I wish I could’ve screenshotted the reactions of my coworkers when I told them I was trying out the new Paula’s Choice vitamin C serum, which boasted an unheard-of 25% concentration. In a room of beauty editors — all of whom are keenly aware of how notoriously unstable vitamin C can be, especially at high potency or if you have sensitive skin — I’m not exaggerating when jaws dropped. "You're so brave," chimed one fellow editor. "Wait, did you say 25%?" posited another. Well, there was only one way to see if the stuff would brighten and firm (as it claimed) or...not. The things I do in the name of beauty journalism!
As someone who's written about beauty for nearly a decade, I know my way around a vitamin C serum. While OG formulas went all-in on "vitamin C = citrus" vibe with the color and fragrance of their serums, newer, more sophisticated iterations now present clear, colorless, and odorless varieties. (SkinCeuticals' C E Ferulic and Tatcha's Violet-C serums are two personal favorites that come to mind.) But regardless of look, scent, and feel, a common thread unites virtually all vitamin C skincare products: The brightening, elasticity-boosting, glow-bestowing properties that made the popular ingredient as ubiquitous as it is today.
But anyway, back to Paula: The 25% Vitamin C + Glutathione Clinical Serum arrived on my doorstep and I eagerly made space for it on my bathroom sink. The small, orange bottle (orange strikes again!) wasn't overly ostentatious in any way and the serum itself was opaque white in color. I didn't notice any scent (it's fragrance-free), and the consistency was creamy and silky. It felt super hydrating on my skin, but not too heavy either. I started using it only during the day after cleansing and toning and before moisturizer and sunscreen. My first impressions were that my skin definitely looked hydrated and healthy, but I was hoping that for the $62 price point, it would help fade some of the stubborn sun spots around my cheekbones. (Note: These aren't the same as freckles, which I adore.)
After a week of using it both morning (and eventually night, too), I was pleased that there was no irritation nor breakouts to report — although, I have to admit having what I described as quite resilient "rhino skin" to my aforementioned team of fellow beauty editors. It may be too soon to call, but I could swear my overall complexion did look more radiant and lit from within. When it comes to vitamin C serums, a 25% concentration (this one comes in the form of tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate, a highly stable form of vitamin C that's in the same family of L-ascorbic acid) is probably the most I've tried in a product. Surprisingly, nothing felt too intense for my skin — which is something that's happened before with powdered vitamin C boosters. This is no accident; while it doesn't have the same name recognition as vitamin C, the glutathione in the formula helps minimize irritation and enhance the stability of its other ingredients. Plus, the airless pump (which is made with 50% post-consumer recycled plastic) helps keep the juice fresh by the time it reaches your skin.
All in all, it checks all the boxes that I'm looking for in a vitamin C serum — plus ones I didn't think I had. After years of vitamin C skincare being A Thing, I personally didn't have a new favorite launch on my 2023 bingo card — but leave it to Paula to give us another cult skincare product to talk about.
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