Antioxidants can be a great way to fight skin aging and improve your appearance, but they’re often hard to understand and even harder to incorporate into your daily skincare routine. The Ordinary’s range of antioxidant serums is exactly what you need if you’re looking for an effective yet affordable antioxidant serum that will give you great results without breaking the bank.
This guide to The Ordinary antioxidants will show you how to use them and help you figure out which one to choose.
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The Benefits Of Antioxidants
Antioxidants are molecules that protect our cells from the damage caused by free radicals, which are molecules that occur in UV rays, pollution, tobacco smoke, and other chemicals. Free radicals are basically unstable oxygen atoms, which react with other molecules in a destructive way (oxidation).
Free radicals damage the cells in our bodies, which over time can break down the collagen and elastin in our skin. This contributes to wrinkles and fine lines, hyperpigmentation and dark spots, and other premature signs of aging.
Antioxidants scavenge free radicals to protect the skin and help to repair the damage already done by free radicals.
Antioxidants also have potent anti-inflammatory benefits, which help fight aging in the skin, skin redness, and other skin conditions, like acne or rosacea.
The Ordinary’s Antioxidant Range
There are several antioxidant options in The Ordinary’s range, so depending on your skin type and concerns, you have a choice of antioxidants to choose from. The Ordinary has three antioxidant serums whose main purpose is to provide antioxidant protection.
All three of The Ordinary’s antioxidant serums are formulated without water (since water can decrease stability), silicones, oils, or alcohol.
NOTE: Be sure to patch test before using any new skincare product for the first time.
The Ordinary Resveratrol 3% + Ferulic Acid 3% is a highly concentrated antioxidant serum containing resveratrol and ferulic Acid. While other skin care products contain lower concentrations of these actives, this serum contains a high 3% concentration of resveratrol and 3% concentration of ferulic acid.
Resveratrol comes from red grapes and is a potent antioxidant that protects the skin from oxidative stress from UV rays. It also has anticarcinogenic and anti-inflammatory benefits.
Ferulic acid is an antioxidant derived from plant cells. It is well known for improving the effectiveness of superstar antioxidant vitamin C in skincare products. This 2005 study demonstrated that 0.5% ferulic acid when combined with 15% l-ascorbic acid (pure vitamin C) and 1% alpha-tocopherol (vitamin E), stabilizes both vitamins and also doubles the photoprotection against oxidative stress.
Directions/How To Use: Apply after water-based serums and before creams or face oils. You can also mix this serum with other treatments for an antioxidant boost, or dilute it without other oils to reduce its potency. Use morning and/or evening. This serum is not intended for sensitive, peeling or compromised skin.
Ingredients: Propanediol, Resveratrol, Ferulic Acid.
You’ll notice that this serum and all of the three The Ordinary antioxidant serums have a somewhat oily feel upon application. This oily texture goes away once the serum is absorbed.
Propanediol is what gives these serums an oily feel. It is a solvent used in skincare that is derived from corn sugar. Propanediol improves the skin feel of the formula while also offering humectant and moisturizing benefits.
CONFLICTS: When it comes to skincare actives, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing, so do not combine this serum with The Ordinary EUK 134 0.1%, The Ordinary Buffet + Copper Peptides 1%, or strong exfoliating acids like glycolic acid depending on the concentration, other alpha hydroxy acids like lactic acid.
The Ordinary Pycnogenol 5% is a serum that contains a plant extract, Pinus pinaster bark extract, from the pine bark of maritime pine trees in southwest France. This extract contains bioflavonoids and phenolic acids (which are phytochemicals called polyphenols) that provide anticarcinogenic and anti-inflammatory benefits while protecting against free radical damage in the skin and preventing oxidative stress.
Another great benefit is that this serum can restore oxidized vitamin C so that it can be effective again.
This serum also helps improve hydration and skin elasticity by protecting against collagen and elastin degradation.
This The Ordinary antioxidant serum contains 5% Pycnogenol (Pinus pinaster bark extract) and has a deep red shade courtesy of its high procyanidin (an antioxidant) content. Be sure to wash your hands after using this serum as it could stain fabrics.
Ingredients: Propanediol, Pinus Pinaster Bark Extract.
Propanediol is the solvent in this serum that provides a slightly oily feel upon application which goes away once the serum is absorbed.
Directions/How To Use: Mix Pycnogenol 5% with other treatments for a potent antioxidant boost or use it alone. Apply after water-based products and before oils or creams. Use AM and/or PM. Do not use it on broken skin.
