Ultimate Guide to The Ordinary

the ordinary skincare

For those who love skincare, you’re bound to have heard of The Ordinary, if not tried some of their products. However, if you’re not super clued-in on the science of skincare, understanding their products, and which are right for you, can be a bit tricky. 

To help you better understand The Ordinary’s products and how to use them, I have compiled this handy guide! First I’ll share some of my thoughts on The Ordinary as a brand, then I’ll explore their skincare products and offer targeted skincare routines!

Transparency

Perhaps the best aspect of The Ordinary, which attracts many people to this brand, is how clear they are with their products. Putting the contents of the jar before the packaging and branding, the products are super clear about their ingredients and the very specific strengths present within them. 

For example, with The Ordinary, you’ll be able to know exactly how much retinol you’re using, as it will say 0.5% or 1% on the bottle, whereas a competitors skincare product may simply list retinol in the ingredients and not clarify what strength is used. This could mean there is barely any retinol in the product, making it do little for your skin, but it could also have too high a strength and cause irritation. 

 

Affordability

The Ordinary is one of the most affordable skincare brands out there, putting product before packaging. Their products are usually between £5-7. However, this will usually be for a single-ingredient product, such as a bottle of salicylic acid or hyaluronic acid, and if you want to use multiple ingredients in your skincare, then there may be other products out there that work out cheaper. 

For example, Nip + Fab do a salicylic and glycolic acid cleanser, that retails at £19 but can often be found sold for around £10, and so using this could actually be cheaper. Nevertheless, The Ordinary are still super cheap compared to most skincare brands.

 

the ordinary skincare bottles

Tips for Using The Ordinary

There are a few tips to consider when you buy new products from The Ordinary:

  1. If you haven’t used an ingredient before, start with a smaller percentage and work up as your skin gets used to it.
  2. Always patch test products before you slather it all over your face! I usually pop a drop on my inner wrist/arm and leave it overnight to check my skin is ok with it. 
  3. Listen to The Ordinary if they say two products shouldn’t be layered. All skincare brands are different and use different strengths, so while you might see two ingredients used together in one product, the strengths of The Ordinary’s serums may mean that you cannot use certain products together
  4. If any product causes irritation, stop using it immediately!
  5. You should always cleanse your skin before applying a product (unless the product you are using is a cleanser, of course!)
  6. For the more intensive products (like acid peels etc), I recommend popping some Vaseline over your lips and over the delicate under eye skin, as the skin is thinner here and can burn from the acid. 

 

The Products

The Acids

aha bha peeling solution

AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution

This is one of The Ordinary’s most popular products, with the peeling solution removing the top layer of skin to resurface for a smoother texture and brighter complexion. The AHA part of the product does the exfoliating, while the BHA helps to clear out any congested pores.

At 30% AHA (glycolic, citric, lactic and tartaric) and 2% BHA (salicylic), this peel is way stronger than most commercially available products. If you have sensitive skin, then it is probably best to skip this one, and for skin types that can handle it, you still need to be careful. A patch test is absolutely essential for this product.

You can apply the solution directly to your face, or pop some on your fingers to rub into your skin (avoiding the eye area). You may wish to use gloves or a cotton pad to apply this, to avoid the solution touching your hands and causing the skin to be removed there too. The solution should only be left for a maximum of ten minutes before it is washed away. 

Avoid applying other serums and toners etc after using this product, particularly anything that includes vitamin C, retinol or other acids from The Ordinary. This peel removes the outermost layer of skin, which will put you more at risk of sun damage, so it is super important to wear sunscreen after using this product. This peel should only be used once a week

 

glycolic acid

Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution

This toning solution acts as a gentle exfoliator, which helps to give your skin a healthy glow and make it look clearer. Glycolic acid is an alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA), which helps to loosen dead skin cells from your skin’s surface. This product should be used in the evening

 

lactic acid

Lactic Acid 10% + HA 2%

Lactic Acid is another exfoliating AHA that is used to brighten the skin, reduce pigmentation and lessen the appearance of acne scars. Acids can be too much for some people’s skin, but this product could be better for many, as it also contains Tasmanian Pepperberry, which helps to reduce inflammation, which may combat any irritation the acid causes. 

Lactic Acid 10% + HA 2% also contains hyaluronic acid to hydrate. It should be used in the evening

 

salicylic acid the ordinary

Salicylic Acid 2% Solution

Salicylic Acid is a beta-hydroxy acid (BHA) that is really good for unclogging pores and clearing out the skin. It helps to reduce blackheads and stop your skin getting congested. This is the perfect product for oily skin. It exfoliates, removes impurities and unclogs, while the added witch hazel reduces any redness or irritation. 

You can use it all over your face to keep your skin clear every day, or you can use it as a spot treatment when needed.  

