The Ordinary is a very popular budget-friendly skincare line that is known for its effective hero ingredient products and no-frills formulas that retail at rock bottom prices. While The Ordinary has many formulations that are low on the EGW’s Skin Deep toxicity database, they are marketed as clinical skincare as opposed to clean skincare. If you are looking for an alternative to The Ordinary, and want clean hero ingredient formulas that are priced affordably, you should check out Pacifica’s new line of Clean Shot Serums.
Pacifica’s serums are formulated to provide multiple skincare benefits without unnecessary ingredients that can impede the performance of the product. There are 7 serums/treatments in the line, many of which can be layered under your favorite moisturizer.
Pacifica – The Brand
Pacifica was created by Brook Harvey-Taylor back in the 1990s. The brand started with 7 perfumes based on Brook’s love of essential oils. Whole Foods was one of the first retail stores that sold Pacific products, and since then, the brand has expanded into skincare, makeup, haircare, and suncare.
All of Pacifica’s products are clean, vegan, and cruelty-free. While there is no universal definition of what clean means in beauty products, skincare products can generally be considered clean if they contain no toxic ingredients or ingredients that could be harmful to your health. The Clean Shot serums are formulated without parabens, phthalates, petroleum, SLS or mineral oil. They are made in the US with globally sourced ingredients.
While the serums are clean, please note that they are fragranced. Each bottle of Clean Shot serum has the scent prominently noted on the front of the bottle, so I imagine that product experience is an important part of the formulation. All of Pacifica’s Clean Shot products are packaged in clean-looking white glass bottles.
NOTE: The Ordinary’s website notes that all DECIEM products (The Ordinary is under DECIEM’s portfolio of brands) are free of parabens, sulphates, mineral oil, methylchloroisothiazolinone, methylisothiazolinone, animal oils, coal tar dyes, formaldehyde, mercury, and oxybenzone.
This post contains affiliate links, and any purchases made through these links will result in a commission for me at no extra cost to you. Please read my Disclosure for additional information.
Pacifica Clean Shot Serums vs. The Ordinary Serums
Complexes and Percentages
How do Pacifica Clean Shot serums compare to The Ordinary serums? While The Ordinary is known for being extremely transparent when it comes to ingredients and percentages in their formulas, Pacifica is a little less so. While there are percentages in many of the formula names, most of their products are complexes, meaning that a mix of ingredients combines to make a certain percentage of the product.
As previously noted, Pacifica also includes fragrance in all of the serums in the Clean Shot line that come from natural and/or essential oils. While most of the scents are very light, others definitely linger. The Ordinary serums do not contain any added fragrance.
Pacifica’s Clean Shot serums also contain many plant and/or flower extracts. The Ordinary serums often contain plant/flower extracts, but they are not usually featured ingredients like those found in Pacifica Clean Shots, i.e. Pacifica Clean Shot Hyaluronic & Flowers 5% Solution.
Each Clean Shot serum lists the natural scent on the front of the bottle with the intended use of the serum, which is very helpful. This is a departure from The Ordinary’s often clinical-sounding product names which may leave you confused as to what the product is and what issues it addresses. (i.e. Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate Solution 20% in Vitamin F).
While most of The Ordinary serums are priced under $10, Pacifica’s serums (while still very affordable) range from $12 for most of the serums to $16 for the two retinoid serums. This pricing is impressive considering clean skincare is often expensive. All of Pacifica’s Clean Shot serums are 0.8 oz, while the corresponding The Ordinary products are 1 oz.
Each of Pacifica’s serums can be compared to specific The Ordinary products, with the exception of the retinoids. Please keep in mind that the corresponding products may only have a few elements of the products in common, but a comparison will be made as to the performance and results from each product for its intended use.
Please note that this post will concentrate on Pacifica Clean Shot serums. While The Ordinary products will be discussed, please see the following posts for an in depth discussion of The Ordinary products:
Pacifica Clean Shot serums are priced right and contain many of the same ingredients as The Ordinary. But are they better? Let’s take a look:
Pacifica Clean Shot BHA/AHA 25% Peel Solution ($12 for 0.8 oz) vs The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution ($7.20 for 1 oz )
Two of the most popular products from both Pacific and The Ordinary are peeling solutions that deeply exfoliate the skin to improve the appearance of pores, skin tone and skin texture.
