When I posted my Vitamin C Serum comparison a couple weeks ago I mentioned that I had recently been testing out a new Vitamin C Serum by Mae Love (the product was gifted, but all opinions are my own). In fact, I started testing on Jan 12th and I have been using almost every day since.
When Mae Love reached out to see if I wanted to try this serum, the main reason I said yes was that it included some unique ingredients that I hadn’t seen in a Vitamin C serum before and it was affordable. Also, I liked the backstory of the company: it was born at MIT where the founding team met. The owner, Jackie Kim, wanted to make products that were accessible and not unnecessarily expensive. Their direct-to-consumer business model is meant to reduce markups and keep marketing costs low.
Now… on to my review!
Price: $27.95 for 1 oz. (Shipping is included!)
Note: Jackie emailed me to say that they just sold out of the serum few days ago, but they will be restocked on March 9th or so. They are taking pre-orders on their website right now, so you can still go to the website and place your order, and since orders will be fulfilled in the order they were received, it’s still best for everyone to place orders now if you wanted to buy one. A general tip from me: Don’t stock up on Vitamin C. Just buy what you need when you are ready to use it.
International Shipping? No (This was a bummer….But they do have plans to expand to International Shipping in the future).
pH (as tested by my meter): 3.2 (perfect. Not too low to cause irritation but below the level that is needed for L-AA to be effective)
Concentration of L-ascorbic acid: 15% (which is usually what I aim for)
Shelf life:Unopened the shelf-life is 2 years, but after opening Mae Love recommends that you use it within 2-6 months.
Color: When I opened the bottle it had a very faint yellow color and now almost 2 months later, it is about the same color, and still far from oxidized.
Storage: Personally, I like to keep my vitamin C serums in the fridge. I started doing this after I found that keeping my Paula’s Choice serum in the fridge made it oxidize slower. I think the key thing is that you don’t want the serum to be in a hot, bright place (which could be your bathroom if it tends to really heat up when you shower). Jackie, from Maelove, said that refrigeration is not necessary, “but many women like to keep it in the fridge during the warmer months so it’s cool and refreshing on the face.”
- Made in the USA
- Cruelty free
- Free of dyes and fragrances
- EXCELLENT return policy: You are able to return it within 100 days for a full refund — no questions asked.
There are a couple ingredients in this serum that really make it unique. But before I talk about those, I wanted to note that one downside for me is that the company doesn’t disclose the amount of Ferulic Acid and Vit E. It isn’t a deal breaker, but it would be nice to know. Usually I like to have a 0.5% Ferulic Acid and 1% Vitamin E, only because that is the concentration that has been clinically tested and found to be highly effective. However, given that tocopherol is last on the INCI and Ferulic Acid is much higher up, the only thing that I can guess is that there is more Ferulic Acid than Vit E and I am sure there is much less vitamin E than 1%. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing because some people get breakouts from too much Ferulic Acid or Vitamin E.
In addition to Vit C, E, and Ferulic acid (all of which off great antioxidant protection), it has some other ingredients that caught my eye.
- Aloe leaf juice: I love aloe. It’s hydrating, calming, increases glucosamine & hyaluronic acid synthesis, and has anti-inflammatory properties. It is an all around awesome ingredient. Seeing this high up in the INCI makes me happy.
- Glycerin: Such a great, yet often underappreciated, ingredient. Not only is it super hydrating ingredient, but it also helps maintain the healthy state of our skin.
- Sodium Hyaluronate: Another hydrating ingredient commonly referred to hyaluronic acid. This is the one that is “sexier” so it is often highlighted over the classic glycerin. Like other humectants, it helps the skin to cling onto water.
Then there were these ingredients that made this serum stand out from other vitamin C serums)…..
Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Callus Culture Extract: This is orange stem cells and it is supposed to work by stimulating the inner structure of the skin to help with skin firmness and elasticity.
Magnolia Officinalis Bark Extract: Magnolia bark extract contains magnolol and honokiol, which work together to inhibit inflammation, reduce redness and neutralize internal aging factors (Chen et al., 2011; Tanaka et al., 2007). (Bonus points for including this!)
Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Seed Extract: (More bonus points!) I was VERY happy to see this included because grape seed extract is one of the most powerful antioxidants around. It contains high levels of polyphenols, including tannins, flavonoids and resveratrol and helps to protect the skin against oxygen radicals–preventing skin cell damage caused by sun exposure and pollution. (Baumann, 2007). Grape seed extracts also show tyrosinase-inhibiting activity, and are thought to be useful in antiaging and skin-lightening cosmetics (Lee et al., 2000).
Water (Aqua), Ascorbic Acid, Ethoxydiglycol, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Glycerin, Lecithin, Sodium Hyaluronate, Ferulic Acid, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Callus Culture Extract, Magnolia Officinalis Bark Extract, Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Seed Extract, Xanthan Gum, Disodium EDTA, Sodium Metabisulfite, Triethanolamine, Phenoxyethanol, Ethylhexyglycerin, Maltodextrin, Tocopherol.
