We review hundreds of products and brands here at The Derm Review, and we must say that we haven’t seen a brand disrupt the industry quite like The Ordinary.
Each of The Ordinary skincare formulations is simple, including one or two actives, and leaving out additives, fillers, fragrance, and dyes. Even the product packaging is minimal with straightforward names that describe exactly what the product is without any extra fluff or deceptive details.
And the best part? This brand is extremely affordable. We’re talking $7 retinol serums and $6 vitamin C serums. In fact, almost all of the brand’s products are less than $15. This approach to skincare has enabled The Ordinary to become one of the most popular skincare brands on the market today.
Even though The Ordinary skincare products are very popular, it’s still necessary to evaluate the product formulations to determine what key ingredients are used and whether or not there’s research to support the use of these ingredients. Below we’ll review the 10 best The Ordinary skincare products through a scientific lens so that you can make an informed decision when buying these products.
Related: Best Face Serums
What Are The Top 10 Best The Ordinary Skincare Products?
The Ordinary offers results-driven products at affordable prices — what’s not to love? Well, if you’re a skincare newbie and don’t know the difference between glycolic acid and hyaluronic acid, choosing a product may become overwhelming.
But don’t worry, that’s what we’re here for! Below we’re breaking down the top 10 best The Ordinary skincare products, including the key ingredients and how these ingredients will benefit your skin.
You’ve probably seen this blood-red peel all over TikTok, but just in case you haven’t, The Ordinary Peeling Solution is by far the brand’s most buzzed-about product. It’s a 10 minute exfoliating facial that includes a total of 30% alpha hydroxy acids (glycolic, lactic, tartaric, and citric acid) and 2% beta hydroxy acid (salicylic acid).
Both AHAs and BHAs exfoliate the skin, but they work in slightly different ways. By sloughing off dead skin cells from the surface, The Ordinary Peeling Solution can help to improve skin texture irregularities, pore congestion, blemishes, dull skin, and fine lines.
And the red-hue of this peel? That’s due to the inclusion of a studied Tasmanian Pepperberry derivative that has been shown to help reduce irritation associated with acid use. But even with this soothing ingredient in the formula, the brand still recommends that this product should only be used by experienced users of acid exfoliation.
If you’re struggling with oily skin and breakouts, you probably know that most drugstore products “treat” these issues by drying out the skin way too much with ingredients like alcohol, astringents, and harsh surfactants. Fortunately, The Ordinary has a better solution.
The Ordinary Niacinamide + Zinc is a high-strength vitamin and mineral blemish formula that combines 10% niacinamide with 1% of the zinc salt of pyrrolidone carboxylic acid (PCA). These ingredients work in unique ways to balance oil production while also reducing the acne that’s responsible for causing breakouts.
An added bonus: niacinamide is known to reduce signs of aging, strengthen the skin barrier, and improve dullness. So this serum should not only help to reduce congestion and breakouts, but also give your skin a healthy glow.
The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid + B5 is a hydration support formula that combines 2% hyaluronic acid and provitamin B5 (panthenol). While all skin types can benefit from this product, it’s especially great for those with oily skin.
If you have oily skin, you know that finding a moisturizer that doesn’t turn your face into a greasy mess can be challenging. That’s because most moisturizers contain emollients that sit on top of the skin to lock in moisture.
There’s nothing wrong with emollients; in fact, they are quite helpful for those with normal to dry skin. But those with oily skin may find that emollients cause their skin to look greasy. If that sounds like you, we think you’d benefit from hydration support formulas like The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid + B5.
Plus, The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid + B5 not only supports skin hydration but can also reduce signs of aging like fine lines and wrinkles. That’s because the formula includes three forms of hyaluronic acid with varying molecular weights, as well as a hyaluronic acid crosspolymer, in order to offer multi-depth hydration and visible plumping of lines and wrinkles — without drawing water out of the skin solely to improve temporary surface hydration.
