This $16 Serum Has Almost the Same Ingredients as a $166 Cult Favorite

Amanda Montell

Psst: Did you know Prime Day is going on right now? There are tons of beauty deals to be had on editor-loved products. Don't be shy!


Dermatologists agree that if you're going to splurge on any at-home skincare product, let it be serums. While cleansers' and moisturizers' purposes are a little more basic and therefore require fewer expensive ingredients, serums are aimed at treating specific issues like dark spots, fine lines, and acne. So if you want them to generate visible results, investing in active ingredients with clinical trials supporting their efficacy is your best move.

SkinCeuticals is adored by beauty editors, skincare gurus, and dermatologists alike for its smart, scientifically backed formulas, including its cult-favorite antioxidant serum, C E Ferulic, which I personally credit for keeping my freckly skin bright and clear.

Of course, we're not always in the position to drop $150 or more on a skincare product. Especially for those new to serums, starting out with something so spendy can make you feel squirmy.

Whatever your reason for wanting to go the budget route this time around, we've done a little research on our favorite retailer for unexpectedly legit (cheap) skincare that you can get delivered to your doorstep in 48 hours: Amazon. If you know what to look for, you can get similar swaps for SkinCeuticals' legendary formulas (though not always quite as potent or clinically backed) without breaking the bank. Keep scrolling for seven under-the-radar Amazon serums to try if you're a SkinCeuticals fan on a budget.

If you love:

SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic ($166)

Next try:

Dr. Brenner Vitamin C Serum ($16)

SkinCeuticals' majestic brightening serum contains 15% pure vitamin C, 1% vitamin E, and 0.5% ferulic acid for an antioxidant powerhouse that rivals most other brightening serums on the market. But Amazon consumers are surprised and delighted by this $17 find, which contains the same form of vitamin C in a 20% concentration, similarly enhanced by vitamin E and ferulic acid. "I received a bottle of Skinceuticals CE Ferulic serum as a gift. Literally a miracle in a bottle!" one reviewer writes. "Only problem was the price: $170 an ounce! … I was very skeptical whether [this one] would actually provide the same results. How could it possibly at less than $20 an ounce?! Dr. Brenner’s serum blew my mind. … I actually like it better!"

If you love:

SkinCeuticals Hydrating B5 Gel ($83)

Next try:

Timeless Skincare Vitamin B5 Serum ($15)

Hyaluronic acid and vitamin B5 are the key ingredients in SkinCeuticals' hydrating, reparative serum, which is great for aging skin that's lost some of its plumpness and firmness. But if your budget is lower, Amazon reviewers seem to be pretty smitten with Timeless's formula, which offers the same two main ingredients. "Similar to Skinceuticals. Was given a sample of expensive B5 serum from [my] dermatologist. This works just as well," says one review. 

If you love:

SkinCeuticals Hyaluronic Acid Intensifier ($100)

Next try:

TruSkin Naturals Hyaluronic Acid Serum ($16)

Severely dehydrated skin types are sure to fall quickly and committedly in love with this SkinCeuticals formula, which packs a majorly moisturizing blend of hyaluronic acid, Proxylane, licorice root, and purple rice. TruSkin Naturals (a sort of cult-loved Amazon brand) doesn't offer quite the same ingredient list, but consumers do love this hyaluronic acid serum, and the formula contains other deeply hydrating ingredients like jojoba oil and aloe, plus vitamins C and E for brightening. The product boasts over 970 five-star reviews.

If you love:

SkinCeuticals Phloretin CF ($166)

Next try:

InstaNatural Anti Aging Skin Clearing Serum ($22)

SkinCeuticals' Phloretin CF formula offers all the antioxidant benefits of C E Ferulic but with a formula designed for oily skin types (translation: way lower risk of breakouts). The combo of vitamin C, ferulic acid, and phloretin is unique on the market, but if you're acne-prone and on the hunt for a more affordable brightening serum, this one by InstaNatural is packed with vitamin C, plus anti-blemish ingredients like salicylic acid, tea tree, and niacinamide. It also has retinol, a key wrinkle-fighting ingredient.

If you love:

SkinCeuticals Blemish + Age Defense ($92)

Next try:

Pure Organic Ingredients Salicylic Acid 20% Solution ($15)

Dioic acid and alpha and beta hydroxy acids are the actives in SkinCeuticals' acne-defense serum, which works to treat and stave off blemishes and sun damage while improving skin texture. Amazon's selection of acne serums is on the lighter side, but this one contains a robust 20% salicylic acid solution that reviewers say is "very strong and effective," if not quite the same as its pricier counterpart.

If you love:

SkinCeuticals Phyto Corrective Gel ($66)

Next try:

Tree of Life Beauty Hyaluronic Acid Serum ($11)

Skin types prone to redness and irritation are the target of SkinCeuticals' super-soothing gel, which contains anti-inflammatory and antiseptic plant ingredients like hyaluronic acid, cucumber, thyme, and olive leaf extract. Though Tree of Life's $13 hyaluronic acid serum doesn't feature the exact same formula, ingredients like aloe and jojoba oil make it similarly hydrating and calming. 

If you love:

SkinCeuticals Discoloration Defense ($98)

Next try:

JJLabs Skin Solution Skin Lightening & Anti Aging Serum ($28)

SkinCeuticals made its discoloration defense to help folks seriously struggling to treat dark spots. Its formula packs a potent combination of brightening and exfoliating ingredients like tranexamic acid, kojic acid, niacinamide, and hepes. Amazon's $28 option offers a similar combo of tranexamic acid and niacinamide (though not in quite the same concentrations).

Up next: May we interest you in some more fabulous Amazon content? 

The 21 Best-Selling Skincare Products on Amazon Are All Under $35

The Trendiest Fashion Items Are Under $50 on Amazon

All the Fashion Items We're Buying on Amazon (Because of Instagram) 

This post was published at an earlier date and has since been updated. 

This article originally appeared on Who What Wear

Read More from Who What Wear