High-Potency Serum
1 fl. oz. for $110
Category:Skin Care > Serums
Last Updated:03.06.2013
Jar Packaging:No
Tested on animals:Unknown
Review Overview

High-Potency Serum is a very simple way to give your skin vitamin C (ascorbic acid) along with a couple of other beneficial ingredients. Mostly a one-note product, it’s an OK option if vitamin C is all you want, but know that skin needs much more than any one vitamin to look and act younger. Unfortunately, it’s just not as simple as one ingredient—and there isn’t one ingredient that does it all for skin.

There’s some concern about the inclusion of zinc sulfate in this serum. Topical application of zinc sulfate has not been shown to promote skin healing, and it is of very little benefit to skin (Source: Acta Dermato-Venereologica, supplemental, 1990, pages 1–36).

Note: This serum is dispensed via a dropper applicator. Although not the ideal method to dispense a serum that contains light- and air-sensitive ingredients, sometimes this type of packaging is necessary due to formulary requirements. When that’s the case, the goal is to keep the bottle opening as small as possible, the bottle should be opaque or specially coated to protect the contents from light, and you should use the serum up within three months of opening.


The patented Complex in this serum works synergistically to encourage a firm, youthful, elastic quality to your skin. Regular use will help make your skin look 5 to 10 years younger.


Water (Aqua), Ascorbic Acid, Acetyl Tyrosine, Zinc Sulfate, Sodium Hyaluronate, Bioflavanoids

Brand Overview

Cellex-C At-A-Glance

Strengths: A worthwhile line to consider if you want to zero in on topical vitamin C; some effective AHA products that feature a blend of acids within the correct pH range.

Weaknesses: Irritating anti-acne products; lackluster sunscreens; expensive; pervasive use of jar packaging, which completely ignores the stability issues critical to the efficacy of vitamin C; mostly boring moisturizers that, for the money, should be brimming with state-of-the-art ingredients.

As you may have guessed from the name, the story of Cellex-C has to do with vitamin C. The company has a long-held, ongoing belief that the complete form of this vitamin (ascorbic acid) is the key to reducing the signs of aging skin, including wrinkles, loss of firmness, and discolorations from years of sun exposure. Although the folks behind this brand have done their own research to support some of their claims for vitamin C, their studies are not that impressive because the conclusion anticipated was that Cellex-C would come out on top. The effects of ascorbic acid weren't compared with the effects of other beneficial, well-researched ingredients. For example, it would have been interesting to see how Cellex-C compared to a product with retinol, salicylic acid, or even a serum with multiple antioxidants (Source: Archives of Otolaryngology, October 1999, pages 1091–1098).

The good news is that published, peer-reviewed research has proven that topically applied ascorbic acid has benefit for skin. Before we get to the benefits vitamin C can bestow on skin, it needs to be stated up front that vitamin C is not the answer to your skin-care concerns, nor is it the be-all and end-all antioxidant that cosmetics companies such as Cellex-C assert it is. There is no conclusive or even vaguely convincing research indicating that a single antioxidant is the best among the hundreds and potentially thousands that exist. In fact, there are lots and lots of potent antioxidants, and vitamin C is just one of them (Sources: International Journal of Pharmaceutics, July 14, 2005, pages 153–163; Journal of Pharmaceutical Biomedical Analysis, February 2005, pages 287–295; and Journal of Molecular Medicine, August 2000, pages 333–336).

Research shows that vitamin C does have numerous benefits, including the following: It's a potent antioxidant, particularly in regard to protecting skin cells from UV-induced damage. It delays tumor formation after (animal) skin is exposed to extensive UV damage. It has a low risk of skin sensitization at concentrations up to 10% in the form of ascorbic acid (although some Cellex-C products contain more than 10%, increasing the risk of irritation without providing a statistically greater benefit). In addition, vitamin C reduces transepidermal water loss, thus strengthening skin's barrier response; promotes collagen production, and has the potential to thicken the dermis; it also reduces inflammation. Ascorbic acid at levels of 5% and above has been shown to have a positive effect on hyperpigmentation, but in this area the results are not as impressive as those with hydroquinone, suggesting that a combination of the two would be optimal; however, Cellex-C does not use hydroquinone. Vitamin C also improves the appearance of sun-damaged skin by strengthening skin's repair mechanisms, and enhances the effectiveness of dermatologist-performed procedures such as peels and microdermabrasion.

