The Ordinary skincare line is a brand that I’ve discussed multiple times on this blog. Today I’d like to talk about my experience with the brand and how I use their products. On the plus side, their products are very specialized and very affordable. But along with these benefits come some drawbacks. They have several products and it can get confusing when you are trying to decide which products you should use. I’ll discuss these issues, the products I’ve tried, and all of the anti-aging benefits these products provide.
The Ordinary’s tag line is Clinical Formulations with Integrity. The Ordinary is a brand under the DECIUM umbrella of companies. DECIUM also owns the skincare brands Hylamide and NIOD. They specialize in materials chemistry and biochemistry in their skincare products and make the effort to communicate with integrity and honesty at fair prices.
AUGUST 2020 UPDATE: I continue to try products from The Ordinary, so scroll down to the bottom for product reviews of The Ordinary Matrixyl 10% + HA, The Ordinary Caffeine Solution 5% + EGCG, The Ordinary 100% Cold Pressed Virgin Marula Oil and The Ordinary 100% Niacinamide Powder.
The Ordinary Formulations: A Hero Ingredient
Products from The Ordinary center around the idea of a hero ingredient in each product. Whether you are concerned with acne, anti-aging, dry skin or oily skin, these products are meant to address your issues one stand-out ingredient at a time. I think it’s a great way to test a product and see whether or not an ingredient can help your skin.
Mixing and Matching
Because most of The Ordinary products have a single hero-ingredient, you’ll often need to use more than one to treat your skin concerns. Mixing and matching should not be done without being educated on the ingredients.
While it may be overwhelming or confusing to learn about what is in each product and how they work (or don’t work) with other products, if you start introducing their products slowly into your skincare routine, you can learn about what each product offers your skin one at a time.
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The Ordinary: Affordable Drugstore Pricing
The price. You cannot overlook the price of these products. They are priced at drugstore prices and often cheaper than drugstore prices. Since I am always on the hunt for anti-aging products, to be able to find an effective acid, vitamin C or retinoid product for under $10 is truly fantastic. Their low and affordable prices allow me to purchase a few or sometimes many products that would be the equivalent to a single luxury skincare product.
The Ordinary Squalane Cleanser is a gentle cleanser that is formulated with a pH of 5.50-6.50. The cleanser comes in the form of a white gel-like balm that spreads easily across your skin. Before applying, you rub it between your palms for 20-30 seconds to change the texture to an oil-like consistency.
While there is no oil in the formula, there is squalane, one of my newest favorite skincare ingredients. Squalane is oil-balancing, anti-aging and anti-inflammatory, and helps protect the skin barrier. Emulsified sucrose esters dissolve makeup and other impurities. The cleanser is easily washed away with water and a washcloth.
I really like the texture of this cleanser since it reminds me of a cleansing balm. But instead of oil-based, this cleanser is water-based and very gentle. This cleanser works well as a second cleanse but I’m not sure it would do a great job of removing all my makeup. I prefer a cleansing balm to remove most of my makeup and then using this cleanser as a second cleanse.
I really like this cleanser, but the issue I have with it is the size. It feels like I am using a travel size cleanser. The 1.7-ounce tube won’t last long and while it’s inexpensive, you’d need to purchase multiples to reach the size of a typical cleanser. Great product, but packaging and corresponding price are slightly lacking.
The Ordinary: Acids
Glycolic acid is the smallest of the alpha-hydroxy acids, meaning that it can reach deeper into the skin to provide exfoliation of dead skin cells. Although with a deeper exfoliation, the potential for irritation increases. That’s why a Tasmanian pepperberry derivative is included in the formula. This ingredient helps reduce irritation associated with acid use. Ginseng root and aloe vera are also included to calm and soothe the skin.
The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution is a chemical-based skin exfoliant and is formulated with 7% glycolic acid, amino acids, aloe vera, ginseng, and a Tasmanian pepperberry derivative.
I have an issue with glycolic acid, as it is highly irritating to my skin. I can use this formula once in a while. For those who do not have sensitive skin, this formula is a steal, for a large 240ml bottle currently priced at $8.70. It has a convenient cone-shaped screw top lid with a targeted dispensing cap, making it easy to apply to cotton pads without the formula leaking.
The Ordinary Lactic Acid 10% + HA is formulated with a gentler alpha hydroxy acid, lactic acid. Lactic acid molecules are larger than glycolic acid, making the penetration of the ingredient more superficial on the skin’s surface. As a result, it is considered a milder acid and causes less irritation.
