Skinceuticals Silymarin CF Serum

This Anti-Aging Serum for Acne-Prone Skin Took 6 Years to Make

And let me tell you, it's worth the wait.
By Nina Huang
Feb 26, 2021 @ 12:00 pm

Ask any beauty editor or skincare lover around about the best anti-aging vitamin C serum you can buy, and they'll most likely point you in the direction of SkinCeuticals' C E Ferulic Acid. Loved for its ability to achieve all kinds of anti-aging goals like reducing wrinkles and increasing firmness, the antioxidant-boosting C E Ferulic Acid has been a hit for years with celebrities and dermatologists alike. But for some dealing with adult acne as well as mature skin issues, the idea of using an ingredient like the moisturizing vitamin E in the C E Ferulic might be scary, explained Dr. Julie Woodward, professor of ophthalmology, associate professor of dermatology, and the chief of oculofacial surgery at Duke University. 

"They don't want to put anything that could be oily on their skin because they're afraid they'll break out more," said Dr. Woodward, a partner physician with SkinCeuticals. So what are women with adult acne and mature skin to do? 

Enter SkinCeuticals' newest addition to its lineup of antioxidant serums: Silymarin CF. The first new antioxidant serum from SkinCeuticals in nearly a decade and a non-oil-based product that has been six years in the making, Silymarin CF is an absolute game changer for oily and acne-prone skin. At $166 - the same price as SkinCeuticals' legendary C E Ferulic Acid serum - the new serum is definitely a splurge, but after trying it out for a week, I can say that it's worth every penny. 

SkinCeuticals Silymarin CF
Credit: Courtesy

Shop now: $166; skinceuticals.com

Made with namesake ingredient silymarin, a powerful plant-based antioxidant derived from milk thistle, this serum works to prevent free radicals (molecules lacking an electron) from damaging your DNA, which leads to all kinds of skin aging issues, according to Dr. Woodward. "What the silymarin does is very specific for preventing the oxidation of the oil on your skin," she said. "It's not as moisturizing, so for some people it could be a little bit more dry, but by preventing the oxidation of the sebum you don't have this yummy lunch for bacteria to start snacking on and creating bacteria that's causing acne." 

Alongside the silymarin is l-ascorbic acid, which is pure vitamin C, that stops free radicals from damaging your DNA by providing the additional electron that they're seeking and thereby neutralizing them. "The l-ascorbic acid comes in bearing these little gifts of the extra little electron, and so it stabilizes those free radical molecules so they don't go bumping against all their neighbors and knocking the electrons off of them, which could wreak havoc on your DNA and can actually cause DNA mutation called thymine dimers that are found in skin cancer," said Dr. Woodward. 

Silymarin CF's other main ingredients - ferulic acid and salicylic acid - work to give extra stabilizing antioxidant boosts to your skin, with the latter particularly added to exfoliate and remove all the gunk from your blocked pores. While many dealing with acne might be using retinol at night, Dr. Woodward said the Silymarin CF would be a good go-to in the morning as a complementary product, and when paired with sunscreen, Silymarin CF acts as an extra layer of defence against free radicals from UV rays, stress, and diet. 

Its effects are frankly shocking: As a morning serum, Silymarin CF doesn't produce the sudden glowy effect that most concentrated nighttime boosters do, but rather brightens slowly and steadily over time. At the end of my week testing out the serum, I found myself with brighter, more evenly toned skin than I ever had before. And if you ask me, the slow burn is much better than the "get this off my face" exfoliating acids that actually burn my sensitive skin. 

Of course, Dr. Woodward said Silymarin CF isn't a substitute for prescribed medication from your dermatologist. There's also no need to use it both day and night, she said, as SkinCeuticals' research indicated that putting it on twice a day didn't make it reach its peak effect faster (so no need to waste the precious drops). As someone dealing with acne-prone skin and hyperpigmentation, I've rarely found a serum that works to reduce my dark spots and clogged pores without turning to acids that sting my skin, and Silymarin CF is a welcome exception. 

Suffice to say, it's a product that lives up to the hype

See what else I swear by.