CONFLICTS: Do not use with The Ordinary Buffet + Copper Peptides 1%.
The Ordinary The Ordinary EUK 134 0.1% is a serum that mimics superoxide dismutase and catalase. Superoxide dismutase and catalase are two naturally occurring enzymes in our bodies that transform superoxide free radicals into water and oxygen. So EUK 134, also known as Ethylbisiminomethylguaiacol Manganese Chloride (that’s a mouthful!), protects the skin from free radical oxidative damage.
What’s very cool is that it is a self-regenerating molecule, which means that it can provide antioxidant protection continually. This EUK 134 serum contains a very high concentration of 0.1%.
Ingredients: Propanediol, Ethylbisiminomethylguaiacol Manganese Chloride.
Propanediol is the solvent used in this serum. When first applied to the skin, it imparts a slightly oily feel, which dissipates once the serum is absorbed.
Directions/How To Use: EUK 134 provides a strong antioxidant boost to other products. An easy way to incorporate this serum into your skincare routine is to mix it with The Ordinary Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA. Otherwise, use it on its own or after water-based serums and before heavier products like oils and creams. For AM and/or PM use. Do not use this serum on broken skin.
CONFLICTS: A drawback of this highly potent antioxidant serum is that using it with strong acids like ascorbic acid (pure vitamin C) will render EUK 134 ineffective. Do not use EUK 134 0.1% with other highly acidic treatments, ferulic acid, pure vitamin C (ethylated ascorbic acid/l-ascorbic acid), and The Ordinary Buffet + Copper Peptides 1%.
Which The Ordinary Antioxidant Serum is Best?
While the best The Ordinary antioxidant serum is a subjective choice, I find that Resveratrol 3% + Ferulic Acid 3% will appeal to most and is The Ordinary serum that I reach for most often, as it boosts the antioxidant capacity of vitamin C & E and can be used with vitamin C serums during the day to protect from damaging free radicals.
Pycnogenol 5% is another great choice and has minimal conflicts.
EUK 134 0.1% is easily degraded, so while still an excellent choice and one of the strongest antioxidants available on the market, it is more restrictive to use.
Additional The Ordinary Products with Antioxidant Benefits
The Ordinary has several other products that offer antioxidant benefits, in addition to other skin benefits. For more on how to use many of these The Ordinary products in your skincare routine, please see my post on building a skincare routine with The Ordinary.
The Ordinary Vitamin C Serums, Suspensions & Powder
Vitamin C (also known as ascorbic acid or l ascorbic acid) is a potent antioxidant with many benefits for the skin. It protects against oxidative stress from free radicals, brightens the skin, and helps fade hyperpigmentation, dark spots, and discoloration. It also stimulates collagen production for firmer skin with improved elasticity.
The Ordinary offers 8 vitamin C products that include both pure vitamin C (l ascorbic acid) serums/suspensions/powder and stable vitamin C derivatives:
- Ascorbic Acid 8% + Alpha Arbutin 2%
- Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2%
- Vitamin C Suspension 30% in Silicone
- 100% L-Ascorbic Acid Powder
- Ascorbyl Glucoside Solution 12%
- Ethylated Ascorbic Acid 15% Solution
- Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate Solution 20% in Vitamin F
- Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate 10% (currently being reformulated)
For more on these vitamin C products and how to use them, be sure to check out this guide to The Ordinary Vitamin C products.
The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% contains 10% multi-benefit niacinamide and 1% zinc salt of pyrrolidone carboxylic acid to improve visible sebum (oil) activity. Ideal for oily and acne-prone skin, this serum targets blemishes and congestion in the skin.
Niacinamide (vitamin B3) offers protective antioxidant benefits, lightens hyperpigmentation, dark spots, and sunspots, and improves ceramide production for a stronger skin barrier.
Niacinamide also improves collagen synthesis for firmer skin with a reduction in wrinkles and fine lines. It is also an effective acne treatment, increases cell turnover, and regulates excess sebum (oil) production.
With all of these benefits for the skin, I think niacinamide is one of the hardest working actives in skincare!
The Ordinary Retinol and Retinoid Serums
Retinoids and retinol (a type of retinoid) are antioxidants, as they are derivatives of vitamin A. They are hero anti-agers as they improve collagen production, which helps to smooth the look of wrinkles and fine lines.
Retinoids also increase cell turnover, which improves discoloration and uneven skin tone. Retinoids also reduce sebum (oil) production and unclog pores, which helps with acne and breakouts.