The formula, like their glycolic acid, contains a Tasmanian pepperberry derivative to help reduce the irritation and inflammation associated with acid use. The formula also contains sodium hyaluronate crosspolymer, a new generation smaller type of hyaluronic acid that helps skin retain moisture at deeper levels for longer periods of time.
I’ve written about this product in a few other posts because lactic acid happens to be my favorite acid. I’ve tested this product as a skincare alternative for my holy-grail chemical skincare exfoliant Sunday Riley Good Genes, and while it is not exactly the same (I’ve found no other product to be), this is a solid lactic acid product at a ridiculously cheap price.
It never fails that after I use this product at night, I wake in the morning with smoother brighter skin and improved skin texture. Love this lactic acid! My skin is somewhat sensitive, but it can tolerate this acid a few times a week.
Please Note: If this 10% lactic acid formula is too strong for your skin, The Ordinary also offers a 5% lactic acid formula.
Hyaluronic Acid is an all-star skin hydrator and The Ordinary uses three different forms of it in its Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5. These different forms of hyaluronic acid (including a next-generation hyaluronic acid cross polymer) have different molecular weights to provide multi-depth hydration and plumping. Vitamin B5 is included for additional hydration.
This clear thin runny gel is packaged in a glass bottle with a dropper to control the application of the product. After it is applied to the skin, the texture is a little tacky and takes a few minutes to dry. I look at this as a product from The Ordinary that does what it is designed to do – hydrate, at a very low price.
By far the most interesting product that I’ve tried in this group is The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution. It contains 30% alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) (glycolic/lactic/tartaric/citric), 2% beta hydroxy acid (BHA) (salicylic acid), hyaluronic acid crosspolymer, vitamin B5, black carrot and a Tasmanian pepperberry derivative.
Both AHA and BHA acids exfoliate the outer layers of the skin, while BHA also treats congestion and blemishes. A Tasmanian pepperberry derivative helps reduce irritation associated with acid use, and a crosspolymer form of hyaluronic acid hydrates. Vitamin B5 helps heal the skin and black carrot acts as an antioxidant.
This is a treatment product that should be applied to dry skin and left on your face for 10 minutes as a mask and then rinsed off with warm water. You should use this bi-weekly max. The crazy red color is what stands out. Once applied you look like you have a really bad sunburn, but the color goes away after the peeling solution is removed.
This product is not for sensitive skin. I wanted to give it a try and see if my skin could withstand 10 minutes since I’ve been using acids for a while. I’ve tried this product a few times and unfortunately, it irritates and stings my skin. It is potent, and while my skin felt baby smooth and my pores looked very refined afterward, the irritation was just too much for my skin. This is ideal for those who do not have sensitive skin and are looking for an affordable and effective AHA/BHA treatment.
The Ordinary: Vitamin C Treatments
Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant and provides brightening and anti-aging benefits to the skin. The Ordinary has several vitamin C products available.
I found this vitamin C guide on their website very handy to compare the different options.
The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2% was the first vitamin C from The Ordinary that I tried. This vitamin C treatment is a potent water-free and silicone-free suspension of 23% L-Ascorbic Acid powder. Dehydrated spheres of hyaluronic acid offer additional plumping to the skin.
The Ordinary explains that due to the high concentration of vitamin C, you can expect strong tingling the first few weeks of using the product until you you build up a tolerance. If it is too strong, you can mix it with other creams or serums to dilute it.
Due to the powder in the formula, the product has a gritty feel immediately after application. Those with sensitive skin may have an issue with this vitamin C. It stung my skin so much that I had to wash it off my skin. This may be a great option for those who don’t have sensitive skin, as it’s a truly concentrated form of vitamin C. Luckily, I found another vitamin C that worked for my skin which I discuss next.
Thanks to a helpful reader, I recently tried The Ordinary Ascorbyl Glucoside Solution 12%. After I discussed my issues with Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2% in this post comparing The Ordinary and The Inkey List, a kind reader commented that she uses Ascorbyl Glucoside Solution 12% without any adverse reactions. I am happy to say that I have experienced no adverse reactions to this vitamin C product either!
Ascorbyl Glucoside is a water-soluble derivative of Vitamin C. While its much more stable in water than potent L-Ascorbic Acid treatments, it is not as effective. As you can see, there are trade-offs when it comes to vitamin C delivery and efficacy.
