Product Review: Perricone Ester C SPF 15

Reviews, Skin Care
Do I like this product better than any vitamin C derivative product on the market? Yes. But am I switching to it? No.

There are two types of vitamin C creams on the market:  those with acidic vitamin C, called L-ascorbic acid, and those with vitamin C derivatives, ranging from ascorbyl palmitate to magnesium ascorbyl phosphate to ascorbyl glucoside.

Why L-Ascorbic Acid Can Be Better

English: Skin layers
Studies have shown vitamin C gets deeper into the skin when it is introduced at a low (acidic) pH.

The advantage of the L-ascorbic acid version is two-fold:  one, the concentration necessary to be effective is well-established in numerous scientific journals.  Two, L-ascorbic acid is, well, an acid, and an acidic pH has been found to be necessary for vitamin C to penetrate the skin.

Why Perricone Ester C is a Groundbreaking Vitamin C Derivative Product

US poly C
Most vitamin C derivative creams will never te (Photo credit: SueM11)

Many companies will list the concentration of L-ascorbic acid in their products, as with Skinceuticals CE Ferulic.  However, no one has ever dared to list the concentration of vitamin C derivative(s) in their product before, which makes Perricone Ester C SPF 15 ($120.00 truly groundbreaking.

This is the first vitamin C derivative cream I know of to tout an impressive 15% ascorbyl palmitate.  Most creams on the market don’t report what concentrations of ascorbyl palmitate are present, and my best estimate is about 1-2% – maximally.  A 2001 study in the International Journal of Pharmaceutics found the stability of ascorbyl palmitate is increased when it is present in solutions of at least 1-2% – so the 15% in Perricone Ester C SPF 15 clearly qualifies.

But the pH is wrong…Needs to be acidic

However, again, my qualm about Perricone Ester C SPF 15 is that vitamin C has been found to be most efficacious when it is present at a pH of 3.5 or less (Journal of Biochemistry, 1993).  In the study, a low pH was found to be necessary for vitamin C to penetrate the stratum corneum (the uppermost layer of skin).

Derivatives of vitamin C, like ascorbyl palmitate, generally break down in the skin into L-ascorbic acid and some other compound before becoming active.  Because Perricone Ester C SPF 15 does not have an acidic pH, it is unlikely that the breakdown to vitamin C will penetrate deep into the skin as with the L-ascorbic acid in Skinceuticals CE Ferulic and other L-ascorbic acid solutions.

Bottom Line

Sorry, Dr. Perricone – I’m sticking to a vitamin C treatment with an acidic pH and network antioxidant vitamin E.

So, overall, I admire Perricone Ester C SPF 15 due to the fact that it contains a whopping 15% ascorbyl palmitate.  However, given the fact that the product is still non-acidic, and also does not contain any network antioxidants that strengthen the power of vitamin C (i.e., vitamin E and alpha lipoic acid), I will still be sticking to my L-ascorbic acid and Skinceuticals CE Ferulic until further notice.  That said, if you’re always on the lookout for something new, Perricone Ester C SPF 15 is likely to give you more skin-brightening, collagen-building results than any other vitamin C derivative product on the market.  That, I will attest to firmly.

Product Rating:  9/10

  • High or optimized concentration of proven effective ingredients:  3/3
  • Unique formulation or new technology: 3/3
  • Value:  2/3
  • Sunscreen-boosting:  1/1

Ingredients:  Water, Ascorbyl Palmitate, Isopropyl Palmitate, Cetearyl Alcohol, Glyceryl Stearate, PEG-100 Stearate, Ceteareth-20, Dimethicone, Phenoxyethanol, Cyclopentasiloxane, Caprylyl Glycol, Cyclohexasiloxane, Fragrance/Parfum, Zinc Sulfate, Disodium EDTA, Limonene, Elaeis Guineensis (Palm) Oil, Tocotrienols, Sorbic Acid, Tocopherol, Sodium Hyaluronate, Linalool, Citral.

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  • Alexandra

    Hi, I work for Perricone MD and wanted to thank you for your review and interest. It looks like you also prize accuracy and so so I wanted to let you know that your calculations on the pH level are incorrect. The product is acidic and has a pH level below 3.5. Thanks, Alexandra

  • Chris

    Hi, Based on the above information, does this mean you would change your recommendation on this product now? Thanks

  • @Matt – Thanks for making those corrections for me. 🙂 Much appreciated.

  • @Alejandra – Great question. Yes, you can make your own vitamin C serum. Chances are it won’t be as good as the ones you buy, simply because the pH is likely to not be acidic enough, the delivery system not thin enough, and the formulation not stabilized (ferulic acid, as it turns out, is quite expensive). But, if you’re on a budget or want to try, you can do so with the powder from philosophy. It’s not my favorite and not as effective as the acidic serums on the market, but it will work over time.

  • Matt

    I’m afraid to say it, but your recent post on Perricone’s Vitamin C Ester 15 contains a few inaccuracies. Most notably, the product is not titled Perricone Ester C SPF 15, as you repeatedly refer to it; instead, the product contains no SPF and is meant for nighttime use only. In addition, you suggest that the product does not contain “network antioxidants,” such as Vitamin E or Alpha Lipoic Acid. While it does not include Alpha Lipoic Acid, it does contain Vitamin E in two forms: Tocotrienols and Tocopherols. I thought I’d just set the record straight on these two facts!


  • Alejandra

    Thanks for the article, I always learn something new with this blog. I read the post about doing your own vitamin C serum, would you give us your insight about it?.
    If I use ascorbic acid powder to mix it with my moisturizer every time I need to apply it-like the philosophy product but with ascorbic acid bought at the pharmacy- do you think it would work?. Does it need any extra ingredient to make the formula work? like a pH adjuster?. Or can I dilute the vitamin C in water and then mix it with a silicon serum to make it more stable?.

    If I want to buy a vitamin C serum have to pay for shipping costs to South America and taxes, so the “do it yourself” idea sounds great.

    Thank you

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