Jan 2020 Update: Please stay tuned for reviews of additional products coming soon.
We have come a long way since the original 10 launches from The Ordinary back in September and what a whirlwind these past few months have been. There seems to be no stopping this industry revolutionizing right now and they just won ‘Best Anti-Ageing Brand’ at this year’s The Sunday Times Style Beauty Awards to top it all off. This is an incredible achievement for such a new brand, but completely speaks to the powerful impact it has made on the industry and on consumers like me and you.
I have tested every single product for months now and want to not only share my experiences and results with you, but also give you an in-depth look into how each ingredient should work for you and what each product could do for your skin. This is an exceptionally long review, but it includes all 27 products currently available in the lineup. I wanted to have all the information in one place so you can keep it as a reference to learn more about an ingredient, specific product or decide which products to include in your own skincare routine. I hope this article will help you find the right products for your skin and make it easier to understand what you might need to be using and why.
Vitamin A (retinol) is so important when it comes to skin health and it does everything from reducing wrinkles, correcting pigmentation irregularities and fighting some forms of acne, as well as increasing cell turnover, blood flow to the skin and collagen production. What this means is that when it comes to anti-aging skincare, this is one of the very best ingredients you can use because it prevents and reverses the signs of aging like nothing else. The Ordinary currently have two excellent options in their lineup and both have worked very well for me.
Ingredients: Aqua (Water), Glycerin, Ethyl Linoleate, Propanediol, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Cetearyl Isononanoate, Bisabolol, Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate, Retinol, Tasmannia Lanceolata Fruit/Leaf Extract, Dimethyl Isosorbide, Inulin Lauryl Carbamate, Glyceryl Stearate, Ceteareth-12, Ceteareth-20, Cetearyl Alcohol, Carrageenan, Xanthan Gum, Acacia Senegal Gum, Cetyl Palmitate, Sucrose Laurate, Polysorbate 20, Behentrimonium Chloride, Potassium Citrate, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Disodium EDTA, Dehydroacetic Acid, Benzoic Acid, Ethylhexylglycerin, Phenoxyethanol, Chlorphenesin.
When The Ordinary first launched, this was the product I was the most excited about and it did not disappoint. I had a feeling retinol-based products were something they would do very well and I was not wrong judging by how many of you love it, too. I have used quite a few retin (retinoid, retinols, vitamin A) based products over the years and this is without a doubt one of the best for many reasons.
This serum contains solubilized Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate (retinoid esters) and an encapsulated retinol (0.1%) for a combined 2% weight concentration, which is highly advanced and effective, and should cause less irritation than other products like this, which has absolutely been my experience. It also contains Tasmanian Pepperberry Extract (featured in a few of the Deciem products) to help reduce inflammation and redness, but also for it’s antimicrobial and antioxidant properties. Despite the name of the brand and the price of the product, this is a highly sophisticated formulation that is easy to use and works so well with other products. It has a beautiful, light, milky consistency that feels cool and watery on the skin and absorbs perfectly, due to the fact that it’s a water based emulsion. There is definitely a faint somewhat chemical scent because it’s fragrance free and I actually don’t mind it at all, as it smells just like every other retinoic acid product I’ve used (except Sunday Riley’s Luna).
Where this sits in my routine depends on what else I’m using. If I include CAIS then the lineup would be: double cleanse, SDSM, CAIS 2:1, wait one minute, Retinoid 2% (about 4 or 5 drops), wait 5 minutes if possible, but even just a minute should suffice, sometimes a toner but not always, then any other serum but again not always, followed by an oil, balm or moisturizer. If I’m not using CAIS then I apply this directly after cleansing on to clean skin before continuing with my routine. It has worked perfectly with every product I have used it with, which is so important to me because I hate it when the product layers start to pill or roll. Even though this is so gentle it is very important you still use sunscreen every day to protect your skin from any further damage that would counteract the results this gives.
Until I started using the Retinol 1% in January, this was my go-to retin product and it worked so well. I initially thought I would use this once a week, but that quickly changed after seeing how well my skin responded to it. There was absolutely no irritation of any kind (redness, dryness, flaky skin, sensitivity) and because of the formula it left my skin immediately plump, hydrated and seriously glowing, which I had never experienced before with this type of product. I used it every other day and it’s actually so gentle that you could use it daily, which I did for a week and again, there was no irritation, only happy skin. How often you use this is completely up to you and your skin’s needs and how it responds. I would recommend using it 2-3 times a week to start with and then more regularly as your skin adjusts.
This would work well on all skin types, but especially those with mature, dry or sensitive skin because it’s so effective without being irritating. Those with acne prone skin would also greatly benefit from using this, but be warned, there may be some purging in the initial weeks, although that didn’t happen to me. For those new to retins this would be a great place to start, although if you have very sensitive skin I would recommend going with NIOD’s NAAP first because it is an incredibly gentle acid/retinol alternative that gives excellent results with little to no irritation.
Before I go on to the next product, I just want to point out that there is a big difference between a retinoid and retinol, which is why this is more gentle than the retinol despite being double the strength. Retinoid esters (like in this) are structurally larger, so they take longer to be absorbed into the skin, which is what makes the ingredient so non-irritating for most people. Some studies have found HPR to be just as effective as retinol, although it’s not currently known if it penetrates as deeply.
Ingredients: Cyclopentasiloxane, Caprylyl Methicone, Isoamyl Laurate, Ethyl Methicone, PEG-12 Dimethicone/PPG-20 Crosspolymer, Dimethicone/Vinyl Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Propanediol, Polysorbate 20, Retinol, Isoamyl Cocoate, Tocopherol, BHA, BHT.
I had been impatiently waiting for this release ever since The Ordinary launched, so when it finally arrived back in January I could not have been happier. After having such good results with the Retinoid 2% I felt ready to take things to the next level with this pure form of Vitamin A and what a journey it has been. Nearly five months on I am in love with this product, which is not how I started out. I think my skin had been “spoiled” by how gentle yet effective the Retinoid 2% had been as well as how enjoyable the formula was to use. This stuff is completely different in every way possible, but I have come to find that’s actually a good thing and the results are well worth the initial hurdles.
The first thing I have to talk about is the texture because I instantly hated it, but bear with me because now I unexpectedly love it. The easiest way to describe it is vaseline mixed with a lot of silicones, which doesn’t sound great at all, but makes sense due to the nature of retinol. This product had to be a waterless emulsion to keep the star ingredient stable and the mix of silicones and emollients (skin softening agents) makes it easy to apply to the skin without the use of water, creams or oils. I generally hate the feel of silicone on my skin, but this won me over because of how well it worked with my other products and of course, the results I saw. If you really don’t like the feel of silicones then this will be hard for you to use, but if you don’t mind (or feel you can push through it) then give this a go because I love what it has done for my skin over the past few months.
A typical routine for me on retinol night would involve a double cleanse with products that left my face completely clean so there was no “barrier” between my skin and the retinol. I like using an oil like de Mamiel’s Pure Calm Cleansing Dew because it can be removed without a washcloth, which I find helps my skin feel less sensitive. Next I would take about a pearl sized amount of the emulsion and apply to my face and neck. Because of the formula, it is not something you “rub in” until it disappears, so what I’ve found works best is to use a spreading motion, much like you would with a face mask. After waiting about 5-10 minutes, I finish with an oil, balm or moisturizer. In the beginning I liked to apply this directly to bare skin, but now I apply it after CAIS and if you are struggling to handle the side effects then I would recommend using a hyaluronic acid serum or hydrating toner before applying this to create a “buffer”.
Unlike the Retinoid 2%, I am still only able to use this every 4th-5th day and only recently starting to see less redness, peeling and irritation and that’s thanks to CAIS 5% (discontinued but reviewed here). In the beginning (and before CAIS), I started to peel after the second use and that continued for weeks, although I was not put off at all (I weirdly actually enjoyed it) because the results I was seeing made me very happy. My skin is now insanely soft and smooth, pores appear less visible, breakouts have subsided and there is improvement in overall tone (including hyperpigmentation), texture and clarity.
It’s easy to see why this is such a popular ingredient when it comes to effective anti-aging skincare, although the side effects are definitely there and requires maintenance, patience and commitment to see the full benefits, which should start becoming visible after a few weeks. Unless you are a long time retinol user or have super resilient skin, you should expect a period of peeling, redness and sensitivity. It’s incredibly important to keep the rest of your routine simple, soothing and gentle until your skin gets used to the retinol and be careful to not overuse acids or other exfoliants, because it might be too much to handle all at once. This should work well for all skin types, just start slow, be gentle, don’t give up and as always, make sure to not skip sunscreen.
Side Note: Please note that the Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety has published an opinion on April 20, 2016 suggesting that Retinol content of cosmetics should be limited to 0.3% as summarized on page 67 of the publication listed below. While this opinion has not yet affected regulatory restrictions, it may in the near future and such restriction would apply to all products sold within the EU containing Retinol.