If you’re trying to prevent or reduce signs of skin aging, then you’ve probably heard that it’s a good idea to add a retinol serum into your nightly routine. Retinol is clinically proven to minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, improve uneven skin tone, restore skin firmness, and shrink the appearance of enlarged pores.
The Ordinary Retinol 0.5 in Squalane is a highly stable, water-free solution of 0.5% pure retinol in a base of squalane. This is a moderate strength formula, so if you haven’t used retinol in the past, the brand strongly recommends that you start your retinol regimen with The Ordinary Retinol 0.2% in Squalane, which is the lowest strength that the brand offers.
The reason you should start low with retinol is due to the potential for skin dryness, peeling, and irritation. These side effects occur because of how retinol works; it increases cell turnover, which may cause your skin to look worse before it starts to look better. If you can get through this initial period, called “retinization”, then you’ll reap the benefits of smoother, brighter, more youthful-looking skin.
This lightweight cream-gel features 10% azelaic acid, which is produced by yeast that is part of normal skin flora. While azelaic acid isn’t as buzzed-about as hyaluronic acid or glycolic acid, we think it should be!
That’s because azelaic acid is a true multi-tasker. Research demonstrates that azelaic acid can help reduce acne, improve rosacea, fade hyperpigmentation, brighten skin tone, and more. While all skin types can benefit from The Ordinary Azelaic Acid Suspension, it’s best for those with acne-prone skin and/or dull skin.
The key ingredients — or “technologies” as the brand calls them — in The Ordinary Buffet include peptide complexes, such as Matrixyl 3000, Matrixyl synthe’6, SYN-AKE, and Argirelox, that target multiple signs of aging at once. All of these technologies are formulated in a base of 11 skin-friendly amino acids and multiple hyaluronic acid complexes.
One of our writers that tested out The Ordinary Buffet reports that the lightweight clear liquid absorbs into the skin very quickly, providing instant hydration and a plumping effect. As for the results, she mentioned that while it didn’t produce dramatic changes, this peptide serum did help to reduce the appearance of fine lines, especially crow’s feet. Not bad for a serum that’s less than $15, right?
This high-strength superficial peeling formula includes 10% lactic acid, an AHA that exfoliates the skin to improve dullness and texture irregularities. Like The Ordinary Peeling Solution, this formula also includes the studied Tasmanian Pepperberry derivative to help reduce irritation associated with acid use. This product is a good option if you’ve never used acids to exfoliate your skin or if you have sensitive skin because lactic acid is the gentlest out of all the AHAs.
Just as the name suggests, salicylic acid is the star ingredient in this 10-minute rinse-off mask. It’s included in a strength of 2%, which is the highest concentration allowed in an OTC product.
The formula also includes kaolin clay and charcoal powder, which are known for their deep cleansing abilities due to their porosity and large surface area available for adsorption. They aid the removal of facial impurities that would otherwise remain on the skin surface and clog pores.
You can used The Ordinary Salicylic Acid Masque once to twice per week if you want to improve lackluster tone, clogged pores, blemishes, and/or textural irregularities.
For those who are new to acid exfoliation, The Ordinary Glycolic Acid Toning Solution is a good place to start. This toner provides mild exfoliation thanks to 7% glycolic acid combined with the Tasmanian Pepperberry derivative to help reduce irritation associated with acid use. Additional soothing ingredients include rose flower water, cornflower water, aloe vera leaf water, glycerin, ginseng root extract, and amino acids.
One of our writers tried The Ordinary Glycolic Acid Toning Solution, and after a few weeks of use reported that it helped to improve skin brightness and clarity while reducing blackheads and bumps.
This light-textured formula contains a high 5% concentration of caffeine combined with highly-purified epigallocatechin gallatyl glucoside (EGCG) from green tea leaves.
