An Affordable Vitamin C Roundup ft. Mad Hippie, Batty's Bath, InstaNatural + The Ordinary

I've been experimenting with vitamin C products recently and have found it to be an ingredient that my skin really loves.  And, it's pretty clear why -- vitamin C offers a multitude of amazing skin benefits. 

Vitamin C....
- stimulates collagen production and increases cell turnover
- has antioxidant benefits that fight free radicals and treat UV photodamage
- evens out skin tone and uneven texture
- lightens hyperpigmentation
- brightens dull skin
- reduces surface inflammation and puffiness
- helps skin defend itself from external stressors like pollution
- improves skin hydration
- offers acne benefits (certain types of vitamin C only)

It's a bit of a skin superstar!  Today I'm sharing four affordable products that I've been testing out over the last several months.

Today's lineup feature three different forms of vitamin C:

L-Ascorbic Acid: the most researched form of vitamin C.  Proven to be effective, but can cause surface skin irritation.  It also has stability issues and can oxidize both in water formulas and on the skin.

Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate: a stable water-soluble form of vitamin C that converts to ascorbic acid after absorption.  SAP is gentler and does not cause the same irritation as ascorbic acid, and has also been researched and shown to have acne benefits.

Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate: a stable fat-soluble form of vitamin C.  Because it's lipid-soluble, tetrahyxyldecyl ascorbate is able to penetrate deeper into the skin's dermis, where it can have more of an effect on collagen production.

Mad Hippie Vitamin C Serum* ($37.39 for 1 oz)
Type of Vitamin C: Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate

Mad Hippie's Vitamin C Serum is the most hydrating of today's four products.  The formula contains humectant hyaluronic acid and glycerin, making it superb for attracting and locking in moisture.  It also contains the well-researched combination of vitamins C and E and ferulic acid, a combination you may recognize from certain well-known conventional products.  The serum is clear and has a lightweight consistency that absorbs well.

The most dramatic difference I notice using this serum is increased hydration.  My skin is visibly softer, plumper and more hydrated, and fine lines appear smaller.  I also notice some brightening effects and my skin looks fresh and luminous, but the brightening is not as dramatic as I've seen from some other products.

InstaNatural Vitamin C Serum ($24.55 for 1 oz)
Type of Vitamin C: Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate

I've only used a small sample bottle of the InstaNatural Vitamin C Serum, but, even in a short time, I've been quite impressed.  Like the Mad Hippie serum, this one includes the trifecta of sodium ascorbyl phosphate, ferulic acid, and vitamin E.  It also contains cassia angustifolia seed extract -- often referred to as botanical hyaluronic acid -- skin-brightening licorice root, and moisturizing sea buckthorn and argan oils.

InstaNatural's Vitamin C Serum is orange, which did give me a moment's pause, but the colour is by nature of the other ingredients in the formula as opposed to vitamin C oxidation (SAP does not oxidize in this way).  The consistency is thinner and more watery than the Mad Hippie serum, and, as a result, I find myself using more product per application, since it just doesn't go as far.

I find InstaNatural's serum to be more brightening than the Mad Hippie, but not as hydrating.  I also notice my pores look smaller and breakouts are lessened.  It's hard to say if this effect is from other ingredients in the formula or a higher percentage of vitamin C -- or if it's just a result of using a little more product -- since neither serum discloses its vitamin C content.

Batty's Bath Brightening Gel Toner* ($36.95 for 2 oz)
Type of Vitamin C: Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate

I love the more minimal ingredients in the Brightening Gel Toner, which includes only aloe vera, vitamins C and E, carrot seed and palmarosa essential oils, and a mild preservative.  The Gel Toner is a unique gel product that can be used either as a daily toner or, with a more generous application, as a gel mask.  I've used it both ways and I find myself reaching for it more often as a treatment mask.  I especially love using it immediately after a more detoxifying mask as the formula is excellent for rehydrating the skin and has visible brightening effects from the vitamin C.  The gel smells predominantly like palmarosa essential oil, a fresh scent that I quite enjoy.

Clockwise from Top: Mad Hippie Vitamin C Serum, The Ordinary 100% L-Ascorbic Acid Powder, Batty's Bath Brightening Gel Toner 
The Ordinary 100% L-Ascorbic Acid Powder ($5.80 for 20 g)
Type of Vitamin C: L-Ascorbic Acid

The Ordinary is not an exclusively natural brand, but the line is cruelty-free and offers inexpensive single ingredient products like organic oils and this vitamin C powder.  The L-Ascorbic Acid Powder is exactly what the name suggests - concentrated, 100% vitamin C powder.  It's a fine white powder that's intended to be mixed into other products -- serums, creams, or oils.  When I purchased it, the sales associate warned me that they only recommend the powder for advanced vitamin C users since it's so potent and concentrated.  The company's website also advises that "a very strong tingling but non-irritating sensation is expected during the first 1-2 weeks of use until the skin's tolerance to such high exposure [of vitamin C] is elevated."

The jar comes with a small scoop and I use about 1/3 to 1/2 of a scoop per application.  I've tried mixing the powder into a variety of products -- water-based serums, cream moisturizers, and oils -- and the powder disperses pretty well in all three options.  It never completely dissolves and I can feel a slight grittiness as I rub it into my skin, but the product absorbs without issue.

All in all, it's not a cosmetically elegant product, but it is effective.  I usually use this product in the evening, and I notice that my skin is incredibly bright and glowy the next morning.  Despite all the warnings, I haven't experienced much tingling or general irritation, although the product will sting on open cuts or breaks in the skin.  I also like that I can add the powder into products already in my routine, and that I can easily tailor the amount I'm using.  Because it's in powder form and mixed into products on a single-use basis, there's also no risk of it oxidizing in the jar like other ascorbic acid products.

The Bottom Line
My main takeaway from all this is that my skin is very happy with vitamin C products!  I enjoy using all four of these items, each of which I think serves a slightly different function.  The Mad Hippie and InstaNatural serums are the easiest to incorporate into a daily routine, with the Mad Hippie best for anyone also looking for a serious hydration boost alongside their vitamin C.  The Batty's Bath Gel Toner is my favourite for more of an intense treatment or mask, and The Ordinary's L-Ascorbic Acid Powder is great if you're looking for an ascorbic acid product that won't oxidize, to boost other products already in your routine, or if you just like playing mixologist.

I do wish that more natural brands would share the actual percent of vitamin C (and other active ingredients) in their formulas.  There are advantages to using different levels of these ingredients and it would be great to know, in advance, where a product falls on the spectrum.

Have you tried any of these?  What are your favourite vitamin C products?

*Press sample.  Contains affiliate links.

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