Backed by years of research, it is no wonder this ingredient is the industry gold standard when it comes to results driven skincare. It pretty much does it all and the ability to effectively promote cell turnover, stimulate collagen production and improve every aspect of age related skin concerns means not many other ingredients come close to how transformative it is. If you are new to retinols or have sensitive skin, I would suggest starting with NAAP, then working up to the Retinoid 2% before finally graduating to the Retinol 1%.
If retinol is an anti-aging superstar then Vitamin C is it’s (dermatologist) critically acclaimed co-star thanks to it being an incredibly powerful antioxidant that does everything from boost collagen production, protect the skin from free radical damage/pollution, improve skin tone and brightness and even increase hydration. Not only that, some studies have shown that Vitamin C can have a stabilizing effect on retinol meaning you will get the most out of each ingredient if your skincare routine includes both, which I have definitely noticed since I started doing that. Despite all this, Vitamin C is a pretty temperamental ingredient and can actually be quite irritating to the skin (especially if you have acne), so it’s important to find the right type, formula and strength that will make it easy to incorporate it into your every day routine. Luckily, The Ordinary now have four different Vitamin C products meaning there should be something to suit everyone.
Ingredients: Aqua (Water), Coco Caprylate/Caprate, Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Isodecyl Neopentanoate, Plukenetia Volubilis Seed Oil, Dodecane, Disteardimonium Hectorite, Polyglycerol-3 Diisostearate, Polyglycerol-3 Polyricinoleate, Glycerin, Hexamethyldisiloxane, Terminalia Ferdinandiana Fruit Extract, Tocopherol, Sodium Chloride, Phenoxyethanol, Chlorphenesin.
As the name indicates, this product contains 10% pure Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate, which is a water-soluble derivative of Vitamin C. Even though this is less potent than the L-Ascorbic Acid found in the Vitamin C Suspension 23%, it is much more gentle and soothing and much less sensitizing. This could be a great option for this with acne prone skin as it functions as an anti-inflammatory and works to help balance oil production. Not only that, it is a brilliant skin lightener and brightener because it inhibits cell production of melanin, which will aid in preventing and reversing sun damage, age/dark spots and general uneven skin tone. It also contains natural antioxidant rich ingredients like Sacha Inchi Oil (Vitamin A, E, Omega 3 and 6) and Kakadu Plum Extract (world’s highest concentration of Vitamin C) to further boost the efficacy of MAP.
After not getting on with Vitamin C Suspension 23% (more on that later), I was not expecting to like this as much as I do, but it has been working very well for me so far. I really enjoy the light creamy texture because it absorbs well, feels very comfortable on the skin and hasn’t clogged my pores or caused breakouts. It has a delicate almost sweet scent, most likely thanks to the Kakadu Plum and has quite a matte finish that works well under makeup. Even though this isn’t technically billed as a moisturizer, that’s how I’ve been using it and how I think it works best. In a routine it should come after cleansing, toning and water based serums and possibly only after another cream or oil/balm if you have very dry skin. In the winter I mixed this with the Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA (love this so much) for a brightening/hydrating power combo, although I can easily see this being moisturizing enough to use on it’s own as an end step for those with oily/combo skin or for most skin types in the summer. In fact, it would be great for a summertime moisturizer (under sunscreen) because the Vitamin C would help to protect against any environmental and sun damage.
I have loved this as my daytime serum/moisturizer in one and think that if you are new to Vitamin C or have sensitive/acne prone/oily skin then this is a great option for you. You don’t need to use a lot because of how light and thin the texture is and with consistent use you should see all the typical benefits of Vitamin C without any side effects.
Ingredients: Aqua (Water), Ascorbyl Glucoside, Propanediol, Triethanolamine, Aminomethyl Propanol, Isoceteth-20, Xanthan gum, Dimethyl Isosorbide, Ethoxydiglycol, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, 1,2-Hexanediol, Caprylyl Glycol.
Of all the Vitamin C products that The Ordinary currently offer, this one has to be the most versatile. It’s a much more stable form of L-Ascorbic Acid and functions in the same way (especially when it comes to brightening) while being less irritating, although it definitely isn’t as potent. What I love about this is the watery gel texture because it means you can use it as a serum on it’s own, mix it with other serums (research has shown it works really with Niacinamide) or combine it with your moisturizer for a gentle boost of antioxidant power. I have done all three and my skin responded well to each, but my favourite use is mixed with Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 2%. If you hate the typical waxy, oily, silcone-y texture of Vitamin C products then this is the one for you. It has a cloudy, almost clear and virtually odorless watery gel texture that absorbs lightening fast and leaves a dry touch finish. There is no stickiness or residue and you only need to use a few drops or it might ball up and roll off your face. This would work well day or night and should be used in your serum step (unless you’re adding it to your moisturizer) and I can see this working really well for all skin types because of how gentle it is. Even though it’s technically the less potent out of the four products, it still performs the same as L-AA, just at a slower, less irritating pace, which for a lot of people is a good thing. I use this when the Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate 10% isn’t an appropriate fit for my skin routine and I really like how easily it works with my other products. It’s pretty much effortless to use and that’s a big deal for a Vitamin C product. It will definitely take longer to produce visible results than the others, but honestly I think it’s worth it and just because you can’t see the results, with antioxidants it doesn’t mean they are not in progress because how they protect the skin goes beyond what we can see on our faces.
Ingredients: Coconut Alkanes, Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate, Ethyl Linoleate, Coco-Caprylate/Caprate, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Solanum Lycopersicum (Tomato) Fruit Extract, Squalane.
I understand why The Ordinary launched Suspension 23% first, but in my experience, this product and the other two have proved to be much more user friendly and technically more effective, too. The other two are gentle yet still deliver results and this one is the next generation Vitamin C derivative backed by studies demonstrating it’s ability to be absorbed into the skin quicker than all other Vitamin C’s (even L-AA). Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate comes from a mix of Vitamin C and isopalmitic acid, which is found in milk products. This new derivative is particularly exciting because it has the same collagen boosting function as other types of Vitamin C, but studies have shown it can also help in the healing of burns, which is what I am currently using it for. Just like Suspension 23% this might be irritating to those with sensitive skin because of how quickly the Vitamin C is absorbed, but it’s incredibly results driven and for me the formula is much, much better.
As you can see from the ingredients list it contains a mix of skin conditioning coconut esters and alkanes, Jojoba oil, Tomato Fruit extract and Squalene full of of essential fatty acids (Vitamin F). This is a lovely mix that will hydrate, help prevent irritation, fight bacteria, protect against oxidative damage as well as provide defense against free radicals. This combo is also anti-inflammatory, wound healing, packed with vitamins and oil balancing. I genuinely love this product and one of the main reasons is the fantastic formula. It is the lightest, “driest”, fastest absorbing oil I have ever come across and it feels like nothing on. When I first used it I couldn’t get over how quickly it disappeared into the skin and loved the non-greasy “invisible” finish. It has a clear (even six months later because it’s very stable), almost watery texture and there is a slight sweet/fruity scent that hasn’t changed and again, that’s due to the high stability.
If you are a Vit C pro then you need to try this. Because of the thin, fluid texture you can mix it with pretty much any serum, oil, moisturizer or balm (day or night) and I love the customizable aspect of this and the 10% and 12%. I have slowly been incorporating this into my routine over the past few months and so far, so good. I have also recently started using it to heal/lighten a hot water bottle burn on my stomach (ladies, you’ll know why) and I will keep you posted on how that goes. I can seriously see this becoming even bigger than L-Ascorbic Acid because it’s more stable and potent, can boost collagen and reduce melanin in the same way, yet it penetrates the skin faster due to being lipid soluble and “has a higher rate of conversion to vitamin C within the dermis”. This product restored my faith in high strength Vitamin C products, so if you’ve been struggling to find the right one too then this is probably just what you’ve been looking for.
Side Note: Acne prone skin types should be aware that coconut oil, alkanes and esters can be irritating, so this might cause breakouts, although the other ingredients could possibly counteract that effect and I haven’t had any breakouts from using it. The best thing to do would be a patch test and keeping an eye on your skin once you do start using it. Everyone else shouldn’t have any issues unless there’s an allergy to one of the other oils or the isopalmitic acid (dairy).
Ingredients: Ascorbic Acid, Squalane, Isodecyl Neopentanoate, Isononyl Isononanoate, Coconut Alkanes, Ethylene/Propylene/Styrene Copolymer, Ethylhexyl Palmitate, Silica Dimethyl Silylate, Sodium Hyaluronate, Glucomannan, Coco-Caprylate/Caprate, Butylene/Ethylene/Styrene Copolymer, Acrylates/Ethylhexyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Trihydroxystearin, BHT.