 

Molecules

niacinamide

Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%

My absolute fave product from The Ordinary, Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% is great for all skin types, but is particularly good for those with oily skin, larger pores or congestion issues. The serum helps to reduce and regulate sebum production, which helps to minimise pores and shine. You’ll also be treated to a blemish-free, clear complexion and a more even skin tone. 

It is safe to use Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% both morning and evening after you have cleansed, but before you apply oils and moisturisers. It is best to avoid vitamin C products at the same time as this one. If you’d like vitamin C in your skincare routine, it is best to skip the Niacinamide in the morning and use vitamin C instead, and then use Niacinamide in the evening without using the vitamin C. 

 

caffeine solution
Caffeine Solution 5% + EGCG

If you have dark circles or puffiness under your eyes, then this is the product for you! It is made from concentrated 5% caffeine, plus Epigallocatechin Gallatyl Glucoside (EGCG), an antioxidant taken from green tea, which work together to reduce puffiness and dark circles.

Like most eye products, you simply want to gently massage a drop of this into the eye contour in the AM and PM.

 

alpha arbutin

Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA

Alpha Arbutin is an ingredient that can lighten skin safely by reducing melanin production. It should be used to target any dark spots on your skin, such as age spots, hyper-pigmentation, scars and marks.

This formula also contains hyaluronic acid, which helps to promote hydration, and helps the alpha arbutin to penetrate deeper into the skin. It can be used morning and night. 

 

Hydrators

hyaluronic acid

Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5

Hyaluronic acid is great for all skin types, and is super hydrating. As a water-based serum, you are gaining great moisture and hydration without becoming oily. This makes it a great product for both dry and oily skin. 

Hyaluronic acid helps to plump up skin to make it seem smoother and softer. The vitamin B5 in this product also helps to heal and promote the repair of dry and damaged skin. 

It can be used morning and evening as a serum, and can typically be used with most other skincare products. Hyaluronic acid isn’t an exfoliating acid, so you can actually use multiple products that contain hyaluronic acid each day.

 

squalane

100% Plant-Derived Squalane

Squalane is suitable for all skin types and helps to soften and smooth skin. It promotes hydration and prevents moisture loss, without being greasy. Squalane is found in a number of The Ordinary’s products, as a way to pack in some extra hydration. 

 

Cleanser 

squalane cleanser

Squalane Cleanser

The squalane cleanser is an oil-based cleanser that helps to unclog pores. You squeeze it out as a balm, and then it melts in your hands into a cleanser. It helps to break down makeup, oil and dirt on the face to effectively clean your skin. 

It is a gentle cleanser, and also helps to soften skin and keep it hydrated. The squalane cleanser is suitable for all skin types, and doesn’t contain soap, so can be great for sensitive skin. 

 

Peptides

buffet the ordinary

“Buffet”

One of the few products that doesn’t clearly state what’s in it by its name, ‘Buffet’ is, as it may suggest, a mixture of a number of different ingredients that promote anti-ageing. It includes hyaluronic acid for hydration, Matrixyl 3000 for collagen production, and 11 different amino acids that promote smooth, youthful skin. These ingredients work together to help plump the skin, which reduces the appearance of fine lines.

“Buffet” can be used morning and evening, but shouldn’t be mixed with acids or vitamin C products.

 

Retinoids

retinol

Retinol in Squalane (1%, 0.5% or 0.2%)

A form of vitamin A, retinol can help reduce the appearance of ageing by softening lines and wrinkles, improving uneven skin tones and making skin softer

Retinol is one of the most likely products to cause irritation, with many finding it causes redness or skin to peel. However, some people think this is worth it for the benefits retinol can offer. Your skin can also build a tolerance to it the more you use it, making it worthwhile in the long run, If you want to start using retinol in your skincare routine, then you should start with the weakest strength (0.2%) and then slowly work your way up to higher strengths if it is needed, once your skin gets used to it.

I promise this isn’t as scary as it sounds! I use Retinol 1% in my skincare routine, and it’s absolutely safe and happy for my skin, just be sure to patch test and start off with lower percentages to check that it works for you! 

Retinoids should only be used in your evening skincare routine. You must always use sun protection the morning after using retinol, as it makes your skin far more sensitive to UV radiation. 

 

granactive retinol

Granactive Retinoid in Squalane (2% or 5%)

This version of retinoid is still high strength, but with less irritation caused. It helps to soften lines and improve any issues with pigmentation. 

Use this in the evening, and remember to use sunscreen in the morning, as retinoids make the skin more sensitive to UV. 

 

Vitamin C

ascorbyl

Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate Solution 20% in Vitamin F

Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate is a derivative of vitamin C, that can be used at higher strengths than other forms of vitamin C. Despite being potent, it is still gentle on the skin and can help to block pigment production and boost brightness. The vitamin F in this product also helps to provide the skin with much needed fatty acids. 

