The motto behind affordably priced skincare brand The Ordinary is “clinical formulations with integrity.” In a sea of skincare products that make hefty claims paired with hefty price tags, The Ordinary stands out for its no nonsense approach to skincare. The Ordinary’s line is classified under categories like “Hydrators and Oil” and “Direct Acids”, and these products aim to be effective, functional and fairly priced. We picked up a range of products to suit each of our skincare needs and here are the results of our exploration into The Ordinary.
Find them HERE
Tested July-August 2020
The first time I went to The Ordinary website to pick out the items I would test for this review, I was totally overwhelmed and confused by the names of the products alone: Azelaic Acid Suspension 10%, EUK 134 0.1%, Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion…if I could hardly pronounce these names, how on earth was I supposed to know what skincare purpose they serve? As someone who barely survived high school chemistry, I might have just given up on this brand and never ordered anything at all if Lea and I had not already decided to do a Best Coast Brand Haul. And I think this is important to note because my review is partially aimed at helping people like me figure out how to select products from this brand.
I quickly learned to ignore the clinical names listed on the website (sorry science) and proceeded to the Regimen Guide section. Here we go, things I can understand. The Ordinary has obviously put some thought into how to help confused customers like me and “developed this guide to offer suggestions on how to combine multiple formulations from The Ordinary in a single regimen.” There are helpful symbols to indicate which products are for the eyes and which are formulated to use during the day versus at night.
The example regimens provided run the gamut from “pigmentation issues” to “signs of congestion & the look of blemishes.” I highly recommend starting with one of the example regimens that most closely matches your primary skin concerns in order to take some of the guesswork out of the dozens of products available, and to ensure what you purchase will work well together. I chose the regimen for dehydration, added an eye serum and a weekly exfoliator and called it a day.
In order to test the entire regimen together, I committed to using only The Ordinary skincare products (with the exception of face wash) for over thirty days. Here is the morning and evening routine I implemented (overly complicated science-y names included):
Morning: Caffeine Solution 5% + EGCG (eye serum), Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 (serum), Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA (moisturizer)
Evening: Caffeine Solution 5% + EGCG (eye serum), Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 (serum), 100% Plant-Derived Squalane (moisturizer)
Once Per Week: AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution (exfoliator)
Let’s go through these products one by one.
This lightweight, yellow-toned serum is supposed to reduce the appearance of pigmentation and puffiness around the eyes. I apply one large drop from the bottle onto the back of my hand and split this amount of product between both eyes.
Tapped all around the eye area (under the lash line, at the outer corner and along the orbital bone on the lid), this sinks into the skin quickly and didn’t cause any irritation. I don’t generally have eye puffiness, so I can’t really judge if this helps with that. While this was hydrating enough and my eye area felt perfectly normal after applying, I don’t think this product made any noticeable impact on darkness at the inner corner of my eyes after using it twice daily for over a month.
Designed to support hydration with “ultra-pure, vegan hyaluronic acid,” this serum, if you will, is one of the products from my regimen that I liked the most. The serum is clear and slightly thicker than a standard facial oil.
I found that the best way to apply it was to tap it all over the skin and then blend and swipe with my fingers to quickly work it in. Don’t rub this between your fingers before applying and avoid using any more than a quarter-sized amount or else it will kind of bubble up and turn white. Also, this goes from feeling slick and liquid-y to super tacky in about five to ten seconds, so that’s all the time you have to smooth it onto the face. I noticed that my face felt immediately hydrated after using this. Not in a glowy or plump way, but in a flake-free, my skin doesn’t feel tight or dry way. I think this does actually work.
This is probably one of the least expensive moisturizers I’ve ever tried, so points awarded there. It is also the only The Ordinary product I used that wasn’t in the glass vial packaging with a dropper.
This cream is designed to be applied after serums and contains amino acids, dermal lipids and hyaluronic acid to aid in surface hydration.
It feels like absolutely nothing on the skin and has no discernable finish (i.e. not matte, oily, or dewy). It’s also super boring. I felt my skin was adequately hydrated every morning, so I’m not saying this doesn’t work, but it was almost too ordinary for me to want to use it again (pun very much intended).
Used only at night, this squalene solution is easily comparable to a facial oil and is the final step in my evening routine. It looks like an oil, but is even lighter in texture.
It makes the skin incredibly shiny and will transfer if you touch your face. I don’t love this because if I apply it right before bed, I know it’s transferring onto my pillowcase as I sleep. I tried to start my nightly skincare routine earlier than usual in order to give this time to sink in and noticed that after about 30 minutes the transferability was dramatically reduced. I don’t always have this extra time before bed, so I wouldn’t say this is going to be sticking around in my routine once I finish my current bottle.
Of all The Ordinary products available, this is the only one I had heard about before we did this review. Probably because it’s red and makes it look like you smeared blood all over your face (gross, I know). To make it seem less yucky, let’s say instead that it looks like berry juice. Still thinking about blood? Yeah, sorry, me too.
I don’t know much about AHAs and BHAs (Lea is your go-to on that), but I do want to improve textural irregularities and lackluster tone, which this product claims to target. I only use this once a week at night, and it’s important to make sure the skin is totally dry before applying a thin layer all over the face, avoiding the eye area.
Although I’ve heard other people say that this burns their skin, I didn’t experience this. I could feel a slight tingling in some areas, particularly if I got some too close to my lips, but nothing major. As instructed, I did not leave this on for more than ten minutes and was incredibly careful to avoid getting product in my eyes as I rinsed it off. After using this exfoliating treatment, my skin felt fresh and clarified. I can’t claim to have experienced any groundbreaking results after weekly application over the past month, but I will continue to use it as an exfoliator.
