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I really love eastern cosmetics (Japanese, Korean, Thai…) because most of them, in my opinion, are years ahead of some popular European brands. The reason is simple: most of them are high-quality and high-tech cosmetics with affordable price and tend to use better and unique ingredients like oriental herbs, ginseng roots, fermented ingredients, snail mucus, horse fat (very controversial), vegetable placenta, and so on; ingredients really hard to find in western products, and if you do, it comes with a low concentration.
They also have the wonderful technic called “Double Cleansing“, where you use two types of cleansers. The first step is the cleansing oil/cream/milk (or whatever), which allows you to remove oil-based substances from your skin, such as heavy make-ups, silicones, sunscreen wastes… and the second step is a facial soap/foam/gel (or whatever) that washes away water-based substances such as old skin cells, perspiration, micro-dust… making your skin perfectly clean. This method helps you to remove everything from your face and should be used nightly. It is getting famous throughout the world and many brands (thank you all!) are starting to produce their own first step cleanser.
I didn’t have much luck with American/European brands (Vichy, La Roche-Posay, Avène…), maybe I didn’t try the right ones? Anyway, all the brands I’ve tried had a high-profit margin, selling low-quality products, made mainly of water/glycerin/silicones, as high-end products. The ingredients used in the formulas are most of the time silicones and glycerin with a low percentage of what really matters, actives. Some of them try, I won’t say they don’t, sometimes they even try to make an ascorbic acid serum, for example, but they fail. When you check the composition, you see it’s loaded with silicone, making its absorption into the skin nearly one-third, only.
While I was browsing through Instagram, I saw a brand called NIOD, which is a brand from DECIEM, a Toronto-based company founded in 2013. I went to their website and I started checking the products, ingredients, promises and price. I fell in love with everything, starting with the bottles that look very beautiful and “sciency”. Quality, ingredients, technology, colors… I was sold! Looks like I’ve found a North American company that offers products with really true effects and not that line of bull that you find everywhere out there.
Two products that I immediately fell in love with were: Copper Amino Isolate Serum (CAIS) which costs 70 USD…
and Ethylated L-Ascorbic Acid 30% Network (ELAN) that costs 77 USD.
I added them to my wishlist of products that one day I’ll use.
The brand itself has a good price (although it’s not affordable for me at the moment) because it uses some expensive ingredients not very common, so I completely understand the price-tag.
I started following DECIEM on Instagram to keep me updated. Who knows maybe they would have a mega deal on their brand NIOD? But a few weeks later, they announced their new brand, The Ordinary.
The Ordinary is an evolving collection of treatments offering familiar, effective clinical technologies positioned to raise pricing and communication integrity in skincare. The brand was created to celebrate integrity in its most humble and true form. Its offering is pioneering, not in the familiar technologies it uses, but in its honesty and integrity. The Ordinary is born to disallow commodity to be disguised as ingenuity. The Ordinary is "Clinical formulations with integrity". The Ordinary range includes clinical products such as Vitamin C 23% Suspension + HA Spheres 2% ($5.80, £4.90), Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%($5.90, £5.00) and Advanced Retinoid 2% ($9.80, £8.00). The full range is available through @victoriahealth and www.ordinaries.com.
“The Ordinary is an evolving collection of treatments offering familiar, effective clinical technologies positioned to raise pricing and communication integrity in skincare. The brand was created to celebrate integrity in its most humble and true form. Its offering is pioneering, not in the familiar technologies it uses, but in its honesty and integrity. The Ordinary is born to disallow commodity to be disguised as ingenuity. The Ordinary is “Clinical formulations with integrity”.
Our team is specialized in materials chemistry and biochemistry, and we have brought pioneering innovation in skincare through our core brands, Hylamide and NIOD. In the category of functional beauty, integrity is rare. Commonplace technologies are referred to as groundbreaking and insensible pricing strategies confuse the audience, disguising commodity technologies as advanced. The Ordinary exists to communicate with integrity and bring to market effective, more familiar technologies at honourable prices. The Ordinary takes pride in honesty, fights innovation stagnancy in the industry and indirectly celebrates the depth of innovation our brands, Hylamide and NIOD, continue to bring to the category.”
I was so happy for so many reasons! I could finally try something from DECIEM without spending much money. In the beginning, they were shipping only to the USA and Canada, if I am not mistaken, so I couldn’t buy what I wanted right away. They told me they would start to ship worldwide soon. But well, fortunately, I didn’t have to wait that long. A friend of mine from the U.S was coming to Rio de Janeiro and I asked her if she could be receiving a small delivery box, with one product only. My budget was very short because I’ve had bought a lot of others stuff.
