A little over 2 months ago I placed my first purchase with The Ordinary and I’m ready to break down my thoughts and experiences with the products I’ve tried so far!
I saw “The Ordinary” name exploding everywhere but I had no idea what this brand was all about until I saw their incredibly affordable price points. I immediately turned to Insta and asked if the prices were real, and down the rabbit hole I went! After some research and getting to know the brand and their ethos inside and out, I went ahead and purchased a handful of items that I both needed and was curious to try.
“clinical formulations with integrity”
What’s The Ordinary all about?
The Ordinary is one of a handful of brands that falls under the DECIEM umbrella – a company that is seeking to disrupt the beauty industry with innovation in skincare technologies. Their ultimate focus is on “advanced functional beauty”, as they put it. The Ordinary uses familiar technologies though, aiming to provide products with more affordable, honorable prices. There’s very little to no marketing here: most of their products are simply named by their active ingredients and you won’t find bold claims on the packaging, but instead clinical descriptions of what each active ingredient is known to offer. With the exception of their Buffet Multi-Technology Peptide Serum, most of their products are minimally formulated. They are formulated around 1-2 active ingredients, with the rest containing a base ingredient and stability enhancers.
What were my expectations going into this brand? Honestly, my expectations were a little low. Or rather, low in the sense of “Don’t get your hopes too high – they are inexpensive for a good reason!” For each product I was interested in, I found 5 times as many reviews that noted no results, undesirable side effects, or some kind of application issue. It sounds crazy to buy a product that you have low expectations for, but for me it’s kind of rare to have such a negative experience with a product and I wouldn’t know how these performed unless I tried for myself. The prices are affordable and I felt I had nothing to lose. I had skin concerns to take care of (exfoliation, for example) so I was still excited to see what these products were all about despite my concerns stemming from negative reviews. The performance of most of these products I’ve tried have far exceeded my expectations, and even resulted in some repurchases!
Also, no, this brand technically does not fall under the “green” category (with the exception of their oils) because their products aren’t plant-based. However, I consider these to fall under the “non-toxic” category since they largely omit carcinogenic ingredients and endocrine disruptors like artificial fragrance. These are far better than the average products you might find on a shelf at the drugstore, at the least. I’m okay with clinical ingredients and safe synthetics and I even use products with questionable ingredients. I think this brand is an excellent option for those like me who wish to mostly use botanical based products, but need to supplement with “conventional” products when “green” ones aren’t delivering the results that I need and desire.
To keep this short and sweet I won’t be including ingredient lists, so please refer to each product page. At the bottom of this post I will include The Ordinary’s Regimen Guide which explains where you would insert their products into your routine. Let’s go!
- What’s my skin type? Normal; prone to dehydration. I’m all about super hydrating + moisturizing products. I experience slight hormonal breakouts and red texture that goes along with it. I’m prone to congestion clogged by excess dead skin cells/oil/dirt. This congestion also causes an unsightly texture.
Salicylic Acid 2% Solution
15ml / $4.90
What it does: “Salicylic Acid is a beta hydroxyl acid that exfoliates the skin. This 2% treatment solution helps exfoliate the inside walls of pores to fight the appearance of blemishes and for better visible skin clarity with continued use.”
My intentions: I needed a spot treatment for brewing pimples and I had a number of pores that had deep rooted congestion, so I bought this in hopes it would clear my pores out. I had never tried a salicylic acid solution before so I didn’t know what to expect other than dryness.