NOTE: Both products contain a high concentration of free acids, and should only be used if you are an experienced user of acid exfoliation and if your skin is not sensitive, peeling or otherwise compromised.
Pacifica Clean Shot BHA/AHA 25% Peel Solution contains 25% BHA/AHAs and is formulated with glycolic acid, vegan lactic acid, willow bark, salicylic acid, turmeric, basil, azadirachta flower, and eggplant. This range of alpha-hydroxy acids dissolves dead skin cells, dirt, and oil to reveal a brighter more even-tone complexion. This is a potent product that comes in the form of a cloudy pale blue/green runny gel. This rinse-off product is to be applied as a mask for no more than 15 minutes a couple of times per week.
The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution is a stronger total concentration by 5%. It is a peeling solution that is formulated with 30% alpha hydroxy acids (glycolic, lactic, tartaric, citric) and 2% beta hydroxy acid in the form of salicylic acid. It also contains hyaluronic acid crosspolymer for hydration and comfort, vitamin B5 for healing, and black carrot for antioxidant support. A Tasmanian pepperberry derivative helps to reduce irritation associated with acid use. This rinse-off product is to be applied as a mask for no more than 10 minutes 1 to 2 times per week.
PRODUCT APPEARANCE: One of the big differences between the two products is in physical appearance. Pacifica Clean Shot is a pale blue/green gel while The Ordinary is a blood-red shaded gel. I personally don’t love the messiness and look of the red shade of The Ordinary peeling solution.
Both products irritate my somewhat sensitive skin, so I’ve had to slowly work up to the directed time that the products should be applied to the face. Overall, Pacifica Clean Shot BHA/AHA 25% Peel Solution was less irritating to my skin than The Ordinary peeling solution. Both products exfoliate and brighten noticeably.
MY PICK: Due to my somewhat sensitive skin and preference for the less jarring shade of the product, my pick is Pacifica Clean Shot BHA/AHA 25% Peel Solution, for an effective treatment that brightens skin and evens the look of skin texture. If you are a fan of The Ordinary 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution and are looking for an effective alternative, this one from Pacifica is worth a try.
NOTE: Alpha hydroxy acids and beta hydroxy acids increase skin’s sensitivity to the sun, so it is important to wear sunscreen while using these products and for a week after. For complete instructions on how to use these products, please visit Pacifica and The Ordinary’s websites.
Pacifica Clean Shot Niacinamide, Zinc & Hemp 10% Complex ($12 for 0.8 oz) vs The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% ($5.90 for 1 oz)
Niacinamide is one of my favorite skincare ingredients that has so many benefits, such as calming redness and brightening skin tone. It also has anti-aging benefits such as reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, regulating oil production, and improving the look of pores and skin texture. While it works for all skin types, if you have oily, congested, and acne-prone skin, niacinamide can be especially helpful.
Pacifica Clean Shot Niacinamide, Zinc & Hemp 10% Complex is formulated with niacinamide, zinc, and hemp seed oil in a 10% complex. Hemp seed oil helps regulate oil production, has anti-inflammatory properties, and locks in moisture. Parfum is the last ingredient in the product list, which notes that the fragrance is Pacifica’s scent blend with natural and/or essential oils. The bottle notes that the scent is Lemongrass.
The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% is formulated with 10% niacinamide plus zinc salt of pyrrolidone carboxylic acid (PCA) to help control and visually balance sebum activity. This formula is formulated to reduce the appearance of blemishes and congestion in the skin.
These serums are similar in appearance in that they are both a running gel like consistency. Pacifica Niacinamide is supposed to smell like lemongrass. It does not remind me exactly of lemongrass, but rather a citrus-like scent. The Ordinary niacinamide does not have any added scent.
NOTE: I have never been able to use The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% consistently, as there is something in the formula that irritates my skin. It is one of The Ordinary’s best-selling products, so clearly it performs well for others.
Pacifica Clean Shot Niacinamide, Zinc & Hemp 10% Complex did a great job of control oil production in my T-zone and it felt soothing on days after using actives like retinoids. I would prefer to know the exact amount of niacinamide in the product (it is part of a 10% complex). It has a nice consistency and works well under other skincare and makeup.