The Ordinary offers many retinoid serums:
- Retinol 0.2% in Squalane
- Retinol 0.5% in Squalane
- Retinol 1% in Squalane
- Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion
- Granactive Retinoid 2% in Squalane
- Granactive Retinoid 5% in Squalane
Please see this Complete Guide to The Ordinary Retinol and Retinoids for additional information on each The Ordinary retinol and retinoid serum.
The Ordinary Azelaic Acid Suspension 10% works to brighten the skin, improve uneven skin tone, and the look of breakouts and blemishes. It also provides protective antioxidant benefits for the skin.
Ideal for oily and acne-prone skin, The Ordinary Azelaic Acid Suspension 10% is a cream-gel with a paste-like texture that leaves the skin smooth and matte.
The Ordinary Face Oils with Antioxidant Benefits
The Ordinary offers five face oils that exhibit antioxidant activity. For more details on all of The Ordinary face oils, please see this Complete Guide to The Ordinary Face Oils.
The Ordinary 100% Organic Cold-Pressed Rose Hip Seed Oil is a cold-pressed and organic 100% pure rosehip seed oil. It contains moisturizing fatty acids like linoleic acid and linolenic acid, pro-vitamin A, and vitamin E that offer antioxidant benefits and reduce photoaging of the skin.
Research shows that acne patients were observed to have lower levels of linoleic acid in the surface lipids of their skin. Those with acne-prone skin may benefit from rosehip oil since it contains a high concentration of linoleic acid. Rosehip oil can also help with hyperpigmentation and acne scars.
The Ordinary 100% Cold-Pressed Virgin Marula Oil contains antioxidants vitamin E, procyanidin, catechins, and flavonoids, all of which protect from oxidative stress. Marula oil also contains oleic, palmitic, and linoleic acids, which are fatty acids that nourish and moisturize the skin.
This formula contains cold-pressed virgin African Marula oil that is 100% unrefined. This face oil is ideal for parched, dehydrated, and dry skin needing hydration and moisture.
This oil can also be used on the hair for improved moisture and to prevent split ends.
The Ordinary “B” Oil contains purified micro-algae in a blend of squalane and marula, argan, baobab, pataua, brazil nut, inca inchi, rosehip, and borage oils. It has antioxidant benefits thanks to the inclusion of marula and rosehip oils in the formula.
In a sense, this is the “Buffet” of face oils, as you get the many moisturizing and free radicals fighting benefits from multiple face oils.
The Ordinary 100% Organic Virgin Sea-Buckthorn Fruit Oil is formulated with organic, unrefined, virgin, and sustainably sourced 100% pure Sea-Buckthorn Fruit oil. It contains antioxidants tocopherol (vitamin E), carotenoids, and lycopene to protect the skin from environmental stress and support a healthy skin barrier.
This face oil also contains high amounts of palmitoleic acid (Omega 7), a rare fatty acid that nourishes the skin and can even help with hyperpigmentation.
The Ordinary 100% Organic Virgin Chia Seed Oil is cold-pressed, organic, virgin, and sustainably sourced. Chia seed oil contains tocopherols, phytosterols, carotenoids, and phenolics, all skin-protective antioxidants.
It contains the richest botanical source of essential fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid, an excellent moisturizer for the skin. Chia seed oil also contains linoleic, oleic, stearic, and palmitic acids to hydrate and support a healthy skin barrier.
In addition to your face, you can also use this oil on your hair for added shine and strength.
Mineral UV Filters SPF 30 with Antioxidants is a broad-spectrum sunscreen that contains a Bio-Active Antioxidant Network to neutralize free radicals and protect the skin against UV exposure. Amino acids and sodium hyaluronate (hyaluronic acid) provide short-term and long-term hydration while skin-identical lipids reduce transepidermal water loss in the skin.
An anti-inflammatory Tasmanian pepperberry derivative contains antioxidant flavanones and anthocyanins and calms the skin.
The Ordinary also offers Mineral UV Filters SPF 15 with Antioxidants, but I think the SPF 30 version is the best choice as it provides higher SPF protection.
Final Thoughts on The Ordinary Antioxidants
While The Ordinary offers three unique antioxidant-focused serums, the brand has several skincare products that offer antioxidant protection. So you can use a The Ordinary antioxidant product on its own or get multiple benefits from products like The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%, or The Ordinary vitamin C and retinoid serums.
Regardless of which products you use, be sure to apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 30 every day to protect your skin from premature aging.
Thanks for reading!