Review - Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum
Updated: Jul 5, 2019
After having developed some pigmentation during my pregnancy, I decided to incorporate vitamin C into my skincare regimen. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant,also known for its ability to improve uneven skin tone by breaking down existing pigmentation and preventing new ones from forming. Other benefits of vitamin C include boosting collagen production (and hence increased firmness and elasticity) and reducing wrinkles and roughness. Most vitamin C products are on the expensive side of the affordability scale. After a few months of research (thanks to maternity leave) I bought this Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum from Mecca Cosmetica for $116 - one of the most expensive serums I have ever purchased.
For those who are not familiar with the use of vitamin C in skincare, a brief overview of this ingredient would explain the many things I decided to do (and not do) with this serum. There are many forms (derivatives) of vitamin C used in skincare products. Ascorbic acid (also known as L-ascorbic acid, or LAA) is the most powerful one. It is in a form that is "ready to work" - it has a high affinity for "taking up" free radicals that can damage skin. However, this also means that it is unstable and readily degrades (i.e. oxidised). Light, heat and air (oxygen) exposure can speed up the oxidation process. Because of this, the packaging and storage of a vitamin C product is vital to its effectiveness.
On top of that, LAA has a narrow optimal pH - it works best at a pH below 3.5. At the same time, a pH that is too low can irritate skin.
C-Firma is a comprehensive serum. Apart from the obvious main ingredient vitamin C, it also contains marula oil (containing antioxidants and fatty acids), ferulic acid (antioxidant), sodium hyaluronate (for hydration), algae extract (containing antioxidants), licorice root extract (for reducing uneven skin tone), vitamin E (another antioxidant) etc. A full ingredients list can be found at the end of this post.
I wish the "TWIST->" label wasn't missing from the tester bottle in Mecca, because I looked like an idiot trying the pull the lid off. Apparently the twist and pump mechanism is designed to protect the serum from air exposure. In addition, the bottle is completely opaque to minimise light exposure.
Life after opening
The "life after opening" is a short 6 months. I have been using this serum once a day for almost 6 months now (with a 3-week break in between so that I could trial this other serum properly) and I still have some left. I cannot tell how much is left because of the opaque bottle. I have bumped my usage up to twice a day now because I will have to discard the whole bottle soon anyway.
The following picture shows the colour of C-Firma approximately 4.5 months after opening. I did not take a picture of its initial colour, but it was slightly lighter than this (but not by much). The serum has been stored in the fridge. The darkening of the colour indicates that some oxidation has taken place inside the bottle. From what I have gathered from other reviews available, this colour is quite acceptable.
Even though it is a "day serum", most of the time I use it only in the evening as the sole skincare product after cleaning (i.e., without layering other products such as night cream). As I mentioned before, LAA is a fiddly ingredient that works best at a low pH. This serum has been formulated to have a pH of 3.3 to 3.5. This pH gives LAA the best working environment. Any product layered underneath or above that has a different pH (including water) will alter this optimal pH. If I wear it in day time, I will have to layer my sunscreen, tinted moisturiser and/or makeup on top of this serum with very minimal wait time between each product (I am always in a rush), which is not ideal.
Having spent this amount of money on one serum I was, of course, expecting some results. Here are my ratings against each of the known benefits of vitamin C.
Radiance / Brightness
There is a visible difference to the overall radiance (glowiness) to my skin. However, I found that a lot of the radiance effect is temporary and comes from C-Firma itself (possibly the marula oil). My skin is certainly more radiant if I use this serum during the day under my moisturiser and makeup, but less so if I have been using it overnight and wash it off the next morning. Despite this, there is still a difference compared to 6 months ago. The difference is not huge, and certainly less than what I would like.
On that note, I might just add that there is absolutely no "lightening/whitening" effect at all - I am about 2 shades darker since I started on C-Firma - as I usually do after summer.
No visible difference. At first I thought there was a decrease in pigmentation, although it was also possible that the pigmentation has settled down with the pregnancy hormones wearing off. However, a couple of weeks ago I noticed I have new pigmentation spots appearing on the other side of my cheek. So I'd have to say that overall there is no visible difference in pigmentation.
I cannot objectively measure this but I notice my skin feels elastic and bouncy. Seeing that I haven't been using any facial oil or moisturiser in the evening, I am very happy with it.
My skin is smooth and supple. Again, because I haven't been using any other facial oil or moisturiser in the evening, I am very happy with it.
An all-in-one treatment that is capable of replacing (almost) the entire evening skincare regimen for normal to oily skin
Small but noticeable improvement on skin radiance
Can be used under makeup
Can double up as a skin illuminator
No irritation / sensitivity
Same as all other LAA products, it is fiddly to use. Wait time is needed if you want to layer other products
Short "life after opening" (6 months)
Difficult to estimate how much product is left in the bottle
No effect on pigmentation
Oily or combination skin may find the consistency too thick
The smell can be off-putting (it smelt like bacon at first, now it smells like rust to me. When I apply it to my face using my fingers, it smells like I have been lifting weights at the gym but forgot to wash my hands)
C-Firma did not actually do what I wanted it to do (even out pigmentation). There has been some increase in radiance and brightness, but that difference alone could hardly justify the purchase price. On the other hand, C-Firma did surprisingly well in other areas.
The million dollar question is always "will I buy this again?"
To be honest, I probably would not buy C-Firma again in the near future while I am still on a quest to find something that works on my pigmentation. However, I would recommend it for improving skin firmness and texture, or as something to simplify an evening skincare regimen.
Full ingredients list
Water/Aqua, Ethoxydiglycol, Ascorbic Acid, Glycerin, Laureth-23, Lactobacillus/Pumpkin Ferment Extract, Sclerocarya Birrea (Marula) Seed Oil, Ferulic Acid, Sodium Hyaluronate, Chondrus Crispus (Algae) Extract, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Lactobacillus/Punica Granatum (Pomegranate) Fruit Ferment Extract, Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract, Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Juice Extract, Phyllanthus Emblica Fruit Extract, Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein, Tocopherol, Caprylhydroxamic Acid, Acetyl Glucosamine, Hydrolyzed Quinoa, Glutamylamidoethyl Imidazole, Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate, Tetrahydrodiferuloyl-methane, Tetrahydrodenmethoxy-diferuloylmethane, Tetrahydrobisde-methoxydiferuloylmethane, Sodium Hyaluronate Crosspolymer, Glycine, Sucrose, Maltodextrin, Propanediol, Caprylyl Glycol, Sodium Hydroxide, Xanthan Gum, Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/Sodium Acryloydimethyl Tarate Copolymer, Isohexadecane, Polysorbate 60