Timeless vs. Skinceuticals CE Ferulic

Vitamin C Timeless vs Skinceuticals CE Ferulic YouGlowGal You Glow Gal Esthetician Sarah Payne Hiatus Spa Dallas Skincare Beauty Blogger

Skinceuticals CE Ferulic is known as the gold standard of Vitamin C serums with copy-cat products following its footsteps, attempting to mimic the serums mystical powers. Timeless Vitamin C+E Ferulic Acid is among the most common, and one I receive questions about most often. There are certain products where budget options exist. A quality, well formulated Vitamin C serum is one of those products where in my opinion, a budget option doesn’t exist. And by budget, I mean cheap…. because budget is relative.

Skinceuticals holds the patent on stabilized ascorbic acid compositions, the ideal formulation with maximum bioavailability with the least likelihood of irritation at a low pH.

Bioavailability is the degree and rate a substance is absorbed into the skin and able to have an active effect. The patent covers ascorbic acid between a pH of 2.5 and 3.0. Although the optimum level of bioavailability with the least irritation occurs between this pH range product can still penetrate at a pH of 2.0 to 3.5. Competitors are able to create ascorbic acid serums at a pH of 2.0-2.4 or 3.1-3.5, but once a serums pH surpasses 3.5 bioavailability decreases in the skin. The formulas look similar enough, but we’re going to break them down side by side.


Timeless Vitamin C+E Ferulic Acid Ingredients: Water, Ethoxydiglycol, L-Ascorbic Acid, Propylene Glycol, Alpha Tocopherol, Polysorbate 80, Panthenol, Ferulic Acid, Sodium Hyaluronate, Benzylalcohol, Dehydroacetic Acid.

Skinceuticals CE Ferulic Ingredients: Water, Ethoxydiglycol, Ascorbic Acid, Glycerin, Propylene Glycol, Laureth-23, Phenoxyethanol, Tocopherol, Triethanolamine, Ferulic Acid, Panthenol, Sodium Hyaluronate


In bold are ingredients not shared by both formulations:


Timeless Vitamin C+E Ferulic Acid
pH 2.4

Skinceuticals CE Ferulic
pH 2.5-3.0

Water – solvent Water – solvent
Ethoxydiglycol – alcohol compound used as a solvent Ethoxydiglycol – alcohol compound used as a solvent
L-Ascorbic Acid – vitamin C (20%) Ascorbic Acid – vitamin C (15%)
Propylene Glycol – alcohol that acts as a humectant; solvent for preservatives; helps ingredients penetrate skin Glycerin – solvent, humectant, and emollient; helps products spread better
Alpha Tocopherol – vitamin E (1%) Propylene Glycol – alcohol that acts as a humectant; solvent for preservatives; helps ingredients penetrate skin
Polysorbate 80 – emulsifier Laureth-23 – surfactant, emulsifier; stabilizes and acts as a delivery system
Panthenol – vitamin B complex Phenoxyethanol – stabilizer, preservative
Ferulic Acid – antioxidant, stabilizer (1%) Tocopherol – vitamin E (1%)
Sodium Hyaluronate – hydrator; gives a gel consistency Triethanolamine – pH balancer
Benzyl Alcohol – preservative Ferulic Acid – antioxidant, stabilizer (0.5%)
Dehydroacetic Acid – preservative Panthenol – vitamin B complex
Sodium Hyaluronate –  hydrator; gives a gel consistency


Timeless has a few preservatives added and an emulsifier.
Skinceuticals has an extra ingredient to aid in delivery, stabilizers and a pH balancer.
Triethanolamine is important.


Over time you will see Skinceuticals CE Ferulic change in color as it oxidizes, but this isn’t associated with the efficacy of the serum because it is highly stable and pH balanced. Skinceuticals stability testing shows their serum is at least 88% as potent even after a full year of storage.


From a Timeless customer service rep:

“The serum is not alcohol based. When freshly manufactured, the serum pH is approximately 2.4. As the serum ages, so can the pH, as the vitamin c begins to oxidize. The 20% Vitamin C+E Ferulic Acid, when freshly manufactured the serum is cloudy and thick in appearance with slight yellowing due to the Ferulic Acid. As the serum begins to age it starts clear up, then begins with hints yellowing. The serum can change back to a cloudy state when refrigerated or temperatures are cold, this is normal. As the serum ages, it will continue to change in color. Expiration is approximately 3 months without refrigeration and 5 months with refrigeration. We advise customers that refrigeration is recommended, as mentioned on the box, to extend the shelf life of the serum and slow down the process of oxidation. When oxidized the serum turns red/brown in color and is good to use until then.”