This can be used morning and night, although The Ordinary do not recommend using vitamin C at the same time as the AHA + BHA peel or with Niacinamide powder. 

 

Moisturiser

natural moisturising factors

Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA

This non-greasy moisturiser is brilliant for most skin types, as it moisturises with Natural Moisturising Factors (NMFs) that help to protect and hydrate the skin. NMFs come from amino acids, fatty acids, ceramides and hyaluronic acid. 

This is a lightweight cream that is great for application over serums. 

 

Example Skincare Routines

the ordinary skincare routine for breakouts

To Treat Breakouts

If you experience a sudden breakout, these are the skincare products that will help:

Salicylic Acid 2% Solution

Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%

2x a week use Lactic Acid 10% + HA 2%

 

the ordinary skincare routine for sensitive skin

Sensitive Skin

If skincare products tend to cause flare ups, or leave you with red and itchy skin, then you need a really gentle routine. You need to avoid harsher ingredients, and instead choose skincare products that promote hydration and improving the skin barrier.

AM

Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5

Natural Moisturising Factors + HA

PM

100% Plant-Derived Squalane

Natural Moisturising Factors + HA

 

the ordinary skincare routine for dry skin

Dry Skin

Dry skin needs great hydration and moisturisation without the use of harsh and stripping ingredients.

AM

Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5

Natural Moisturising Factors + HA

PM 

100% Plant-Derived Squalane

 

2x a week use Lactic Acid 10% + HA 2% 

OR 

1x a week AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution 

 

the ordinary skincare routine for ageing skin

Ageing Skin

As we get older, the elastin and collagen in our skin diminishes, leading to wrinkles and lines developing. While this can’t really be stopped, the effects of ageing can be slowed down and made less visible with skincare products that can plump the skin, make it more elastic and firm. 

AM 

“Buffet”

Natural Moisturising Factors + HA

PM 

Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution

Granactive Retinoid 2% in Squalane

100% Plant-Derived Squalane

 

2x a week use Lactic Acid 10% + HA 2% 

OR 

1x a week AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution 

 

the ordinary skincare routine for oily skin

Oily Skin

Oily skin occurs due to excess sebum, and leads to shiny skin and enlarged pores. The oiliness can also lead to problems with skin texture and breakouts. 

AM 

Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%

Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA

PM

Salicylic Acid 2% Solution

Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%

 

the ordinary skincare routine for uneven skin tone

Uneven Skin Tone

Uneven skin tones can look patchy and dull. This could be due to sun exposure, pregnancy or hyper-pigmentation. 

AM

Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA

Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%

Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate Solution 20% in Vitamin F

PM

Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution

Granactive Retinoid 2% in Squalane

 

2x a week use Lactic Acid 10% + HA 2%

OR 

1x a week AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution 

 

Acne

I’m always a bit reluctant to talk about acne. Chronic acne is a medical condition that should be treated by a doctor, and obviously I’m not qualified to recommend a treatment! However, products that would be good for acne prone skin include:

AM
Salicylic Acid 2% Solution

Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%

PM
Retinol 1% in Squalane

the ordinary skincare

I hope this post has given you a better idea about which products from The Ordinary are right for you! Will you be trying any of these, or have you tried products from The Ordinary before? Let me know in the comments below!

For more advice on skincare routines, check out my guide explaining the right order to apply skincare!

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ellennoir
ellennoir

Hi! I’m Ellen, a Devon-based beauty and lifestly blogger who is perhaps a little too obsessed with makeup and skincare (seriously, I own over 100 lipsticks…). 💄

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25 Comments

  1. 6th June 2020 / 12:46 pm

    This post is so helpful. Thanks for taking the time to write this all up Ellen. I’m currently using the caffeine solution and the moisturiser everyday, and I’m really impressed. As you say, the products are so affordable, so you don’t mind taking a chance on them. I first came across The Ordinary through a beauty box subscription and I’ve purchased a few of their products since. It’s often hard to know what to chose, as they have such a large selection. Your post has really helped me figure out what to try next!

    • ellennoir
      Author
      7th June 2020 / 11:17 am

      Thank you! I hope you find it useful in working out which products you need! I use the caffeine solution most days too and it’s helped so much xx

  2. Olivia
    6th June 2020 / 2:01 pm

    Great blog post super helpful insight into the ordinary products!

    • ellennoir
      Author
      7th June 2020 / 11:15 am

      Thank you! xx

  3. 7th June 2020 / 4:24 pm

    This is a great post, I love how much detail you’ve included. I haven’t used their products before, I don’t tend to use that much product on my skin. I use a couple of things that I stick to all the time and never really try out other products – probably something I should do in the future just to experiment with! Thank you for sharing!

