Ole Henriksen Truth Serum Review

written by: Tom Qiao
last update: December 28, 2022

Ole Henriksen Truth Serum Review

Did you know that Truth Serum is one of the bestselling face serums of ALL TIME?

Seriously, it's the truth! In 2010, it was even the No. 1 anti-aging product at Sephora.

However, popularity doesn't always indicate effectiveness.

So how good is Ole Henriksen Truth Serum? Let's find out!

(keep reading to see my before/after pics as well!)

Ingredients: 3.5/5.0

First of all, a good Vitamin C Serum should serve 3 main functions:

  1. Reduces Melanin: by reducing melanin production, Vitamin C brightens dark spots, fades hyperpigmentation like melasma, and corrects uneven skin tone
  2. Promotes Collagen: by promoting collagen production, Vitamin C can help your skin appear smoother and tighter, with fewer wrinkles and fine lines
  3. Prevents Damage: as an antioxidant powerhouse, Vitamin C mops up free radicals to prevent oxidative damage from UV radiation, pollution, stress, and aging

(source: The Roles of Vitamin C in Skin Health, 2017)

Second of all, there are 2 general types of Vitamin C:

  1. Pure Vitamin C: also called L-Ascorbic Acid (LAA), this is the form of Vitamin C that your body can use directly which allows it to provide the most skin benefits
  2. Vitamin C Derivatives: these are modified versions of LAA, designed to address its shortcomings (low stability, short short life, requires low pH for skin penetration), but must be converted into LAA before providing any skin benefits

(source: Stability, Transdermal Penetration, and Cutaneous Effects of Ascorbic Acid and its Derivatives, 2012)

Ole Henriksen Truth Serum uses True-C Complex™, a blend of two Vitamin C Derivatives:

  • Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate (SAP): a salt derivative of LAA that is stable at pH ~7. While it offers greater stability, studies show that SAP is less effective than LAA in terms of skin penetration, sun protection, and collagen stimulation (source: here)
  • Calcium Ascorbate (CA): also called Ester-C, CA is used in nutritional supplements. Unfortunately, there's limited data on its effectiveness in skincare. A 2006 study found that CA was more hydrating than LAA in topical creams (source: here)
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While SAP and CA are more stable than LAA, they are also less effective at providing the skin benefits that Vitamin C is known for (brightening, tightening, and protecting).

In addition, OLEHENRIKSEN does not disclose the concentration of these ingredients, which in my experience, suggests a relatively low concentration.

Finally, the ingredient list is rounded out by boosters like Vitamin E, Hydrolyzed Collagen, Aloe Vera Juice, and Green Tea Extract for more antioxidant and hydration goodness.

Vitamin E, in particular, works very synergistically with Vitamin C as the latter is able to recycle the former when its antioxidant power is depleted (source: UV Photoprotection by Combination Topical Antioxidants Vitamin C and Vitamin E, 2003).

Overall, I give the ingredients a score of 3.5. (pretty good, but could be better)

Product Design: 4.5/5.0

When it comes to product design, I'm mainly focused on overall functionality and usability, although I do occasionally give bonus points for exceptional aesthetics.

For vitamin C serums, it's important to protect the formulation from light, air, and heat as the sensitive ingredients can oxidize over time and lose their potency.

Truth Serum comes in a beautiful semi-opaque glass bottle with a pump dispenser. Years later, I still keep mine around because it's such a high-quality and luxurious bottle.

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In terms of functionality, I don't like that it's semi-opaque (as this may permit oxidation) but since Truth Serum uses vitamin C derivatives anyways, I don't think it's a huge concern.

The pump dispenser is also easy to use and includes an ON/OFF switch. This is much better than dropper bottles where the entire formula is exposed to air every time you open it.

In terms of aesthetics, as I mentioned, it's a very solid bottle with a luxurious finish to it.

The gold standard in product design is an opaque container with a pump dispenser (Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum is a good example).

Overall, I give the product design a score of 4.5. (functional and aesthetic design)

Texture & Smell: 4.5/5.0

Truth Serum has the consistency of a light gel (feels like almost water). I found it was easy to apply using my fingers, though it leaves behind a slight bit of stickiness.

I recommend using one full pump for your face, neck, and chest. Reduce to half a pump if you're only applying to your face and/or problematic areas.