Caffeine is an antioxidant and a stimulant that causes the blood vessels to constrict, which tightens and firms the skin due to the removal of excess fluids while simultaneously reducing the amount of blood that accumulates under the eyes (a major factor that contributes to dark circles). EGCG is a type of polyphenol antioxidant that targets free radicals, particularly those caused by UV-induced oxidative damage.
The combination of these powerful antioxidants makes The Ordinary Caffeine Solution a good option for those who would like to reduce the look of puffiness and of dark circles underneath their eyes.
What is The Best The Ordinary Serum?
The Ordinary serum collection is pretty extensive, which may leave you wondering which one is the best. While the serum you choose will depend on your skin concerns, we think The Ordinary Buffet is one of the brand’s best serums. With a combination of peptides, probiotics, amino acids, and multiple hyaluronic acid complexes, The Ordinary Buffet should help to reduce multiple signs of aging while also improving your skin’s hydration.
What is The Best The Ordinary Moisturizer?
While The Ordinary serum collection includes a variety of products, the brand only has one moisturizer: The Ordinary Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA.
In case you aren’t aware, Natural Moisturizing Factors (NMF) are elements that keep the outer layer of the skin protected and well-hydrated. The Ordinary moisturizer replenishes the NMF with 11 amino acids, phospholipids, alpha/beta/gamma fatty acids, triglycerides, sterols and sterol esters, glycerin, ceramide precursors, urea, saccharides, sodium PCA, and hyaluronic acid.
One of our writers who tested out The Ordinary Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA said, “This is my new everyday moisturizer. Its lightweight, creamy texture absorbs into my skin so quickly, leaving it hydrated without feeling greasy.”
What is The Best The Ordinary Toner?
The only toner offered by the brand is The Ordinary Glycolic Acid Toning Solution.
What is The Best The Ordinary Skincare Routine?
If you’d like to create a skincare routine with The Ordinary products, the brand has a short 4-minute questionnaire on their website that asks you about your skin concerns and product preferences. After entering your information, you’ll be provided with The Ordinary skincare routine that you should follow.
So is there one The Ordinary skincare routine that’s better than another? We don’t think so. Everyone is unique, and what works for one person may not work for another.
It may take some trial-and-error to create the perfect The Ordinary skincare routine for you. Or maybe these products won’t work well with your skin, and that’s okay, there’s plenty of other skincare brands to consider (we’ll give you a couple of recommendations below).
How to Use The Ordinary Peeling Solution?
While The Ordinary Peeling Solution is very popular, it’s still important to educate yourself on how to use it since it’s such a strong solution. Remember, The Ordinary Peeling Solution is recommended only to those who have experience with acid exfoliation. If that’s you, read on to learn how to use The Ordinary Peeling Solution.
Clean your face and wait for skin to dry completely — do not apply to wet skin! Apply the solution evenly across face and neck using fingertips, avoiding the eye area. (Tip: you can apply vaseline to the delicate skin around your eyes if you really want to prevent the solution from getting near your eyes).
Leave The Ordinary Peeling Solution on for no more than 10 minutes. Rinse thoroughly with lukewarm water. It’s recommended to use this solution only once to twice per week.
Lastly, the acids in The Ordinary Peeling Solution may increase your skin’s sensitivity to the sun and particularly the possibility of sunburn. Use sunscreen, wear protective clothing, and limit sun exposure while using this product and for a week afterward.
What Are The Key Ingredients in The Ordinary Skincare Products?
After reading about the best-selling The Ordinary skincare products, you may be wondering what exactly ingredients like peptides, retinol, squalane, and salicylic acid can do for your skin. Below we’ll give you a brief description of each of the key ingredients used in the best-selling products by The Ordinary.
The Ordinary Retinol
The Ordinary retinol products are ideal for those with signs of aging and/or acne prone skin. According to a publication in the journal Clinical Interventions in Aging, retinol can minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, improve uneven skin tone, restore skin firmness, and shrink the appearance of enlarged pores.