Each of the glass bottles I purchased contain the same amount of product, 1 fl. oz., and it was interesting for me to compare how much of each product I used up in the course of one month. They will all run out at totally different times. The eye serum, for example, will last for many more months, while I expect the Hyaluronic Acid serum will be gone within another 30 days. I included a photo below to show how much of each bottle had been used up after a month of daily use.
All in all, I like that The Ordinary provided me with a full skincare regimen for under $35 (before tax). I think the products are easy to use, cleanly and effectively packaged and well-priced. I would re-purchase the Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 and probably the AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution, but I would pass on the Caffeine Solution 5% + EGCG, the Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA and the 100% Plant-Derived Squalane. Mostly because these products are a little too clinical for my taste and don’t deliver any overly impressive results.
The fact that I need a chemistry degree to understand what half of The Ordinary’s products actually do doesn’t make me feel like I would ever be able to take full advantage of all the formulas this brand offers. It would take more time to research the “Peptides” and “Molecules” and “Antioxidants” than it’s worth to me. For people who want no-frills skincare without the spa vibes or fancy packaging, The Ordinary may fight like a glove. I like to feel a little pampered here and there with my skincare, and The Ordinary definitely doesn’t deliver that.
Liz’s Verdict: I like the overall price point of this line and the Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5, but the rest of the products I tested were pretty…ordinary.
I enjoy the science behind skincare so I expected to love The Ordinary’s line; unfortunately, I think it’s a little much even for me. While I know that L-ascorbic acid, ascorbyl palmitate, retinyl ascorbate and sodium ascorbyl phosphate are all names for vitamin C, I don’t have the time to sit down and research every formulation and strength, never mind test each one. This haul/review has given me a greater appreciation for all of the R&D that goes into skincare formulation. Also, as a new mom, the few moments I take each day to apply skincare are the closest I’m going to come to a spa for a while (even before COVID was an issue), so I missed the little luxuries that other brands include. If a little fragrance is wrong, I don’t want to be right.
The Ordinary’s Peeling Solution was by far the product I was most excited to try. I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t seen all of the vampire-looking social media posts (check out mine below). More important than a photo op for me though was the possibility of finding an effective, no nonsense acid for under 8 bucks! 30% is no joke. My all time favorite Drunk Elephant AHA blend serum is only 12%…so perhaps I should have known. I’ll cut right to the chase- this burns, a lot. I only used it three times, that’s all I could bring myself to endure. I didn’t notice any visible peeling but my skin was clearer almost immediately. It felt plumped and somehow my pores appeared smaller. Maybe my pores were just less noticeable once fully cleaned or more likely my skin was actually just inflamed, causing everything to be slightly puffed up and appear temporarily and deceivingly youthful. A quick rinse with water dulled the sting and after a couple of hours all redness subsided. My moisturizer absorbed well afterwards (but it does that after much less irritating serums). I think this is just too much for my sensitive skin. So even though it does what it says and at a low price tag, it is possible to have too much of a good thing.
Lea’s Verdict: Pass, too strong.
A basic, non-comedogenic, quality oil is a valuable makeup kit staple for me. In the winter I layer oil over my moisturizer and when I tidy up my brows using a face razor, I first apply oil to help the razor glide over my skin. I’m picky about oils because I’ve had even the most natural seeming brands clog my pores, leading to weeks of “bad skin”. Rose hip seed oil is harvested from the seeds of rose bushes (unfortunately it doesn’t smell like roses, just earthy). It’s full of vitamins, antioxidants and essential fatty acids. The Ordinary cold presses theirs to retain all of those skin-loving benefits. I’ve been using their Rose Hip Seed Oil nightly for a month and have plenty left. Three drops pressed onto my face in the evening is plenty and my skin seems happier for it.
Lea’s Verdict: If you need an oil, this is a great option, especially useful in winter.
I’ve been searching for a rockstar vitamin C serum for a while; unfortunately, the Ascorbyl Glucoside Solution 12% from The Ordinary missed the mark. I used this every morning for several weeks and saw zero difference in my skin. Fortunately it didn’t sting like I’ve read some vitamin C formulations can, but it didn’t seem to do anything. It isn’t sticky or oily so my moisturizer and makeup layer over it just fine. I recently purchased a microneedle roller and conducted a little experiment. After rolling (which hurts!) I applied a generous amount of the Ascorbyl Glucoside Solution all over my face and left it overnight. The results were disastrous. ALL of the pores on my face became clogged, it felt bumpy and rough like sandpaper. That texture lasted a week despite my going completely bare faced. For me, this proves that all of the time I was applying it without first opening my up my pores with a roller, virtually nothing was being absorbed. Clearly my skin does not like something in this serum. After consulting the ingredients list there are no obvious red flags so I’m stumped. The culmination of these experiences has landed this bottle in the trash and my vitamin C serum quest continues.
Lea’s Verdict: Hard pass! My skin hated this once it was actually absorbed.
The Ordinary’s Caffeine Solution was an impulse buy for me. I was already paying for shipping so I figured why not (especially for under $7). I have zero experience with caffeine solutions aside from its occasional addition (in very low concentrations) to eye creams as a marketing tactic. The Ordinary’s website claims this “can help reduce looks of puffiness and of dark circles in the eye contour”. Key word being can because in my case it did not. My eye area darkness is a pigmentation issue more than blood vessel issue, so no amount of boa constrictor action was going to help in that department. Fortunately, puffiness isn’t an issue for me so I didn’t see any change there either. I will say I have especially sensitive eyes and everything makes them tear. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to get up out of bed to wash my face because a new eye cream was making mine water and burn so much that it kept me awake. This serum doesn’t bother my eyes at all. So if you have puffiness or legitimate blue circles it wouldn’t hurt to give this a try. For me it just didn’t do anything and I’m to busy (lazy) to add under-performers to my routine.