If Timeless is not properly stabilized you could assume the serum has gone bad once it’s oxidized. But we don’t know how well the formula is stabilized.

By looking at the ingredients we know the pH isn’t balanced in the long term as the serum oxidizes. In their email, Timeless mentions that as the serum ages, so can the pH.  When acidic formulas destabilize their pH increases as it attracts more water. Over time the formula will no longer penetrate the skin properly, even if it is stable. On the stratum corneum, your skins surface, you will likely notice an improvement with a brighter, more even tone and lightening of pigmentation.

If Timeless isn’t pH balanced it will only pass through the stratum corneum for a short period of time. Once it has oxidized and the pH has increased it’s only sitting on top of your skin, again assuming the formula is well stabilized. Which means it’s not working where it truly matters in the deeper layers of the skin. This is where you want your actives to penetrate, otherwise, it’s a waste.

As stated earlier, Skinceuticals patent covers the least irritating pH of 2.5-3.0. With Timeless sitting at a low pH of 2.4 many will find their formula to be irritating, drying, or skin sensitizing.

Creating a consistent environment of this nature can disrupt the skin’s barrier over time, creating inflammation and lead to symptoms we experience over exfoliating. Irritated skin also experiences an increase of transepidermal water loss aka TEWL, meaning our skin cannot retain water properly. Depending on what you’re using in your routine issues could become exacerbated. Just because your skin doesn’t show or react to a potential irritant doesn’t mean damage isn’t taking place, like stress causing low-level inflammation in our body.

I mentioned the following statement in my post about getting the most out of your Vitamin C serum and it applies here.

Ascorbic acid serums are designed for daytime use because of their ability to neutralize free radicals. A quality serum wouldn’t be necessary to use in the evening because it creates a reservoir in your skin that remains when used daily. Timeless suggests using Vitamin C+E Ferulic Acid both AM and PM. So, my thoughts are either it’s a marketing suggestion to get customers to finish a bottle quickly, or worse the formulation isn’t effective enough to be used in the morning only. If that’s the case who knows how many bottles you would need to reach efficacy?

Unfortunately, there are many poorly formulated, unstable products with ascorbic acid on the market advertised as a budget buy, fooling many consumers.

As a licensed professional, it’s frustrating because these brands are causing consumer mistrust, giving a misleading perception that big brands are only out to make a profit. The reality: all brands are out to make a profit, they’re businesses after all. Talk to a cosmetic chemist and they’ll tell you smaller brands can get away with deceit more easily than the big boys since regulatory agencies don’t pay them much attention. Not to say Timeless is actively doing this, but it’s something to be aware of when shopping.

With evidence of Timeless being an inferior formula, I wouldn’t suggest it as an alternative to Skinceuticals CE Ferulic.

If it’s out of your price range you could start with Skinceuticals Serum AOX 10, even at 10% Vitamin C it’s a better option than Timeless Vitamin C+E Ferulic Acid. Then as your budget allows work your way up to Serum AOX 15, Serum AOX 20, or CE Ferulic.

Do I think Skinceuticals premium Vitamin C serums are expensive? Yes. In short, I’m personally willing to pay that premium to know I’m getting a formula that does what’s being advertised.

Share and Enjoy !

0 0

About Sarah Nicole

Sarah is a Denver based expert esthetician, known for returning abused sensitive skin back to a glowing state without harsh products while boosting her client's skin confidence and self-worth. Sarah has been featured in Allure, New Beauty, Greatist, NBC News, and D Magazine among others. You can follow her on Instagram @sarahnpayne.

45 thoughts on “Timeless vs. Skinceuticals CE Ferulic

  1. To my knowledge, the price point of skinceuticals’ ce ferulic is informed mostly by the money spent on their research and patent, and not because formulating the product is actively costly. That said, while the secret to their formula’s efficacy is covered by patent, it’s not to say cheaper products’ formulations are significantly inferior. Now, you’ve already made your scientific review of these two formulations. But what makes you say that a vitamin c serum must be costly to be effective? Skinceuticals makes several products priced well beyond their worth and which have several “dupes” which simply use the same science to be effective — they just aren’t reserved under a skinceuticals patent. Not to mention, vitamin c as a cosmeceutical ingredient has very little research demonstrating efficacy to begin with. All of this info I’ve obtained from Lab Muffin Beauty Science, btw, a chem phd who runs a blog and YouTube channel. I’m curious if you’ve heard what she and other chemists and cosmetic formularies have to say and what your thoughts are

  2. Hi Sarah, from another Sarah. I don’t use Vit C serum unless I’m going out in sunlight. Although I am in front of the computer all day during lockdown. I do also use a prescription retinoid and glycolic acid (alternatively). Do you need Vit C if not exposed to sunlight and which would your recommend, glycolic or vit C, if you could only use one due to the irritation.


