Adventures in DIY: Vitamin C + E + Ferulic Acid Serum Part 3

For the final part of the Vitamin C series, I wanted to show you some alternative recipes, as well as how to modify other recipes, and hopefully address some concerns.


Maybe you don't like using that many solvents?  Not everyone likes or even wants such a low pH.  Or perhaps you just have dry skin, and want something that fits more in line with your skin type?  No worries, DIY can help!

Consider an Anhydrous Serum

"Anhydrous" means no water.  It's the legit waterless cosmetic.  You could take some L-Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C) and suspend it in an oil.  Because it's in oil, you could just add Tocopherol (Vitamin E) with no need for an emulsifier.  Because it does not contain water, it also has the added benefit of not requiring a preservative.  So a very simple recipe would be:

Ingredient %
L-Ascorbic Acid 15
Rose Hip Oil 84
Tocopherol 1

This recipe omits ferulic acid, so you're not going to get as much photoprotection as a full CE+FE serum, but it's three ingredients and you don't have to worry about two very big Ps:  pH and preservatives!  I have personally not tried this, but I'm not seeing why you can't just suspend ferulic acid in the oil as well?  Somebody get back to me on this.  It's a great option for those with dry skin, as they benefit greatly from oils and especially don't want to leave their bare face like a Sahara desert during that wait period.  You could obviously customize the carrier oil to whatever oil suits your fancy.

Nah dude, this is my multipurpose skincare stuff.

This might not work for some people though, as they don't want a facial oil before their other steps, or maybe oils make their sunscreen ball up, etc.  You could definitely substitute this for a silicone of your choice.  Some people even go buy commercial products like Monistat Chafing Gel or (raise brow) Astroglide, and use that as their silicone base in which to suspend 15-20% L-AA.  Monistat is used by some as a cheap dupe of MUFE Primer, and apparently Astroglide's ingredients aren't that bad...  I'd splurge and get a new bottle though.

There is more than one Vitamin C

L-Ascorbic Acid is only one of many forms of Vitamin C.  There are so many possibilities out there for good Vitamin C serums that are tailor made to fit your needs.  Other popular ones include magnesium ascorbyl phosphate (MAP) and tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate (THDA).  MAP is great for more sensitive skin or those who don't need/want the exfoliation that comes with the low pH that L-Ascorbic Acid requires.  However, it has a maximum solubility of 15% in water, with a typical usage rate of 0.2 - 3%, up to 10%.  THDA is a really cool vitamer, in that it is oil soluble, which makes it an even more attractive option for oil-based formulations, as it would be a solution and not just a suspension.  Its usage is typically 0.5 - 2%, up to 10% as well.  One very obvious downside to the both of these (and most other) vitamers?  They're a lot more expensive than regular old L-Ascorbic Acid.  Something to think about.

Changing the consistency

Humectants like hyaluronic acid and glycerin are nice to have in formulations, but the downside is they tend to be sticky.  Decreasing or completely removing them from the serum helps with this.  Is your serum too watery?  A pinch of xanthan gum thickens it into more of a gel, or emulsifying it with an oil gives it a creamier consistency.  Using naturally "jelly" textured ingredients like sea kelp bioferment also changes the texture.  Reading about it is only a starting point, you have to experiment for yourself to see what you like and what works for you.

How to Modify My (or other Pre-Existing) Recipes

Ok, you're ready to give the DIY world a shot.  You've scouted Lotioncrafter or some other supplier, and have a huge wishlist of the most delicious, fancy ingredients.  Now what?  There are huge DIY communities out there, as well as some fantastic blogs to follow.  I highly recommend you join and at least lurk in the /r/DIYBeauty sub and the EDS DIY forum.  People post recipes and gladly help troubleshoot.  Some blogs I follow for DIY stuff are Point of Interest! and My Funny Valentine.

Modifying a recipe with a Batch Size Calculator

Ok, regardless of if you want to modify a recipe or just to make your own recipes, you pretty much need a batch size calculator (Click File -> Make A Copy to edit).  What is a batch size calculator?

