I’m a sucker for a serum that promises to turn back the clock on my skin. Billed as a “dark spot and free radical warrior,” the Ester-C Serum from IQ Natural Skincare hits right in my sweet spot. IQ says if you feel your “skin looks aged and dull, and you’re concerned about damage from free radicals and UV radiation, you should try this serum immediately.” The company also stated their Ester-C Serum has been “proven to get rid of fine lines, reduce the appearance of new wrinkles, even out your complexion, lighten age spots and reduce hyper-pigmentation, and it protects against the effects of daily exposure to UV rays and free radicals.” Pretty impressive claims!
They state this serum’s star ingredient, Ester-C (AKA Ascorbyl Palmitate), “has all of the benefits of Vitamin C, but it actually works better and faster, as the skin absorbs it faster and more efficiently than normal Vitamin C.” Ascorbyl palmitate is the most widely used fat-soluble derivative of Vitamin C in skin care. It is non-irritating and more stable than vitamin C. Keep in mind that fats (in the form of lipids) are found in multiple layers of the skin – in the stratum corner and granular layers of the epidermis; in the composition of cellular membranes and in the skin’s own sebum (Source). So theoretically a fat-soluble topical vitamin/antioxidant cocktail (like this one) should not only be more stable on your bathroom counter but also should be better absorbed and utilized by your skin than a water-based one. Furthermore, ascorbyl palmitate is a fat-soluble antioxidant. Scientists tell us that it is at least as effective as Vitamin E in protecting the skin from lipid peroxidation – a really bad kind of free radical damage you don’t want to happen to your skin (Source).
And the IQ Natural folks included a relatively high amount of Ester-C in this serum. It’s listed as the 5th ingredient which is pretty impressive when compared to most serums on the market (where the featured antioxidants are often listed further down the lists). In more good news, IQ Natural includes both Ester-C AND Vitamin E in this serum so you’re doubly covered! But they didn’t stop there! They added the traditional form of Vitamin C (ascorbic acid), multiple antioxidants from organic fruit extracts and mixed it all up in a creamy aloe+glycerin+wax base along with a couple skin-beneficial oils (such as rosehip and neem) that have been shown to have a positive impact on the skin. Wow!
Price: $36 / 1 fluid ounce (30 ml)
What Happened when I Used This Serum for 30 Days: I was super excited when an IQ Natural rep contacted me and asked me to try this serum, especially after I read the company’s product description and promises (above). I quickly decided the best place to test this serum was my neck and décolletage areas where I have some pretty noticeable sun damage. I took a few before pics. Here’s the best one to show the sun damage and wrinkling around my neck:
Based on IQ Natural’s product description, I was hoping to see some slight improvement in the sun spots and hyper-pigmentation, understanding that it usually takes several months to see a big change in these issues. I figured any results would be minimal since I’d only be testing the serum for 30 days. I certainly wasn’t expecting much (if any) results in the way of wrinkle improvement. But that’s exactly what I got!
As you’ll see from my AFTER picture, the depth in the wrinkles (especially those around my neck area) were noticeably decreased. There was some improvement in the hyper pigmentation on my décolletage area as well. However, the damage there is pretty severe, and the sun spots actually have a raised texture. So dramatic improvements (i.e. complete fading or removal of the dark spots) would likely take about 6 months. Still I see a decrease in the severity of those spots and and improved overall tone of the area at day #30.
In case you’re wondering if I used any other products to boost this serum’s results the answer is yes but with a caveat. I used the same products I’d been using for the last 6 months on my neck and upper chest area which included the following:
CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser
Followed by IQ Natural Skincare Ester-C Serum (the only change in my regimen) day & night
Then Olay Regenerist Regenerating Lotion with Broad Spectrum SPF50 (daytime) OR
Paula’s Choice RESIST Retinol Skin-Smoothing Body Treatment (nighttime)
So, yes, technically, this serum did have the benefit of other ingredients like niacinamide (in the case of the Olay SPF lotion) and other antioxidants and retinol (from the PC moisturizer), but I’d been applying those products to the same area for several months prior to using this serum (and prior to the BEFORE pics) so it’s really a wash. Just for comparison’s sake, here’s a more zoomed in, side-by-side pic of my neck area that I think really shows the impact of the serum.
These are completely un-retouched, #nofilter photos taken in the exact same light/location, at almost exactly the same time of day. Even Hubs was impressed by the results!
Packaging: The clear glass bottle is not ideal for preserving the integrity of some of the light-sensitive ingredients (Vitamins C and E), but recall Ester C is more stable than the traditional form so it’s less susceptible to air/light degradation. To be on the safe side, just store this serum in a cabinet or drawer away from the sunlight. Dispensing this serum from eye dropper-style bottle means that the ingredients are exposed to light and air with each use. However, I found that when applying this serum twice/day (as directed), I used almost the entire bottle within 30 days meaning there was little time for the fragile ingredients to oxidize. FYI, most companies using similar packaging and eye-dropper style dispensers guarantee their Vitamin C products’ efficacy for at least 90 days after purchase (Example Paula’s Choice guarantees their RESIST C15 Super Booster for 6 months after date of purchase (read more here) and Timeless Skin Care guarantees their 20% Vitamin C+E Ferulic Acid Serum fresh and effective for 90 days after purchase (read more here).