    Chloe xx
    http://www.chloechats.com

    • ellennoir
      Author
      7th June 2020 / 4:33 pm

      Thank you! I like The Ordinary because they are cheap enough that you can experiment a bit to find the right products for you and not feel too bad about wasting money if something doesn’t work for you.

  4. 7th June 2020 / 9:11 pm

    This is such an informative post! I’ve found out some stuff here that I didn’t know about before so thank you for sharing! I have heard about The Ordinary before but I never really knew much about it.

    • ellennoir
      Author
      10th June 2020 / 11:38 pm

      It’s such a great brand, I’m glad I could help introduce you more to their products! xx

  5. 8th June 2020 / 9:35 am

    This is a great guide for people who don’t know much about combining ingredients. The routines you’ve shared at the end are so helpful too! I really wanted to love The Ordinary, I think the simple ingredients based formulas are a brilliant idea, but every single product I’ve tried from the brand (5+) has irritated my skin so I stay away from them now x

    Sophie

    • ellennoir
      Author
      10th June 2020 / 11:39 pm

      That’s a shame, I guess the products are quite high strength in comparison to many other brands, so it could easily cause a bit more irritation than other products. Hope you’ve found some great alternative skincare that works for you though! xx

  6. 9th June 2020 / 5:30 am

    This is such an amazing, informative post! I have acne prone skin so I tried The Ordinary recently, sadly I don’t think the niacinamide worked for me as it made my break out more than before! However, the Glycolic Acid toner and the AHA peel work really well for me! 😊 Thanks for sharing!

    🌿 Marissa Belle | marsybun.com x 🌿

    • ellennoir
      Author
      10th June 2020 / 11:36 pm

      Glad you found the toner and peel useful for your skin, it can be really hard to recommend products for acne because it seems people with acne react to products so differently. xx

  7. 10th June 2020 / 11:56 am

    Oh wow I needed this post! I use a few of The Ordinary’s products but I always found doing the research about each product incredibly overwhelming. Your post is so easy to follow!! I’ll be bookmarking this for future reference 🙂 x

    https://www.femaleoriginal.com

    • ellennoir
      Author
      10th June 2020 / 11:32 pm

      Thank you! Hope it helps you add to your skincare collection!

  8. 10th June 2020 / 2:04 pm

    I love The Ordinary- it feels very premium but without the hefty price tag. I never know what to get so thank you for breaking them down. This helped a lot x

    splasheswithfabulosity.blogspot.com

    • ellennoir
      Author
      10th June 2020 / 11:31 pm

      Thanks for your comment! I hope it helps you find what you need! I agree, they do feel like a much fancier brand their price would suggest xx

  9. Karen
    2nd August 2020 / 1:17 pm

    I just ordered my the ordinary products. This one really helps to know what kind of routine i need to do or when to put the products on the right time and which one is the right item for me.. great job eEllen

  10. Raven Tarlengco
    5th August 2020 / 4:08 am

    Hi! Can I use your photos of THE ORDINARY on pinterest for my shop? I will give credits, I promise. I am from the Philippines, I am starting my shop and I’ll be selling THE ORDINARY products from the US. This will be a big help for me if you agree. Thank you! Hoping for your soonest response.

    • ellennoir
      Author
      5th August 2020 / 1:46 pm

      Hello, thanks for showing an interest in the images. Due to the amount of work that went into creating them I would ask for a fee for them to be used, in addition to the credit.

      Thank you

  11. 6th August 2020 / 12:20 pm

    This post has been SO helpful. I have recently started using The Ordinary products and absolutely love the results. I wanted to try more of their products but was weary of combining certain ones and unsure of which to try. Thank you for sharing!!

    • ellennoir
      Author
      7th August 2020 / 8:24 am

      Thank you!! I hope you find all the right products for you! xx

  12. Lyam
    6th August 2020 / 5:57 pm

    Ellen I just want to say thank you. I saw your posts in pinterest they are just perfect. Thanks for all the information <3

    • ellennoir
      Author
      7th August 2020 / 8:23 am

      thank you so much for your kind words! xx

  13. Kirsten Schoombie
    11th August 2020 / 7:04 pm

    Thanks for the great post, I love the routine suggestions. One question: Under the information for the Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate Solution it says not to use with Niacinamide, but then they you suggest to use them together for the uneven skin tone routine? Could you clarify this please? I’ve been struggling to find a clear answer for wether these two can be used together.

    • ellennoir
      Author
      17th August 2020 / 9:42 am

      Hey! Thanks for your comment! The Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate Solution and the Niacinamide + Zinc bottles can be used together, as in the routine. But the Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate Solution and Niacinamide powder shouldn’t be used together (according to The Ordinary). I know some people use it together with no problem, but it’s what The Ordinary recommend for their products so I tend to trust them! Hopefully this helps 🙂