Lastly, here we are at the marmite of The Ordinary’s Vitamin C products. There seems to be an equal amount of love and hate for this and in my experience it didn’t work nearly as well as the previous three. As I said, I completely understand why Deciem launched this form of Vitamin C first. L-Ascorbic Acid is a pure form derivative and is currently the most studied, most popular and most recommended of all the variations. It has been studied for years and time and time again proven to do it all in terms of anti-aging, brightening, repairing environmental and sun damage, but it’s also unstable, prone to degradation/oxidizing and can be seriously irritating, which many people experienced with this as did I.
Now, I don’t want to put anyone off this, because the consensus is split pretty much 50/50, so for the price the best thing to do is try it yourself, although if you are new to Vitamin C, please start with the 10% or 12%. For those who are not new to the high strength L-AA game then this could be an excellent cost effective alternative to what’s currently out there. It’s got the wonder ingredient at a potent 23% and is in a water-free formula, which means it should resist degrading much better. It also has “dehydrated spheres” of hyaluronic acid to boost hydration (along with squalane) and there is no silicone for those who don’t like that feeling.
Speaking of feeling, that’s the primary area this product didn’t work for me. The texture was grainy due to L-AA powder suspension, but it also felt somewhat waxy and in a way, greasy too. On the website, The Ordinary state that because of the powder this will take a bit longer to absorb, but for me I always felt like it was there. It didn’t really layer well with my other products either, although that didn’t end up mattering because this form and percent of Vitamin C was too strong for my skin and it left my face feeling itchy and uncomfortable. This side effect is also explained on the website and I know a lot of people experienced the tingling/burning/itching sensation too. Even though so many people love this and have seen great results with it, it didn’t work for me at all and is my least favourite product from the range.
It would be easy to think this would be the obvious choice of Vitamin C product to buy from The Ordinary because it’s the strongest yet cheapest, but this ingredient is far more complicated than that. Pretty much any high strength product will come with drawbacks and for many people, it’s better to start slow and work up to the strong stuff. As this product has such mixed reviews I can only say that there’s no telling if it will work for you so proceed with caution and I highly recommend considering either the 10%, 12% or 20% before attempting this one.
Vitamin C might sound like an innocuous ingredient but it is an acid and is very active/potent. I would suggest starting slow (just like with retinol) and working your way up to the high strength once your skin has got used it. I would absolutely not recommend jumping right in with the 23% just because it’s the cheapest unless you have used Vitamin C before. Instead go for either of the lower strengths and then try the 20%. I really love the difference consistent Vitamin C use has made to my skin and the key was finding the right strength and formula, so try and do the same.
One of the things I appreciate about The Ordinary is how geared towards customer needs they are. Even though Brandon (the founder) believes that acids and retinols 100% work, he also asserts that “there are newer technologies that can produce better results without the inflammation”, so he doesn’t really recommend them. Despite his stance and due to the fact that acids are now incredibly popular in the industry, the lineup now includes a selection of acids to give consumers exactly what they want. I’ve had mixed experiences with acids, with some working really well for me and others causing massive breakouts. As with retinols and Vitamin C, it all comes down to finding the right type and strength to suit your specific skin needs.
Ingredients: Aqua (Water), Glycolic Acid, Rosa damascena flower water, Centaurea cyanus flower water, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Water, Propanediol, Glycerin, Triethanolamine, Aminomethyl Propanol, Panax Ginseng Root Extract, Tasmannia Lanceolata Fruit/Leaf Extract, Aspartic Acid, Alanine, Glycine, Serine, Valine, Isoleucine, Proline, Threonine, Histidine, Phenylalanine, Glutamic Acid, Arginine, PCA, Sodium PCA, Sodium Lactate, Fructose, Glucose, Sucrose, Urea, Hexyl Nicotinate, Dextrin, Citric Acid, Polysorbate 20, Gellan Gum, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Sodium Chloride, Hexylene Glycol, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Benzoate, 1,2-Hexanediol, Caprylyl Glycol.
When I first announced the upcoming launch of this product there was a lot of excitement. An acid like this is something the Deciem brands were missing and of course, the price point was extremely appealing. I used to be big on this step having used Pixi’s Glow Tonic before moving on to Bravura’s Revitalising Ginseng Toner, which I found to be the superior of the two, with this product now being the better of all three. For about a year or so now I have generally cut back on my acid use and completely eliminated this step because I found that my skin was much more balanced without it and unfortunately, my skin doesn’t like glycolic acid as much as I thought it did. Saying that, this is an excellent option for those who need to acid tone and what I love to use this for now is as a pre-mask treatment to clear away any dead skin when my skin is feeling particularly congested and in that way it has worked really well for me.
Glycolic Acid is a popular AHA (alpha hydroxy acid) because it can help to resurface the skin leaving it clearer, brighter and smoother and it can boost collagen production, as well as help with moisture levels, making it non-drying. It works by dissolving the binds between dead skin cells, revealing “fresh” ones for a more plump, youthful appearance of the epidermis. It is also a smaller molecule, which means it can easily penetrate deep into the skin to improve everything from acne, scarring, hyperpigmentation, wrinkles and textural irregularities. It can be a gentle exfoliating option (depending on the strength) and can be just what the skin needs to keep it clear, balanced and bright. It’s an acid that would work well for almost all skin types and certainly most ages, although those with sensitive or particularly young skin should always proceed with caution when it comes to products like this.You would use this, as an exfoliating toner, after cleansing and before a hydrating toner/mist or serums.
What I love about this product is the excellent ingredients list. It contains rose and cornflower water, aloe vera, glycerin, ginseng extract and a Tasmanian Pepperberry derivative to soothe, hydrate and reduce any irritation. It has 7% glycolic acid giving you more bang for your buck than it’s contemporaries, and more importantly is alcohol, fragrance and dye free (the colour comes from the pepperberry), which some of the others are not. I thought I was done using this type of product, but I love how gentle yet effective it is and how incredibly soft and smooth it leaves my skin. If you’re new to acids or have sensitive skin, this would be a great introduction to the concept of acid toning. I would recommend using it maybe just 2-3 times a week to begin before working up to daily use. As I said, this comes after cleansing and before everything else (except CAIS, as always) and you can either apply this to a cotton pad and swipe it all over or pour into your hands and press/pat on to your face. Deciem recommend using this at night because it is a moderately high strength acid, so if you use it during the day, please make sure to wear sunscreen.
Ingredients: Aqua (Water), Hamamelis virginiana leaf water, Cocamidopropyl Dimethylamine, Salicylic Acid, Dimethyl Isosorbide, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Citric Acid, Polysorbate 20, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Triethanolamine, Ethoxydiglycol, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Benzoate, 1,2-Hexanediol, Caprylyl Glycol.
Salicylic Acid has been a favourite ingredient of mine ever since I was a teen and it’s one that I’m sure many of you are familiar with. It’s the most popular acid when it comes to preventing and healing acne because it really works. I was so happy when The Ordinary launched this and it has been an integral part of my skincare routine ever since I got my hands on it.
Unlike glycolic acid, salicylic acid is a BHA (beta hydroxy acid) and while it is exfoliating too, it does it in a much deeper and targeted way, which is what makes it so good at healing blemishes. It has the ability to deeply penetrate the pores to dissolve oil buildup, breakdown the connective tissue between dead skin cells and calm inflammation. This gets right into the pore lining to clear congestion at the root, curing acne from the inside out. If you have acne or suffer from regular breakouts then this is for you. Salicylic acid can be surprisingly less irritating than expected considering how effective it is, but that’s exactly what makes it so great for acne prone skin. It will calm inflammation, sooth and reduce redness and help regulate sebum production. What’s so good about salicylic acid is how by preventing the buildup of pore clogging dead skin cells it can also improve skin tone and texture, not just clarity. It’s an excellent preventative treatment as well as a potent healing solution.
One of the reasons I have been enjoying this so much is how easy it is to use. It contains both witch hazel and synthetic salicylic acid in a water base formula that absorbs really well and doesn’t ball up when you apply other products on top. It’s non-drying (my other 2% SA product is), although I will note that it does somewhat “lather” as you rub it (this is due to the inclusion of cocamidopropyl dimethylamine, which is an antistatic agent, but is also classed as a cleansing/lather ingredient due to how it functions), but this hasn’t caused a problem for me. I have used this in a few different ways and again, it’s all down to gel texture, which is lightweight, non-sticky/tacky and layers well with other products. The typical way is as a spot treatment, after cleansing and CAIS. I apply to the blemish, wait up to 5 minutes then carry on with my routine and I love doing this because it heals them quickly without causing any irritation or damage to the surrounding skin like some acne treatments can do. I like to have treatment products directly on the skin so there are no obstructive layers to get through, although it would be ok to apply this after a water-based toner as long as it didn’t contain any oils. I also like to mix this with my powder masks like the one from Odacite or Plant Apothecary to help with congestion. I have also used this as a mask itself, applying it all over my face and leaving it on for about 10-15 minutes before rinsing off. I really like how glassy smooth and clear this left my skin, making it a great weekly exfoliating mask treatment.
