This $28 vitamin C serum that was developed by MIT scientists makes my skin glow — and it’s available to buy after selling out 4 times

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  • Maelove is a “radically affordable” skin-care product line priced entirely under $30.
  • The company was founded by a team of MIT grads (skin-care obsessives, brain and cancer researchers, and chemical engineers) and used research to create formula blueprints.
  • Using artificial intelligence, they cross-referenced those formulas with millions of self-reported reviews to determine the best ingredients and worst ingredients for users.
  • The resultant $28 Glow Maker is a cult-favorite and prone to frequent sellouts.
  • Consumers have been quick to note the Glow Maker has a similar ingredient list to the multi-award-winning C E Ferulic Serum ($166), despite being more than $130 cheaper.

Generally speaking, most skin care is expensive. There are good options at low prices, but there are also one too many $300 night creams and pots of rare ingredients infused with gold flecks to call the genre accessible all-around.

Practically speaking, good skin care should be much easier to get your hands on. Certain ingredients just work, and it shouldn’t be too difficult to cut through the noise and formulate something that combines those proven ingredients in a basic bottle that can retail for an affordable price.

That’s what Maelove CEO Jackie Kim thought when she set out to create a “radically affordable” skin-care startup – and, in so many words, that’s what the company has seemingly achieved with the cult-favorite $28 “Glow Maker” Vitamin C serum. After four sellouts, it’s now available to buy as the company re-ups for the fifth time.

The Glow Maker focuses on hyperpigmentation, smoothing, and hydration. It’s packed with canonical ingredients like vitamins C (15% L-ascorbic acid), E and ferulic acid for antioxidation protection, hyaluronic acid for hydration, and a proprietary mix of botanicals (grape seed extract, aloe, aurantium dulcis, and magnolia) for nourishment and easier makeup application. The addition of extracts also makes the serum better for sensitive skin than most vitamin C serums.

Consumers have also been quick to note The Glow Maker ($28) has striking similarities to SkinCeuticals’ multi-award winning C E Ferulic Serum ($166), despite it being more than $130 cheaper.

For reference:

  • The ingredient list of C E Ferulic according to SkinCeuticals ($166): Aqua/Water/Eau, Ethoxydiglycol, Ascorbic Acid, Glycerin, Propylene Glycol, Laureth-23, Phenoxyethanol, Tocopherol, Triethanolamine, Ferulic Acid, Panthenol, Sodium Hyaluronate.
  • The ingredient list of Glow Maker according to Maelove ($28): Water (Aqua), Ascorbic Acid, Ethoxydiglycol, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Glycerin, Lecithin, Sodium Hyaluronate, Ferulic Acid, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Callus Culture Extract, Magnolia Officinalis Bark Extract, Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Seed Extract, Xanthan Gum, Disodium EDTA, Sodium Metabisulfite, Triethanolamine, Phenoxyethanol, Ethylhexyglycerin, Maltodextrin, Tocopherol.

Read more: Every product in this skin-care line by MIT grads is under $30 – and they all work better than the luxury options I’ve tried



Kim and co-founders Brad and Rishi, MIT graduates, leveraged artificial-intelligence techniques to scan millions of self-reported product reviews to determine which ingredients correlated with success, and which to avoid. From there, Kim applied a similar approach to securing a partnership with one of the world’s best cosmetics labs by cold-calling hundreds of people who worked at luxury brands she admired, following up with the tiny percentage that responded, and eventually getting enough insight from a handful of respondents to make real inroads.

The resultant three-years-in-the-making serum continues to generate enthusiastically positive reviews.

In person, Maelove’s Glow Maker is noteworthy apart from its origin story. It does what it’s supposed to do (brightens the complexion, lightens dark spots) but its real standout features are that it absorbs completely and almost instantaneously into the skin and provides a glow that is noticeable but definitely not enough that people with oily skin should steer clear. There’s no tangible residue, and the skin doesn’t feel sticky or tacky post-use.

And while my skin is sensitive and can be dried out by all-over vitamin C application, I have not had that issue with Maelove’s iteration – something I’d credit to their botanical blend and hyaluronic acid, which can hold up to 1,000 times its weight in water.

Read more: 23 skin-care products with near-perfect Amazon reviews



The Maelove team is an unusual one- comprised of cancer and brain researchers, chemical engineers, lawyers, doctors, and an obsessive skin-care enthusiast – but that outsider perspective is its greatest advantage. The startup’s founding goal was affordability and accessibility, and thanks to obsessive research and a streamlined, no-fuss approach to the industry, that goal is met with a product line unanimously priced under $30.

And if you’ve been paying $166 for SkinCeuticals’ C E Ferulic Serum, you owe it to yourself to check out the Glow Maker, since you could technically buy 6 bottles of Maelove Glow Maker for one bottle of C E Ferulic if you like it enough to swap – and I wouldn’t be surprised. If you don’t, they offer a 100-day return window for a full refund.

Maelove Glow Maker Vitamin C Serum, $27.95