drunk elephant | c-firma day serum

As one of the most-coveted yet finicky ingredients in skincare, vitamin C promises to brighten, fight free radicals free and improve overall skin health.

IF you can get a stable form of vitamin C that you can easily work into your routine and use up before it oxidizes.

I wanted to find that in my purchase of Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum, but alas, it was a total letdown.

drunk elephant c-firma day serum

{I purchased a full-size, 1-ounce bottle of C-Firma Day Serum from Sephora for $80.}

A Little Background on Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum

Designed as a “super potent vitamin C day serum packed with a powerful antioxidant complex,” Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum promises to “visibly firm, brighten, and diminish the appearance of photo aging.”

The promise of vitamin C in general is to address uneven skin tone, dullness and uneven texture. That’s C-Firma’s proposed solution, too, and exactly what I was after in purchasing this product.

This serum takes advantage of the three musketeers of vitamin C efficacy: vitamin C, vitamin E and ferulic acid. Vitamin C is delivered in a 15 percent strength via L-ascorbic acid and further stablized and activated with vitamin E and ferulic acid.

The rest of the ingredients, notably chronocyclin, pumpkin ferment extract and pomegranate enzyme, provide antioxidant benefits and skin resurfacing support.

Here’s the full ingredients list:

Water, Ethoxydiglycol, Ascorbic Acid, Glycerin, Laureth-23, Lactobacillus/Pumpkin Ferment Extract, Sclerocarya Birrea Seed Oil, Ferulic Acid, Sodium Hyaluronate, Chondrus Crispus Extract, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Lactobacillus/Punica Granatum Fruit Ferment Extract, Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract, Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Juice Extract, Phyllanthus Emblica Fruit Extract, Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein, Tocopherol, Caprylhydroxamic Acid, Acetyl Glucosamine, Hydrolyzed Quinoa, Glutamylamidoethyl Imidazole, Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate, Tetrahydrodiferuloylmethane, Tetrahydrodemethoxydiferuloylmethane, Tetrahydrobisdemethoxydiferuloylmethane, Sodium Hyaluronate Crosspolymer, Glycine, Sucrose, Maltodextrin, Propanediol, Caprylyl Glycol, Sodium Hydroxide, Xanthan Gum, Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer, Isohexadecane, Polysorbate 60.

My Experience with Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum

As a water-based serum meant to be applied to dry skin, it was difficult for me to incorporate C-Firma into my routine where I always start with a spritzed face before serum application.

Though I changed my habit in order to work in C-Firma, the experience wasn’t for me (I looooove my mists), so using C-Firma just wasn’t very fun.

The best skincare results come from the skincare you love to use — and use regularly — so this was my first warning sign that C-Firma probably wasn’t going to be a win for me.

But, I stuck with it for about eight weeks, applying the thin, watery, basically odorless concoction to my dry face before layering on gel-like serums, mists and light creams to start my day.

The fast-dry texture made this first step very simple and easily layerable, and Drunk Elephant’s skincare technology promises 72-hour protection from the elements, though it’s recommended as an everyday product (confusing, yeah?).

I didn’t notice many changes in those first two months, but my expectation with vitamin C is that you have to be in it for the long haul — at least six months — to really see results.

What I did notice, though, was the color of my C-Firma. Although I don’t have a picture of what the formula looked like upon first open back in August 2016, the photo above was shot in March 2017, seven months after purchase and open.

While the photo above is a very deep orange (clearly oxidized), my C-Firma looked pretty close to this — maybe a shade lighter — from first use. Could I have gotten an older batch to begin with?!

I didn’t think anything of it, assuming that was what it was supposed to look like, until I saw skincare blogger Gothamista’s recent video review that shows what fresh C-Firma **should** look like vs. what oxidized C-Firma looks like (see mine above).

Around the 9:15 mark, you can see an eye-opening comparison of what fresh, non-oxidized C-Firma looks like (clear-ish with a hint of yellow) vs. what a 5-month old squirt of C-Firma looks like.

So, to repeat what we all know, vitamin C is famously unstable. We get that. You need to use it consistently within an allotted time period.

My issue with Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum is that on the package itself, the “use by” date (this little symbol) is 24 months. DE has since changed that to 12 months … yet recommends using it within 6 months?

HUH? 24 months?! 12 months? Are you kidding me? When Gothamista’s oxidized in 5 months and my 7-month pictures are as orange as you-know-who’s face, we’ve got to get a little more real here.

While after two years, the formula may technically be safe to use, it’s likely lost all efficacy and is doing absolutely nothing for your skin. That’s the case with all skincare with active ingredients, but especially vitamin C.

I’d like to see Drunk Elephant be more direct about how to use — and when to finishing using — C-Firma. The company told Gothamista (see the description box in the video above) that it’s best to use within 4-6 months of open, but that language isn’t reflected on the website, product or packaging.

It seems to me that’s only the right thing to do in the name of not only transparency, but in skincare education.

Until then, this will be a “do not recommend” from me, though it doesn’t take away from my love for many other Drunk Elephant products and what this line has achieved in the name of cleaner beauty.

If this post bummed you out, I have some good news. The Shopbop “Event of the Season” is here, and you can score 20% off orders under $500 or 25% off orders $500 or more. Use code Event17 to save!

Do you use vitamin C in your daily routine? What are your favorites? Have you tried this or any other products from Drunk Elephant? Tell me in the comments!