  3. Hi
    I know this is an old post but just wondering if you’ve tried the skinceuticals CF serum. I have combination skin that is more in the oilier side and have read that one is better than the Skinceuticals C E.

    1. Hi! If you have oily skin, you’ll prefer Phloretin CF over CE… I used CF in the summer months and CE in the winter! xx

  4. I just started using the Obagi Professional-C Serum 10% and have noticed positive results so far. What do you think of the Obagi serum vs Skinceuticals?

  5. This article was EXTREMELY informative and helpful, thank you. My derm recommended the Skinceuticals C&E, but it is not a good price point for me at this time. What other brand WOULD you recommend as an alternative? Thanks you.

    1. Hi there! I would say go for Skinceuticals AOX 10 or AOX 15–you’ll still get a great LAA serum at a lower concentration that’s more affordable. That’s often what I do when I can’t justify Skinceuticals C&E. I’ve yet to find a vitamin c product with l-ascorbic acid in it for under $50 I would use myself. Hope this helps! xx

      1. Hey loved this post! Thank you. Have you tried the Garden of Wisdom Vitamin C? For £10 I think it’s pretty good. What do you think? X

  6. Hi
    Thank you for a very informative article! It’s helped me make up my mind which to purchase. Just a quick question would refrigerating the Skincueticals serum extend its shelf life as is recommended with the timeless version?

  7. I was very happy to read your comments with respect to skinceuticals vs Timeless. I have used skinceuticals ce ferulic for Atleast five years and, along with Clarisonice, have seen amazing results. In the last year I have alternated with timeless ce ferulic consistently see my skin not looking great with the months I have used Timeless. Your comments just reinforced my feelings about this product and I very much appreciated reading about this. Thank you. Now can you tell me which Retinol i should use? I have read that Yretinoin is the most effective and there are different ways of obtaining it rather than by prescription. Can you comment on tretinoin vs other retinols? I am 61 years old and have taken excellent care of my skin, have been told it is in excellent shape. But I have to long ignored the use if Retinol as I tried a couple years ago , and not having enough knowledge, began too fast with much irritation. Ready to begin again, do it the correct way, but I want to use only what will work best because I know this is for the long haul. Thank you for any information you can provide!

    1. Hi Laura! You might find this article helpful in deciding what type to use. Typically, I suggest starting with something gentle and building up a tolerance. For most, starting out with prescription strength is a bit much. XX

      1. Sarah – What do you think of C serums with Dennis Gross Ferulic Retinol Brightening Serum. Do I need both, do they do the same thing? I know Retinol is different but if I get brightening with C/Ferulic by Skinceuticals do I need the other? Caroline

        1. Hi Caroline- More than likely you don’t necessarily need both but it’s likely the form in Vitamin C in Dr. Dennis Gross serum functions differently from the L-Ascorbic in CE Ferulic. I would read up on what your serums use and see what makes the most sense for your skin goals! xx

  8. I have recently started using the vitamin c from Peter Thomas Roth at 20percent
    I use it in the am only. What do you think of this product? Thank you

  9. Hi! I know this is a pretty old post, but I was wondering if you have tried or heard anything about the Marie Veronique vitamins c+e+ferulic serum?

  10. HI thanks for you information… actually I am 31 years old… so Skinceuticals serum 10 can help me ? or Skinceuticals c ferulic? what do you recommend for me? my skin is normal THANK YOU

  11. Very good rticle. How did you find Timeless’ 1% ferulic acid concentraTion? It does not smell like hot dogs so I assumed the concentration was very low my guess was less than 0.1% based on lack of any smell.

  12. Hi. Do you know anything about Cosmetic Skin Solutions Vitamin C 20% Serum + Ferulic Acid and Hyaluronic Acid? It’s also much cheaper than Skinceuticals and seems to have very similar ingredients–just a lower PH as well, like Timeless. I would get the Skinceuticals if it’s truly the MOST effective, and in the quickest time period, but it’s so expensive that I’d like to find another alternative if possible. Thanks!