Its thin gel-like formula takes a bit to dry like their other gel formulas, but once it dries, it works well with other products and also under makeup. Since starting this product, my skin seems more refined and my pores appear a little smaller. I’m not sure that I can attribute all of that to this product, but I am glad to have a non-irritating vitamin C product to use on my skin every morning.
Niacinamide is a form of vitamin B3 that provides a long list of benefits to our skin. It is one of my favorite skincare ingredients because It can help minimize the appearance of pores, reduce redness and irritation, decrease the appearance of pigmentation, wrinkles, and dryness. It also increases moisture, supports collagen production and improves barrier function in the skin.
The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% showcases niacinamide in its formula of 10% pure niacinamide and 1% percent zinc PCA. Zinc salt of pyrrolidone carboxylic acid is included in the formula to balance visible aspects of sebum activity.
Some believe that niacinamide can help with acne. DECIEM, the parent company of The Ordinary, is quick to point out that while this product can help to improve the appearance of blemishes, neither niacinamide nor zinc PCA is meant to treat acne.
This best-selling formula from The Ordinary has a runny gel-like consistency that takes a few minutes to dry. Once dry, it works well with other skincare products and makeup. This is another product from The Ordinary that is insanely cheap for a stand-out hero ingredient. Unfortunately for me, there is something in the formula that irritates my skin, so I have not been able to use this product consistently.
Please Note: DECIEM states that niacinamide can compromise the integrity of topical Vitamin C (L-Ascorbic Acid and/or Ethylated L-Ascorbic Acid) and suggests that you use them at alternate times of the day (AM/PM). You can use niacinamide at night and vitamin C products during the day.
Alpha arbutin is an ingredient that has become popular for the treatment of hyperpigmentation and dark spots. Arbutin is is a natural derivative of hydroquinone that blocks tyrosinase, the enzyme involved in melanin production. Alpha arbutin is a more effective derivative of arbutin, also called beta-arbutin.
The Ordinary Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA contains a higher concentration of alpha arbutin at 2% (compared to the standard 1%) plus a next-generation form of hyaluronic acid for sustained and deep delivery. This results in better and longer-lasting hydration. The pH of the formula is 4.9 which is ideal to retain the stability of alpha arbutin.
Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA is slightly thinner than a gel and clear in color. I’ve used it without any irritation. I haven’t seen visible results from using this product for the last few months. I’ll continue to use this product with the goal of preventing or at least slowing down the formation of hyperpigmentation and dark spots.
The Ordinary “Buffet” is an anti-aging skincare serum that pulls out all the stops with a slew of ingredients to target the signs of aging. This includes matrixyl 3,000 peptide complex, matrixyl synthe-6 peptide complex, syn-ake peptide complex, relistase peptide complex, argirelox peptide complex, a probiotic complex in a base of 11 skin-friendly amino acids, and multiple hyaluronic acid complexes.
The Ordinary is not joking around when it comes to powering this anti-aging serum with potent ingredients to treat wrinkles and fine lines, dullness, uneven texture and dryness.
It has a running gel-like texture, dries quickly, and works well with other skincare products. I love adding a layer of this serum retinoids or bakuchiol (a retinol alternative) when my skin needs a little extra anti-aging help in the form of peptides.
Please Note: DECIEM, the parent company of The Ordinary, suggests avoiding the use of peptides in the same routine as direct acids, LAA (L-Ascorbic Acid) and ELAA (Ethylated Ascorbic Acid) since the effectiveness of the peptides might be compromised. Since I use vitamin C in the morning, I use the “Buffet” at night and also avoid using at the same time as acid treatments.
The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion is formulated with a 2% concentration of Granactive Retinoid, which is a complex of solubilized Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate (HPR). HPR is a non-prescription ester of all-trans direct retinoic acid.
The emulsion also contains a sustained-delivery form of pure retinol in a protective capsule system. This next-generation retinoid is said to offer better efficacy than retinol, retinyl palmitate, and most other non-prescription retinoids.
Like vitamin C, The Ordinary offers several different retinoids. Some are low irritation and some are high irritation with varying strengths. The secret is to find a retinoid that works for your skin and your skincare routine.
If you are new to retinoids, you might want to start slow with low irritation products like this one to see how your skin handles the retinoid. For more retinoid options, check out my post on drugstore retinol treatments.
The texture of this formula is a creamy hydrating emulsion. Its thin consistency works well over water-based serums and under heavier creams and treatments. I experience zero irritation with the retinoid, which is monumental for my skin when it comes to retinoids.
