Long overdue post with my thoughts on the Geek and Gorgeous Vitamin C serum that I received in PR from the brand (with no obligation to review). I’ve already shared my thoughts in my Instagram stories, but I thought it would be helpful to have a post on my blog as well.
Why do I use L-ascorbic acid serums?
L-ascorbic acid can help increase collagen in the skin by activating factors in the skin involved in collagen and elastin synthesis. It also serves as a cofactor of other enzymes in our skin that cross-link and stabilize collagen fibers. It is also a potent antioxidant that has been found to protect against photoaging (photoaging results in things like wrinkles, pigmentation, coarse skin texture, loss of elasticity), including protecting the collagen we currently have from degrading. And it can help with pigmentation (including age spots, post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation and melasma) (Ref 1, Ref 2, Ref 3). Specifically, it inhibits the action of the enzyme tyrosinase, which results in a decrease of melanin formation. I have personally seen great results in reducing pigmentation once I started to consistently use an LAA serum (I started about 5 years ago and haven’t looked back).
My skin type and skin concerns
I am 39 with oily/combo, acne-prone skin. My main skin concerns are reducing redness (I have rosacea that can flare up on my nose and cheeks), keeping hyperpigmentation at bay (as a redhead I freckle VERY easily) and reducing signs of aging (by using things that promote the synthesis of collagen and elastic and to help reduce the degradation of the collagen I currently have.
What I look for in Vit C Serums
- Concentration of LAA between 10-20%
- Studies have shown that a concentration above 20% don’t improve results and instead just increases the chance for irritation (ref)
- I prefer to use L-Ascorbic acid based serums rather than LAA derivates because LAA is the gold standard and, so far, has given me better results than any of the many Vit C derivatives I have tried.
- Ideally the ingredient list includes Ferulic Acid and Vit E or another evidence-based antioxidant blend to help boost the efficacy and stability of the LAA.
- Because Vitamin C is highly unstable, it is often used in combo with other ingredients such as Vitamin E, Vitamin B, lycopene and β-caroten. In particular, it is not uncommon to see Vitamin C serum include Vitamin E and a delivery vehicle. That is because Vitamin C is the primary replenisher of vitamin E (Vit E helps to protect cell membranes against oxidative stress and maintain the collagen network in the skin) and Vit C works synergistically with vitamin E in the protection against oxidative damage (ref).
- A pH of about 3.0 (and definitely less than 3.5 because it has been found that reducing the acidity of LAA to a pH below 3.5 is an effective method of improving its stability and penetration (ref). When the pH is too low (like under 2.5) it can irritate and dry out skin.
How I use Vit C
- Almost every morning I use a Vitamin C serum to help protect against environmental damage & help prevent premature signs of aging–it is definitely a staple in my routines. As with most active ingredients, consistency & patience is key. Usually around 8-12 weeks is when I see the biggest improvements. Also, once a day is all you need, twice a day is overkill.
- I like to always apply LAA serums as close to the skin as possible to help with absorption. So I apply LAA serums either as my first step after cleansing, or if I am using an AHA/BHA product (which tend to have a pH that is lower than the LAA serum), I will apply that first and then apply the LAA serum.
- Also, I frequently use LAA alongside Niacinamide. It is a myth that they can’t be used together. This great blog post by Stephen helps to debunk the claim.
- Every morning after cleansing I would apply ~10 drops in a cupped hand and then I use the other hand to dip into the liquidly serum and apply it on my face, neck, check and hands.
This layered nicely, didn’t make me greasy or break me out & I liked the water-like texture. It has a bare bones ingredient list (LAA, Ferulic acid & Vit E) & I wish it had some other beneficial ingredients–but for the price, I understand the simplicity. After 12 weeks, I think it did a good job of preventing my pigmentation from getting darker. I think there were some spots that faded as well, so that is nice. One thing that I noticed, however, was that my cheeks were more ruddy/red while using this. When I finished this bottle and switched back to using Paula’s Choice C15 the redness in my cheeks reduced. So I think those additional soothing and hydrating ingredients in the PC formula suits my skin better than this does (keep in mind I am 39, soon to be 40, with mild rosacea so I will take a more advanced formula over a bare bones one at this point in my life).