  13. Thank you for writing such informative article about Vitamin C serums.

    I must add that dupes typically fall short and rarely deliver results as the original products.

    I kindly ask for your opinion on the following product. These two products are typically overlooked by bloggers and rarely mentioned. The product I would like for you to inquire about is Philosophy’s When Hope is Not Enough serum and Turbo Vitamin C Booster powder. According to Philosophy, you mix these two products together; you add few add drops of serum and mix with a scoop of Vitamin C powder. You have fresh Vitamin C mixture each time… you can also add Philosophy’s Vitamin C powder with any serum or moisturizer as well. However, I sometimes add scoop to a dollop of Philosophy’s Hope in Jar moisturizer since the pH of the Moisturizer is 3.2 and Vitamin C powder would prefer acidic environment and can deliver to skin.

    I know The Ordinary brand will be releasing Vitamin C powder as well soon–and Clinique has recently launched Vitamin C booster where you mix the powder with serum to make a fresh batch every 7 days. It appears The Ordinary/DECIEM and Clinique have kind of taken from Philosophy’s approach to Vitamin C.

    What are your thoughts/input? Any feedback will be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks for your time!

    1. I used both Philosophy products in my early 20’s when first graduating esthetics school, working at an Ulta. I do like the brand overall. My opinion on Vitamin C powders is they make a great skin brightener, correcting “surfacey” problems like acne scarring and lightening hyperpigmentation. However, they’re not going to work on a deeper level like other forms of vitamin C that are penetrating deeply into the skin. The forms of vitamin C I’m familiar with needs to be formulated with something else to maximize penetration. They have their place in the market and could be a nice addition to a comprehensive approach to correcting pigmentation.

  14. Have loved reading your posts – so informative!! I’m curious if you still feel SkinCeuticals is worth the extra $ over some of the newer additions to the marketplace? Also, how long would you say on average a bottle lasts with am application only as instructed? Thanks so much!

    1. When it comes to a formulation using L-Ascorbic Acid, I think Skinceuticals is hard to beat. There are many fantastic formulations on the market, however, I don’t have personal experience with them in the treatment room–I can only decipher from the label. Drunk Elephant Firma C looks promising. Skinceuticals AOX should last about 3-4 months if you’re using daily. xo

  15. I know this is and old post but this paragraph left me curious and I wanted to ask.

    “Over time you will see Skinceuticals CE Ferulic change in color as it oxidizes, but this isn’t associated with the efficacy of the serum because it is highly stable and pH balanced. Skinceuticals stability testing shows their serum is at least 88% as potent even after a full year of storage”

    Does this mean it will work even after it turns dark? It seems so clear in that sentence but after years of reading dark vitamin c is a no no I wanted to ask…

    1. Hi Weiss! Yes, however I’m weary of using them once they’ve become deep orange or almost Coca Cola brown. If you’re using your Skinceuticals antioxidants everyday you’ll use the serum up before it will become a concern as long as you’re closing the bottle completely.

  16. Skincueticals is quadruple in price because of pH, less preservatives, and a longer shelf life? $165.00 a fluid oz. seems greedy to me. I am seeing results with the Timeless Vit C. I do not care if it takes a little longer to see results with Timeless, because it is under $30.00 a fluid oz, or 4 oz for $69.00.

      1. After looking at the ingredient deck on their site they only change I see is the addition of fragrance, so I’m unsure why you would experience less glow. I vaguely remember reading they switch up their formula every now and then.

  17. Hey gal! :))

    Very interesting comparison.
    But what is with the SkinCeuticals Vitamin C Serum with 10% Ascorbic Acid. There is no Triethanolamine in it???


    1. You’re right, there isn’t. I’m not a cosmetic chemist and I don’t have time to go dive into each ingredient right now… but since the concentration is lower the requirements may very well be different allowing other ingredients to do the same job.

  18. Awesome comparison. What order should you layer p50 with a Vitamin C serum? How do you fit them both into your routine? Thanks so much!

    1. Cleanse, tone, serum, moisturize. p50 is your toner so always before your serums, it will actually help them penetrate better since it prepares your skin by exfoliating and balancing! 🙂

  19. Love the break down of info, I always thought skincueticals was too expensive but now I see you can’t skimp on quality

    1. It is expensive, there’s no denying it! When you think of it as investing in skin health, and understand why it costs what it does, it’s easier to swallow

Share Your Thoughts