Drunk Elephant C-Firma vitamin c serum has a good reputation among vitamin C serums. It scored top points in our ranking of the most popular  serums on the market, so we decided to give it a try to see if it’s the real deal.

C Firma got top points because it’s one of only a select number of serums that has the clinically proven formula of L-ascorbic acid, vitamin E and ferulic acid. L-ascorbic acid is the most potent and effective form of vitamin C. The combination of vitamin E and ferulic acid creates a synergistic effect that helps the vitamin C penetrate further into the skin where it can provide maximum benefit.

On top of an effective formula, C-Firma is also cruelty free, alcohol free, silicone free, and free of fragrance. What sets C Firma apart from the other contenders with similar formulas is the brand. Drunk Elephant prides itself on being home grown and small enough to keep its integrity.

Although the formulation is good the high cost is a hard sell for many people, myself included. The price sets the bar really high. At close to $100 for an ounce, most people shelling out that kind of money expect nothing short of serum perfection. So,  does it deliver?


First, the good.

A lot of people complain about the smell of certain vitamin C serums, usually described as “hot dog water.”  There is a specific smell to certain serums but as far as I can tell its only serums that work really well, so I took it as a good when I first used  C Firma that it had that smell.

Like any good ascorbic acid serum C Firma stings a bit going on.  A good sign since ascorbic acid needs a very low pH formulation to be effective.

Unlike other actives that can take a few weeks to give results, good vitamin C serums have a pretty quick lead time. I notice a difference with a good serum within 24 hours, and sometimes after one use. Usually it’s just a healthy glow and increased smoothness, but if I happen to be dealing with a breakout it heals and fades way faster than with nothing or other actives like glycolic acid. Other benefits like improving tone and hyperpigmentation take a bit longer but can still give noticeable improvement after about the two week mark.

C Firma is definitely a good serum in those regards. I got the glow after the first application, and I noticed constant improvement during the six weeks or so that it lasted (shared between me and my husband both AM and PM.)

Now, the bad.

drunk elephant c firma color

When I first used the C Firma it was slightly yellow colored. A lot of forums and the site Beautypedia say that this is normal since the formulation contains other ingredients that tint it yellow. I emailed the company just in case and got the following reply.

To be honest, I didn’t really buy it. I was expecting the rep to tell me that the color variation was due to the other ingredients, not due to the fact that ascorbic acid naturally turns yellow over time. That contradicted virtually everything I had read on forums, websites and peer review studies. Still, I decided to take her word for it because I’m not a cosmetic chemist so maybe I only had partial facts.

As time went on the serum continued to turn more and more orange. One morning as we were getting ready I happened to mention my frustration with what was obviously oxidation to my husband (a manufacturing engineer) who aptly noted that the twist design of the packaging makes it so that you can never really get a perfect seal. The result is that oxidation happens much faster than with the conventional dropper bottle design that most other serums come in.


C Firma works just as well as other serums formulated with the clinically proven combination of ascorbic acid, vitamin E and ferulic acid. The packaging design could be a fatal flaw since it doesn’t create a perfect seal and might lead to this costly serum losing effectiveness much faster than it would in an air tight container.

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Cristina is the founder and editor in chief of bold + blush. She's been covering the beauty beat here for almost three years, applying the research skills she picked up in law school to cut through the beauty industry hype and find the products and practices that actually work. Her other interests include wellness, yoga and cooking. When she isn't writing about beauty on bold + blush you can usually find her freelancing as a writer, blogging at cristinaskitchen.com, or spending time with her husband and dog at home in Amsterdam. Fun fact: She's usually reading half a dozen books at any given time.

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