If you struggle with acne or recurring blemishes then you need this product in your stash because it has helped me to heal my breakouts in a matter of days, and some of them overnight. It is alcohol, oil and silicone free and the only slight negative is the fact that due to being fragrance free it sort of smells like glue to me, but it’s very faint and it doesn’t linger. As always, do not skip sunscreen if you use this during the day.
5% Ingredients: Aqua (Water), Lactic Acid, Glycerin, Pentylene Glycol, Triethanolamine, Sodium Hyaluronate Crosspolymer, Tasmannia Lanceolata Fruit/Leaf Extract, Arginine, Potassium Citrate, Acacia Senegal Gum, Xanthan Gum, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, PPG-26-Buteth-26, Ethyl 2,2-Dimethylhydrocinnamal, PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Ethylhexylglycerin, 1,2-Hexanediol, Caprylyl Glycol. 10% Ingredients: Aqua (Water), Lactic Acid, Glycerin, Pentylene Glycol, Arginine, Potassium Citrate, Triethanolamine, Sodium Hyaluronate Crosspolymer, Tasmannia Lanceolata Fruit/Leaf Extract, Acacia Senegal Gum, Xanthan Gum, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, PPG-26-Buteth-26, Ethyl 2,2-Dimethylhydrocinnamal, PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Ethylhexylglycerin, 1,2-Hexanediol, Caprylyl Glycol.
Despite it not working well for my skin (I’m allergic), lactic acid is such an amazing ingredient. It’s another AHA (alpha hydroxy acid) that is incredibly gentle, soothing and hydrating due to it’s slightly larger molecule size. This means it should be far less irritating because it’s more of a surface exfoliator and doesn’t penetrate as deep as glycolic acid. It also functions to improve skin tone, texture and brightness, fade hyperpigmentation, reduce wrinkles and help regulate oil production without causing excess dryness. This is an excellent choice for an anti-aging focused skincare routine because it is hydrating and skin softening thanks to the addition of hyaluronic acid (HA), meaning it would work really well for dry/dehydrated mature skin. There’s also the Tasmanian pepperberry derivative again (like in the Toning Solution) to reduce any irritation and that’s also where the slight orange colour comes from.
Even though I can’t use this I have seen so many people rave about it. It’s a brilliant and cost effective alternative to Sunday Riley’s Good Genes (5% lactic acid), with many saying these products are much better, and not just because of the price. This would be an excellent entry level acid serum for those with sensitive, mature or dry/dehydrated skin. Both have a watery, lightweight gel texture that absorb and layer well with other products, although I did notice the slightest tacky feel once it was dry. These can be used in two ways – as a serum or wash-off treatment. I would recommend the 5% as a 3-4 times a week nightly serum and the 10% as a 1-2 a week exfoliating treatment mask, but if course, that all depends on your skin type, needs and reaction to them.
Ingredients: Aqua (Water), Isodecyl Neopentanoate, Dimethicone, Azelaic Acid, Dimethicone/Bis-Isobutyl PPG-20 Crosspolymer, Dimethyl Isosorbide, Hydroxyethyl Acryalte/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer, Polysilicone-11, Isohexadecane, Tocopherol, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Isoceteth-20, Polysorbate 60, Triethanolamine, Ethoxydiglycol, Phenoxyethanol, Chlorphenesin.
Even though Salicylic has been a long time favourite of mine, I think this has claimed the number one acid spot. It has been a skincare game changer and I actually did a happy dance when this launched. It is one of the most underrated acids out there and now has a permanent place in my top five favourite acids (more on that soon). I understand why it isn’t used as widely as salicylic acid, but it is definitely an ingredient that should not be overlooked when it comes to acne and healing blemishes. It helps to do that and so much more, and I have been so impressed by how well this product has performed that I have now graduated to a 20% prescription strength. This ingredient has become one of the most results driven products in my stash and it’s something I wish I had been able to use for a lot longer than just the past few months.
Azelaic Acid is a “saturated dicarboxylic acid” found in wheat, barley and rye. I like to call it an “intelligent” acid because of the incredible results I have seen. To start off with, it is one of the best ingredients for acne. It works on both comedonal (white and black heads) and inflammatory (cystic) blemishes by inhibiting the growth of p.acnes bacteria and regulating the production of keratin skin cells that allow the acne bacteria to flourish. Not only that, it reduces inflammation, prevents the hair follicles from becoming clogged and most exciting, actually helps halt and reverse post-inflammatory hyper pigmentation development by suppressing melanin production. Now can you see why I am so obsessed with this product? Well, on top of that it works really well for those who suffer with rosacea because it’s a potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant.
I used this daily for months and because of other things going on in my life at the time, I didn’t really pay attention to how good my skin was looking, but it was clear, bright, even and I rarely had any breakouts. There are a number of products that contributed to that and this is one of the most important because not only was it preventing and healing blemishes, but also helping to prevent the dark mark (PIH) that gets left behind. AMAZING. I had read that azelaic acid actually “selectively targets” melanin-forming cells and that is 100% true, because I actually saw that happen when I started using the 20% prescription strength cream. My skin had light all over peeling, but on areas where I had hyperpigmentation there was a more, deeper and yes, targeted peeling. I could not believe what I was seeing and I was so happy because the azelaic acid was shedding the pigmented cells until the area become uniform to the rest of my face. Intelligent, right?
This has a completely different formula to the other acids from The Ordinary meaning I had to use it in a different way. It has a light, gel-cream texture that does contain silicones (not as much as Retinol 1%), so it’s more like a lotion/moisturizer than serum or treatment product. Because of this, I used this after cleansing, toning and serums as a moisturizer either alone or underneath Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA during the day or an oil/balm at night. All ways worked really well because despite the silicones it absorbs quickly and easily and doesn’t leave behind any residue or detectable coating. This would be an excellent makeup primer for those with acne prone skin because it will actually help treat the blemishes while providing “protection” from the makeup. Even though I don’t mind this formula, I would love it if The Ordinary had a version of this similar to the other acids because I want something I can put on my skin first, like with the salicylic acid. I may be currently using a 20% version of this but there are side effects (itching and peeling) and that didn’t happen when I used the 10%. Eventually I will go back to this because my skin won’t need such a high amount of azelaic acid, so if you feel tempted to jump straight into the 20% I wouldn’t recommend it because I prepped my skin for months with the 10% and I strongly believed that helped me experience less irritation with the 20%.
If you suffer from melasma or have darker skin and struggle with the PIH that is left behind from acne then this is unequivocally for you. Beyond being an effective weapon against acne, it also does wonders to lighten and brighten the skin for a clear and even tone. It feels like a normal moisturizer on the skin, yet is doing so much more making it one of the most hardworking, results driven products out there.
Ingredients: Propanediol, Thioctic Acid.
This product showcases yet another underrated acid, which in recent years has started to become more popular and has been heralded as “one of the most powerful anti-aging, antioxidant, anti-inflammatories available”. At first I didn’t know what to make of this serum because I’d never really heard about ALA before, but after doing a quick search I was surprised and intrigued to find it featured in products from brands like NUFACE and Estee Lauder and Perricone MD. Dr. Perricone has really championed this ingredient over the years and I can see why. Alpha Lipoic Acid is an enzyme considered a “universal antioxidant” because of how easily it is absorbed through the lipid layers of the skin due to it’s water and fat solubility. This means it’s a potent defense against fine lines and wrinkles, enlarged pores, dull and uneven skin tone and can improve the appearance of puffy and blotchy skin. It also fights free radicals, reduces inflammation and can regulate oil production and even improve the appearance on scar tissue, which is huge for those with certain types of acne scarring. Interestingly, it also works to regenerate/reactivate fellow antioxidants E and C meaning it can influence the effects of aging on a cellular level. It has the potential to become big news for anti-aging skincare, although at the moment there needs to be more research and studies done on it.
When this first arrived I wasn’t sure if I was even going to use it, but again, after doing some research I was eager to incorporate it into my routine and that’s what I did. It has an incredibly lightweight oil texture and Deciem recommend using just 2-3 drops, which is what I did the first couple of times. Used on it’s own it feels quite warming and slightly tingling on the skin, but that went away after a few minutes and the next morning there were no signs of irritation, just incredibly smooth and soft skin. Deciem also suggest mixing this with another oil to buffer/dilute the potency and I like that idea, because really, it turns them into something much more potent and active. I’ve mixed this with the Marula, Rosehip and Squalane oil as well as my long time favourite oil blends from La Belle Lune and Votary and it performs just as well with them all. The recommended use is 2-3 times a week and that’s what I’ve been doing. ALA is pretty sensitive to sunlight so you must only use this at night and at the risk of sounding like a broken record, sunscreen is a daily must if you’re using this regularly.
