Drunk Elephant's C-Firma Day Serum is an interesting—and very good—fragrance-free vitamin C treatments that goes beyond the average with its formula and benefits for skin. The familiar 15% ascorbic acid is joined by antioxidant ferulic acid but Drunk Elephant kept going, adding several other antioxidants, reparative ingredients, and lightweight plant oils. The result is a comprehensive vitamin C treatment that is suitable for most skin types—those with oily to very oily skin may prefer a lighter formula.
We should note that Drunk Elephant recently reformulated C-Firma Day Serum (per the brand, it was to create a thicker texture) and upgraded the packaging to a bottle with a twist-up pump dispenser. This review is of the new, reformulated and repackaged formula.
Let's discuss that 15% concentration of vitamin C (ascorbic acid). There is an incredible amount of research around vitamin Cs benefit for skin, particularly for its ability to improve the appearance of sun damaged, uneven skin tone and ability to strengthen the skin's barrier. Vitamin C can also help boost the free-radical protection ability of your sunscreen when worn underneath it (Skin Research & Technology, 2008 and The Journal of Pathology, 2007). At a pH of just under 3.5, this impressive formula is right for stability and effectiveness, too.
The antioxidant ferulic acid boosts the UV and free-radical defense of vitamin C and provides additional stability benefits for the additional antioxidants in this formula (International Journal of Pharmaceutics, 2000 and Anticancer Research, 1999).
Those centerpiece ingredients aside, you'll also find pumpkin, hyaluronic acid (as sodium hyaluronate—the ideal form for topical application), green tea, pomegranate and licorice root extracts, just to name a few. There is nothing lacking here, and the addition of the brands' favored marula oil adds moisture to skin. It's just enough that those with combination to dry skin will likely find it lightweight—as opposed to heavy or oily—but as mentioned above, those with oily or very oily skin may prefer a more fluid serum.
We should note that the serum has a golden hue. This is typically worrisome for vitamin C serums, as it can denote that this air-sensitive ingredient has oxidized, but the ingredients themselves—particularly the anti-irritant tetrahydro curcuminoids—naturally have a warm, yellowish color. With the air-restrictive packaging coupled with the presence of such ingredients, we weren't concerned with its stability.
Drunk Elephant recommends that C-Firma Day Serum be used during the daytime under your sunscreen, which will certainly aid its ability to protect your skin from UV damage, as stated above. However, this may also be used in the evening—especially if you enjoy the extra bit of moisture it provides. Skin can benefit from the ingredients this product contains at any time, not just during daylight hours.
There are many vitamin C treatments on the market, some of them hyper-expensive, but Drunk Elephant managed to bring something unique to this seemingly crowded category. C-Firma Day Serum earns our highest recommendation for its potent level of ascorbic acid coupled with a comprehensive series of additional anti-aging ingredients and lightweight non-fragrant plant oils. At its price, it is also more than reasonable for its exceptional formula (especially when compared to pricier but still good alternatives like SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic).
Drunk Elephant At-A-Glance
Drunk Elephant, based out of Los Angeles, California, was started in 2012 by former skincare executive Tiffany Masterson. As their website describes, Masterson developed the brand out of a desire to create natural-themed formulas that were truly effective. Beyond effectiveness, Masterson wanted leave out what wasn’t effective—primarily fragrance. We concur, because fragrance isn't skincare.
We were pleasantly surprised by this stance, as in our experience, the inclusion of an abundance of fragrance is where many natural-themed brands seem to go wrong—along with using too few beneficial ingredients or formulas. Fragrance, whether from essential oils or synthetic perfumes, is never helpful for skin because over the long term, it can cause damage that holds any skin type back from being its healthy best.
As for the brand’s unconventional name, “Drunk Elephant” is in reference to anecdotes that African wildlife, including elephants, partake on the fallen, fermented fruit of the marula tree—an indulgence that leads to intoxication. We don’t know how true that is, and it's not really related to skincare, but the brand’s name is certainly different.
Drunk Elephant avoids using ingredients like non-mineral sunscreen actives, silicones, and parabens, even though countless studies have indicated these ingredients are safe (Journal of the Academy of Dermatology, 2013 and Skin Therapy Letters, 2013). Regardless, we’re just happy that the line has made it a focal point to use what research has been shown improves skin concerns like sun damage, breakouts and signs of aging, and leave out everything else. They’re also using some novel yet potentially exciting ingredients in many of their formulas.
Drunk Elephant line is a small line, but tends to make each product count, or at least puts an unconventional twist on the norm. Overall, we came away impressed with most of its products and (usually) smart packaging.
Many of the formulas include the ingredient marula oil, which is an ingredient the brand favors due to the fact it contains an array of beneficial fatty acids, calming agents, and antioxidants (Journal of Food Lipids, 2004 and Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 2014). It's a good ingredient, but there are many excellent non-fragrant plant oils, including coconut, jojoba, sunflower, and more, of which have similar benefits, meaning marula oil isn't the best out there, just one good oil among many.
Though the price tags are absolutely on the higher end, if you decide to to splurge on some key items, this is a good line to do so!
For more information, visit the brand at www.drunkelephant.com.
Strengths: A solid, though limited array of well-crafted skincare formulas; commitment to fragrance-free products.
Weaknesses:Their products are on the pricey side; limited options for those struggling with acne and discolorations.
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