MY PICK: Although The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% is one of the brand’s bestsellers, unfortunately, it irritates my skin, so I prefer Pacifica Clean Shot Niacinamide, Zinc & Hemp 10% Complex. Pacifica’s niacinamide serum is a great alternative to The Ordinary for oil control along with all of the other benefits that come with niacinamide.
Pacifica Clean Shot Mushrooms & Caffeine 7% Solution ($12 for 0.8 oz) vs The Ordinary Caffeine Solution 5% + EGCG ($6.70 for 1 oz)
These products will be compared since they are both caffeine and green tea solutions, but it is important to note that Pacifica Clean Shot Mushrooms & Caffeine 7% Solution is formulated for the face whereas The Ordinary Caffeine Solution 5% + EGCG is formulated for the eye contour area.
Pacifica Clean Shot Mushrooms & Caffeine 7% Solution addresses puffiness and irritation with adaptogenic mushrooms, radish root, green tea, and caffeine. Parfum is the last ingredient in the product list, which notes that the fragrance is Pacifica’s scent blend with natural and/or essential oils. The bottle notes that the scent is Sandalwood.
NOTE: In my opinion, this is the most strongly scented serum in the entire Clean Shots line. I really enjoy the scent (similar to sandalwood), but it lingers after application, and I imagine may be too overpowering for some. Please note this if you are sensitive to fragrance in your products.
The Ordinary Caffeine Solution 5% + EGCG is a thin lightweight gel that is formulated with 5% concentration of caffeine, supplemented with highly-purified epigallocatechin gallatyl glucoside (EGCG) from green tea leaves. This product is formulated to help reduce the look of puffiness and dark circles around the eye contour.
The Ordinary notes that some issues like hollowness around the eyes due to the structure of sub-dermal tissues like fat and bone and fat deposits can create shadows and puffiness around the eyes which this product cannot improve.
Pacifica Clean Shot Mushrooms & Caffeine 7% Solution is a runny gel that absorbs quickly and works well with other skincare products. Adaptogenic mushrooms is big in skincare these days, as they soothe the skin, help reduce inflammation and support the skin barrier. I really enjoy using this serum on days after retinoid use as it calms my skin.
I use The Ordinary Caffeine Solution 5% + EGCG either on its own or under lightweight eye cream. I’ve noticed some depuffing and brightening with this product.
MY PICK: These are two very different products that actually complement each other nicely. I’ve been using Pacifica Clean-Shot Mushrooms & Caffeine 7% Solution when my skin gets irritated from retinoid use since it’s very soothing. Which do I choose? Both, but I think Pacifica Clean Shot Mushrooms & Caffeine 7% Solution is more practical since it can be used on the entire face.
Pacifica Clean Shot Hyaluronic & Flowers 5% Solution ($12 for 0.8 oz) vs The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 ($6.80 for 1 oz)
Hyaluronic acid is such a fantastic ingredient and a savior when it comes to skin that is in need of hydration. Hyaluronic acid holds up to 1,000 times its weight in water in our bodies and temporarily plumps skin helping to reduce the look of fine lines and wrinkles. As we age, we produce less of this sugar molecule, so the following hyaluronic acid serums work well topically to hydrate, plump, and moisturize the skin making it bouncier while providing a dewy finish.
Pacifica Clean Shot Hyaluronic & Flowers 5% Solution for damaged and dry skin is formulated with hyaluronic acid and flower extracts of rose, orange, jasmine, peony, and cherry and apple cell culture.
The Benefits of Flower Extracts
Rose extract has many benefits in skincare such as hydration, skin barrier protection, and anti-inflammatory benefits. Orange extract has astringent properties while jasmine has soothing and rejuvenating benefits. Peony and cherry extracts contains antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties while apple cell culture offers anti-aging benefits.
Again, we don’t know the concentration of each ingredient in the product, so it’s hard to measure how these flower extracts can benefit our skin. Parfum is the last ingredient in the product list, which notes that the fragrance is Pacifica’s scent blend with natural and/or essential oils. The bottle notes that the scent is Rose.
The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 is formulated with low-, medium- and high-molecular-weight Hyaluronic Acid and a next-generation Hyaluronic Acid crosspolymer at 2%. What does this mean? The different weights of hyaluronic acid molecules will penetrate the skin at different levels for better hydration and plumping.