Ingredients: Glycolic Acid, Aqua (Water), Arginine, Propanediol, Cocamidopropyl Dimethylamine, Triethanolamine, Salicylic Acid, Aminomethyl Propanol, Lactic Acid, Tartaric Acid, Citric Acid, Panthenol, Sodium Hyaluronate Crosspolymer, Tasmannia Lanceolata Fruit/Leaf Extract, Daucus Carota Sativa Extract, Glycerin, Pentylene Glycol, Polysorbate 20, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Ethylhexylglycerin, 1,2-Hexanediol, Caprylyl Glycol.
Despite not being able to use this myself, I love this product and cannot get over the amazing results that I’ve seen on my lovely and very helpful little sister. I have been testing this out on her for the past few weeks and the results just get better and better. This was a controversial launch for many reasons (some valid and others petty) but for me, it has worked much better than I actually expected it to and I think if your skin can handle it then it would work very well as a powerful weekly mask to resurface and renew the skin.
This is the most potent and “risky” product in the lineup due to the fact it contains a number of different acids for a combined strength much higher than any of the others. It blends together glycolic, salicylic, lactic, tartaric and citric acids to create a vigorous exfoliating mask, which will brighten, unclog pores, soften and smooth the skin. It’s definitely intense and my sister told me it tingled, but not painfully, although I know for others it was quite unbearable, so please make sure you patch test with this before applying it all over. It contains Deciem’s favourite Tasmanian pepperberry to reduce as much irritation as possible, B5 (pantothenic acid) to aid in healing, Black Carrot for some antioxidant boost and hyaluronic acid for “comfort”. Many people have used this with no issues thanks to these ingredients, but for some it wasn’t quite enough to buffer the intensity, so again, patch test first.
Because this is a true exfoliating mask it should be applied after cleansing on to dry skin and left on for only 10 minutes before rinsing gently with warm water. I would recommend following it with a simple and soothing routine and of course, wearing sunscreen to avoid any sensitization. As you can see from the image this has a bright raspberry colour from the pepperberry and feels like a sticky but thin gel. Obviously, it doesn’t absorb, but it does dry and won’t run down your face. My sister very kindly let me use her face as a guinea pig and I have loved watching this take effect. Even after the very first use her skin looked incredible – very noticeably brighter, clear and much more even. She now uses this diligently twice a week and has left it on for half an hour with no issues, but do not do this until you are sure your skin can handle it. What she likes about this is how it sort of resets and treats her skin like a mask, leaving her free to do less on the days she doesn’t use it. She likes to keep her routines short and simple and incorporating this means she can do that, but still benefit from something more active.
Of course, this has been compared to Drunk Elephant’s Babyfacial and while the concept is the same, the two products have very different ingredients list, textures and most importantly, price point. Babyfacial has more going on with it in terms of additional ingredients, but that doesn’t matter if you can’t afford to buy it, which many can’t considering it costs about 10x more than this. I do want to try it on my sister just to see how the two match up for myself, but to be clear I do not see this as a dupe, knock-off or inferior alternative. This product is a prime example of how The Ordinary is democratizing the skincare industry and making it affordable for everyone and that’s a very good thing.
Using acids isn’t going to be for everyone and despite their popularity, it’s important to proceed with caution because they can be quite inflammatory and irritating. Whichever one you choose to get, just be sure to keep an eye on your skin for any changes that might mean it’s not reacting well because over exfoliation will lead to issues that could completely negate anything good the acid has the potential to do.
Facial oils are one of the most popular products in the skincare industry and for good reason. They are a beautiful way to nourish the skin, but over the years the price of many have become out of control. There are a lot of elements that go into determining the “quality” of an oil like how and where it’s manufactured, the extraction process, whether it’s fairtrade, organic, local, wild harvested etc and all these factors are important to consider, although these days some brands use them as an excuse to hike up prices, even when the ingredients don’t justify them, which essentially excludes many consumers from even trying them. Thankfully, The Ordinary now have four single oil products giving everyone a chance to incorporate oils into their routines without having to break the bank.
Ingredients: Rosa Canina Seed Oil.
I am a huge fan of facial oils and in particular, rose hip seed is one of my all time favourites. It is a gorgeous skin loving, hardworking ingredient and I’m so glad The Ordinary launched this one first. This lovely oil has been used in skincare for centuries due to how incredibly healing, regenerative and protective it is. It is packed full of antioxidants (vit C, lycopene, carotenoids), vitamins (A, B, D and E) and essential fatty acids (Omegas 3, 6, 9) that help reduce scars, fine lines and wrinkles, correct dark spots, sun damage and uneven skin tone, as well as tackling stretch marks. Not only this, because of the higher linoleic acid to oleic acid ratio (44.1% vs 13.9%), this is an excellent oil for those with acne prone skin because it will help soothe, heal and balance the dermis, which not all oils can actually do. It will also help with hydration, collagen production, elasticity and combat free radical damage. Clearly, not all oils are created equal and not all of them can do as much as this one.
This oil has a beautiful, rich golden yellow colour and a delicate fruity scent that is not at all unpleasant, despite the (and I cannot stress this enough) incredibly mild (I mean it, so don’t be put off) resemblance to fish oil due to the high Omega content. This absorbs quickly and easily, so it’s considered a “dry” oil and feels lovely and light and most importantly, non-greasy. I take about 3-4 drops depending on how dry my skin is and apply it as my end step. I mostly use this at night, but you could easily use this during the day by mixing in a drop or two into your moisturizer or sunscreen. You could even add it to your body cream to make it more of a treatment product, and this is something I will definitely be doing from now on. I think this would work really well mixed with the Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate Solution 20% for a super antioxidant oil blend.
I first fell in love with this ingredient when I discovered Pai’s RoseHip BioRenegerate Oil about three years ago and ever since then I always make sure it’s high on the list in at least one of my oil blends. I currently get my fix from my all time favourite oil Organic Skin by La Belle Lune, but having this on it’s own is so great because I can add it to other oils that don’t have it or mix it with my new found love of moisturizers. This would be well suited for all skin types because it’s an excellent anti-aging powerhouse oil, but also works really well for those with combo/oily/acne prone skin. I am going to make an effort to use this more often because it really is beautiful.
Ingredients: Sclerocarya Birrea Seed Oil.
Another long time favourite oil of mine has to be this one. I first discovered it almost five years ago now, thanks to the lovely little brand African Botanics and it has been a constant in my skincare stash ever since. The beauty of Marula oil is like Rosehip, it works extremely well for all skin types, but especially those who are oily/acne prone. It is actually even more gentle than Rosehip, making it perfect for those with sensitive skin, too. One of the major benefits of this oil is how healing and soothing it is when it comes to acne and that’s due to it being high in Omega fatty acids and anti-microbial. It saved my face during the infamous 2014 Polar Vortex in NYC when my acne prone skin was bone dry and nothing else came close to how well this worked for me. It hydrated, nourished and protected it, all while soothing, healing and not causing any breakouts.
One of the reasons The Ordinary has these single oil products is because the individual ingredients have such complex structures that have so much going on with them. Marula oil comes from the nut inside the Marula fruit and is rich in Vitamin C (eight times higher than in oranges), antioxidants, proteins, minerals, Omega fatty acids and even vitamin E (and more) making it a very stable oil that naturally resists oxidation damage. It’s another hardworking oil because it functions to renew and repair cells, defend against free radical damage, reduce fine lines and wrinkles, heal blemishes and improve the appearance of scarring. It is nourishing, anti-flammatory, reparative and really soothes the skin. It’s such a beautiful African oil to use thanks to the delicate nutty scent and lightweight, fast absorbing texture. It doesn’t feel heavy at all making it an excellent option for day or night. I have used this at both times, depending on the season and love to mix it with other oils, balms or moisturizers that don’t have this ingredient already, although it works very well on it’s own too. You can also use this in your hair, body and nails and I know Gill has used a whole bottle in one go as a body oil and I am very tempted to do the same.
This is definitely an oil that would work very well for all skin types and those with sensitive skin who find Vitamin C too irritating would really benefit from incorporating this or Rosehip (or a mix of both) into their routine. I have found that sometimes the naturally occurring derivatives of some ingredients can work better for some skin types than their synthetic counterparts, so that’s something to consider for those still struggling to find the perfect Vit C product since Marula oil contains 60% more antioxidants than any other oil. Whether you’re acne prone or have sensitive skin or are scared of using oils on your face, this is the one to start with.
Side Note: Due to the fact that this is an all-natural product there will be variations in colour – some batches will be clear like the one I have and others maybe more pale yellow or even golden brown. This is normal and happens across all brands.
Ingredients: Argania Spinosa Kernel Oil.