So the packaging is not really an issue until you get near the bottom of the bottle. At that point, it’s very difficult to get the last 10-20% of the serum out with the dropper because this serum is thicker than most other serums (those mentioned above are almost water-like in consistency whereas this one is more lotion-y). I tried various un-scientific techniques – tilting and shaking the bottle, trying to scrape the last bits of serum up into a corner so I could readily retrieve the product into the dropper. But I finally resorted to just dumping the bottle upside down and dumping some product into my hand. This worked pretty well and allowed me to avoid feeling like I was wasting any.
Application: I was pleasantly surprised that upon my first application of this serum my face showed immediate improvement in radiance and seemed more plump and hydrated. Because this serum is so creamy and includes several hydrating ingredients, it may not be ideal for oily skin types, but my drier skin loves it! As clearly depicted in the BEFORE/AFTER pictures, the emollient ingredients do a terrific job of plumping up and diminishing the depth of fine (and even some deeper) lines and wrinkles in a relatively short period of time.
Skin Beneficial Ingredients: This serum almost contains too many antioxidants, vitamins and skin-beneficial extracts to list. I’ve included the full ingredient list below. The base is a mix of aloe, glycerin, Rosehip oil (which itself has antioxidant properties) and wax which is best for normal to dry skin types. As stated above, Ester C is the 5th ingredient along with smaller amounts of proven antioxidants Vitamins C and E. Several fruit extracts – cranberry, raspberry, wild blueberry, etc. are also present boosting this serum’s antioxidant capacity.
Full Ingredient List: Aloe barbadensis (Organic Aloe Vera) Juice, Vegetable Glycerin, Rosa mosqueta (Rosehip) Seed Oil, Emulsifying Wax, Ascorbyl Palmitate (Vitamin C Ester), Vaccinium macrocarpon (Organic Cranberry) Extract, Rubus idaeus (Organic Red Raspberry) Extract, Vanccinum angustifoilium (Organic Wild Blueberry) Extract, Tocopherol (Vitamin E), Phenoxyethanol (preservative), Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Salix nigra (Black Willowbark) Extract, Rosmarinus officinalis (Rosemary) Oleoresin (rosemary oil extract), Azadirachta indica (Neem) Oil, Tetrasodium EDTA (chelating agent), Citric Acid.
Scent / Fragrance: This serum has little to no fragrance (always a good thing in skin care and is especially important for sensitive skins).
Skin Unfriendly Ingredient(s): This is where this serum really excels! It contains virtually ZERO problematic ingredients making it a slam-dunk option for the most sensitive skin types, or anyone (like me) combining this serum with heavy-hitter topical like Retin-A, retinol or chemical exfoliants (e.g. alpha or beta hydroxy acids). There is some evidence that rosemary extract may have a sensitizing effect on the skin. However, researchers also state that the amounts of rosemary extract/oil typically used in skin care products are almost always too small to be a risk (Source). And the minuscule amount contained in this serum (it’s the 4th ingredient from the bottom) is so tiny that is almost guaranteed NOT to cause a reaction.
Unlike many all natural (or so-called “natural”) serums, this one is not formulated in a Witch Hazel base. That may seem insignificant, but stick with me. Despite its reputation as a natural skin care ingredient, witch hazel is not skin-friendly because it typically contains 14% – 15% alcohol. Note that some brands of witch hazel contain as much as 30% alcohol (source1 and source2)
Texture + Feel: This feels more like a lotion than a serum. It comes out thick and feels moisturizing immediately upon application. Unlike many C serums (especially those claiming to lighten age spots or improve skin tone) this one causes no burning or stinging on application. After only 5 minutes or so, the serum has completely absorbed allowing you to proceed with your skin care and makeup routine.
Wear under Makeup: If you notice, this product contains no silicones so it doesn’t ball up or compete with the silicones in your foundation or BB cream of choice. The one caveat to that is that this serum contains several oils and moisturizing ingredients so it could theoretically interfere with ultra oil-free foundations (e.g. Milani’s Conceal+Perfect 2-in-1 Foundation+Concealer) which really doesn’t perform well when applied over oil-containing moisturizers (as I discussed in step-by-step Making Milani’s Conceal+Perfect Work for All Skin Types tutorial). So if you’re planning on wearing an oil-free, all water+silicone foundation over this serum, be sure to allow several minutes for the serum to absorb. Then lightly blot the skin before following with an oil-free moisturizer and/or sunscreen. Then wait 5 more minutes, blot again and apply a good silicone-based primer. Carefully following this process I had no trouble using this serum under any of foundations and I didn’t notice any disruption in wear-time and had no problems with application.
Summary and Daily Beauty Wisdom Rating: This is definitely a wise beauty purchase for anyone with aging skin looking to combat lines, wrinkles and sun damage. The price point is very reasonable and the company has obviously spent a great deal of time and effort in ensuring this serum is well-formulated and the ingredients are effective, yet gentle. I highly recommend it! And based on this experience I’m looking forward to testing some other IQ Natural skin care products and their intriguing mineral makeup line!
Company Home Page: IQ Natural
Wisdom for the Day:
“Always give thanks to God the Father for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” ~Ephesians 5:20 (CEB)
Read more here.