The Ordinary is a relatively new skincare brand that did something so radical that it caught everyone’s attention. It showed that you can make effective skincare products at affordable prices. I realize that the internet is full of reviews of these products, but since I have tested them for over a year, I feel confident to give my opinion on the results. I also would like to share a few sample routines.
Deciding how to use The Ordinary is something I found difficult in the beginning. My skin is combination, and it can be capricious. The brand promotes its products as inexpensive, and while it’s true that many are under $10, the collection is enormous and if you buy everything indiscriminately you can easily spend a hefty sum. So which products to get? In what order to apply? How to combine several serums into one routine? The Ordinary skincare products don’t fall into the usual toning, firming, hydrating categories, so figuring out how to use them–and how to maximize their benefits–took some research. The Ordinary website gives a few regimen suggestions, but it still left me slightly confused. Below is what worked out best for me, although it’s by no means the only way to use The Ordinary.
Alpha Arbutin 2% + Hyaluronic Acid (Brightening)
Alpha Arbutin is an excellent ingredient to reduce skin pigmentation or spots, and this serum has a gel-like texture. It absorbs easily into the skin and it can be layered with another serum or moisturizer. I wear sunscreen daily, but even so, the effects of this serum coupled with Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% (below) were obvious. After two months of continuous use, I noticed that my skin looked even toned and bright. I’ve been asked what foundation I wore when I had nothing at all on my face apart from my usual sunscreen.
Sample routine: should be applied on dry skin. If applying a toner, I wait for it to absorb completely. Then I apply a small amount of the serum and tap it lightly into the skin. I follow with The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%, a moisturizer and sunscreen. I use it in the morning.
Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% (Shine Control)
Niacinamide, Vitamin B3 blended with zinc salt of pyrrolidone carboxylic acid is a perfect serum for those with combination or oily skin, because it balances the production of sebum. It’s a gel-like serum that feels ever so slightly tacky after it’s applied, but moisturizer, sunscreen, or if you wish, a foundation, can be layered over it without peeling. My skin definitely looks more matte when I use. The trick is not to apply too much.
Sample routine: toner, Alpha Arbutin 2% + Hyaluronic Acid, Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%, moisturizer, sunscreen. I apply a small amount of the serum and tap it lightly into the skin. I use it in the morning.
Please note Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% shouldn’t be used with the topical Vitamin C serums such as The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2%.
The Ordinary Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate Solution 10% (Brightening)
The Ordinary Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate Solution 10% completes my trio of brightening serums. This is a stable derivative of Vitamin C in a water-based cream. It can be used with the Niacinamide serums, which makes it versatile. For my skin it’s moisturizing enough to skip a hydrating lotion, but if your skin is dry, it won’t be enough.
Sample routine: I usually use it during it in the morning. Toner, Alpha Arbutin 2% + Hyaluronic Acid, Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%, Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate Solution 10%, moisturizer (sometimes I skip it), sunscreen.
The Ordinary Buffet (Radiance, Hydration)
It’s a peptide serum in a hyaluronic acid base. Studies on peptides in skincare suggest that they can increase collagen production and reverse some signs of sun damage, but it’s hard to evaluate the claims. All I know is that this gel-like serum keeps my skin soft, hydrated and radiant. It’s especially convenient when I travel, because I can only pack my bottle of Buffet, along with a couple of other basics.
Sample routine: I use it either in the morning or in the evening. The Ordinary recommends applying Buffet on clean skin, so I skip the toner. Buffet, moisturizer, sunscreen. Or in the evening, Buffet, Retinoid, moisturizer. If you want to combine it with any Vitamin C serum, be sure that Buffet is absorbed completely before applying Vitamin C.
The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2%+B5 (Hydration)
For a light but ultra-hydrating serum, Hyaluronic Acid 2%+B5 is ideal. I’ve used several different hyaluronic acid serums, and I keep returning to The Ordinary and Mizon.
Sample routine: Hyaluronic Acid 2%+B5 can be used on its own in place of any other serum or after my serum of choice (any of the above, for instance). A simple morning routine is rosewater, Hyaluronic Acid 2%+B5, moisturizer and sunscreen. A sample evening routine is AHA, BHA or lactic acid exfoliating lotion, Hyaluronic Acid 2%+B5, moisturizer.
The Ordinary Advanced Retinoid 2% (Firming)
Retinoids and Vitamin C are the two ingredients that have been proven to reverse sun damage and firm up the skin (by increasing collagen production). The downside is that retinoids can be irritating and unstable. The Ordinary’s is a very good formula, and at 2% it’s strong enough without being too irritating. They also offer the 1% Retinol, which I haven’t tried.
First time users: If you haven’t tried a retinoid before, you should start with one evening a week for a month and slowly build up from there.
Sample routine (evening only): rosewater, Vitamin C. Wait for 10 minutes and apply Advanced Retinoid 2%. Wait for it to absorb and apply any hydrating serum, moisturizer, face oil, etc. Another option is Buffet, Advanced Retinoid 2%, Hyaluronic Acid 2%+B5 (optional, but good for extra hydration), moisturizer.
The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2% (Brightening, Firming, Even Tone)
I’d written a guide on Vitamin C a couple of weeks ago, in which I talked at length about why I love Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2%. Out of all The Ordinary products I’ve tried, it’s probably the one that gave me the most dramatic and visible results. My skin looks radiant when I use it on a regular basis. The texture is slightly grainy, and it can be hard to apply. I recommend using a pea sized amount and tapping it lightly into your skin.
First time users: Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2% will sting the first time you apply it. I recommend diluting it with your moisturizer and using once a week in the evening at first. Once your skin starts adapting, you can use it straight out of the tube.
My favorite routine for the evening: Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2%, Hyaluronic Acid 2%+B5 (optional, but good for extra hydration), moisturizer. Avoid using it with any concentration of Niacinamide.
The Ordinary Caffeine Solution
Supposedly it reduces dark circles and puffiness around the eyes. It does absolutely nothing and I dislike the tacky texture. It also leave a white film on my skin, even if I use a small amount.
If you’ve tried The Ordinary, I’d love to hear what you’ve tried and how you’ve used it.
Photography by Bois de Jasmin