Argan oil comes from the nut of the Argan tree, which is indigenous to Morocco. It has become extremely popular in skincare and had a massive “moment” a few years ago thanks to the haircare brand Moroccan Oil. For me, Argan oil has always primarily been a haircare product and unless it was included in an oil blend, I didn’t actively incorporate it into my skincare routine. I thought it would be too heavy to put on my face since I used it in my hair, but it is a brilliant facial oil that has been used for centuries by those living in the dry and often harsh conditions where the oil is produced. Unlike, Marula and Rosehip, I wouldn’t necessarily say this is as suited to all skin types because it is slightly heavier in texture and feel, and is really more geared towards nourishing and protecting the skin. It works very well during the colder months and for those with dry/dehydrated skin or living in drier climates. It would also be a good option for anyone dealing with retinol related side effects because it helps to stop itching and flakiness. Argan oil is definitely more of an anti-aging oil, even though it does have anti-inflammatory and sebum balancing properties thanks to it being full of Vitamins A and E, Omega 6 and 9, antioxidants, carotenes, squalene, phenols and more, which make it a great option for boosting hydration, conditioning skin, hair and nails and reducing inflammation. It has a lovely sweet yet nutty scent, a rich but not thick texture and you only need a drop or two, whether you’re using it on your face or skin. I still mainly use this on my hair as I have other oils better suited to my skin, but if you are suffering from dryness then this would be an excellent oil to use alone for deep nourishment, or added to a moisturizer for extra comfort and hydration.
Side note: As of May 1, 2017, this product may contain sources from Argan nuts and seeds. The specifications of the oil remain virtually identical. However, if you have a nut allergy, please note that this product may contain traces of nuts.
Ingredients: 100% Plant-Derived Squalane.
I have been a big fan of Squalane even since I discovered the green beauty brand Indie Lee a few years ago and it is an amazing ingredient if you hate the feeling of oils because it absorbs incredibly fast, leaving virtually no trace behind. It has a dry, thin, almost watery texture and is clear with no detectable scent. If you don’t like how some oils (especially EO’s) can come across as overly floral or seem intensely fragrant then this is the “oil” for you. I say “oil” because technically squalane isn’t one, which you might have guessed from that word being missing from the title of this product. Squalane is an emollient but is just as potent, skin loving and healing as the other oils in this lineup, it just does it in an understated way.
Squalene (yes, with an e) is actually a naturally occurring substance in our own skin, but like many “ingredients” our bodies make, production starts to decline as we age. It naturally moisturizes, but is also quite unstable, so squalane (with an a) has taken it’s place in skincare because it has similar molecular makeup to our own skin, which is how it is able to be absorbed so quickly. It is also cruelty free (not from sharks) as this product is plant-derived, COCERT approved and is a USDA Certified Bio-based Product. Even though it’s not an oil, it definitely performs like one by being nourishing, smoothing, protecting, balancing and healing. It is packed full of antioxidants, is antibacterial and fights free radicals. I have loved mixing this with the Vit C 20% due to how similar they are in texture and absorption rate. This combo penetrates the skin so quickly and feels like nothing on. If you’re looking for a non-oil oil then consider this one, it works beautifully on it’s own, but also pairs well with other oils, serums and even moisturizers to help them absorb better and boost hydration without feeling heavy on the skin.
I think The Ordinary have a great mix of oils in their lineup and I would love to see more added like Prickly Pear, Kukui, Baobab, Monoi and so many others. The beauty of having single ingredient oils is you can completely customize how you use them. You can mix them with each other like I do (squalane, marula and roseship plus vit c 20%) or add them to moisturizers, balms or serums for a little extra nourishment. Facial oils have become quite an elitist sector of the skincare industry, but if you’re looking for an uncomplicated, well priced yet still high performing oils then these are absolutely worth trying.
Hydrators & Primers
Even though oils are a beautiful way to nourish and treat your skin, they are just one component needed for complete inside out hydration. Using oils alone only addresses part of what causes dehydration and dryness and for most people they cannot and should not be the only form of hydration their skin gets and that’s where this section comes in.
Ingredients: Aqua (Water), Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Cetyl Alcohol, Propanediol, Stearyl Alcohol, Glycerin, Sodium Hyaluronate, Arginine, Aspartic Acid, Glycine Alanine, Serine Valine, Isoleucine, Proline Threonine, Histidine, Phenylalanine, Glucose, Maltose Fructose, Trehalose, Sodium PCA, PCA, Sodium Lactate, Urea, Allantoin Linoleic Acid, Oleic Acid, Phytosteryl Canola Glycerides, Palmitic Acid, Stearic Acid Lecithin, Triolein, Tocopherol, Carbomer, Isoceteth-20, Polysorbate 60, Sodium Chloride, Citric Acid, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Pentylene Glycol, Triethanolamine, Sodium Hydroxide, Phenoxyethanol, Chlorphenesin.
I could not love this product more (bigger size, maybe?) and I was so surprised when I made that discovery. I have hated moisturizers for 99% of my skincare using life and only recently began finding a few that have worked for me (blog post soon) and this is easily one of the best out of that bunch for a number of reasons. I used to skip traditional moisturizers and instead got my hydration fix from toners (alcohol-free), serums, oils and balms. This worked pretty well for me and helped me to avoid the congestion that inevitably came from using a moisturizer, but I always wanted to find one that worked for me so I didn’t have to rely on only oils and balms as my end step. The problem with many of the moisturizers on the market is that they can have a lot going on with them and end up feeling extremely heavy and cause congestion. They also usually come loaded with oils and silicones, which isn’t what I was looking for at all. When this launched I was so happy and hoped that it would be just what I have been searching for and it was.
Right off the bat, what makes this moisturizer so different is it doesn’t contain any oils or silicones. Not only that, it contains hyaluronic acid to help your skin retain moisture and reduce trans-epidermal water loss (TEWL). The name comes from the components that occur naturally in the skin which function to “keep the outer layer of the skin protected and well-hydrated”. This outer layer is the stratum corneum, which provides the “barrier function” that protects from infection, damage, stressors (environmental, chemical) and of course, dehydration. It basically works to retain water and protect the skin, but to do this it needs a balance of ceramides, cholesterol, and fatty acids, which is exactly what this moisturizer provides. It contains amino acids, phospholipids, alpha/beta/gamma fatty acids, triglycerides, sterols and sterol esters, glycerin, ceramide precursors, urea, saccharides, sodium PCA and more. The importance of this moisturizer goes beyond simply hydration because a properly functioning barrier is the basis of good skin. A compromised barrier can lead to all manner of skin issues like acne, psoriasis, rosacea and dermatitis. Using this will help stabilize the stratum corneum and help prevent these issues from happening.
No matter what your skin type, it’s important to use a product like this to keep your barrier function working at it’s best. Even if you have oily skin this could still work well for you because it has a lovely light, whipped, almost mousse-y texture that feels cooling on the skin and applies like a dream. It absorbs well, doesn’t feel heavy and leaves a non-greasy but hydrated finish. A little goes a long way and I have been loving this on days when I don’t want to use an oil or at night with an oil to help my skin heal from retinol use. This is one of the very best products in The Ordinary’s lineup and I highly recommend everyone try it.
Ingredients: Aqua (Water), Sodium Hyaluronate, Sodium Hyaluronate Crosspolymer, Panthenol, Ahnfeltia Concinna Extract, Glycerin, Pentylene Glycol, Propanediol, Polyacrylate Crosspolymer-6, PPG-26-Buteth-26, PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Citric Acid, Ethoxydiglycol, Caprylyl Glycol, Hexylene Glycol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Phenoxyethanol, Chlorphenesin.
If you love the moisturizer you already have then consider adding this in your serum step. While it won’t function in the complex way that NMF does, it will still help your skin to retain moisture and stop trans-epidermal water loss (TEWL), which many moisturizers aren’t equipped to do. You will find hyaluronic acid in many of the products in The Ordinary range and that’s because having sufficiently hydrated skin means it will function at it’s best and you’ll get the most out of the ingredients you’re putting on to it. I don’t necessarily need this as I have HA in the moisturizer and some of the other serums I use and you may be the same, but if for some reason you don’t find this ingredient in the products you use every day then consider adding it to your lineup. It contains the popular hyaluronic acid, which can attract up to 1,000 times it’s weight in water, as well as a new and advanced crosspolymer which can hold 5x times the amount of water than plain old HA. This means you get low, medium and high molecular weight hyaluronic acid which will target multiple levels of hydration. It also includes B5 (pantothenic acid) for it’s surface moisture retention (humectant) ability and red algae for a boost of antioxidants and mineral rich water-binding skin conditioning. This has a similar look, scent and texture to most of the other serums The Ordinary makes and in the same way it sinks in extremely fast, leaves no residue and isn’t sticky at all. This would be used after cleansing and toning and before anything oil based, but after water-based serums and before your last step. I think this would work well for all skin types because balanced hydration is important for combating oiliness just as much as dryness. This is such an affordable and very well-made alternative to comparable products such as Skinceuticals Hydrating B5 Gel and it is in no way a dupe, it’s just as good, if not superior.
