In part 1 I stuck to the 2 non-controversial, well researched, and proven effective methods to help your skin. Great. But, when I went to my dermatologist she recommended a third treatment… which I ignored. In this post I’m going to discuss a few more treatments that I have been using. I’ll start with why I didn’t buy the exact product recommended by my dermatologist.
Vitamin C is another well re se ar ch ed skin care treatment that has been proven in reasonable studies to promote collagen synthesis, protect from UV, lighten pigmentation, and reduce inflammation. It also has been shown to produce visible improvements to peoples faces. Sounds great, right? Well it is. The main reason that I didn’t include it in part 1 as another simple and obvious recommendation is that vitamin C is kind of hard to work with. Vitamin C is relatively unstable and can be irritating. If you want vitamin C you have to pick a delivery method: water based (aka aqueous) or not (aka anhydrous). Options make things more complicated.
The particular delivery method recommended by my dermatologist is pretty famous in the skin care world: SkincCeuticals C E Ferulic. It costs $165 for 1 ounce. Let’s all take a second to just look at that number and just wow that is a big number. Ok, I looked again and it is still big. Like it hasn’t changed at all. Wow. We have to move on, but… wow. Anyway, kooking at the research, I agree with my dermatologist: if you just don’t care about money at all, then this is a great product to use. If you are going to with any vitamin C product that is water based this is the only one I would feel comfortable recommending.
I don’t think you need to pay that much money though.
No surprised really, but C E Ferulic is based on a patented formula. My best guess based on their marketing is that that formula is heavily influenced by these two studies. I’m sure there are more studies supporting it, but lets start with these.
The first study shows a synergistic effect between vitamins C and E. SkinCeuticals seems very proud of the fact that their formulation has a synergistic effect and I’m pretty sure their patent keeps other companies from selling a similar C and E combination. Face it, synergies are cool. Instead of just slapping C and E together because they are both good, they do it because the two actually work together to be more powerful than if you used both alone.
However, they don’t really ever say in their marketing what the synergistic effect is. I think that is because the KE Burke paper describes it as follows in the abstract “Because vitamin C regenerates oxidized vitamin E, the combination in a cosmeceutical formulation is synergistic - particularly in UV protection”. So does the synergistic effect actually make the vitamin C delivery better ? It sounds like it is just helping the vitamin E. Do I care about getting the most potent vitamin E? No. Not enough to spend $165.
The second study found the pH and vitamin C percentage that delivers the most vitamin C to skin. C E Ferulic uses a pH and vitamin C percentage in line with that paper so they must have been convinced. In fact, I’m reasonably convinced. If you are going to go with the water based delivery method then you will probably be happy with C E Ferulic. I’m sure there is a large confirmation bias from everyone who buys it wanting to justify the price, but people seem happy with it and it is well supported. So, sure, why not. But I didn’t buy it. Although C E Ferulic is probably the best out there, I think the only reason it is so expensive is because they have a patent on the best formulation for water based delivery of vitamin C.
Another delivery option is anhydrous. There are fewer studies on anhydrous delivery methods, but the ones that do exist are encouraging. Take this one for example. They found that 20 - 23% anhydrous vitamin C increased production of collagen. That seems nice. You probably want a formulation of anhydrous 20 - 23% vitamin C, right? Oh, but we have to talk about price again. How much does this magic formula cost? $5.80. Wow. I’m enjoying looking at this number much more than the last one. Here it is: The Ordinary’s Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2%. Maybe take a look for yourself.
I previewed this in the last article, but I’ll say it again: I love the approach taken by The Ordinary. They offer extremely simple products inspired by successful studies at ridiculously low prices. Again, I’m not arguing that I wouldn’t get better results with C E Ferulic , I’m just arguing that research shows that you can still get very good results for for less than 1/25th the price.
Summary version: Vitamin C has been proven effective and you can get it for under $6. The only excuse you have for not using it is now laziness.
How about Niacinamide, that sounds impressive? In this study “niacinamide significantly decreased hyperpigmentation and increased skin lightness compared with vehicle alone after 4 weeks of use”. That is cool! This one agrees that Niacinamide helps with spots but it also finds “reductions in fine lines and wrinkles, hyperpigmented spots, red blotchiness, and skin sallowness (yellowing). In addition, elasticity (as measured via cutometry) was improved”. Wow that is like everything! There are a lot of studies backing up Niacinamide to the point where I’m no longer sure why I didn’t include it in part 1. I’ll give you just one more though because I love these types of studies: let’s talk about split-face comparative studies. Basically, they get a group of people (52 Taiwanese people in this case), give them two creams and tell them to put one on the left half of their face and the other on the right half. One cream contains Niacinamide . The other is placebo. The amazing thing to me is that in many of these studies the researches find significant results which means that these people spend months walking around with half awesome face. How? How do they do it? I have no idea. But I am forever grateful and love that instead of measuring some absorption factor or other metric that maybe could lead to results they are actually measuring the impact on actual appearance.
Anyway. There is so much evidence that Niacinamide is simple and effective that it should really be a part of your daily routine. For the reason’s described above, I love the offering from The Ordinary: Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%. It again costs under $6 and it also includes zinc which has anti-inflammatory properties so sure I’ll take some zinc.
Caveat: vitamin C and Niacinimide do not react well together. I stick with Niacinamide in the morning and the above vitamin C at night.
More More More More More
So maybe I left out a few details about The Ordinary’s business strategy. In honesty, I don’t think they are in business just so that you can buy their super cheap research supported products. Those are just there to get you in the door and to become loyal to the brand. They work, they are cheap, and if you have the will power to just stop there then hey, look what an amazing person you are.
