Review: The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 23% and Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA

I am nearly out of my first bottle of  Vitamin C Suspension ($5.80) and Alpha Arbutin 2% ($8.90) from The Ordinary, a subsidiary of Deciem, and I reckon it’s time for a report.

Vitamin C Suspension

Deciem claims that this is pure and stable 23% Vitamin C, an L-Ascorbic Acid powder, in this case. It’s important to note that Deciem markets this product as superior to other Vitamin C serums on the market because of the absence of water, which is replaced by hyaluronic acid, squalane, and other non-silicone ingredients, and as a result makes the Suspension stable. Vitamin C is good for brightening the skin and my purpose of buying it was for my hyperpigmentation. However, it is almost impossible to use this as a spot treatment because of the consistency of the product, so I have been using it a couple different ways. Deciem says the optimal time to use this is at night, but I often use it both in the morning and at night. I must also mention that I hate hate hate the packaging and am glad to see that Deciem did something about it; it’s available now in a squeeze tube instead of a dropper. The version I have leaves product all over the rim of the bottle and the dropper barely picks up any product because it’s so thick. There is a scent to it; it’s hard to describe, but kind plastic smelling.


Ascorbic Acid, Squalane, Isodecyl Neopentanoate, Isononyl Isononanoate, Coconut Alkanes, Ethylene/Propylene/Styrene Copolymer, Ethylhexyl Palmitate, Silica Dimethyl Silylate, Sodium Hyaluronate, Glucomannan, Coco-Caprylate/Caprate, Butylene/Ethylene/Styrene Copolymer, Acrylates/Ethylhexyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Trihydroxystearin, BHT.

Method 1:

The Vitamin C Suspension can be tricky to use and if not careful, will result in the pilling of other products. It doesn’t seem to enjoy being layered over other products, so I made sure that it was one of the first products I used after cleansing. The first few times I used it, I cleansed, toned, used a couple of serums, and then tried to use the Suspension. To my surprise, this resulted in pilling. The texture of the Vitamin C Suspension is quite grainy (probably because it technically a powder); great for exfoliating with your hands. So it was no wonder that the pilling occurred. I started using it first, right after cleansing, on dry skin, which drastically reduced the pilling I experienced by using it after other things, plus I really enjoy exfoliating with it. It does tingle around my nose and lips; I would say about 5% worse than Sunday Riley Good Genes. For me, the tingling has subsided a tiny bit but it still feels burny.

It’s important to mention that Deciem explains that a “contradiction” to the Vitamin C Suspension is niacinamide because it may affect the purity of the Vitamin C. I did not, however, read that as it makes the Vitamin C ineffective, just that it affects the pureness of it. This was conflicting for me because Shark Sauce has niacinamide in it and I use it every day. I decided to do some more research on that to determine what it actually meant. This post from Kind of Stephen is super informative. Nevertheless, I have recently decided to skip the Shark Sauce when I use this in the mornings, just to be on the safe side.

Method 2:

Although I have been using the Vitamin C Suspension for over two months, I only recently started mixing it in with Valentia Night Revive Retinol Serum. Interestingly enough, the Vitamin C Suspension mixed with the retinol serum completely eliminates all pilling I experienced using the Vitamin C Suspension on its own. This means, you don’t have to use the mixture first and it layers well with other products. In theory, I would expect that mixing the Suspension with retinol affects the purity of the Suspension, but I did a bit of research and apparently l-ascorbic acid (the vitamin c in the suspension) and retinol play very well together. In addition, the Valentia Retinol has vitamin C (Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate) and E as main ingredients. Hopefully, there are no negative consequences of using two different forms of vitamin C together; I have yet to see any negative side effects. After mixing these two together, my face is left pretty greasy feeling; not the best feeling in the world, but it does feel soft and moisturized.

Alpha Arbutin 2%


Aqua (Water), Alpha-Arbutin, Polyacrylate Crosspolymer-6, Hydrolyzed Sodium Hyaluronate, Propanediol, PPG-26-Buteth-26, PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Lactic Acid, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Ethoxydiglycol, Phenoxyethanol, Chlorphenesin.

The Alpha Arbutin was way more straight forward. I mostly used it as a spot treatment twice a day, which was easier to do with it’s gel-like consistency. I started using this the same time I started using the vitamin C suspension, with a few caveats. Once I started mixing the suspension with retinol, I skipped the Alpha Arbutin. For the month and a half I was using the suspension on its own, the Alpha Arbutin was the next step after Shark Sauce. There were some days where I would slather it on the entire bottom portion of my face (everywhere except forehead) but I mostly used it just on my acne scars.