This is the product I’ve bought:
It’s a suspension water and silicone-free made with 23% of pure L-Ascorbic Acid and 2% of spheres of hyaluronic acid.
The problem with the L-Ascorbic Acid (L-AA) is that even though it’s an antioxidant, it oxidizes very quickly, turning into dehydroascorbic acid when it is exposed to water and/or air. It becomes not only ineffective but it also can be harmful. When an oxidized ascorbic acid product is applied on the skin, it may increase the production of free radicals.
Another problem is the water content in the formula. It can be very irritating because the irritation is caused mainly by hydrogen ions generated by acid-dissociating in water.
What is the solution, then?
Anhydrous formula! A substance is anhydrous if it contains no water and the way of achieving the anhydrous form differs from one substance to another.
If you want to improve the stability of L-AA and reduce its potential for skin irritation you can use (and should) an anhydrous vehicle, like for example, a cream containing no water, or raw oils, esters… Since the water is what triggers the oxidation and also the irritation factor of L-AA, removing it can result in a more (or even completely, like this one from The Ordinary says) stable formula with less irritation because as I said before, the hydrogen ions are the main cause of skin irritation. Also, anhydrous L-AA is not only more stable inside the bottle but also when it’s applied to the skin making it an advantage even to some stabilized water-formula L-AA serums, which may keep the L-AA harder to oxidize when in the bottle but once it’s on the skin, it oxidizes quickly.
“Evidence indicates that ultrafine microcrystalline vitamin C in an anhydrous vehicle can stimulate collagen synthesis. In a 2006 study published in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, Dr. Geoffrey K. Heber and co-workers studied the effects of 20 – 23% ultrafine microcrystalline anhydrous vitamin C on the collagen synthesis in the sections of human skin. The researchers found an increased production of both type I and type III collagen (both of these types of collagen are important for youthful skin).”
Source: Smart Skin Care.
Why is the pH of the formulation important?
Because the L-AA formulation needs to be less than 3.5 to enter the skin and to have its effects. Any value higher than this will decrease the absorption and effect.
As you can see below, low pH is essential for absorption and delivery is enhanced as the pH is reduced to 2.0.
That’s why it’s very important to know the pH of your vitamin C serum in case it’s an aqueous formulation. Also, it would be good if you could use a toner with low pH before applying your vitamin C serum and try to avoid any high pH second cleanser. Your skin will thank you!
Now talking about The Ordinary L-AA serum, since it’s a water-free formula, the concept of pH doesn’t really apply. I contacted DECIEM asking what would the pH of the skin probably become after applying their 23% L-AA suspension. My question was if the skin’s pH would drop to less than 3.5 and they told me that very briefly, the pH does drop to less than 3.5 since pure ascorbic acid is acidic. Perfect!
Do you really need to apply your L-AA serum twice a day?
I wouldn’t say so. As you can see below, after washing off your face, the levels of L-AA are still high, even tough your face has been washed. The half-life of L-AA in tissues was found to be approximately 4 days.
I like to apply my serum 4 times a week, so I can always have a good concentration of vitamin C in my skin cells. It would be interesting if you could apply nightly like I used to do with another vitamin C serum, to get faster results.
L-AA, the more the merrier?
No. I’ve seen so many products with a high concentration (25%, 30%) of L-AA and I’ve always wondered myself: “What’s the point?” As you might know now, L-AA is very unstable in the presence of water and high concentrations of L-AA in a water-based formula can cause sensitivity. There’s no good in buying an L-AA water-based serum higher than 20%. Look the picture below and you’ll understand what I’m talking about.
This is the effect of absorption. As you can see, 25% doesn’t give your skin more L-AA than 20%, actually, it gives less. There’s no point of paying more for an L-AA aqueous formulation higher than 20% because, for an unknown reason, your skin will not absorb more (but less) than it would absorb if you were using a 20% L-AA formula. So I recommend you to stick to the 20% water-based formula or even 23% if it’s an anhydrous formula.
What if it is a anhydrous formula?
The objective of this study was to observe the effects of two anhydrous formulations containing microﬁne particles of ascorbic acid on neocollagenesis and cytokeratin production in ex vivo human skin. Formulation A contained 23% microﬁne ascorbic acid particles in an oil/wax vehicle and formulation B contained 20% microﬁne ascorbic acid particles in a silicone/oil/wax vehicle.