My experience using the product
Like all L-AA serums, I like to use this in the morning right after cleansing or after a pH-adjusting toner (for an explanation on those, see this review). I didn’t keep this bottle in the fridge as I normally do (because that helps to slow oxidation that happens with all L-AA serums) because I wanted to see what would happen. In the past month, I haven’t seen any marked color change. But I didn’t notice a very small amount of crystals forming around the opening of the bottle. I reached out to Jackie, and she explained why that was:
“The crystals form around the bottle because we don’t use propylene glycol in our formula (whereas Skinceuticals does, that’s why the crystals don’t form with their bottles). The crystallization is not due to oxidation, and doesn’t compromise the formula or effectiveness in any way. Also, during our testing phase, we noticed that certain storage conditions may contribute to the crystallization – when it’s stored in the fridge there may be less crystals, whereas when it’s stored in regular room temperature you may notice more crystals around the bottle. Either way, it doesn’t compromise the formula and so there isn’t anything to worry about.”
That was good to know, but I have never been to sure about why crystals appear and whether they indicate that the efficacy may be compromised (as I hinted at in my Timeless review. Note that the Timeless formula does include propylene glycol but it didn’t include other pH adjusting ingredients, so there must be another explanation for why crystals formed on my Timeless bottle). Either way, the important thing is to wipe off those crystals before use because if they get on your face they are scratchy.
This has the classic faint hotdog water smell that most L-AA serums have (but it isn’t as strong as the Skinceuticals smell), and it has the same feel on the face as the Skinceuticals, Paula’s Choice, or Timeless formulas. It absorbs nicely and doesn’t leave my skin tacky or slimy.
This is a thin, watery serum, so I have found the best way to apply it is to put 1 to 2 drops on different regions of my face (forehead, right cheek and left cheek) and then immediately rub in (remembering to also get on my nose and above my lip where I have the most pigmentation). Then I apply 3-5 drops to my chest and hands. I use Vitamin C liberally because I know the product doesn’t have a long shelf life, so I never try to conserve it. I try to let the serum absorb for 15 or so minutes before continuing with my routine.
Note that I had a typo in the video caption, where I meant to write “almost 2 months”.
Would I recommend this?
Yes. Absolutely. I think the slightly higher pH and the added ingredients I mentioned above makes this a better low-cost option than Timeless because it is less likely to cause irritation due to the low pH.
I enjoyed using this. It is extremely similar to my experience with Paula’s Choice and Skinceuticals. My skin did look a little less red, so it seems to help with redness (as the ingredients would suggest). And this is certainly hydrating. More so than other vitamin C serums I’ve tried.
I think it is possible that it made me a little shiny on some days when I layered other hydrating products on top, but I wasn’t able to really pin point if it was this serum that was causing the extra shine. But the upside is that this is really hydrating. So if you have dry skin, you might want to check this out. also, if you found that the Timeless Vit C serum was irritating or drying, then definitely give Mae Love a try. But I think it will work for any skin type. (I have oily/combo skin). I will be curious to see how this performs in the summer months when my skin isn’t as dry.
In terms of my current favorite Vitamin C, by Paula’s Choice, I prefer the bottle and packaging of Paula’s Choice and I like that Paula’s Choice has concentrations of Vit E and Ferulic Acid that have been found to be effective in previous research. BUT I really like that that the Mae Love has Grape seed extract and ingredients to help with redness in addition to aloe leaf juice. Plus it is $28 for 1 oz and the Paula’s Choice is $49 for 0.7 oz. I will definitely go with Mae Love in the winter months, but I may go back to Paula’s Choice in the summer if I find that the Mae Love gives me too much of a glow.
Click here to read my review of Paula’s Choice, Timeless, and Skinceuticals. Below is a snippet of that review that talks about why and how I use Vitamin C Serums.
Baumann LS (2007) Less-known botanical cosmeceuticals. Dermatol Ther 20(5):330–342
Chen, Y. H., Huang, P. H., Lin, F. Y., Chen, W. C., Chen, Y. L., Yin, W. H., … & Liu, P. L. (2011). Magnolol: A multifunctional compound isolated from the Chinese medicinal plant Magnolia officinalis. European Journal of Integrative Medicine, 3(4), e317-e324.
Lee YH, Lee SJ, Jan JK, Park SY, Lee HK. 2000. Grape seed extracts as tyrosinase inhibitors and their uses as drugs, cosmetics, and food. Jpn Kokai Tokkyo Koho 10: JP2000159681.
Tanaka K, Hasegawa J, Asamitsu K, Okamoto T. Magnolia ovovata extract
and its active component magnolol prevent skin photoaging via inhibition
of nuclear factor kappaB. Eur J Pharmacol 2007;565:212–9