Again, it’s important to note that Deciem states that Alpha Arbutin 2% has some degradation issues in the presence of water. Now while I let the Shark Sauce sit for a minute to dry down a bit before using the Alpha Arbutin, the word degradation makes me uneasy — and annoyed. While the serum has water in it, the pH of the product is at 4.9. Sooooo I don’t know anything about pH and skin. It’s probably not very hard to find out about it but guess what? I’m lazy and I don’t want to. It really aggravates me when I have to think about these things. I like convenience. I don’t want to have to worry if what I put on my face will effect the pH of the previous product. My alter ego would say, it was convenient that it was so cheap now sthu and just do the extra work! Eyeroll. Nope not doing it.

Nonetheless, the Alpha Arbutin 2% is supposed to be more effective than plain old regular Arbutin and Beta Arbutin, the latter of which I am unfamiliar. Arbutin is a brightening/lightening ingredient in many of the serums used in K-beauty, which is the only place I have ever seen it.

One droplet of this is enough to use on all the spots on my face. In fact, the packaging doesn’t bother me at all with this product because it’s a lot lighter than the Vitamin C.

Finally, the whole point of the Suspension and the Apha Arbutin was for brightening and for lightening my acne scarring. While I really like the serums, after two months of using them, I am disappointed to see that I haven’t noticed any significant lightening of my acne scars.

Photo taken 9/14/2016; no shade on the shower cap!
Photo taken 11/4/2016; same old spots, and some.

Photo taken 9/14/2016; the big red patch on my face is a burn 🙁 I avoided using the serums on this spot for about a week and a half. You can also see some active acne to the left of the burn.

Photo taken 10/28/2016; I’m conflicted about this side of my face. The area beneath the burn appears to have improved slightly, as well as the spot where the active acne lived.

While one side of my face appears to have experienced no improvements, the other side has only slightly improved. I am conflicted on whether or not I am going to repurchase the Vitamin C Suspension. I am enjoying it mixed in with the retinol, but it seems quite slow acting. The Alpha Arbutin 2% I don’t feel is worth my time and I will go back to Murad’s lightening serum with hydroquinone, which I shamefully haven’t reviewed.

I recently wrote an I’m-so-fed-up-with-my-skin post where I said it naturally takes my skin an entire year for my hyperpigmentation to heal itself naturally… these products don’t really seem to be speeding up the process. I am frustrated these days with my skin more often than not. Some days are worse than others but I will keep experimenting because I want these things gone. There also seems to be no real workaround to the issue of lightening an area of your face without lightening too much or all of it so that the hyperpigmentation is the only thing being lightened. I have recently been exfoliating a lot and I purchased Mario Badescu’s Glycolic Acid Foaming Cleanser to help with my break outs. So far, so good. I’ve got my eye on his drying lotion to help with active acne.

There doesn’t seem to be many in-depth reviews on the either of these, but I am keen to see what kind of experiences people are having with the suspension and other products from the brand.


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  1. Shabby, Chic, & Cheap
    March 6, 2019 / 3:21 am

    This post was so informative and helpful!

  2. Soni
    May 22, 2017 / 12:47 pm

    Vitamin c suspension mixed with the buffet or Hyaluronic serum works well. Also paulas choice vitamin c spot treatment is amazing for spots

  3. Jezebell
    April 28, 2017 / 7:54 am

    Have you tried Rodan + Fields Reverse regimen? I used it in Fall and Winter of 2015 and totally rid my face of hyperpigmentation due to sun damage. It worked rather quickly (2-3 months for the biggest, deepest spots) and my skin had never been so clear in my adult life.
    That said, spots from sun damage tend to creep up again in time, especially with additional exposure to the sun, and especially if you're not diligent with sunscreen.
    Now I am trying The Ordinary products, mostly as a less expensive maintenance program. It has only been a couple weeks, so i don't know how well they will perform for me. I am still in the trial and error experimental phase, trying to figure out how to best use the products I ordered. My frustration with the pilling i experience with the Vitamin C Suspension led me to your review.
    Though I hate to mention Rodan + Fields, lest one think I am a consultant trying to net a sale, I am not. I'm sure by now everyone has been approached, if not inundated, by consultants trying to get their MLM business going, which can be a big turn off.
    On the contrary, I have just tried many ways, including chemical and laser peels and very VERY expensive skincare products, with little or no improvement. R+F is mid-range in price and the only products thus far that have really worked. And you can get your money back if you're not impressed. The downside is the complicated preferred customer program and inability to purchase as needed, from brick and mortar shops.
    I do know they also have a regimen for acne and acne scarring, but I have no experience with that line so I can't speak to it.
    Best of luck to you. I hope this late comment finds you already happily using products that are working for you.