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Truth Serum is also infused with a sweet citrus scent. Personally, I don't mind as it smells refreshing and energizing and adds to the overall product experience.

However, I know that fragrance may cause some people to experience adverse reactions, so make sure to perform a patch test or try a sample size first.

During my 6+ months of using Truth Serum, I did not experience any breakouts that could be directly contributed to this product.

Overall, I give the texture & smell a score of 4.5. (light gel texture, sweet citrus scent)

Results: 3.0/5.0

Of course, the most important question is, does Truth Serum actually work?

Years ago, I bought the 3.4 oz (100 mL) limited edition size to find out. At the time, I was looking for a solution to my acne scars (a mix of hypertrophic scars and atrophic scars) that were left behind after a decade of struggling with inflammatory cystic acne.

Overall, I found that Truth Serum delivered mild-to-moderate improvements:

  • Initial Test Period (~3 months): I noticed that my skin looked clearer and smoother after a few weeks, especially around my cheeks and forehead. However, I didn't see any significant skin brightening effects nor did Truth Serum improve my acne scars. Later, I realized I was using Truth Serum on the wrong type of scars (raised scars) which requires a different type of treatment (steroid injections and silicone gels).
  • Follow-up Test Period (~5 months): after doing more research, I used the remaining Truth Serum on the atrophic scars on my temples, in combination with at-home microneedling therapy (0.5mm and 1.0mm). After many months, these scars still appear to be the same, although my skin felt softer and smoother (perhaps due to some collagen growth from the microneedling therapy).


Here are my before/after photos from using Ole Henriksen Truth Serum:

(note: it's difficult to show the true depth of atrophic scars as you need angled lighting)

Ole Henriksen Truth Serum Before After
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Overall, I found that Truth Serum was not very effective at boosting collagen production since my atrophic scars showed limited improvement. This isn't entirely surprising as we know Truth Serum uses vitamin C derivatives (and likely at low concentrations).

For this reason, I recommend using Truth Serum for greater skin clarity and smoothness, but not for deeper issues like atrophic scars, wrinkles and fine lines, or hyperpigmentation.

In addition, Truth Serum may help clear up the occasional pimple, blemish, or dark spot, although I did not specifically test this myself.

Overall, I give the results a score of 3.0. (not bad, but nothing to write home about)

Price: 3.5/5.0

While Truth Serum is not cheap, it's not completely unaffordable either.

(ahem, looking at you, SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic!)

At $50 per oz, Truth Serum is actually reasonably priced for a mid-range beauty brand.

The best way to buy Truth Serum is through the 3 Little Wonders Set which is $52 as you get a full 1.0 oz size of Truth Serum, 1.0 oz Sheer Transformation Perfecting Moisturizer, and 1.0 oz Invigorating Night Transformation Gel with AHAs for only $2 more!

In addition, OLEHENRIKSEN runs frequent promotions and you can save a further 15% by signing up for the newsletter.

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Overall, I give the price a score of 3.5. (it's not cheap, but it's not unaffordable either)

Ole Henriksen Truth Serum Reviews

Finally, I've handpicked two customer reviews that I feel are fair and representative:

“It’s an amazing product to make your skin feel hydrated and healthy. I would say you only need half of a pump because it’s very liquidity and it’s enough to cover your whole face, the recommended pump amount is too much for me. It smells like fresh oranges but don’t let the orange smell fool you into thinking it has a ton of vitamin C, there are other serums out there with more. It still has a lot of benefits for your skin. This is my main moisturizer serum after the shower and you can add any face cream once the serum has dried. You can definitely feel the difference in the health of your skin. You feel extra ready for the day after it’s use. The reason why it’s 4 and not 5 stars is because I think it’s way over priced for only 15 mL as it lasts me only 1 month using half a pump morning and night.”

"ONLY PURCHASE THE SMALL SIZE!! First off dyes are not meant to be in facial serums. Also fragrances are NOT good for your skin . This has an orange shade to it to hide the fact when the vitamin C expires. Real natural vitamin C serum contain no color and tend to expire quickly so that’s why they are clear so when it is expired discoloration will occur. Which is why I recommend getting the small size rather than the big. Because for the most part it did help me remove my scars the first month but then stopped working.”

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Article written by Tom Qiao
Tom is the founder and editor of TheDermDetective.com where he applies his decades of personal experience with skincare problems like acne and acne scarring to provide readers with practical advice and product recommendations.

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