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Fun with DIY: Skinceuticals-Dupe Vitamin C Tutorial

UPDATED 8/10/16: I am so thrilled that people still find this tutorial useful! I’ve grown a lot as a DIYer since I first wrote this tutorial (and even launched a skincare business), and to give you the best experience possible, I’ve updated the instructions based on my own personal best practices. The recipe itself is the same.

Back to our originally scheduled programming…

I have tried a lot of DIY vitamin C recipes in my time. A lot. Of. Recipes. I’ve experimented with different emulsifiers, solubilizers, humectants, film formers, even preservatives. I used every online recipe I could find and tried to tweak them all. I hated almost everything I made.

In a fit of desperation, I Googled around to see if anyone had created a dupe of the phenomenal Skinceuticals CE Ferulic serum. Lo and behold, Lotioncrafter had just the thing. I tried it, and it worked. It worked beautifully. The hero here, in my eyes, is the ethoxydiglycol, which makes it feel light and clean on your skin while also helping everything dissolve and stay stable.

Thoughts About This Recipe

If I had seen this recipe as a new DIYer, I would have balked. With the amount of ingredients and tools I’d have to buy, surely it would just be cheaper to buy a finished vitamin C serum.

First, to paraphrase Chel at Holy Snails, DIY isn’t cheap, it’s cost effective. There’s a big initial investment, but once you have all the stuff, you can make nearly endless refills for pennies.

Second, this ain’t no bottom-shelf, Amazon-reseller serum. This is a very, very convincing dupe of Skinceuticals CE Ferulic serum, which is $120 an ounce. That serum is also patented, so you can’t just buy a knockoff elsewhere. (You also can’t sell the stuff you’re making, but I hope you wouldn’t be taking recipes from this or any blog and trying to sell them for a profit.)

I am in capital-L Love with this product. It feels light and silky going on, it absorbs quickly, it doesn’t dry out my already-dry skin out (which is very rare for an active like this), and it does incredible work brightening, evening, and exfoliating.

I’ve made this recipe a few times and tweaked it along the way. I certainly don’t claim this as an original recipe – it’s 95% the same as the Lotioncrafter one – but there are some optimizations I’ve made, so I figured I’d share. Plus, my how-to has pictures!

Step 1: Gather Your Ingredients

Here are all the ingredients you’ll need. I highly recommend Lotioncrafter, Personal Formulator, and The Herbarie – I trust their quality completely and have only had positive experiences with them. MakingCosmetics is also a great resource, as are From Nature With Love and Ingredients To Die For.

You can add 1-2% of your favorite oil, for extra moisture and/or antioxidant effect – I sometimes add squalane. I’ve also been playing with the idea of adding some CoQ10, but it’s just so expensive. Note: if you do add an extra ingredient, it’ll be quite a lot thicker and stickier.

Step 2: Gather Your Tools

This looks like a lot, and it is. Since this is an emulsification, we have to heat and hold our separate oil and water phases at 70°C for 20 minutes and then mix it thoroughly, which means we need a whole bunch of extra tools we might not need for oil-only creations. You might have some of this stuff already lying around.

Check out my beginner’s shopping list and recipe for links to the basic DIY tools!

From left to right, I’m using:

Step 3: Disinfecting Everything

If DIYers had a reality show on TLC, it would be called “Let’s Disinfect!” It takes so long but it’s so necessary.

Step 4: The Recipe

Here’s the full recipe to make 1 ounce of serum.

Ingredient Percent Weight (g)
L-Ascorbic Acid 15.00% 4.5
Propylene Glycol 10.00% 3.0
Laureth 23 3.00% 0.9
Tocopherol 1.00% 0.3
Liquid Germall Plus 0.30% 0.09
Ferulic Acid 0.50% 0.15
Ethoxydiglycol 20.00% 6.0
Panthenol 0.50% 0.15
Distilled water 34.70% 10.41
1% HA stock 15.00% 4.5
Total 100.00% 30.0

Personally, I measure out dry ingredients into plastic boats, and I pipette wet ingredients directly into the beaker one drop at a time. The latter strategy is risky, but if you go slowly and have patience, it’s a lot easier than trying to scrape sticky tocopherol from the bottom of a plastic boat.

Step 5: Water Phase

I like to start with the water phase, but steps 5 and 6 are interchangeable.

Step 6: Oil Phase

This one’s easy.

Step 7: Heat and Hold

The laureth 23 is still solid, so let’s get it all liquid-ed up.

Step 8: Emulsification

Once everything is good and melted, your phases are ready to combine.

Step 9: Final phase

Now is the time to add your heat-sensitive ingredients – in this recipe, that’s L-ascorbic acid and preservative.

Step 10: pH Test, Bottle and Celebrate

Almost done!!

If you do end up trying this recipe, let me know what you think! I’m always looking for ways to improve.