Ingredient List Notes
- This has 15% L-ascorbic acid (this is my sweet spot in terms of percent concentration) along with Ferulic Acid and Vit E (this is the trinity of ingredients that work really well together).
Price and where to buy it
- €10.50 but then shipping to the US is (note that they offer free shipping over €50 in EU and €60 in US). The product ships from European Union, Hungary.
LAA will oxidize over time. It’s inevitable. Because L-ascorbic acid will oxidize over time (and become less effective), some people use that as rationale to switch to LAA derivatives, but I just accept the fact that LAA will oxidize and I only buy it when I am ready to use it (no stocking up with LAA serums!) and then I use it consistently and liberally so that I finish the bottle in 3 mths (which is usually the PAO anyways). Something to note is that the oxidation process is accelerated depending on formula and packaging. For example. LAA will oxidize faster if it is in a water-based formula (like this one), the pH is high (not the case here), antioxidants aren’t included (not the case here), or if the packaging and/or user expose the LAA to light and oxygen (the packaging on this one is ok, but the seal at the top could be better).
The amount of oxidation for my bottle is totally in line with my expectations. Note that the company suggests that you can store it in the fridge or decant some in an empty mini bottle. I didn’t do that because I wanted to see how much it would oxidize at room temperature by the time I finished the bottle because I find it annoying to store my skincare in my fridge. The brand says it keeps about 6 weeks at room temperature, but these photos are at 12 weeks at room temperature and I am not at all concerned about the level of oxidation on the final day of use. (FWIW the brand says if you store an opened bottle in the fridge it will keep fresh for 3 mths and an unopened one will keep fresh for 5-6 months). The nice thing about G&G is that they say they make fresh batch of C-Glow each week. So you aren’t buying bottles that have been sitting on the shelf for a long time.
How does it compare to other LAA serums?
I liked G&G more the Timeless Vit C (which is most similar in terms of ingredients/results but Timeless sometimes caused irritation for me) & equally as much as Maelove (but Maelove would be my pick in winter because it has more hydrating ingredients). I liked Paula’s Choice C15 more than G&G in terms of results (PC has additional soothing, hydrating, & skin restoring ingredients that G&G lacks & that my skin responds well to).
- Favorite all-around (balancing efficacy, price, & packaging) is the Paula’s Choice C15 Super Booster. 15% LAA, Ferulic Acid, Vit E, Peptides. This really delivers results for me. Fades pigmentation & evens out skin tone. 1 bottle lasts me 3-3.5 mths like clockwork. Love the packaging. It is always 15% off on my Paula’s Choice affiliate page.
- For my old review where I compared Skinceuticals CE Ferulic versus Paula’s Choice and Timeless click here
- Tied with PC (but losing points because of cost) is the is Clinical Pro Heal Advance + . This is a great Vit C in terms of not only fading pigmentation, but also reducing ruddiness/redness on my cheeks! The problem is it is so expensive that I won’t buy this back to back. So instead I plan to rotate this with PC.
- Note: @Labmuffinbeautyscience noted that Ferulic acid is the main contributor to the classic “hot dog water” smell that many LAA serums have (note that the smell gets more potent as it oxidizes). LAA also contributes to the smell but according to Michelle the ferulic acid is a major player in that scent. I mention this because the iS Clinical doesn’t have Ferulic acid and it also doesn’t have the hot dog water smell.
- For my Pro Heal Advance Review, click here
- Maelove skincare Glow Maker – This is more hydrating than PC C15 and Geek & Gorgeous. However, the PC has better packaging & I like that PC has the ideal amount of Ferulic & Vit E and gives me somewhat better results in terms of pigmentation. But this is a great affordable option! This bottle lasts me 4.5 mths as it is a full 1 oz. I would say Geek & Gorgeous and Maelove are now roughly tied for my picks for LAA serums under $30.
On my Instagram page I have a Vitamin C story highlight that shows even more that I have tried but haven’t written blog posts for (like the Allies of Skin Vitamin C Serum).