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  • Porsha Troost

    I was really disappointed by C Firma as well. I had a similar experience where mine was clearly that oxidized colour from the moment I opened it to the very last pump. I didn’t think anything of it until I saw Gothamista’s post either – I assumed if it was the colour from the very beginning, that it was intentional.

    DE as a brand disappoints me in general, though. They use a lot of great ingredients, but I haven’t had luck with any of their products, and I’ve tried them all except for the eye serum and retro cream. I feel like they’re a whole lot of hype and a fair bit of misdirection (that whole 24mo/12mo/6 mo thing)

  • Tina

    I have only used their TLC glycolic peel and Juju bar soap which worked okay, but nothing close to what the Vogue/Allure editors think it deserves. The entire expiry period is kind of a last minute effort to cover themselves but shows a lack of experience.

  • Leslee Liu

    I tried C Firma and it was not bad but honestly it wasn’t great either. It was very average and nothing really special just a hyped product. On the other hand I can’t get enough of this Australian serum, I got so many compliments about my skin since I started using it that I always recommend it. You can check it out on https://www.regne.com.au/shop/regne-pioneer-innovation-serum/

  • Kelly

    I’m so glad for this information because I’m thinking it’s ok for 12 months. Mine has turn orange after 5 months but the company said it was ok as long as it’s not brown or almost brown. Im going back to Yuli liquid courage, I trust that it’s fresh.

  • Heather

    DE c-firma is the first c serum I tried, after I read a Paula’s choice review in which she claimed it was just as good as the $160 skinceuticals (at half the price). I’ve been using it for 3 months now and I haven’t seen a dramatic change in my skin. Or really any change at all? I am 36 and have sun damage (especially some troublesome spots on my chin that are bright white where my poor skin has just given up on making melanin altogether, sad!), and I’m ready to move on to a new C serum that might actually help me. Also, my DE C-firma serum was orange almost immediately… I wonder if it’s because I ordered from Amazon? Lessons learned. My top three contenders for my next C serum (based on your reviews, Kim) are the Yuli liquid courage, MVO’s C+E+F, and Mad Hippie’s C serum. Which should I try next? I noticed that the Yuli doesn’t include the E&F, so I’m curious whether it will actually help my skin, but people seem to love it. Thanks for the advice!

    • All three of those are great choices! If you want a multi-tasking product, go for YULI. Eliminates the need for a separate face oil.

  • lynne

    Ugh, this is disappointing to hear. I am halfway through my first bottle of C-Firma. Luckily it still seems fresh, but now I feel like I have to use it up before it goes bad. I like it ok, but I’m not blown away by the results. And I love essential oils and scents, so there is no joy for me in using a product that has no scent. I will probably go back to Marie Veronique or Yuli after this. As always, thanks for your honest review!

  • Juney Bee

    I got the tiny sample (the B Hydrating Gel and the C-Firma) of the 2 DE products I most wanted to try. Oddly enough I really love the application of the C-Firma. The feel and the smell (I’m crazy, I know) has really grown on me, but I can’t say much for it actually working. In fairness, this size sample isn’t going to do much, as after 2 weeks, I’m almost at the end. From reviews, I’m not sure I will repurchase, but I may, if none of the others work out, since I actually look forward to putting it on each morning. I started using Skin Deva Vit C+E+Feurilic acid that looks like a dupe for SkinCeuticals. I like it, but I put a dropper full in a dish in my window and it never changed colors. I’m not a chemist , so I’m curious if this means, it is formulated NOT to oxidize very quickly, or is there no effective amount of ascorbic acid in it? Hmmm. After this DE sample is done, I’m onto a daily use of the Skin Deva and I’m hoping it works out. I also got a bottle (7-day use) of the Clinique Vit C. I had a very hard time figuring out the pump system they have, and it ended up with granules in what I pumped out so I think I’m still doing it wrong, but boy does this work!! it is somewhere around $76 US for a month supply and I think I will purchase to see how it does in my routine. It isn’t green , I know, but I’m pretty impressed of the delivery system, and its efficacy (only 10% however) not to give it a good go around. One more product – the new Sunday Riley CEO. I’ve only tried the cream – in a pot – which I know is a big NO NO for Vit. C…but they claim it is a stable form of C (it’s not ascorbic acid) and for now I’m going to trust that because SR has many products that really do work, so I’m willing to believe them on this. The cream smells amazing and is super hydrating for my very dehydrated skin – but not greasy at all, so I will continue to use it for that reason anyway, but probably save for the winter. Whew – thats my winded 2 cents!!

  • Pam Cooke

    I have been using the Drunk Elephant vitamin C for a while now and I’ve purchased a total of 5 of the vitamin C serums at my local Sephora and every single one of them has been that orange color from the the first pump! I actually took back two of the travel size and 2 of my large bottles because the color was clear and not orange! I just purchased another bottle this weekend and will open it when I get home.

    • Christine Ong

      That’s so funny. And yes it is so tricky that, although I love it, I’m not sure if I should commit myself to it as I’ve experienced irritation from my oxidised one-not to mention worrying about purchasing too early (briefer shelf life) or too late (being stuck with expired product) [non-US resident] and having to know when light amber has become light orange and so forth. May I ask if you’ve ever experienced adverse reactions from your oxidised ones, and for how long would you use each bottle for?