You may have heard about this completely unknown face serum from SkinCeuticals. Pretty much no one cares about it, and it's absolutely the worst thing you can use if a glowy, even, firm, and "smooth as a baby's bum" complexion is your ultimate goal. It's called C E Ferulic—do you know it?
Kidding. I'm so kidding, guys. In fact, I'm actually sitting at home cackling about how completely wrong everything I just typed is. In case you missed it, SkinCeuticals's hero serum C E Ferulic ($166) just might be the most famous face serum in the entire world, and it's the gold standard among even the best vitamin C formulas, in particular. It's expensive, but I don't know a single person who doesn't use it on the reg, swearing by its borderline-holy skin benefits. If a beauty product could become a religion, C E Ferulic would be the messiah. If a beauty product could be knighted, Queen Elizabeth II would have done the dang thing years ago. It's that good. The one and only hitch aside from that knee-buckling price point? It's not great if you have oily skin or ultra-inflammatory, acne-prone skin.
Of course, C E Ferulic has a well-known (if not Britney Spears–level famous) relative, Phloretin CF ($166), which is pretty similar to its sis but is, according to the brand, a more strategic option for combination, oily, or normal skin types. (FYI: C E is best suited for dry, mature, normal, and combination skin types.) However, Phloretin CF can still be a bit heavy and aggravating to blemish-prone skin. So for the past six years, the masterminds over at SkinCeuticals have been hard at work developing a super-effective antioxidant serum that would play perfectly with oily and blemish-prone skin—and it's finally just arrived.
Enter, Silymarin CF ($166)—the one and only antioxidant-rich vitamin C serum that hasn't sent my skin into spasms of congestion. The magic, however, is that it still gives me all of the same benefits other SkinCeuticals staples like Phloretin CF and C E Ferulic have become famous for: a refined, practically filtered skin texture; fewer visible signs of aging (think fine lines and wrinkles); and a brighter, more even complexion. No, this is not a drill. Yes, I'm about to dive into every single detail (100% honest review included) just below. Keep scrolling! If you have oily, blemish-prone skin and have struggled to find your soulmate vitamin C serum, you'll definitely want to read this.
Who Silymarin CF is for:
It's not like Silymarin CF is only for people who veer oily or are blemish prone, but it is specifically designed for people with oily or combination skin types and who are especially concerned about skin conditions such as consistent breakouts, environmental damage, and/or visible signs of aging like fine lines, dark spots, and wrinkles. If you've been on the hunt for a high-quality, crème de la crème vitamin C serum but have reacted to or noticed minimal benefits from other formulas, Silymarin CF is your girl.
What makes it unique:
There's a lot to unpack here, so let's get to it! Just like its sisters, C E Ferulic and Phloretin CF, Silymarin CF is a high-quality, antioxidant-rich face serum. However, it's oil-free and is the answered vitamin C prayer for oily, blemish-prone skin. Prior to the serum's release, I attended a pre-launch presentation in which board-certified dermatologist Dendy Engelman, MD, FACMS, FAAD, explained that blemish-prone skin naturally has higher levels of sebum and comparatively lower levels of antioxidants, which makes it more susceptible than other skin types to issues like environmental damage–induced breakouts. While antioxidant- and vitamin C–rich serums should be the easy solution, too few are correctly formulated to be stable, efficacious, and safe for all skin types.
Although there is a medley of important ingredients married together in the serum, the hero, silymarin, is a powerful antioxidant derived from the milk thistle plant that naturally inhibits the oxidation of sebum on top of the skin. (It's that process of oxidation that results in acne-causing bacteria coming into the pore, leading to inflammation, congestion, and, you guessed it, blemishes.)
Silymarin CF is unlike any other serum on the market because not only does it contain that magic 0.5% of silymarin, but it's also strategically combined with 15% L-ascorbic acid, 0.5% ferulic acid, and 0.5% salicylic acid—a dynamic combination of ingredients clinically proven to neutralize free radicals, decrease oiliness, refine the look of pores and smooth out the skin, all while noticeably decreasing the severity of fine lines and dark spots. Whew! Still with me?
When and how to apply Silymarin CF:
Unlike other types of serums, there's some strategy involved when it comes to applying a potent formula laced with antioxidants, Silymarin CF included, to achieve maximum results. As a rule, morning is best, and after cleansing and toning (or just cleansing if toner isn't your jam), you'll apply four to five drops to your dry face, neck, and chest. Then, perhaps most importantly, make sure you apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen. (This one from the brand is my favorite.) SkinCeuticals recommends applying Silymarin CF just once a day in the morning to start out, (you might experience a little bit of dryness—it's normal!) and reapplying to clean skin once or twice more throughout the day if needed and/or tolerated.
Why I'm obsessed:
The rating: 7/5 stars
The review: C E Ferulic has been around since 2005, and while I had absolutely no awareness of it back in my elementary school days (I was more of a Lip Smackers kind of gal back then), it's been high on my radar ever since I became interested in the beauty circuit (perhaps even before because my beautiful mom is an avid fan). Of course, I tried it as soon as I could save up enough money to get my own bottle, and you can imagine how disappointed I ultimately was when I realized it wouldn't be quite the right fit for my finicky skin. Basically, I've been living in a constant state of FOMO ever since.