(Sources for the above statements: International Journal of Toxicology, volume 24, supplement 2, 2005, pages 51–111; Experimental Dermatology, September 2005, pages 684–691 and June 2003, pages 237–244; Dermatologic Surgery, July 2005, pages 814–817; Nutrition Reviews, March 2005, pages 81–90; Skin Pharmacology and Physiology, November-December 2004, pages 298–303; BMC Dermatology, September 2004, page 13; International Journal of Dermatology, August 2004, pages 604–607; and Archives of Facial Plastic Surgery, March-April 2003, pages 145–149.)

Despite the benefits of topical vitamin C, it is important not to get hung up on any one antioxidant, regardless of its history. Aging is more complicated than just the loss of or need for vitamin C—or any other vitamin, enzyme, protein, peptide, fatty acid, amino acid, or lipid in the skin. Although vitamin C is clearly an effective ingredient for skin, many other antioxidants are just as good, including beta-glucan, vitamin E, vitamin A, green tea, grape extract, selenium, curcumin, lycopene, superoxide dismutase, and on and on. Moreover, there is extensive research about each of those and lots of others and their benefit for skin. Furthermore, many researchers studying antioxidants and their effects on the human body believe that the best plan of attack is to use multiple antioxidants rather than narrowing your choices to a few well-publicized options, or staying with the mistaken belief that there is a single "best" antioxidant (Sources: Archives of Dermatologic Research, April 2005, pages 473–481; Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, February 2005, pages 515–528; Photochemistry and Photobiology, January-February 2005, pages 38–45; and Mutation Research, April 2005, pages 153–173).

Beyond the information above, it's also important to keep in mind that, for all its posturing, Cellex-C has remained primarily a one-trick pony. In contrast, competitor Skinceuticals has expanded beyond vitamin C to offer their customers a greater variety of effective ingredients in proficient amounts. Skinceuticals products are priced similarly to Cellex-C's, but in the Skinceuticals line you'll find intelligent use of retinol, more intriguing antioxidants, and less jar packaging. Skinceuticals has its drawbacks and blatant similarities to Cellex-C, but at least more of their products take a well-rounded approach, providing your skin with more than just vitamin C.

For more information about Cellex-C, call 1-888-409-9979 or visit www.cellex-c.com.

About the Experts

The new Beautypedia Team proudly and unequivocally maintains the commitment to help you find the best products possible for your skin. We do this by relentlessly pursuing and relying on published scientific research so you will have unbiased information on what works and what doesn't-and the sneaky ways you could be making your skin worse, not better!

The Beautypedia Team reviews all products using the same research, criteria, and objectivity, whether the product being reviewed is from Paula's Choice or another brand.

Member Comments
Summary of Member Comments
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One of the BEST

I've tried a lot of serums over the past 30 years, and this is the only one I've used that actually improves the look of fine lines and wrinkles. You will see your fine lines/wrinkles become less noticeable very soon after you start using this serum. Other serums I've tried didn't make one bit of difference in the look of fine lines around my eyes, but this one did, which is why I will always use this as my primary serum. I'm 51 years old, and people think I'm in my mid 30's. It works!

Reviewed by
Incorrect ingredients listing - Very effective Serum

The ingredient listing listed in Paula's review is incorrect. The actual ingredient listing is: Water (Aqua), Ascorbic Acid, Acetyl Tyrosine, Zinc Sulfate, Sodium Hyaluronate, Bioflavanoids. This listing is taken directly from the High-Potency Cellex-C bottle. I have been using Cellex-C on and off for almost the past 10 years and have experienced better results from this antioxidant serum than any other that I have previously tried (including Paula's Choice). I now use it consistently, and it has provided progressively better results with continued usage. It's benefits have included firmer skin, reduced lines and wrinkles, and improved skin tone (brightening). One of my favorite aspects of this serum is its aqueous nature - it's basically like putting water on your face. Thus, it isn't heavy or oily like serums which are silicone based. Followed with my preferred moisturizer, it is a perfect combination for me. I highly recommend it considering its efficacy. Paula, please update your review to reflect the correct ingredient listing. Thanks.

Reviewed by
Beautypedia Team Response
Thank you for bringing this to our attention. We've contacted Cellex-C and confirmed the formulation of its High Potency Serum. Look for an updated review here on Beautypedia in the near future!
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