I really like the results I see from the consistent use of this product. It’s very gentle, but I’ve started to see some softening of fine lines and improved skin texture, especially the morning after using this emulsion at night. This retinoid is a winner for me!
I never knew the multitude of benefits that rosehip seed oil provides for the skin until recently. It not only works as an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant, but it also has antimicrobial, antiviral, and antifungal properties. Plus, it supports collagen formation, helps to improve skin’s elasticity and can reduce the signs of photo-aging.
The Ordinary 100% Organic Cold-Pressed Rose Hip Seed Oil is formulated with cold-pressed and organic 100% pure rosehip seed oil. It is sustainably-sourced and rich in linoleic acid, linolenic acid, and pro-vitamin A. Its high omega fatty acid content is the source of the natural scent.
This oil is packaged in a UV-protective glass bottle with dropper. I only need a drop or two of this rich but light oil. I love using it at night, especially during the cold weather months to seal in all of the skincare actives underneath. If you want a subtle glow, mix in a drop or two with your foundation or moisturizer.
Squalene, with an “e”, is naturally found in the skin’s barrier but is unstable for use in skincare, so hydrogen is added and the result is squalane. Squalane hydrates the skin while improving elasticity and texture. Another multi-tasking ingredient, it’s non-greasy, colorless, odorless and very stable. It regulates oil production, protects the skin from free radical damage and can even treat eczema and psoriasis.
The Ordinary 100% Plant-Derived Squalane is formulated with 100% pure plant-derived squalane and is ECOCERT approved and is a USDA Certified Bio-based Product. It prevents loss of hydration and provides dermal suppleness. You can also use squalane on your hair! It offers heat protection, stops moisture loss and prevents breakage.
100% Plant-Derived Squalane is my new favorite product from The Ordinary. It is so incredibly lightweight and disappears into my skin so quickly leaving it hydrated, soft, and smooth. I use it as the last step in my skincare routine at night, but since it’s so light, sometimes I use it under a moisturizer. I love all of the anti-aging benefits so much that it’s a new staple in my skincare routine.
The Ordinary Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA is formulated with 11 amino acids, phospholipids, alpha/beta/gamma fatty acids, triglycerides, sterols, and sterol esters, glycerin, ceramide precursors, urea, saccharides, sodium PCA and hyaluronic acid. It provides non-greasy lasting hydration.
This is a solid moisturizer for a very low price. It’s supposed to be lightweight, but it’s a bit thicker than I expected and takes a little effort to get it to absorb into your skin. I would say it’s a good budget-friendly moisturizer, but it’s not my favorite product from The Ordinary.
The Ordinary Matrixyl 10% + HA features Matrixyl, a trademarked peptide formulation produced by Sederma Inc. in France. This serum from The Ordinary combines Matrixyl 3000 and Matrixyl synthe’6, two generations of Matrixyl, at a combined concentration of 10% by weight in a specialized Hyaluronic Acid delivery system. This product is formulated at a pH of 5.00-6.00.
Matrixyl 3000 and Matrixyl synthe’6 help to stimulate collagen and elastin production which results in a decrease in wrinkles and sagging, helps reduce photo aging and improve firmness. It stimulates six skin-rebuilding essentials (collagen I, II, IV, fibronectin, hyaluronicacid and lamin 5).
Peptides provide so many anti-aging benefits, so I try to use this serum several times a week. This serum reminds me of other serums from The Ordinary, like “Buffet”, in consistency, texture and feel on the skin.
The tackiness of the formula takes some getting used to. The secret is finding a few extra minutes to let the formula dry, and then applying the rest of your skincare routine. Otherwise, your face may end up feeling sticky. Besides the time it takes to be absorbed by the skin, this serum is incredibly affordable for a formula that includes heavyweight anti-aging ingredients. This is a definite repurchase for me.
NOTE: Due to the susceptibility of hydrolysis that will compromise the effectiveness of the product, The Ordinary advises not to use peptides in the same routine as Direct acids, LAA (L-Ascorbic Acid) and ELAA (Ethylated Ascorbic Acid).
The Ordinary Caffeine Solution 5% + EGCG is a water-based serum formulated for the eye area that reduces the appearance of eye contour pigmentation and puffiness. It contains 5% caffeine and highly-purified Epigallocatechin Gallatyl Glucoside (EGCG) to reduce the appearance of puffiness and dark circles under the eyes.
EGCG comes from green tea leaves which are rich in antioxidants that protect the skin from free radical damage and UV light exposure. It also protects the skin from environmental stressors.