Here's mine, if you want to use it.  There are many others online.
Batch size calculators look a little something like this, and it's what you would use to calculate, well, how much of what you need goes into a batch of the size that you want.  That's definitely useful for formulating new recipes, but also great for modifying preexisting recipes.  Let's say you find an amazing serum like Jenny's Idebenone/Niacinamide/Glucosamine Anti-Aging Serum, but you don't want an oil phase.  You could type up all the ingredients in their recipe, omiting the oil phase (which would be all the oils and the emulsifier), into a batch size calculator, and then increase the water phase as necessary to reach 100%.  Like so:

Original recipe

Let's say you don't want it to be too creamy, and more watery and serum-like.  Or maybe you just don't feel like messing with an oil phase.  Let's take out Vitamin E, Borage Oil, and Polysorbate 80 (emulsifier).  That leaves...

New, modified recipe!
Ok, so you've moved everything up.  Removing those things means you'll have to increase something else though to keep the concentrations of the actives the same.  I like to bump up the distilled water from 20% to 51%, but if you don't want too watery of a product, you could bump up the Seamollient or 1% Hyaluronic acid instead.  Or heck, why not all of them?  Adjust to your heart's content, so long as the total says 100.  :)

Changing the solvents

Would you rather just use alcohol instead of propylene glycol to dissolve ferulic acid?  I use this chart to calculate solvent requirements for ferulic acid.  It's not the most accurate way to convert, but I used some basic algebra to get the amount that I would need for propylene glycol:

Don't run.  There's no more math here!
You'll notice in my recipes, I round up to 7% for propylene glycol.  Vitamin C is already fickle enough without me spending too much time on trying to get everything else to dissolve.  Also, even with 7%, I still have to do a warm water bath to get it to dissolve fully.  Either way, if you're wanting to use alcohol instead, using the same formula, you'd get:

95% Alcohol 40% Alcohol
Examples Denatured Ethanol,
% Needed 4.73% 18.41%

 Changing/Adding Ingredients

You can definitely switch out emulsifiers or other preservatives, just make sure they work at that pH range and with the ingredients you're using.  Typically, anything known for not being able to work with each other will come with big warning labels.  Do not use sodium benzoate with L-Ascorbic Acid.  It's a good preservative for products, and is used as a food preservative even.  But combined with L-Ascorbic Acid, it forms benzene, which is a carcinogenic compound.

Niacinamide & Other Controversial Stuff

I've said it before, I'll say it again:  niacinamide does not belong in an L-Ascorbic Acid serum.  Ignoring potential irritation, canceling each other out, and all that other stuff, here's the bottom line:  L-Ascorbic Acid requires a low pH environment, around 2.5 - 3.5.  Niacinamide requires a more neutral pH environment, around 6 - 7.  You love niacinamide?  Me too!  Put it in a different serum.  In fact, I toss a bunch of stuff into my niacinamide serum (Shark Sauce!), since it has a more neutral pH and I don't have to worry about if the extracts and whatever else I add will be problematic due to pH.

Hoo-boy, I know that was a lot, and not the most particularly exciting, but I felt like if I didn't include these things, this whole series wouldn't be a very good reference for somebody starting out.  Anyway, it took a couple of days to finish, because agh, there's a lot of information I wanted to put in here.  Next up, Shark Sauce!

1 comment:

  1. Hi! First time reading your blog as I was looking around for DIY vit C serums but I'm blown away by all your brilliant info! I just have a couple questions. I am thinking of getting this kit from skin essential actives ( as it comes with all the basics but I was wondering whether the 'oil of choice' is necessary? In the instructions the oil is used to mix the vitamin E oil and the polysorbate 80. I noticed your simple recipe doesn't seem to have an equivalent of this. Is there a reason it is/isn't required? Also the guide notes the pH will be 2.8 but should I be able to pipette Triethanolamine or Citric Acid Solution to adjust (method outlined in LotionCrafters version). Btw the shark sauce looks amazing, I would love to attempt it one day! Thanks so much :)