Results: This stuff works wonders on brewing pimples and ones that are on their way out the door to healing. Over these 2 months I’ve experienced a few cystic pimples (and the average type too) that I’ve treated with this and I saw a significant reduction in size over night. When I treat spots with it for a few nights in a row the pimple is near gone, which is miraculous for me since I’m a slow healer. A few times a week I apply this gel to the sebaceous filaments on my nose and chin and it seems to keep their appearance reduced. More so, it seemed to actually eat away at the SF’s on my chin during the first days that I started using this. This gel isn’t as drying as I anticipated. It’s not moisturizing, but it doesn’t leave my skin feeling tight or bone dry as I expected. This one is a definite repurchase and I already consider it a staple in my skincare collection. Cons: When you apply another product on top of this, it turns the SA application into this weird milky consistency. It helps to spritz some face mist on top of the salicylic acid after it’s fully dried. 8 month update: The formula turned wonky and separated into a half liquid, half clumpy gel texture. When I shook the jar it turned foamy every time and made a “lather” when I tried to apply it. It had many months before the open jar expiry, so I won’t be trying this again.
Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% (High-Strength Vitamin and Mineral Blemish Formula)
30ml / $5.90
What it does: “Niacinamide (Vitamin B3) is indicated to reduce the appearance of skin blemishes and congestion. A high 10% concentration of this vitamin is supported in the formula by zinc salt of pyrrolidone carboxylic acid to balance visible aspects of sebum activity.”
My intentions: I wanted a serum that would help to even out skin texture and reduce the size of pores. Niacinamide is an amazing ingredient all around so this was the product I was most excited about.
Results: I have to start with the major con about this serum and that is that this formula pills. As you apply it, or as you apply another product on top of this, the application starts to ball up. Every review I read beforehand noted this, but I bought it anyway because I figured I could work with it. To avoid pilling I pat this serum on and every product after it, but it’s still rather annoying to have to do so. Because of this I avoid using it and have only used 1/4 of the bottle. I don’t use it consistently enough to see any noticeable results. My pores appear smaller in size these days, but it’s most likely from other products or a combination of things. I’m going to make a concerted effort to use this bottle up. If I see noticeable results I will repurchase, but as of now I’m not thrilled with this serum and its unsophisticated application. 7 month update: I just couldn’t get through this bottle, guys! I attempted to use it every day for a month and the pilling/unsophistication was too much for me. I didn’t notice any benefits during the short time I used this. Unfortunately this product is still a dud and did not work out for me.
Buffet – Multi-Technology Peptide Serum
30ml / $14.80
What it does: “This formula combines a comprehensive array of studied technologies to target multiple signs of ageing at once. The technologies are Matrixyl 3,000 peptide complex (with palmitoyl tetrapeptide-7), Matrixyl Synthe’6 peptide complex (with palmitoyl tripeptide-38), Syn-Ake peptide complex (with dipeptide diaminobutyroyl benzylamide diacetate), Relistase peptide complex (with acetylarginyltryptophyl diphenylglycine), Argirelox peptide complex (with acetyl hexapeptide-8, pentapeptide-18), Probiotic complex (with lactococcus lactis lysate), in a base of 11 skin-friendly amino acids and multiple hyaluronic acid complexes. The total concentration of these technologies in the formula by weight is 25.1%.”
My intentions: At the time of purchasing I needed a good hydrating serum, which I had read this one was great at doing. I wanted a good anti-aging product that was water-based.
Results: My dehydrated skin LOVES this serum. Just loves it. It’s super hydrating and as a result of combining it with the other wonderful products I use, my skin appears more full and plump on the surface. In turn this has helped to decrease the appearance of fine lines caused by dryness and crepey skin I used to get on my cheeks. For the first two weeks this serum left a sticky finish after application, but it subsided quickly within a few minutes. After those initial weeks my skin grew accustomed to it and it no longer leaves a sticky finish. Again, that stickiness subsides after a few minutes anyway.