HAS Ingredients: Aqua (Water), Isodecyl Neopentanoate, Dimethicone, Dimethicone/Bis-Isobutyl PPG-20 Crosspolymer, Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer, Isohexadecane, Hexamethyldisiloxane, Isoceteth-20, Polysilicone-11, Tocopherol, Polysorbate 60, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Phenoxyethanol, Chlorphenesin. HSF Ingredients: Hexamethyldisiloxane, Cyclopentasiloxane, Caprylyl Methicone, PEG-12 Dimethicone/PPG-20 Crosspolymer, Dimethicone, Dimethicone/Vinyl Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Tocopherol.
We should have realized that when The Ordinary launched these two it was a sign of things to come. At the time I thought it was great, although definitely a bit random, but now with the release of Colours, it all makes sense. There was absolute madness when these first launched, thanks in part to the hilarious video Wayne Goss did on them (here). They each cater to the two main skin issues when it comes to applying makeup – getting it to last on oily skin and preventing it from settling into pores and wrinkles for mature skin. I was generally not a primer user, simply because I don’t wear makeup enough to justify spending money on a good one, but I did struggle with the usual issues like an oily t-zone at the end of the day and creasing around the eyes and nose, which I now don’t have to deal with thanks to these. I use the High-Spreadability one when I wear my BareMinerals powder because it helps it glide on effortlessly and my skin looks virtually poreless, and I use the High-Adherence on my t-zone on days when I am going to be wearing foundation for more than just a few hours. Both have worked very well, not caused any breakouts and neither feel heavy on the skin despite both containing multiple silicones. As I said earlier, I really feel like the Azelaic Acid Suspension 10% could function as a treatment primer because it feels exactly like the High-Adherence one, and The Ordinary even describe it as a serum-primer. Whichever one you choose depends on your skin type and makeup preference, but if you have oily or acne prone skin then consider the AA 10% because it will work just as well as these two and help to heal and protect your skin at the same time.
No matter what your skin type, I truly believe that keeping your skin hydrated is one of the most important steps. Hydrated skin not only looks “better”, it also functions properly meaning even if have oily or acne prone skin, you must find a way to balance hydration because it will help balance your skin overall.
While I generally don’t agree with the term “anti-aging” or how many brands use the word to market their products, I do understand that many of you are looking for a skincare lineup focused on exactly that. It’s one of my most asked questions when it comes to The Ordinary and while technically pretty much every product is anti-aging in some form, these are the ones that are very specifically designed for mature skin.
Ingredients: Aqua (Water), Glycerin, Lactococcus Ferment Lysate, Acetyl Hexapeptide-8, Pentapeptide-18, Palmitoyl Tripeptide-1, Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-7, Palmitoyl Tripeptide-38, Dipeptide Diaminobutyroyl Benzylamide Diacetate, Acetylarginyltryptophyl Diphenylglycine, Sodium Hyaluronate Crosspolymer, Sodium Hyaluronate, Allantoin, Glycine, Alanine, Serine, Valine, Isoleucine, Proline, Threonine, Histidine, Phenylalanine, Arginine, Aspartic Acid, Trehalose, Fructose, Glucose, Maltose, Urea, Sodium PCA, PCA, Sodium Lactate, Citric Acid, Hydroxypropyl Cyclodextrin, Sodium Chloride, Sodium Hydroxide, Butylene Glycol, Pentylene Glycol, Acacia Senegal Gum, Xanthan Gum, Carbomer, Polysorbate 20, PPG-26-Buteth-26, PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Ethoxydiglycol, Sodium Benzoate, Caprylyl Glycol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Phenoxyethanol, Chlorphenesin.
When The Ordinary first announced their lineup, this was the one I was most intrigued about due to the quirky name. Simply dubbed “Buffet”, this peptide rich serum got it’s moniker in protest to the brands that refer “to their expensive products offering combinations of these technologies as a “buffet”, distastefully comparing such products to buffets that offer various kinds of food in one sitting”. Ouch! Despite the playful name, this is a brilliant serum and I was not expecting to like it as much as I do.
It contains a mix of anti-aging peptides, 11 amino acids, multiple hyaluronic acids and a lactococcus lactis lysate probiotic complex, which is why it’s one of the most expensive products in the range. The Syn-Ake peptide is considered an alternative to botox and is incredibly skin smoothing, while Relistase addresses sagging and increases firmness and Argirelox fights expression wrinkles. Matrixyl Synthe’6 focuses on six major components of the skin matrix and along with Matrixyl 3,000 provides long term wrinkle reduction, collagen stimulation and skin repair. This is a do-it-all anti-aging cocktail that will address fine lines and wrinkles, boost collagen, repair, firm and smooth for plumped up, perky skin.
This is very similar to N+Z and AA+HA in texture and consistency, but is slightly thinner and less sticky. It is somewhat cloudy and has a light watery-gel texture that feels cool when you apply it and absorbs quickly and easily, leaving behind no residue. This can be used morning or night and would work best either right after toning or after your watery serums or mixed in with your moisturizer. You only need a drop or two because it’s extremely fluid and spreads easily, plus if you use too much it might ball up and roll off. When I use this during the day I cleanse, tone, (or SDSM and CAIS then tone), use this, maybe another serum depending on my skin and then finish with my moisturizer, balm or sunscreen. When I use it in the evenings (which is now my preferred method) I use it on Retinoid nights and apply it after that. I love these two together and think they are such a results driven yet inexpensive anti-aging duo.
I am by no means in the anti-aging bracket yet, but I love this anyway. It is definitely more for those with mature or dry/dehydrated skin and I think it would be a great way to add an active yet light layer of hydration since it contains glycerin and hyaluronic acid. I have really enjoyed using it around my eyes and mouth and like to think that this is working as a preventative treatment.
Ingredients: Aqua (Water), Propanediol, Acetyl Hexapeptide-8, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Gellan Gum, Sodium Chloride, Isoceteth-20, Ethoxydiglycol, Potassium Sorbate, Phenoxyethanol, Chlorphenesin.
If expression wrinkles are a major area of concern for you then this is the targeted treatment you need. Argireline (also found in Buffet at 5%) is a proprietary solution of Acetyl Hexapeptide-3 owned by the Spanish company Lipotec. They describe this as the “first peptide to reduce expression lines” and it is marketed as an alternative to cosmetic injections. Lipotec claim that this ingredient can achieve the same results as botox and at first I was extremely skeptical, but after using it on and off (now consistently on), I have to admit I am actually seeing a difference.
As I said earlier, I am not really in the anti-aging bracket yet, but I do believe in taking preventative measures and that’s exactly what I’m doing with this. Over the past couple of years I have started to see the nasolabial folds (lines on either side of your mouth) start to become more prominent and this is what I now use to address that. Acetyl Hexapeptide-8 is a neuropeptide, which means it functions by limiting communication between neurons. It relaxes the facial muscles that lead to wrinkles through repeated contractions. It is very important to note that this is not for the entire face and should be used on targeted areas since relaxing the muscles of the entire face could lead to it becoming saggy/droopy, which would defeat the overall anti-aging benefits.
The reason I started to use this consistently again is because one day I looked in the mirror and definitely felt like the nasolabial lines looked less noticeable. I had been using a mix of Buffet and this on and off for a few weeks and I guessed they were the reason for that. I mostly use just this now, although it is an extra step that I don’t always have the time/energy for, even though it takes seconds to apply and absorb thanks to the light, watery texture. This is oil, alcohol and silicone free, so when I do include it in my routine it goes straight on the skin, after cleansing (or SDSM and CAIS) and before everything else. For the price, this could be a big money-saving alternative to botox, or at least help delay the need for it, which will be good news for a lot of you.
Ingredients: Aqua (Water), Glycerin, Butylene Glycol, Palmitoyl Tripeptide-1, Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-7, Palmitoyl Tripeptide-38, Sodium Hyaluronate, Hydroxypropyl Cyclodextrin, PPG-26-Buteth-26, PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Polyacrylate Crosspolymer-6, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Carbomer, Polysorbate 20, Ethoxydiglycol, Phenoxyethanol, Chlorphenesin.
Another ingredient found in Buffet that you can get on it’s own in a higher strength is this one, which actually contains Matrixyl 3000 and Matrixyl Synthe’6. These powerful anti-wrinkle peptides work to provide the skin with long term anti-aging and skin smoothing benefits and are considered unparalleled in the industry. They boost collagen and elastin, reverse glycation damage (causes aging) and function to smooth and soften wrinkles from the inside out. If anti-aging is the main focus of your skincare routine then this ingredient is a must. It has the same type of texture, scent and absorbency as Buffet and should be used after cleansing and toning and before your oils and creams. This ingredient is featured in a lot of expensive anti-aging creams and serums and the great thing about having it on it’s own is you can create your perfect anti-wrinkle product. It would work well mixed with Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA 30ml or an oil, it’s completely up to you, which is the beauty of these products.