“This is the ﬁrst report to describe effects of ascorbic acid in the skin resulting from its topical application as microﬁneparticles in anhydrous formulations. Both formulations tested in this study resulted in the increased expression of collagen types I and III and cytokeratin in ex vivo human skin. Expression of both types of collagen appeared to be higher with formulation B, the oil/wax vehicle, compared with formulation A, the silicone/oil/wax vehicle. The oil/wax vehicle contained 23% ascorbic acid compared to 20% ascorbic acid in the silicone/oil/wax formulation. It is also possible the oil/wax vehicle delivered the ascorbic acid more effectively into the skin but reasons for this would be unclear.” (Source)
As you can see, both of the formulations (20% and 23%) resulted in the increased expression of collagens I and III. The formulation B (23% ascorbic acid in an oil/wax vehicle) worked better, in my opinion, because of its absence of silicone, unlike formulation A. It also says that the formulation B possibly delivered the ascorbic acid more effectively, but the reason isn’t clear.
You don’t have to worry if you’re using an anhydrous vitamin C serum with 23% of ascorbic acid because as this study showed, the delivery and the effect worked better in a 23% formula than a 20% formula and I believe that is the main reason why DECIEM created one with 23% instead of 20%.
I think I’ve explained everything so far. Now I’m going to review the product.
“Vitamin C is an effective antioxidant and its pure form of L-Ascorbic Acid has been shown to reverse multiple signs of skin aging while brightening the skin when applied topically. This water-free, silicone-free formula provides 23% pure L-Ascorbic Acid which remains completely stable due to the absence of water. The system is supported with the addition of dehydrated spheres of Hyaluronic Acid to offer visible surface smoothing alongside the benefits of Vitamin C. This treatment is ideally applied at bedtime.
Note: The format of this formula is a suspension of very fine L-Ascorbic Acid powder and, as such, provides the most direct exposure to extremely high concentrations of Vitamin C topically. With such format, there are 2 important things to consider:
1) A very strong tingling but non-irritating sensation is expected during the first 1-2 weeks of use until the skin’s tolerance to such high exposure is elevated;
2) The powder exposure to the skin disallows the formula to feel like a serum, lotion or cream and each application requires a few seconds to feel absorbed by the skin. If desired, this formula can be diluted in a cream base per application to allow the skin to build tolerance over time.
Alternative products on the market offer suspensions of Vitamin C in water-free formulations in a silicone base (remember what I’ve said?) to avoid the “powdery” feel of the suspension. These formulations do keep the Vitamin C stable but they are almost always offered in heavier silicone bases that interfere with efficient exposure of the entire Vitamin C content to the skin (the silicone entraps the Vitamin C). Our formula avoids the use of silicones and offers complete and direct exposure of the entire powder content to the skin, maximizing topical delivery.”
Ascorbic Acid, Squalane, Isodecyl Neopentanoate, Isononyl Isononanoate, Coconut Alkanes, Ethylene/Propylene/Styrene Copolymer, Ethylhexyl Palmitate, Silica Dimethyl Silylate, Sodium Hyaluronate, Glucomannan, Coco-Caprylate/Caprate, Butylene/Ethylene/Styrene Copolymer, Acrylates/Ethylhexyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Trihydroxystearin, BHT.
Ascorbic Acid: Vitamin C, the active of this formula. Ascorbic acid has shown to have many functions like increase the collagen synthesis, protection of the skin against the effects of ultraviolet B and ultraviolet A radiation, inhibition of melanogenesis, stimulation of ceramide synthesis, stimulation of cytokeratin synthesis;
Squalane: Squalane is a saturated and stable hydrocarbon that is found naturally in the skin. It has very high emollience, is an exceptional hydrator and can prevent ongoing loss of hydration that impairs dermal suppleness. Squalane is non-comedogenic and is suitable for use on all skin types. It can also be applied to hair to increase heat protection, add shine and reduce breakage potential;
Isodecyl Neopentanoate: An emollient similar to cyclomethicone;
Isononyl Isononanoate: Skin conditioning emollient that leaves a silky feeling on the skin;
Coconut Alkanes: A solvent emollient obtained by the reduction and hydrogenation of a mixture of fatty acids derived from coconut oil;
Ethylene/Propylene/Styrene Copolymer: Viscosity increasing agent;
Ethylhexyl Palmitate: Derived from palm oil lipid, it’s a skin smoothing and ultra mild ester;
Silica Dimethyl Silylate: Derivative from silica. It’s an anticaking agent, bulking agent, viscosity increasing agent, emollient, emulsion stabilizing, viscosity controlling, slip modifier;
Sodium Hyaluronate: The salt form of hyaluronic acid, a water-binding ingredient that has the ability to fill the spaces between collagen and elastin. Sodium hyaluronate has been used for moisturization and wound healing since its discovery, it can hold up to 1000 its own weight in water;
Glucomannan: It’s a polysaccharide and the main component of the Konjac tuber. Some people say it is a replacement to carbomer because it can create a similar gel texture;
Coco-Caprylate/Caprate: It’s a mixture of esters from coconut alcohol with caprylic acid and capric acid. It has skin conditioning and emollient proprieties;
Butylene/Ethylene/Styrene Copolymer: A polymer of butylene, ethylene and styrene terminated by hydrogenation. It has viscosity increasing proprieties;
Acrylates/Ethylhexyl Acrylate Crosspolymer: Binding agent;
Trihydroxystearin: A lipid composed of glycerin and hydroxystearic acid, a type of fatty acid. It has skin conditioning, viscosity increasing proprieties, it’s an emollient ingredient. It slows the loss of water from the skin by forming a barrier on the skin’s surface;
BHT (Butylated Hydroxytoluene): It’s a toluene-based ingredient used as a preservative in food and personal care products.