But that isn’t how everyone works and it certainly isn’t what happened to me. No. Once again, you only get one face and there are only so many skin care products that have been studied for decades. So once you start using Tretinoin, Sunblock, Vitamin C, and Niacinimide and seeing results it can be easy to think “what else is out there that might help?”
So here are some things that are out there that might help:
Vitamin C Derivatives
If you aren’t using Niacinamide, then you can double up on your vitamin C game (morning and night!). The Ordinary offers plenty of other vitamin C options and I’m personally a fan of Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate Solution 20% in Vitamin F. Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate is a vitamin C derivative that is best known for penetrating extremely quickly. My skin is not particularly sensitive so I’m happy to have the fast delivery and the “vitamin F” solution  gives my skin that dewy fresh glow that I didn’t realize it never had before and I guess is good. Buuuuut, as mentioned previously, Niacinamide and vitamin C should not be mixed. Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate converts to L-ascorbic acid in your skin , so I’ve seen it suggested that you could put this on and then wait 30 minutes to put on your Niacinamide. Honestly you probably aren’t going to do that so maybe I should offer you something else.
What else? Hyaluronic acid is kind of neat. It is a humectant and everyone on the internet wants you to know that it has the capacity to hold water up to 1000x its weight. Wow, what a cool fact you just learned. In short, it does a great job of drawing extra water into your skin. On the flip side, if you live somewhere with super dry air, Hyaluronic acid can pull water out of your skin unless it has somewhere else to get water from. All of this just means that HA is best used with moisturizer. It super charges the effectiveness of your current moisturizer and since you are combining it with moisturizer it will always have some water to work with. Again, very nice. If you want it on its own then of course The Ordinary has you covered with Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5, but the point is to apply it with moisturizer so why not just get Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA at the usual super low delightful price The Ordinary is known for (by which I mean under $6). So, overall pretty nice and it should plumpen up  and moisturize you skin with daily use. The only downside is that the molecules are too large to really penetrate so Hyaluronic Acid won’t provide long term benefits.
Alpha Hydroxyl Acids
I don’t know, should I recommend AHAs? They work. That seems like a good reason to recommend something. But they also are the highest risk treatment that I’m mentioning here. That is basically what this study says: they work but there are risks. Oh this study? Same thing. Effective with risks. And so many other studies agree.
AHAs come in the form of a chemical peal. Did that scare you away? If you have sensitive skin AHAs are not going to treat you well. Still here? AHAs can also increase risk of skin damage from the sun. Not gone yet? Well ,fine, let’s talk about The Ordinary’s AHA product: hi. If you have strong skin and have tried peels before it may have excellent results for you when use sparingly. Basically, I’m using it but I can’t say if you should. I’m sorry. I feel like I have let you down. You are just going to have to decide for yourself on this one.
Finally, I want to offer you one more option and a bit more insight into The Ordinary’s business model . Peptides have some evidence which may or may not be convincing. I’m not going to link to journal articles in this case though because, apparently, much of the research that has been done was paid for by companies that held patents on these peptides. So… that makes it harder to interpret the results. Instead I’ll point you to another site where a dermatologist does nice analysis of the research on the different peptides that are out there and seems to find that they are still promising. Click here and here. The results seem strong enough that I’m willing to give peptides a shot and it looks like I’m not alone because Buffet is one of The Ordinary’s most popular products. Buffet is a combination of many of the peptide treatments in the links above so that you don’t have to pick and choose. However, you pay top dollar for this combination (in this case top dollar means $14.80). Honestly, it is a reasonable product  and a reasonable price. Hooray. Aren’t we all happy.
But if you look at the side of the page for this product you will see an “other products you may be interested in” and suddenly The Ordinary’s ridiculously low prices make more sense. One click away from buffet is Hylamide SubQ Anti-Age which sounds super impressive. This product has even more fancy peptides like Copper Lysinate/Prolinate (and Copper peptides sound very cool) plus hyaluronic acids and other things that I completely don’t understand but sound fancy. Don’t I need to get this one fancier one? It is going on my face!
Welcome to the upsell. Full disclosure: it has already totally worked on me. I’ve been so happy with the results I’ve seen from products that I got cheaply on The Ordinary that I’ve definitely snuck a few more expensive options from their other brands. These product generally still have all the well tested base ingredients that make The Ordinary an easy recommendation, but come with fancy sounding and questionably supported add ons at a higher price. There is nothing wrong with these products, maybe they could be better, but it becomes very easy to spend more money for questionable gain.
My guess is that this is exactly how The Ordinary can sell great cheap products at insanely low prices. My advice: buy those cheap products and delight in the cost-effectiveness. That is as far as my recommendations will go though. Yes, the other fancier products are out there. Yes, they look pretty and have a lot of fancy words. Yes, they could even work better??? But, I’m not here recommending maybes. If you want to upgrade beyond The Ordinary then: cool! But you at least owe it to yourself to make sure you are using all the tried and true recommendations above and in part 1 before you do.
it oxidizes when exposed to air ↩
right now in this section vitamin C delivery is what I care most about ↩
I mean, I would be happier if they measured efficacy by improvement to human skin instead of by vitamin C delivered to pig skin. I also don’t like that they left the skin treating for 24 hours and then made measurements. I don’t think that is realistic. ↩
Although I’m yet to find a paper comparing anhydrous delivery results to aqueous delivery results, I could be wrong here ↩
yes, I would love to see a study comparing the efficacy of C E Ferulic vs The Ordinary but I didn’t find that ↩
or whatever else they are testing ↩
that means it is dissolved in fat ↩
dewy looks great on girls… should guys be dewy? I have no idea ↩
L-ascorbic acid is specifically what you don’t want to mix with Niacinimide ↩
you don’t actually care. I realize this. It is ok ↩
in a good way I hope? ↩
or at least what I suspect it to be ↩
I’ve already been through one bottle ↩