this serum.
The Retinol serum was actually a surprise. I thought I don’t need retinol yet, I plan to start using them when I turn 30. Within over a month of daily use, I have noticed my fine lines around my eyes were reduced and my skin felt softer. It’s like a fountain of youth serum.
Which serum should you use? Well, it all depends on your skin needs; for hyper-pigmentation stick with the Vitamin C and for anti-aging pick the Retinol. However, using both serums in combination has proven anti -acne effects. In a study published in Internal Journal of Cosmetic Science, they have found that combination treatment of sodium ascorbyl phosphate (SAP) and retinol significantly reduced the acne lesion after 4 weeks and after 8 weeks of application.5 I have yet to investigate the anti acne effects of the serums in combination, so far it didn’t break me out. If it prevents acne, let’s see after 8 weeks.
Price/ Availability: The Neutriherbs serums can be purchased from Amazon. If you’re from the Philippines, you can buy this in Lazada from MusthavePhil. The regular price of both serums is ₱798 ( it’s usually discounted so you can buy this at a lower price).
Final Thoughts: I do recommend this Vitamin C + Hyaluronic serum if you are looking for an inexpensive, non-irritating serum. You also get the advantage of Hyaluronic acid with this product, however, do not expect immediate effects with this serum. I do plan to try other Vitamin C serums once I finish this bottle.
As for the Retinol + Vitamin E Serum, I think it’s good for retinol newbies. I’ll probably restock this in the future since there are only a few cheap alternatives out there. I may try the ones from The Ordinary or ROC, but if it fails I’m sure I’ll go back to this one.
- I’m an Internist NOT a Dermatologist, so I am not a skin expert.
- YMMV. Your mileage may vary. It worked for me but it may not work for you.
- The products were gifted to me but all opinions are my own.
- Final report of the safety assessment of L-Ascorbic Acid, Calcium Ascorbate, Magnesium Ascorbate, Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Sodium Ascorbate, and Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate as used in cosmetics. International Journal of Toxicology Vol 24, Issue 2_suppl, pp. 51 – 111 March 1, 2005
- Master Techniques in Facial Rejuvenation. 2nd edition. Elsevier Health Sciences, 2018.
- Topical therapyAM Layton, D Thiboutot, V Bettoli – Fast Facts: Acne, 2016
- Vitamin C in dermatology Indian DermatolOnline J. 2013 Apr-Jun; 4(2): 143–146.
- Comparison of clinical efficacies of sodium ascorbyl phosphate, retinol and their combination in acne treatment. Int J Cosmet Sci. 2009, 31: 41-46. 10.1111/j.1468-2494.2008.00479.