After application, retinol is converted to retinoic acid, which works deep within the skin where it boosts collagen synthesis, increases elasticity, and repairs connective tissue. It also increases cellular turnover, which helps to prevent clogged pores and promotes smoother, healthier skin.
The Ordinary Salicylic Acid
The Ordinary Salicylic Acid Masque and The Ordinary Peeling Solution use salicylic acid, a type of beta hydroxy acid (BHA), to soften and dissolve keratin. Keratin is a protein found in the skin that acts as a “glue” to keep cells together. This allows salicylic acid to exfoliate the skin and slough off dead skin cells, promoting a healthier, more even complexion.
Salicylic acid also has the ability to penetrate deep into pores, where it helps to loosen clogs and allows oil to flow out more freely. Thus, salicylic acid is known to break down blackheads and whiteheads.
The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid
Hyaluronic acid is a glycosaminoglycan (GAG), a long polysaccharide (sugar molecule) composed of disaccharides called amino sugars and uronic acid that is naturally found in the dermis. GAGs are negatively charged and thus tend to attract positively charged sodium and potassium ions. In turn, this causes the GAGs to absorb and hold a large amount of water.
In fact, hyaluronic acid is able to hold more water than any other natural substance—up to 1,000 times its weight in water! Therefore, using products with hyaluronic acid helps to improve the skin’s hydration, as well as reduce signs of aging.
The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid + B5 is a product that features hyaluronic acid as a key ingredient, but the brand uses this hydrating ingredient in many of The Ordinary skincare products.
The Ordinary Glycolic Acid
Glycolic acid is a type of alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) that exfoliates the skin by targeting corneocytes (dead skin cells that make up the stratum corneum) in a process called corneocyte desquamation. By enhancing their breakdown and increasing the separation of skin cells, the rate of cell turnover is increased, leading to smoother, brighter skin and a more even complexion.
You’ll find glycolic acid is The Ordinary Peeling Solution and The Ordinary Glycolic Toning Solution. According to a publication in the journal Molecules, AHAs can be used to easily peel all types of skin with minimal risk.
The Ordinary Lactic Acid
Another AHA that the brand frequently uses is lactic acid, which you’ll find in The Ordinary Peeling Solution and The Ordinary Lactic Acid + HA.
Lactic acid provides many of the same benefits as glycolic acid, however, lactic acid has a larger molecular size than glycolic acid. This means that lactic acid doesn’t penetrate the skin as deeply as glycolic acid, making it a gentler AHA.
Lactic acid also imparts unique benefits that most of the other AHAs cannot provide, such as boosting hydration, stimulating collagen synthesis, improving skin discoloration, and more.
The Ordinary Azelaic Acid
Azelaic acid is a unique ingredient because it has numerous pharmacological uses in dermatology. It is known to help with common skin conditions, such as acne, rosacea, and hyperpigmentation.
Azelaic acid helps with acne by normalizing the shedding of dead skin cells and preventing the growth of acne bacteria. According to a publication in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, Both in vitro and in vivo it has an antimicrobial effect on both aerobic and anaerobic (Propionibacterium acnes) microorganisms.
Azelaic acid is an antioxidant and may help to fade hyperpigmentation and improve skin brightness since azelaic acid functions as a tyrosinase inhibitor.
The Ordinary Azelaic Acid Suspension can benefit all skin types, but is especially good for those with acne, hyperpigmentation, rosacea, and/or dull skin.
The Ordinary Squalane
Many of The Ordinary skincare products include squalane because it is a very effective emollient. Squalane is a saturated and stable hydrocarbon that mimics squalene (note the e), a natural compound in your skin that plays an important role in lubrication and protection. Squalane helps to replenish and strengthen the skin’s lipid barrier.
The Ordinary Squalane is a facial oil with 100% pure squalane, but you’ll also find this ingredient in several other products, such as The Ordinary Squalane Cleanser and The Ordinary retinol products.