I'm so excited about Silymarin CF that it's hard to know where to start, but let me just say, I have never experienced such a significant difference in my skin so dang fast. My skin looked noticeably more plush and glowy after my very first application, but after just a week, I noticed serious differences in the tone, clarity, and texture of my complexion. I've now been using it every single morning for a month (I received a bottle to test well before launch day), and I was almost shocked when I was skimming selfies I took from last summer and fall. I haven't really changed anything else in my routine, but my complexion is noticeably more balanced and healthy looking. It just feels better, too, and I've noticed makeup—when I wear it—applies and wears almost flawlessly.
Just like C E Ferulic, there is a somewhat funky smell to this serum. But with no-nonsense, high-quality formulations like this, smells (and usually not great smells) can and should be expected. Personally, it doesn't bother me too much since it seems to dissipate as the day goes on, but I know some people are super sensitive, so I thought it worth mentioning. It has a nice consistency (not too thin but not too viscous), it sinks into the skin quickly, and it leaves behind a silky, slightly tacky finish. The tack, just like the smell, however, dissipates as you wear it. Aside from the borderline metallic smell, which, again, is to be expected, I do not have one bad thing to say about this serum, and I'm so excited to keep using it as part of my everyday morning skincare routine. I absolutely recommend it to anyone who has struggled to find a vitamin C serum in the past or frequently breaks out and/or reacts to other popular formulas on the market. I think you'll find this one to be a winner!
10 More Skincare Staples I Love and Recommend
I favor this $12 micellar water above all others, and it's the superior option if you struggle with breakouts or have perpetually oily skin. It acts like a magnet to suck up the day's residue, and it effortlessly swipes clean every last stitch of makeup. I love that it has strategic ingredients like aloe vera and zinc, which help soothe and purify cranky skin, too.
I can't get enough of this gentle, ultra-hydrating cleansing serum from renowned facialist Shani Darden. It leaves my skin so soft, smooth, and balanced that I'm almost always tempted to forgo the rest of my serums and moisturizers. It's that effective. Plus, a little goes a long way. I've been using it religiously for over a year and have yet to finish my second bottle.
I love this cleanser in the morning. It has a gentle but subtly grainy texture thanks to the biodegradable jojoba beads for a nice hit of physical exfoliation, but the real magic comes with the combination of salicylic, glycolic, and lactic acids. All three work together to curb excess oil, smooth out bumpy or uneven skin texture, and help clear and prevent breakouts. I've been using it for years and have remained extremely loyal because, truly, no other exfoliating face wash I've tried comes close. And that's that on that!
This cult-favorite serum among editors and celebs is spicy with a capital S, but once I started using it two or three nights a week after cleansing, I noticed a drastic change in the tone, texture, softness, clarity, and overall brightness of my skin.
By now, I'm sure you're extremely sick of hearing me wax poetic about these mighty little peel pads, but trust me when I say that they're practically magic. I like to do some kind of chemical exfoliation roughly four nights a week to keep my acne-prone complexion in check, so I'll rotate these with the IS Clinical Active Serum (above) and ZitSticka's Exfoliating Sheet Mask (below). They definitely leave me a little tingly, but not in an overly aggressive or painful way that depletes my skin or wages war against my skin barrier. They leave my skin hella glowy come morning and surprisingly hydrated!
This sheet mask is the reason I've forgotten about every other face mask I own. It's like a magic eraser for spots and bumps, and I have to force myself not to use it every night.
Some hyaluronic acid serums are just way too viscous and heavy for my skin to handle, and I've had some surprisingly bad reactions and retaliatory breakouts from other famous formulas my skin just doesn't seem to like. This one from IS Clinical is a liquid miracle. I started incorporating this into my regular routine after two different celebrity facialists recommend it, and I've never looked back. It's lightweight and cooling and absorbs so fast. It's easy to layer another light moisturizer over it, and it definitely gives my skin a boost of glowiness, too. (It's also seriously faded some of my most stubborn acne scars!)
Meet the other hyaluronic serum I've recently become infatuated with. It's formulated by world-renowned plastic surgeon Lara Devgan, MD, and while it's definitely an investment, I've never had such immediate results with a serum before. The mash-up of mixed molecular weight hyaluronic acid and vitamins B5 and B3 plumps the skin up with dewy hydration, and the skin looks radiant, smooth, and almost glass-like in texture.
I tend to rely on high-quality serums for most of my hydration needs since I'm oily, but when I need to give my skin some extra TLC, I reach for the best oil-free moisturizer on the market—i.e., this one from Renée Rouleau. It's light, absorbs well, and never leaves me greasy or broken out.
I'm obsessed with eye creams. Even though I own about 50 I could positively vouch for, this would be my absolute favorite if I was forced to choose. It's so dreamy and moisturizing, it looks great alone or under makeup, and it's one of the few options out there that absolutely never irritates my eyes. I'm at the very bottom of my bottle and already have my next batch waiting safely in my Sephora cart.