When a product is as expensive as SkinCeuticals Vitamin C serum, there are always going to be duplicates waiting in the wings, waiting for you to try them. The tricky thing is finding out which dupe is actually worth your money—the last thing you want to do is spend money on a bunch of duplicates that don’t work. You might even end up spending as much as the real thing would have cost in the first place.
I’ve heard good things about two dupes of SkinCeuticals Vitamin C E Ferulic acid serum: one from Dr. Brenner and another from Timeless. Like SkinCeuticals, these two dupes use the same form of Vitamin C (L-ascorbic acid, which is the active form of vitamin C. The real power comes from combining Vitamin C with Vitamin E and ferulic acid, which has been shown to dramatically enhance the effectiveness of Vitamin C.
SkinCeuticals Vitamin C serum ingredients
water, ethoxydiglycol, ascorbic acid, glycerin, propylene glycol, laureth-23, phenoxyethanol, tocopherol, triethanolamine, ferulic acid, panthenol, sodium hyaluronate
According to SkinCeuticals’s website, this serum is formulated with 15% vitamin C (L-ascorbic acid), 1% vitamin E (alpha tocopherol), and 0.5% ferulic acid.
Dr. Brenner Vitamin C serum ingredients
water, ethoxydiglycol, ascorbic acid, propylene glycol, glycerin, laureth-23, tocopherol, sodium hyaluronate, ferulic acid, panthenol, triethanolamine, phenoxyethanol
Dr. Brenner states that this serum contains 20% pure vitamin C (L-ascorbic acid), 1% vitamin E (alpha tocopherol), 1% hyaluronic acid (in the form of sodium hyaluronate), and 0.5% ferulic acid.
Timeless Vitamin C serum ingredients
water, ethoxydiglycol, ascorbic acid, propylene glycol, alpha tocopherol, polysorbate 80, panthenol, ferulic acid, sodium hyaluronate, benzyl alcohol, dehydroacetic acid
Timeless says this serum includes 20% vitamin C, doesn’t state anything about the percentages of vitamin E, hyaluronic acid, or ferulic acid included in this formula.
My Dad the Chemist’s review of SkinCeuticals vs. Dr. Brenner vs. Timeless vitamin C serum
I sent my dad these three ingredient lists, labeling SkinCeuticals as the “name brand,” Dr. Brenner as “Duplicate 1” and Timeless as “Duplicate 2.” Here’s what he had to say.
Dear Emily, i think Duplicate 1 is going to be the most successful or even more effective than the name brand because it contains not only additional but also generous amount (1%) of Hyaluronic Acid, which is a very effective moisturizer, I really think it should work even better.
My dad thinks that Dr. Brenner’s Vitamin C serum is going to be more effective than the name brand because it may include a higher percentage of hyaluronic acid, which is very effective at moisturizing your skin. Dr. Brenner updated its formula to include 20% L-Ascorbic Acid (vitamin C), whereas SkinCeuticals’s formula only contains 15%.
Because Dr. Brenner Vitamin C Serum includes a higher percentages of ascorbic acid, it may cause more irritation especially if you’re not used to applying vitamin C to your skin. However, the inclusion of a high percentage of hyaluronic acid (1%) (compared to the unstated percentage in SkinCeuticals) may help offset that irritation, while delivering the brightening effects of this active ingredient.
My final thoughts on these Vitamin C serums from SkinCeuticals, Dr. Brenner, and Timeless
It looks like both dupes are formulated with a higher percentage of Vitamin C than SkinCeuticals uses (20% vs. 15%), perhaps because they do not want to infringe on the patent. It could also be because they are worried about the potential for ascorbic acid to oxidize in the presence of water. According to this article, L-ascorbic acid is highly likely to oxidize to dehydro ascorbic acid (DHAA) when it is exposed to light. When it oxidizes, it turns from colorless to a pale yellow color. However, a pH of <3.5 can help keep Vitamin C stable and able to work effectively on the skin.
I like how transparent Dr. Brenner is about the percentages of actives included in its formula, as well as the percentage of sodium hyaluronate. SkinCeuticals does not reveal the percentage of sodium hyaluronate included in its formula, so in this regard, Dr. Brenner is actually delivering more information than the original source. If you look at SkinCeuticals’s and Dr. Brenner’s ingredient lists side by side, they actually list the same 12 ingredients. The difference is that SkinCeuticals contains a lower percentage of vitamin C (15 percent as opposed to Dr. Brenner’s 20%) and sodium hyaluronate appears earlier in the ingredient list for Dr. Brenner’s product, but in the last spot on SkinCeuticals’s list. Strictly from an ingredient standpoint, I agree with my dad the Dr. Brenner’s Vitamin C looks like a more appealing option if you’re looking for a promising SkinCeuticals Vitamin C dupe.
Timeless includes a few ingredients that aren’t found in either Dr. Brenner or SkinCeuticals:
- polysorbate 80, a surfactant that has a natural yellowish color that may make it look like the vitamin C has oxidized already
- benzyl alcohol, a preservative that’s potentially irritating to those with sensitive skin. SkinCeuticals and Timeless both use phenoxyethanol as the preservative instead of benzyl alcohol. Note that phenoxyethanol can also be an allergen for some people.
- dehydroacetic acid: another preservative
Timeless’s list does not include several ingredients that are used in Dr. Brenner’s and SkinCeuticals’s products: ethoxydiglycol, glycerin, triethanolamine, laureth-23, and phenoxyethanol.
For all these reasons, I think I’d pick Dr. Brenner’s Vitamin C serum over Timeless if you’re looking for a potentially decent dupe of the SkinCeuticals product. However, at such a low price, a part of me can’t really believe that it will actually be just as effective as the real thing. At the same time, it might be worth trying one bottle, just to see if it can deliver some benefits without breaking the bank.
I hope you found this as interesting as I did! A part of me just wants to say YOLO and buy the real thing instead of settling for a dupe at all. Let me know if you have any thoughts on gambling between splurging on the real product and trying a potentially just-as-effective dupe.