The Ordinary Niacinamide
The Ordinary Niacinamide + Zinc is a great option for all skin types due to its high concentration of niacinamide, the amide form of vitamin B3 (niacin) that provides many benefits to the skin. For instance, a publication in the Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, states that niacinamide can repair the skin barrier and improve skin moisture, as well as reduce inflammation, blotchiness, hyperpigmentation, acne, and wrinkling.
You may want to consider The Ordinary Niacinamide + Zinc if you have acne-prone skin since niacinamide has antimicrobial and sebostatic effects, meaning it can help protect against the bacteria that cause acne while also helping to reduce oil production.
Two double-blind studies published in the International Journal of Dermatology (one in 1995, the other in 2013) found that a topical preparation of 4% niacinamide treated moderate acne just as well as 1% clindamycin (a topical antibiotic prescribed for acne) when applied twice daily for eight weeks. And a study published in the Journal of Cosmetic and Laser Therapy found that a 2% topical niacinamide formulation could reduce oil production.
The Ordinary Reviews
The Ordinary reviews on the brand’s website are overall very positive. We noticed that many of The Ordinary reviews focus on the brand’s effective formulations and affordability. It is common to find customers comparing The Ordinary skincare products to some of the most well known and respected skincare brands as comparable and more affordable.
Other The Ordinary reviews appreciate the detail the brand takes in explaining their products, ingredients, and the science behind why they work well for the skin. This helps customers feel informed about their skincare purchases and further exemplifies The Ordinary’s mission to provide clinical skincare solutions with integrity.
Negative The Ordinary reviews are mostly from customers who experienced reactions to these products, such as skin irritation and breakouts. To prevent this from happening, the brand recommends following The Ordinary Patch Test Guide. Patch tests are an easy way to help predict if you will have a negative initial reaction to a new product. It is recommended to perform a patch test before incorporating a new product into your routine.
Overall, we think that The Ordinary products are formulated well with high-quality, evidence-based ingredients. And it’s a plus that the products are priced low, making this brand accessible to many consumers.
- Products contain evidence-based ingredients
- Products are fragrance-free
- The brand is very transparent and they also take the time to educate consumers on how the ingredients in their formulations work
- The Ordinary reviews are very positive
- Affordable cost (all products less than $15 USD)
- Due to the nature of some of The Ordinary skincare products (e.g. acid exfoliants, retinol products), reactions like irritation and sensitivity are possible. But these reactions can be prevented by performing a patch test before use.
What Are Some Alternatives to The Ordinary Skincare?
One thing that we noticed about The Ordinary is that all of their exfoliating products use chemical exfoliants, like AHAs and BHA. But keep in mind that as we age, our skin’s natural shedding process slows down. Excess dead cells build up on the outermost layer of the skin, resulting in a rough, dull complexion. All of this is to say you may need more than just chemical exfoliants to achieve deep exfoliation.
That’s why we’d like to recommend Formulyst’s Retexturizing Microdermabrasion Exfoliator, which is formulated to gently exfoliate built-up layers of dead skin to expose the younger, more vibrant-looking skin beneath.
The formula contains fine aluminum oxide crystals to effectively remove dirt, excess oil, and dead cells, while nutrient-rich jojoba oil, red tea extract, apricot kernel oil, squalane, and hyaluronic acid deeply nourish and soothe newly exposed skin. Overall, Formulyst Retexturizing Microdermabrasion Exfoliator can help reveal smoother skin with less visible lines and wrinkles.
There’s no need to compromise when it comes to finding skincare that is effective and safe. Carrot & Stick takes a tough love approach to skincare, perfectly balancing the power of plants with cutting edge science. Not only is Carrot & Stick good for your skin, it is also good for the environment as the formulas skip harmful chemicals as well as the preservatives, emulsifiers and thickeners commonly found in skincare products.
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