Pacifica Clean Shot Hyaluronic & Flowers 5% Solution is a lightweight white liquid gel that hydrates well. It dries quickly and works well under makeup. Compared to other hydrating serums, like The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid + B5 and my favorite affordable hyaluronic acid, I would have preferred just a little more hydration.
MY PICK: Both products hydrated nicely, but personally, I prefer The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid + B5, as it provides a little more moisture to my skin.
Pacifica Clean Shot Vegan Amino Acid 10% Complex ($12 for 0.8 oz) vs The Ordinary Amino Acids + B5 ($6.80 for 1 oz)
Pacifica Clean Shot Vegan Amino Acid 10% Complex addresses dehydration and stressors with a 10% vegan amino acid complex that is formulated with betaine, glutamic acid, alanine, glycine, serine, arginine, proline, lysine HCI and threonine.
Parfum is the last ingredient in the product list, which notes that the fragrance is Pacifica’s scent blend with natural and/or essential oils. The bottle notes that the scent is Lavender.
The Ordinary Amino Acids + B5 is formulated with amino acids and amino acid derivatives creating a combined total concentration of 17% (by weight) to resemble the composition of amino acids found in the skin’s own Natural Moisturizing Factors.
This solution from The Ordinary provides barrier support, osmotic balance, elasticity, and desquamation (shedding of the epidermis layer of the skin). D-Panthenol, a pro-vitamin of Vitamin B5 (5% by weight), is also included for hydration and to soothe irritation. The Ordinary notes a tingling sensation may be experienced upon application and it can be mixed with serums or creams to reduce the concentration of this product.
The ingredient lists are very similar for these amino acid products, although The Ordinary contains all of the amino acids listed above from Pacifica and a few more. Pacifica Amino Acid Complex contains aloe vera as an anti-inflammatory while The Ordinary uses B5 to soothe the skin. Pacifica has a pale green shade and has an added Lavender fragrance that is very light.
Both Amino Acid serums are formulated well, yet neither stood out to me. When it comes to hydrators, I prefer Hyaluronic Acid.
MY PICK: I liked the texture of The Ordinary Amino Acids + B5 a little bit better, as it has a very thin unscented formula, almost as thin as water. If you are looking for a very lightweight hydrator, The Ordinary Amino Acids + B5 may be the choice for you.
Pacifica Clean Shot Granactive Retinoids in Seawater vs The Ordinary Granactive Retinoids
Pacifica Clean Shot Retinoids
Pacifica Clean Shot Retinoid + Bakuchiol 3% in Seawater ($16 for 0.8 oz) is a concentrated solution of Granactive, an advanced petroleum-free retinoid complex, and bakuchiol, a plant-based retinol alternative. Granactive retinoids are so appealing because they can be less irritating than retinol while providing better efficacy.
Described as “gentle & powerful” on the bottle, this retinoid complex is made to address the signs of aging such as fine lines and wrinkles, uneven skin tone, and dullness. There are studies, such as this bakuchiol study from 2014, which show that bakuchiol can provide similar results to retinol without the irritation.
Pacifica Clean Shot Granactive Retinoid 5% in Seawater ($16 for 0.8 oz) is a concentrated solution of Granactive, an advanced petroleum-free retinoid complex. Granactive retinoids can be less irritating than retinol while providing better efficacy.
This serum is formulated to address multiple signs of aging, including fine lines and wrinkles, uneven skin texture, and dullness. This serum has a higher concentration of retinoid complex than the 3% formula, so it would be ideal for those that are looking for a stronger concentration of retinoids.
Seawater is included in both of Pacifica’s retinoids. I’m not sure that there will be a large benefit from this ingredient, although seawater is filled with minerals which may be beneficial to the skin.
Parfum is the last ingredient in the product list of both Pacifica retinoids, which notes that the fragrance is Pacifica’s scent blend with natural and/or essential oils. The bottle notes that the scent is Jasmine.
Product Performance – Pacifica Clean Shot Retinoids
Both Pacifica Clean Shot serums are somewhat gooey gels that smell faintly of Jasmine. I’ve really enjoyed using Pacifica Clean Shot Retinoid + Bakuchiol 3% in Seawater, as I’ve had little to no irritation from this product, but the results are less noticeable than the 5% product.