    • Bella Noir Beauty
      May 1, 2017 / 4:54 pm

      Hi Jezebell,
      I haven't tried Rodan + Fields but will look into it when their website goes back up! Thanks for the recommendation!

  4. Unknown
    April 12, 2017 / 6:16 am

    Just wondering about your information regarding Rentnol and Vit C going together. As far as I know, a neutral pH is needed in order for Rentinol to be converted to retinoic acid. The pH of Vit C is of course acidic. So applying them back to back doesn't seem to make sense.

    • Bella Noir Beauty
      April 21, 2017 / 4:22 pm

      Hi Tabitha! I should have linked to the study I found that found that applying the combination of the two resulted in positive effects. Here it is:

      Of course, that's the thing with research. It almost feels like he said she said. And sometimes, you can find what you WANT it to say. Also, one of the authors of the study is L'Oréal Recherche (and because she/he is listed first, I am guessing they were the primary contributors). As with a lot of skincare studies I find, may of them are conducted by pharmaceutical or cosmetic company scientists.

  5. NiaPattenLooks
    March 18, 2017 / 11:45 am

    Hi, I can't stand the consistency of Vitamin c by the Ordinary. I'm using the Hylamide 25% bit c now and it's much more user friendly. I don't get any joy from the alpha arbutin either, glad it's not just me.

  6. Fashion and Frappes
    January 26, 2017 / 11:11 pm

    I have been using the Vit C serum and quite like it. But honestly I have barely been keeping track and using it seriously- I think I am going to keep track to see if it actually makes a difference. And you are right – yours seems to be the only in-depth review of the product which is so strange since its gained such a cult status! Thanks!

    • Bella Noir Beauty
      January 27, 2017 / 9:50 pm

      Yea, I like the serum – the price, the texture is different, it's somewhat effective… you should definitely keep track. It's cheap enough to rebuy even if you *think* it's working.

  7. Unknown
    January 24, 2017 / 10:57 pm

    Have you tried the Clinique Dark Spot Remover? That stuff removes acne scars really effectively!

    • Bella Noir Beauty
      January 27, 2017 / 9:49 pm

      I haven't! I have many dark spot removers in my lineup! They all seem to perform similarly, to me. I will totally give Clinique's a try!

    • Soni
      May 22, 2017 / 12:46 pm

      Didn't get any effect with that one!

  8. Twinkle
    December 29, 2016 / 6:57 pm

    You are simply gorgeous! *_* And now that I got that out of the way, I'm happy to see some thorough reviews of Deciem The Ordinary products. I was curious about these two products but I currently am testing the Timeless CE Ferulic serum so I don't want to slot The Ordinary C Suspension into my regimen until I have more time (no pun intended) with the Timeless. I do wonder if any of the other The Ordinary C formulations can be integrated into other parts of a routine, particularly the Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate (supposed to be similar to Holy Snail's El Dorado with THDA), which should play well with retinol products and has less- to zero- wait times (which is always good in a multi-step routine).

    • Bella Noir Beauty
      January 19, 2017 / 3:16 pm

      Thank you, Twinkle! The suspension is definitely different. I haven't tried Chel's El DOrado, unfortunately. I have so many vitamin C-related things going on but I definitely want to try out The Ordinary's other formulations.

  9. Unknown
    November 14, 2016 / 10:11 am

    Thank you for your post!
    I also suffer from pigmentation
    I used pula choice BHB for 2 months now
    it only controlled my acne but the dark spots are still there
    I now shifted to The Ordinary..I hope I see changes

    Good luck with your journey sis 🙂

    • Bella Noir Beauty
      November 14, 2016 / 6:38 pm

      Thank you! I have heard people saying they want to test out The Ordinary products against Paula's Choice. Let me know how that goes!

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