REVIEW: Obagi Professional-C Serum 15%

Obagi Professional-C Serum 15%

The most searched for skincare ingredient of 2020 in the UK wasn’t the almightly retinol (it was second), but Vitamin C with 1.2 million searches and counting. It seems we’re all looking for something to protect and brighten our dull skin before we address lines and wrinkles.

Vitamin C helps produce collagen (which keeps skin firm and reduces the appearance of wrinkles) and protects skin from sun damage and dark spots.

Vitamin C has a brightening effect, which leaves your complexion looking radiant. Like all antioxidants, vitamin C works by neutralizing free radicals (a type of molecule in your body) that cause damage to your cells—but unlike other antioxidants, vitamin C is very well studied and, in general, well-tolerated at high potencies, allowing for max impact. – Ranella Hirsch, M.D., Board-certified Dermatologist.


Pure Obagi is a range of award-winning skincare products.

Obagi is the first medical skincare brand to design its clinical research protocols to cover all six skin types across the Fitzpatrick skin spectrum – a scientific classification that identifies six different skin types according to the amount of pigment in the skin and the skin’s reaction to sun or ultraviolet light exposure.

With a wide choice of products to review, I chose Obagi Professional-C Serum 15% which contains 15% vitamin C aka L-ascorbic acid. Known as the purest form of vitamin C, L-Ascorbic acid helps neutralize free radicals, minimise the look of fine lines and wrinkles, and brighten skin tone.

There are three different strengths of the product.

  • 10% Concentrated Vitamin C antioxidant serum recommended for dry, irritated or sensitive skin
  • 15% High-performance Vitamin C antioxidant serum developed for combination skin/most skin types
  • 20% Highly concentrated Vitamin C antioxidant serum best suited for normal to oily skin


Obagi’s Professional-C Serums provide L-Ascorbic Acid, the most bioavailable form of Vitamin C, for optimal skin absorption and results.  L-ascorbic acid is known to support new collagen production and is also effective in reducing the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles and photo-ageing of the skin.


Proactively fortifies the skin defences against environmental assaults.

Promotes a more even skin tone and a brighter complexion

Encourages skin to rebound from previous, visible damage for an improved appearance of fine lines, wrinkles and uneven skin tone.

Aids in restoring skin’s antioxidant strength to help skin appear younger for longer.


Apply 5 to 7 drops from the glass dropper to cleansed skin in the morning before sunscreen and makeup.


  • Keep out of direct sunlight
  • Store in a dark, cool place
  • Keep cap on tightly when not in use
  • Once opened, this product should be used within 6 months.



I love reading articles detailing dermatologists’ personal skincare routines. I’m always surprised by how exhaustive (and exhausting) their regimens are – less certainly doesn’t appear to be more. I usually haven’t heard of half the products they use but I always feel quite smug if they include something I use. However, the one product they all seem to agree is essential skincare, is vitamin C serum.

Obagi Professional-C Serum is clinical grade, vitamin C serum. It is packaged in a dark blue glass bottle to retain its potency and prevent degradation triggered by light and oxygen exposure. In fact, you should stay clear of any vitamin C product that isn’t stored in a dark or opaque container.

The serum should be stored somewhere cool, dark, and humid free ie not the bathroom. I also keep mine in the original cardboard box. If your vitamin C product (actually any product), starts to smell a bit ‘off’ and change colour then it’s time to dispose of it as it will have oxidised and will no longer be effective.

My skin is super sensitive, but not dry. After a patch test, I acclimatised myself to the serum and built up usage from twice a week to six days a week. With any active, it is important to start slowly to build up a tolerance. For this reason, I started using it at night, before switching to mornings, in case my skin reacted. Happily, I didn’t experience any redness or irritation, although it did tingle on the first couple of applications. But that’s tingle, not sting.

The serum consistency is thin and watery and it’s slightly tinted. The fragrance is faintly reminiscent of fake tan but it’s only fleeting and doesn’t scent the skin.

I thought it felt slippery and slightly oily in my palm until I applied it. My skin drank it up, in fact, I was almost tempted to add a few more drops as it was hard to smooth over my skin, but I kept to just 5 drops the whole time. The way I apply it now is to gently pat it onto my skin.

After application, there is always a slightly shiny residue on my hands, but zero shine on my face. This helped later on when I started to apply the drops before my makeup in the morning. I leave it for 5-8 minutes to allow it to absorb fully.

I’ve been using the serum since March and there’s just over half left, so I will easily get through this bottle in six months.

The first results are usually fast, in two or three weeks I could see a subtle brightening of my dull, ‘been indoors too long over lockdown’ complexion. A healthy glow is usually the first change people report on.

I’m fortunate not to have much sun damage on my face. Well, I say fortunate, I’m diligent when it comes to applying SPF 30 or 50 every day. It takes 66 days to form a new habit and now it’s an essential skincare step in my routine, it’s finally starting to pay off.

What I do suffer from though is rosacea which is usually accompanied by high colour on the face. What I have seen over these past months is a gradual reduction of pinkness and a more even skin tone, with decreasing hyperpigmentation. Interestingly, the improvement is more evident on one side of my face than the other. The side I sleep on is still prone to a flush of colour, but there is now a nice bounce to my skin.

Cleansing, exfoliating, and applying antioxidants to your skin can fight free radical damage.

80% of free-radical formation is from UV radiation which is emitted by the sun. But unlike sun damage where you get a tan, there’s no immediate sign you’ve encountered environmental pollution. However, the effects on your skin could appear later in life as free radicals can accelerate the ageing process.

Finally having the freedom to be out and about now means the skin is more exposed to ageing environmental aggressors. It’s great to feel the sun on your face, but remember to protect your skin with a high-quality vitamin C serum followed by sunscreen, your future face will thank you for it.

Obagi Professional-C Serum 15% – Prices vary, expect to pay £80.00+

Mostly sold through clinic websites, but Look Fantastic sells the 10% strength serum.

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