Obviously you don’t really need all three of these, unless you plan on using Buffet at night and then the other two during the day, for example. Most people can happily just use Buffet, but if you feel like your wrinkles are at an advanced stage then consider the other two, as they are higher in strength. Even though these are focused on the more visual effects of aging it is important to remember that ingredients like Retinol, Vitamin C and general healthy skin through hydration and antioxidants are important contributing factors that help with the anti-aging process and should be included for a complete inside and out 360 anti-aging skincare routine.
And here we are at our last group of products, the ones that don’t really fit into the other categories, but are just as important all the same.
Ingredients: Aqua (Water), Niacinamide, Pentylene Glycol, Zinc PCA, Tamarindus Indica Seed Gum, Xanthan Gum, Isoceteth-20, Ethoxydiglycol, Phenoxyethanol, Chlorphenesin.
I have been a long time fan of both niacinamide and zinc and was so happy to see both ingredients in the same product. Even though this is described as a “blemish formula”, it is actually one of my favourite serums for dealing with hyperpigmentation. Niacinamide (Vitamin B3) works to suppress melanin (pigment that gives skin, hair and eyes colours) from reaching the skin’s surface and can also protect the skin against the UV damage that stimulates freckles, brown spots and skin discoloration. It also tackles fine lines and wrinkles, sallow tone, blotchiness, elasticity and of course, the dreaded PIH (post inflammatory hyperpigmentation). It is an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant, which means along with the zinc, it works very well to heal blemishes. Zinc (as seen in La Roche Posay’s now cult Serozinc) is amazing for healing the skin, reducing excess oil production and clearing acne. It is also an important ingredient for our overall health and I take it as a supplement.
Like many of the serums, it has a slightly cloudy, fluid gel texture that is a little sticky, but not at all tacky and spreads and absorbs quickly and easily. It’s a simple yet active formula that has a mild, nondescript scent that doesn’t linger or irritate my skin. Less is definitely more with this and I take just a drop or two (slightly less if I’m using it with AA + HA) and apply it after toning and before my “end” steps (moisturizer, oil or balm). It layers really well with everything I use before and after it and leaves a touch dry, comfortable finish. This can be used daily, morning and night and how often you use it depends on what your skin needs. I pretty much only use it in the mornings now as I have other nighttime products that are very active and I don’t like to overload my skin. In a routine the order would be cleanse, tone (or SDSM and CAIS then tone), watery serum, this, other gel or oil serums, then end products like sunscreen, moisturizer, oil or balm. Using this during the day is just a personal preference, but I think those with acne prone skin could really benefit from using this in tandem with the Retinoid serum to counteract any purging. It works so well to create balance, increase clarity and improve tone and texture. I do know that niacinamide doesn’t work for everyone and a few people have experienced breakouts, either because they’re allergic to it or the “raw” formula/high percent has been too much for their skin, but for me it’s been excellent. This is something that should work well for every skin type, but those with hyperpigmentation and/or acne would benefit the most.
While I love this and have see great results from it, I know that some people haven’t reacted well to the higher strength niacinamide and I would love to see The Ordinary launch a 5% version, which would be more gentle for those with sensitive skin. Research has shown that niacinamide provides good results even at 5% and the desired amount for maximum results is between 5% and 10%, so using less definitely doesn’t mean there won’t be any benefits, it just means it might take longer to see them and of course, there should be less irritation.
Ingredients: Aqua (Water), Caffeine, Propanediol, Maltodextrin, Glycerin, Epigallocatechin Gallatyl Glucoside, Gallyl Glucoside, Hyaluronic Acid, Oxidized Glutathione, Glycine Soja (Soybean) Seed Extract, Polypodium Vulgare Rhizome Extract, Cetraria Islandica Thallus Extract, Sphagnum Magellanicum Extract, Urea, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Polyacrylate Crosspolymer-6, Xanthan gum, Lactic Acid, Citric Acid, Dehydroacetic Acid, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Propyl Gallate, Dimethyl Isosorbide, Ethoxydiglycol, Benzyl Alcohol, 1,2-Hexanediol, Phenoxyethanol, Caprylyl Glycol.
As I have talked about many times on my blog, using eye products and finding the best one for me has been a big struggle. My eyes are quite sensitive and many products that I’ve tried have caused irritation, redness, watering and even dryness, which is not helpful for that area at all. I was excited when this launched because I have still yet to find “the one” when it comes to eye treatments and I don’t think I’ve ever used one with caffeine and green tea leaves. Taking care of our eye area is so important because they’re really the first thing people notice and unfortunately, they’re the first area on the face to show signs of aging, whether it’s wrinkles, puffiness or dark circles. This product has been designed to address these issues by using a mix of stimulating ingredients to smooth, soothe, hydrate and generally give the eyes some much needed “pep”.
Caffeine has been a long time go-to ingredient for the under eye area because it can help to reduce dark circles and puffiness. It does this by temporarily constricting the blood vessels under the skin, which can make some types of dark circles look less visible and soothe puffiness/swelling. Next, green tea leaves (EGCG) provides a big dose of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory support and can help reduce fluid retention. The product also contains hyaluronic acid to boost hydration, oxidized glutathione to brighten and a mix of plant extract to deeply hydrate and soothe the entire eye area.
I have been using this for months now and I can definitely say it has helped my eye area look brighter and feel smoother. It is so cooling and lightweight thanks to the thin gel texture that glides over the skin and absorbs quickly. You only need a tiny drop for each eye and if I were to have a complaint about this product, it would be that The Ordinary give you far too much. 30ml for an eye product is a lot and I can see this lasting years because you only need a tiny amount each time to use it. I think it would be better if it came in a 15ml bottle like the Salicylic Acid, although I have heard of people using this on their body since caffeine is so good for cellulite, so maybe the bigger size is preferred for some. Either way this is my current favourite eye product and I will continue using this no matter what other products I am testing.
Ingredients: Aqua (Water), Alpha-Arbutin, Polyacrylate Crosspolymer-6, Hydrolyzed Sodium Hyaluronate, Propanediol, PPG-26-Buteth-26, PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Lactic Acid, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Ethoxydiglycol, Phenoxyethanol, Chlorphenesin.
Alpha Arbutin is a popular skin brightening ingredient used extensively in Asian beauty products, but for some reason it has been very much underrated and underused in western beauty until now. It is such a great ingredient for hyperpigmentation because it actually prevents melanin from forming in the first place and can also reverse the level of skin darkening after too much fun in the sun, which is huge. It’s probably one of the best ingredients you can get for dealing with sun spots, dark marks and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation because it’s so potent yet very gentle. It’s a slow release active that has been combined with a next generation hyaluronic acid making it perfect for all skin types, but especially those with sensitive skin who can’t handle acids, retinols or even niacinamide.
The texture of this is very similar to N+Z, although this is a completely clear gel that is slightly thicker and a tad more stickier, yet not at all tacky and still absorbs just as well. It has that same dry to the touch finish and my skin doesn’t feel coated, which is why I love how lightweight these serums are. It again, layers perfectly with everything I use before and after it and I only need a drop or two because it spreads very well. As I said, I love mixing this with N+Z to create a “basic” version of my beloved Oskia serum and the funny thing is that this mix actually has a better consistency and absorbency than the Oskia product, which is quite tacky and doesn’t always layer well if you don’t apply it “correctly” (review here). I love this as my daytime serum to protect my skin against any sun damage and I think it serves as a great “booster” to my sunscreen. In a routine this would go after cleansing and toning and before heavier serums and your end step. It can be used every day, morning and night and would actually be really nice to use along side the Retinoid for an even more potent brightening duo.
Again, this serum would work very well with all skin types, but those who suffer from uneven skin tone, hyperpigmentation or are trying to undo any sun damage from this summer would benefit greatly from using it. If you find that N+Z isn’t right for you or you know you’re allergic to niacinamide, then give this a go because they provide the same type of results.
The beauty of The Ordinary is there is a product for pretty much everyone. No matter what your skin needs are, they have you covered. Healthy skin requires a mix of ingredients to function at it’s best and this brand allows you to incorporate them all without having to spend more money than necessary or fair. The Ordinary gives consumers the chance to create a fully customized skincare routine based on individual skin type, needs and budget. Some will use The Ordinary exclusively and others will pick and choose the right pieces to compliment their favourite products from other brands, which is what I do. I couldn’t imagine not using something from NIOD daily and I also adore my products from green beauty brands like de Mamiel and Aurelia. That’s what makes The Ordinary so special – you have choice, power and freedom, and there is so much more to come like sunscreen (fill in), and I can’t wait.
I know how confusing it can be to understand what to use, when and why, so I hope this review will serve as a guide you can bookmark and reference to learn more about each product. I also hope this will help you to make a more informed decision about what to buy from The Ordinary, which is why along with this review you will find recommended routines for every skin type and issue that you can now check out here.