The day after I use Pacifica Clean Shot Granactive Retinoid 5% in Seawater is when I notice that my skin is easily irritated and slightly reddened after applying skincare and makeup. Please note that my skin is somewhat sensitive, to begin with. I notice a brighter, clearer complexion with smaller pores after using the 5% though. So for me, it has been a trade-off. Better results + more irritation with the 5% in my case.
The Ordinary Retinoids
The Ordinary offers several retinoid products. Retinoids from The Ordinary cannot be directly compared to Pacifica Clean Shot serums, as the ingredients are somewhat different, but they are designed to do the same thing: reduce the appearance of the signs of aging. They offer a total of six retinoid products, three Granactive retinoids and three retinol formulates.
The best way to display the products is to compare their strength and irritation levels as provided by The Ordinary:
- Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion (Moderate Strength, No Irritation) ($9.80 for 1 oz)
- Granactive Retinoid 2% in Squalane (Moderate Strength, No Irritation) ($9.60 for 1 oz)
- Granactive Retinoid 5% in Squalane (High Strength, No to Low Irritation) ($13.90 for 1 oz)
- Retinol 0.2% in Squalane (Low Strength, Moderate Irritation) ($5.30 for 1 oz)
- Retinol 0.5% in Squalane (Moderate Strength, High Irritation) ($5.80 for 1 oz)
- Retinol 1% in Squalane (High Strength, Very High Irritation) ($6.70 for 1 oz)
The Ordinary’s three Granactive retinoids are the formulas most similar to Pacifica’s Granactive retinoids. The Ordinary’s Granactive retinoids are complexes of solubilized Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate (HPR). This advanced form of retinoid is a non-prescription ester of all-trans direct retinoic acid. Granactive retinoids are said to be much better at addressing the signs of aging than other non-prescription retinol products and avoid the irritation associated with retinol products.
The Ordinary points out that their Granactive Retinoid products use advanced retinoid technologies that can’t be compared directly to retinol in regard to concentration because they use a different retinoid molecule.
Product Performance – The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion & The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2% in Squalane
The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion is delivered via a creamy emulsion (my favorite) and The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2% in Squalane is delivered via an extremely lightweight squalane solution. Both deliver noticeable results in my skin after only a few uses. My skin is brighter, my pores appear smaller and there is better clarity in my skin. I prefer to use the emulsion in the summer and the squalane base is ideal for my skin during the winter months.
NOTE: The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 5% in Squalane is the closest in retinoid formulation to Pacifica Clean Shot Granactive Retinoid 5% in Seawater. The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 5% in Squalane has been sold out for a while so I have not been able to try it. (I also haven’t found the need to purchase it until now since I’ve been doing so well with The Ordinary Granactive Retinoids at 2% concentration.)
MY PICKS: As you can see, comparing retinoids isn’t cut and dry. The formulas for all of these products are unique. I prefer The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion or The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2% in Squalane for their no irritation formulas and noticeable results. I think Pacifica Clean Shot Retinoid + Bakuchiol 3% in Seawater is a great alternative to these two The Ordinary serums if you are looking for a low to no irritation retinoid product.
Final Thoughts on Pacifica Clean Shots Serums vs The Ordinary Serums
Please keep in mind that skincare products are so individual, and what works for me may not work for you. I am thrilled to find two products, Pacifica Clean-Shot Niacinamide, Zinc & Hemp 10% Complex, and Pacifica Clean-Shot BHA/AHA 25% Peel Solution that work better for my somewhat sensitive skin than The Ordinary products.
I wouldn’t say that Pacifica Clean Shot serums are better than The Ordinary, but if you are a fan of The Ordinary products and are looking for clean (fragranced) alternatives, Pacifica Clean Shot serums may be worth a try.
My favorites in the Pacific line are Pacifica Clean Shot Niacinamide, Zinc & Hemp 10% Complex, Pacifica Clean Shot BHA/AHA 25% Peel Solution and Pacifica Clean Shot Retinoid + Bakuchiol 3% in Seawater for their clean yet effective formulas.
Have you tried Pacifica Clean Shot serums? I’d love to know…