Acne triggers according to Cosdna
Squalane strikes 1 out of 5 and Ethylhexyl Palmitate strikes 4, even though I haven’t experienced any increasing in acne.
Irritant according to Cosdna
Ethylhexyl Palmitate is the only one. It strikes 1 out of 5.
Safety according to Cosdna
All of the ingredients except BHT are green flagged and strike 1 out of 10. BHT is yellow flagged and strikes 6 out of 10.
This is the newest packaging (and formula). When it was launched, it came in a drop-counter glass bottle and with a different ingredient list. So many people asked to change the bottle because it was hard to get the product with the drop counter and DECIEM decided to change the bottle (and also the formula). They replaced it with a plastic tube, which is so much easier to use (I hate drop-counter bottles).
It’s very simple but still beautiful.
Texture and scent
The texture is rich. It’s oily and creamy because of the squalane and many emollients. You can easily spread it on your face.
Now let me tell you something. Since it’s a suspension of vitamin C, you’ll feel a lot of very tiny grains popping on your face. These grains are the vitamin C powder. The sensation is not very pleasant, although it’s not something that would keep someone away from using it.
The scent is also weird. It smells metallic when you use it but after a few hours, it smells like potatoes. Really, potatoes. When I apply it in the night, I wake up smelling potatoes and I don’t like potatoes. lol
How to use
Apply a small amount to face in the AM or the PM. A slight tingling sensation can be expected after application.
I suggest you use it in the night because it’s not a very pleasant product to be worn in the morning. But anyway if you want to use it in the morning, it’s up to you. I always suggest using vitamin C at night because it’s sensitive to light.
The first time I used this product, I woke up with my face much clearer, softer and more hydrated. I have always been lucky with L-AA and with this one, it wasn’t different. I swear by it that I saw a difference after the first usage.
Below, you can see how much it helped me clearing a hyperpigmentation stop I had. I will not give all the credits to The Ordinary because I do have some whitening ingredients in my routine, but I feel like some hyperpigmentations that I hardly ever get are now fading much more quickly.
About the tingling sensation, my face got used to it so fast. After three to five nights, I don’t recall, the tingling feeling stopped. But if you use this product, it will depend on your skin, it might take weeks…
My first L-AA serum was OST C20, a Korean vitamin C serum containing 20% of ascorbic acid. It was a good product but very hard to handle. Firstly, because it oxidizes really fast as it’s a water-based formula and secondly because I had to use a low pH product before applying it (I used to use a pH 3.0 product) to make its absorption better. Even though after this procedure, my skin used to feel sticky. I don’t like when aqueous formulations give you a sticky sensation.
I (and a lot of people as far as I know) experienced an increase in blackheads. Although I stored it in the fridge, my C20 started to turn into an orangish liquid (signs of oxidation) when I had around 30% left and so I had to rush to finish it, otherwise, I would be using dehydroascorbic acid (the oxidized vitamin C that isn’t good for the skin) instead of ascorbic acid. So I did…
Another thing I didn’t like about C20 was the drop-counter bottle (argh). Every time I opened the bottle, small quantities of oxygen entered the bottle making it more propense to oxidation and I could see the crystallized vitamin C in the drop-counter. You know, I am willing to pay more for an airless-pump bottle (or even a tube, if it’s a creamy formula) when it comes to vitamin C and other easily oxidative products.
If I had to rate OST C20, I would give it 2 out of 5.
I am so happy I could try this vitamin C product. It’s a very wonderful product with fair price and amazing formulation.
If you are looking for a product to help you get rid of those dark spots, dull face, wrinkles, fine lines and whatever ascorbic acid can do, then this product will probably help you a lot.
If you are new to high concentration vitamin C or have sensitive skin, I highly recommend you to dilute this product with an emulsion, lotion or cream. Otherwise, you’ll do the same as some people did after the first use: say it’s too strong and go cry on the internet because they don’t know that high concentration vitamin C can cause tingling sensation the first days (or they just don’t know how to read the packaging information) and give up.