Vitamin C may be an it-ingredient on skin care shelves, but that hasn’t always been the case. In fact, despite seeming like a centuries-old beauty staple, the antioxidant only emerged in American cosmetics in the 1980s. Ole Henriksen, esthetician and founder of his industry-fave eponymous skin care line, was one of the first to incorporate vitamin C in his formulas — beginning with the brand’s bestselling Truth Serum.
Beauty aficionados now, of course, are used to vitamin C starring as a key active in expert-recommended skin care routines. The antioxidant’s popularity was further fueled by TikTok’s recent vitamin C challenge, wherein users tested several vitamin C serums on apples to observe which brighten the fruit best. Countless trials — and a whopping 145.7 million views of the #vitamincserum hashtag later — OLEHENRIKSEN’s Banana Bright 15% Vitamin C Serum was crowned winner of the test, solidifying its prestige among skin care devotees. And, as of today, the cult-famous, vitamin C-spiked Truth collection features a new product: the OLEHENRIKSEN Barrier Booster Orange Ferment Vitamin C Essence.
The latest addition to the beauty collection came to be because Henriksen felt something was missing within the Truth Collection — he wanted something that functioned like a toner, but better. “We wanted to go beyond the expectations of a traditional toner,” Henriksen tells Bustle in an exclusive interview. More specifically, he envisioned a product that could combine the powers of a toner with those of a vitamin C serum. Now, that vision has come to fruition (no pun intended) with the release of the brand’s brightening, barrier-strengthening essence.
An essence is essentially a hybrid of a robust toner that simultaneously works as a serum. “It allows you that lightness of a toner, but has a little more texture and consistency,” Riva Barak, senior director of product development at KENDO who worked with Henriksen on the essence, tells Bustle. Basically, it’s the best of all worlds, as its thin, watery consistency allows it to seep further into your pores while prepping the skin for other products you might layer on top.
The Orange Ferment Essence is particularly unique, however, as it was specifically formulated to include all parts of an orange. “You don't just take out the vitamin C from an orange and eat just that — you're eating the whole orange,” Barak says of the inspiration behind the product. And seeing as the essence contains a potent combination of L-absorbic acid, isolated orange stem cells, orange peel ferment, and orange extract, applying this essence is like feeding your skin an entire orange — so you’re getting the most potent dose of skin-brightening and protecting vitamin C infused into your complexion. Plus, it’s boosted with skin-soothing niacinamide, hydrating vitamin E, and moisture-binding polyglutamic acid (which works similarly to hyaluronic acid, but holds even more water), meaning this essence really does check all the boxes. Obviously, I had to try it.
At first, I was skeptical. I already use a vitamin C serum, so I was unsure how this essence could make a difference. But I was proven wrong: Within less than a week of use, my mild rosacea had cleared up, and my complexion reverted back to its regular, non-pink shade. By the end of the week, my skin started glowing, almost developing a golden hue. The dark spot I’d developed from a recent cystic pimple disappeared. What’s more, my skin also felt significantly softer and was clearly holding hydration better. My complexion even looked different under makeup, as if I was wearing natural highlighter (I did look very dewy, à la the Bridgerton aesthetic). And I say all of this after trying the essence as both as a standalone product and combining it with a serum, meaning it persists in making a noticeable difference regardless of how it’s applied.
All of that being said, I think my favorite part might be the scent: This orange-in-a-bottle genuinely has the exact same aroma as a fresh orange, so applying the product feels like a delicious self-care ritual — one that so happens to make me glow.
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