As for the peptide anti-aging action: I’m only 26 and the most that I deal with tends to be caused by dehydration and its easily fixed with hydrating products. According to Paula Begoun from Paula’s Choice (she’s a real stickler about antioxidants), peptides should be combined with other beneficial anti-aging ingredients to see full results. I don’t really have anything to treat or “fix” yet, so it’s more about prevention in products and a healthy lifestyle. This serum is amazing at keeping my skin hydrated and plump, so in the mean time that’s its sole purpose for me and I think this will go far in prevention against signs of aging. I finished this bottle and I’ve already ordered a back up! 7 month update: Over time I realized Buffet doesn’t play very well under layers and increasingly found it tacky as results plateaued with this serum. I made it halfway through my second bottle before giving it up for many months. As of December 2017 I’m occasionally using it as a hydrating layer in very minimal routines and it’s feeling great – for now. I would still recommend Buffet if you can get past the initial tackiness. Last update: I gave Buffet another shot as I mentioned in the 7 month update and I found it was the cause of major breakouts I was getting along my chin and jaw – cysts and whiteheads GALORE. I’ve never experienced an immediate breakout as bad as this as I did with Buffet. Needless to say, I will not be using it again.
Lactic Acid 10% + HA 2% (A High-Strength Lactic Acid Superficial Peeling Formulation)
30ml / $6.79
What it does: “Lactic Acid is an alpha hydroxyl acid that exfoliates the skin. This 10% formulation offers mild exfoliation and is supported with a purified Tasmanian pepperberry known to reduce signs of inflammation and sensitivity that is often associated with exfoliation. This formula contains a studied Tasmanian Pepperberry derivative to help reduce irritation associated with acid use. This derivative is of plant origin and varies in colour seasonally and this colour variation may be apparent in the formula from time to time.”
My intentions: I needed a gentle lactic acid chemical exfoliator because of excess dead skin buildup that was causing textural issues and clogged pores. I opted for the 10% instead of 5% so that I wouldn’t have to use it as often.
Results: I’m so happy with this exfoliator! In the past I’ve experienced bad results with a high strength glycolic acid so that product set the bar for what I wanted in a chemical exfoliator. I applied this every night for the first 6 nights to get rid of buildup and then set a schedule of using it twice a week after as maintenance. My skin was notably smoother after just one application and after the first 6 days my skin felt like a brand new canvas! The lactic acid combined with hyaluronic acid feels very hydrating too. Because of a few negative reviews I read, I had concerns this formula would cause a bad breakout, but thus far that has not happened nor does it cause endless purging. It actually helps to prevent breakouts for me. I now use this serum about once every two weeks because I don’t feel that I need it as often. I have a ways to go before I finish this bottle but I will definitely repurchase this one! 7 month update: Some time after posting this review I came to the realization that my skin does NOT like AHA’s in any form. I was previously under the assumption it didn’t only like glycolic, but it turns out lactic acid ruins my complexion as well. I have naturally thin skin and even with semi-frequent use my skin becomes even thinner, translucent-looking, darkened, and splotchy. However, I believe that this is my specific problem with AHA’s and I don’t believe it’s a fault of this formula. If you like lactic acid, this one could work for you.
100% Plant-Derived Squalane (For Surface Hydration)
30ml / $7.90
What it is: “Squalane is a saturated and stable hydrocarbon that is found naturally in the skin. It has very high emollience, is an exceptional hydrator and can prevent ongoing loss of hydration that impairs dermal suppleness. Squalane is non-comedogenic and is suitable for use on all skin types. It can also be applied to hair to increase heat protection, add shine and reduce breakage potential. This product uses 100% pure plant-derived Squalane that is ECOCERT approved and is a USDA Certified Bio-based Product.”
My intentions: I had never tried pure squalane oil before so I mostly bought this out of curiousity. Knowing that squalane is a very thin and liquid-y absorbent oil I thought it would be great for Summer.
Results: Squalane is a very unique and interesting oil and it’s unlike any other I’ve tried. It feels silky and it’s thin and runny like water. It’s fast absorbing but it’s not a dry oil as you would expect from that. It provides plentiful moisture and hydration without feeling oily or greasy in the slightest. I normally favor it as a day time oil by applying 2 drops of it before moisturizer. You can also add a drop or two of it to your moisturizer for a boost. It doesn’t clog my pores which I am obviously thrilled about! Again, I have a long ways to go before I finish this bottle up but I will definitely repurchase this one.
Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA (Surface Hydration Formula, a.k.a. Moisturizer)
30ml / $5.80
What it does: “Natural Moisturizing Factors (NMF) are elements that keep the outer layer of the skin protected and well-hydrated. NMF are made up of multiple amino acids, fatty acids, triglycerides, urea, ceramides, phospholipids, glycerin, saccharides, sodium PCA, hyaluronic acid and many other compounds that are naturally present in the skin. This formula offers non-greasy hydration that acts as a direct topical supplement of impaired NMF components. It contains 11 amino acids, phospholipids, alpha/beta/gamma fatty acids, triglycerides, sterols and sterol esters, glycerin, ceramide precursors, urea, saccharides, sodium PCA and hyaluronic acid. It offers immediate hydration and lasting results with continued use.”
My intentions: Although Blissoma’s moisturizers have been great for my skin, they’re quite costly to have to purchase every ~2 months. This one provides the same amount of product at 30ml but it’s a small fraction of the price for just under $6. I was hopeful that this moisturizer would be an affordable, effective option that I could look to when I don’t want to spend as much money.
Results: This is one of the best conventional moisturizers I have ever used. It’s not too light, it’s not too heavy, but it’s just right! For me, most moisturizers feel like they are lacking in something and my skin feels like it’s not properly moisturized, despite applying plenty of layers underneath. Finding a well balanced moisturizer, such as this one, really completes a routine for me and leaves my skin finally feeling comfortable. This one contains compounds found naturally within the skin so it restores these components like a supplement and it has helped to keep my skin normal. Lately I’ve been applying it on top of Stark Skincare’s City Recalibrating Oil and Earthwise Beauty’s Ruby Oil (in different routines) and it helps to really lock in and retain all that goodness. It also helps to cut down on any shiny finish from the oil. On it’s own, or on top of other products, it leaves a slightly dewy finish. It has a moussey texture and a lovely spread. I’ve already repurchased this along with Buffet! Cons: With the first few applications I experienced a “tingling” type of sensation for a few minutes each time. Although it was strange and slightly alarming, it was painless so I decided to keep using it. It entirely stopped after 3 applications. After a friend described a similar reaction to another product (not from The Ordinary) I compared ingredient lists and after some research I found that one of the amino acids, L-Arginine, can cause this tingling within the skin when taking as an oral supplement, so I assume it takes on a similar reaction when applied topically in skincare. If you experience this same reaction, it should subside after the first few applications. Applying less product can also help to avoid this reaction. 7 month update: Yet another Ordinary product that I had to chuck. It made my skin feel wonderful, but again, over time I realized it doesn’t play well on top of other layers. I would still recommend this moisturizer, but beware the possibility that it might not mesh well with other products.
Final verdict: I’m really glad I took the leap and tried these products despite my concerns from negative reviews and my presumptions based on their prices. 5 positive experiences out of 6 is not bad at all! Not to mention, I already emptied 2 products and bought backups. How often do I do that?! I don’t know that I would consider any of these products holy grail (as of yet) but a few of these have found themselves as staples in my current skincare collection. The bottom line: if your skincare routine is missing any of these active ingredients that they offer, and you truly need it, these make great supplements. If you already have a face moisturizer with niacinamide, you can skip that serum. Likewise with hyaluronic acid, squalane, or any of these individual ingredients that could be found within products you already have. If you just ran out of your favorite chemical exfoliator but you feel it’s super expensive, The Ordinary’s are an affordable option to try. Some of these products lack a certain elegance, and chances are there are products out there that contain all of these active ingredients in one simple formula. Be a conscious consumer, even when the products are super affordable! For now, I’m loving most of these products I’ve tried so far and I have a few others on my wishlist, including some of their vitamin C formulas, rosehip oil, and foundation. EDIT: Check the above product experiences for updates. Most of these ended up not working for me. If I didn’t provide an update, it means I still love it.
The Ordinary’s Regimen Guide – Be sure to check individual product pages for usage information and contraindications. This is critical info to learn when using chemical exfoliators like AHA and BHA.