I apply two drops on the palm of my hand and apply with my ring finger under each eye. This solution dries to a soft slightly tightening finish. Since this is a serum-like formulation, you may want to add an eye cream on top for more moisture if you have dry skin. It really helps with depuffing my eyes, although not so much with my dark circles, which are difficult to treat.
NOTE: The Ordinary points out that there are some conditions that this solution does not treat, such as hollowness in the eye contour caused by sub-dermal tissues. Fat deposits that cause permanent puffiness also can not be treated by this solution.
The Ordinary 100% Cold-Pressed Virgin Marula Oil Daily Support Formula for Hair and Skin comes from the kernels of the fruit of the Marula tree. The Ordinary Marula Oil is cold-pressed virgin African Marula Oil that is 100% unrefined. The oil is teeming with antioxidants and contains mostly oleic acid and linoleic acid plus procyanidin, catechins and flavonoids.
Like other oils, it hydrates and moisturizes, sealing in the actives underneath when used as the last step of your skincare routine. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg, when it comes to this multi-tasking oil.
This oil protects from skin damage caused by free radicals due to exposure to UV rays. It also helps inhibit the breakdown of collagen and elastin which keep skin looking firm and bouncy. Amino acids helps reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. It also has anti-inflammatory benefits, helping to reduce redness and irritation.
A few drops of the oil can be applied to your face or hair on a daily basis or as needed. The oil is lightweight, so when you apply it at the end of your skincare routine, it hydrates nicely without feeling too thick or greasy.
It’s really great for the ends of your hair as well. I use just a few drops on my hair to help with split ends. This oil is so affordable, and is an inexpensive alternative to more expensive luxury marula oils, such as this one from Drunk Elephant.
The Ordinary 100% Niacinamide Powder is a somewhat unique product in that you create a custom niacinamide solution when you mix this powder with what The Ordinary describes as “non-conflicting technology”, to address multiple skin concerns all at the same time.
Niacinamide is one of my favorite skincare ingredients, as it is a multi-tasking all-star that provides multiple benefits for the skin. It balances sebum production, works to minimize shine and enlarged pores and works to even skin texture. It’s anti-aging benefits include a reduction in the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, improvement in dullness. It also supports the skin barrier and helps repair past skin damage.
The powder is water-soluble and will dissolve in water-based creams and serums, as long as the pH of the product it is mixing with is between 5.1 and 7.0. The Ordinary provides a list of several their products that can be mixed with this niacinamide powder formulation, such as:
- Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5
- Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA
- “Buffet” + Copper Peptides 1%
- Matrixyl 10% + HA
- Argireline Solution 10%
Mix ¼ scoop of The Ordinary 100% Niacinamide Powder with your selected base serum or cream. ¼ scoop of powder is approximately 0.05g of Niacinamide. If you mix this much with 4 drops of a serum or base, it will yield about a 10-15% concentration of niacinamide.
I mix my best estimation (more on that in a second) of ¼ scoop of the powder with The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 or The Ordinary Matrixyl 10% + HA. The powder dissolves completely and the resulting serum applies smoothly. It takes a few minutes to completely dry and does not interfere with other skin care products that are applied after the serum.
This combination makes a noticeable difference in the size of my pores and my skin texture. It’s rare that I find a product that works so immediately and noticeably. The powder works much better for my skin than The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%.
While I am thrilled with the results, I have a hard time determining what is ¼ scoop of the powder. I really wish The Ordinary simply provided the correct size scoop, since this leaves a lot of room for error. Those with sensitive skin should take note, as you may end up with a more concentrated solution than you would like. Otherwise, I absolutely love this product, from the versatility to the quick results.
Final Thoughts on The Ordinary Skincare
My overall feeling is that The Ordinary is anything but ordinary.
While I didn’t love every single product I tried, I am very impressed with their formulations and the prices at which they are sold. If you love skincare, this is definitely a brand to become familiar with. Even if you add a single product here and there into your skincare routine, your skin can benefit from their effective formulations.
My favorites so far are The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion and The Ordinary 100% Plant-Derived Squalane. A newer find that I’m enjoying is The Ordinary Ascorbyl Glucoside Solution 12%. I look forward to trying additional retinol and vitamin C products from The Ordinary.
I’ve tested several products so far from a vast catalog of over 50 products, so I will add to this list as I try more products from The Ordinary. Have you tried skincare products from The Ordinary? If so, drop me a line in the comments! I’d love to know your thoughts!
Thanks for reading, and until next time…