Skinceuticals CE Ferulic or Phloretin CF – Which is Better For Your Skin?

Personal/Inspirational, Skin Care


You know you love a skin care product when people start to identify you by it:

“Oh wow! You’re FutureDerm! And what’s that product you’re always recommending, CE what?”
– Girl at the bookstore

“Hey! You’re the blogger who loves that vitamin C serum! Welcome to my site!”
– Fellow online blogger

“Hey, I know you!  You got me started on that Skinceuticals stuff!”
– Man at Sephora

Recently, I received several questions asking which is better, Skinceuticals CE Ferulic or Skinceuticals Phloretin CF. Personally, I choose Skinceuticals CE Ferulic, for three main reasons.

1.  Vitamins C + E are more proven than Vitamin C + Phloretin.

Don’t get me wrong, phloretin, a natural derivative from plants, has a lot of promise. Taking five years to develop, Skinceuticals advisor Dr. Brenton B. Koch, M.D., F.A.C.S., notes, “Phloretin divides and conquers when it comes to damage at every level. Phloretin CF protects against not only free radicals, but also against the range of other reactive molecules known to cause damage and DNA mutations among integral cell types. In addition, it corrects existing damage by stimulating the synthesis of essential proteins and fibers and accelerating cell turnover.”

Phloretin CF may also preserve the youth of your skin’s collagen fibers. Research in The Journal of Biological Chemistry shows that phloretin is an inhibitor of sugar transport in red blood cells. This means phloretin may delay the deposition of sugar deposits into the skin (called advanced glycation endproducts, or AGEs).  These sugar deposits, or AGEs, cause hardening of collagen with age.

So why do I still prefer the combination of vitamins C + E over vitamin C + phloretin? Simple – it’s even more proven to work.

Vitamins C and E are network antioxidants that reinforce the power of one another. When one antioxidant donates its electron to neutralize a free radical, it can “borrow” another electron from the second antioxidant to renew itself. In the case of vitamins C and E, this combination is potent enough to prevent the formation of cancerous compounds in the rat, called carcinogenic nitrosamines.

As far as anti-aging skin care goes, vitamins C and E enhance the photoprotective effects of sunscreen.  Vitamin C has been reported to enhance UVA protection, whereas vitamin E is more effective against UVB. Either way, the combination makes a great daily addition under sunscreen. Vitamin C also prevents and treats age spots and general hyperpigmentation, though far less significantly than 4% hydroquinone. Vitamin E is the dominant natural hydrator within the skin, and application leaves skin soft and supple.

[Related: Infographic: How Vitamin C Works in Your Skin]

2.  Skinceuticals CE Ferulic is better for normal, dry, and sensitive skin.

Skinceuticals Phloretin CF contains a very high concentration of drying denatured alcohol. The reason is because denatured alcohol works with dipropylene glycol to penetrate the skin deeply, delivering phloretin, vitamin C, and ferulic acid into the dermis. Unfortunately, this delivery system of Skinceuticals Phloretin CF can also leave those with normal, dry, or sensitive skin feeling a bit parched.

If you have oily or acne-prone skin, you may actually prefer the drying nature of Skinceuticals Phloretin CF. I personally have normal/sensitive skin, and find that Skinceuticals CE Ferulic has worked much better in the long run.

3.  Skinceuticals CE Ferulic does not smell.

I’m convinced scent is a major selling factor in skin care and cosmetics. In fact, I believe one of the reasons Estée Lauder products have such longevity is due to their tremendously pleasing aromas. (I would wear Perfectionist as perfume if it was sold as such!) At any rate, Skinceuticals CE Ferulic is scentless, making it perfect for use under a wide variety of sunscreens. On the other hand, Skinceuticals Phloretin CF is a bit malodorous, with a hint of an alcoholic stench to it. While this is a relatively minor point, I felt it was worth bringing up.

Choosing One Might Be Difficult, But Don’t You Dare Layer Them:

A number of readers have mentioned they couldn’t choose between Skinceuticals CE Ferulic or Skinceuticals Phloretin CF, so they’ve chosen to layer the products. Unfortunately, your skin can only absorb a concentration of up to 15% L-ascorbic acid (Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 2003). In fact, vitamin C stabilizes within the skin, and traces of it are available for 4 days (Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 2003). So after you are applying Skinceuticals CE Ferulic with 15% L-ascorbic acid, you’re not getting any additional benefits from other vitamin C-containing products. You’re basically just throwing your money away.

Seriously, though, it is best to invest in a quality sunscreen after Skinceuticals CE Ferulic, not Skinceuticals Phloretin CF.

Bottom Line

If you have oily or acne-prone skin, you may prefer Skinceuticals Phloretin CF. For everyone else, I believe Skinceuticals CE Ferulic is superior. And be sure not to layer the products!  🙂


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

Skinceuticals Phloretin CF Ingredients:
Aqua/Water, Dipropylene Glycol, Alcohol Denat., Ascorbic Acid, Butylene Glycol, Triethyl Citrate, Phloretin, Ferulic Acid.

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  • Serena

    Hi all,
    Please help me, I am really confused, i have CE Ferulic and Phloretin CF and retinol night cream.
    Can ii use in the morning 1 day CE Ferulic and one day Phloretin. And at night i use retinol night cream.
    Can i use like that? Please help me!
    Thanks you

  • @Auntiekiki – Yes, I used to use both products together. Not anymore, though – I guess I wised up over time! Good call though 🙂

  • Auntiekiki

    Hi Niki,

    Interestingly enough, one of your old posts mentioned how much you loved using both products together!

  • Elle


    I am 20 and I’ve been using CE Ferulic for a few months now. I am on to my 2nd batch (I get the 6x small vials off Amazon as it’s cheaper) and realise that the serum is a lot darker than my previous batch. It’s not brown but pretty yellow. I have read that when the CE Ferulic has turned to this colour, it has oxidised and can even CAUSE further oxidation.

    Is this true? I am not happy about throwing it out but I definitely do not want to be actively applying more free radicals to my face!

    Thank you!

  • nams

    Hi Nicky,

    May I ask where you buy your Skinceuticals products from? I want to get the CE online but not sure which websites are reliable.

    Thanks so much

  • @yeahyeah That’s a great question, I’ll be sure to answer it on the site *officially* tomorrow. You really shouldn’t have to wait 30 minutes after cleansing and between serum/moisturizer steps. Many cleansers, such as those containing salicyclic acid, can cleanse the pores and enable other ingredients to penetrate the skin better afterwards, provided that your pores were clogged to begin with. Some serums also contain ingredients like propylene glycol that help other ingredients applied in your moisturizer afterward penetrate the skin better, so waiting could actually be a disadvantage. So while I see the point in waiting between steps if you are using a number of different products from different lines, if you are using all one line, it’s pretty safe to say that waiting is pointless, if not detrimental. Hope this helps.

  • yeahyeah

    i’ve read on numerous websites that there’s a 30 min waiting time- 30 mins after cleansing, apply vit then wait another 30 mins to apply moisturiser- is this really necessary? thanks

  • I’ve been using CE Ferulic off and on for a few years, but I haven’t noticed any improvement in my skin from it. I know it’s supposed to prevent damage, but should I expect to see some positive results as well? And my bottle has a distinct scent to it – most people say it smells like hot dogs! I find the scent annoying, but not enough to cause me to discontinue using it.

  • Nina

    I have tried both and also prefer the C&E Ferulic. I can’t say I noticed any dramatic improvements with the C&E, but the Phloretin made my skin worse! The Phloretin actually made my not-so-dark spots even darker and generally seemed to stain my very fair skin.

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