Everything you need to know about affordable beauty brand The Ordinary

Roberta Schroeder
·6-min read
Photo credit: Good Housekeeping
Photo credit: Good Housekeeping

From Good Housekeeping

You're probably already familiar with The Ordinary – the skincare brand that changed the game with its affordable, highly effective products.

While these no-fuss, science-y bottles get top reviews when it comes to tackling our biggest beauty demands – be it dark circles, dryness or fine lines – it's also true that they're a little tricky to decipher without a degree in dermatology.

To help you work out which ones to try, we asked Prudvi Kaka, Chief Scientific Officer at The Ordinary's parent company DECIEM, to break down its most popular products, revealing the skin types they suit, exactly how to use them, and the other products they play well with.

But first, some ground rules which, according to Kaka, apply to all of the bottles below. Stop using any product if you experience irritation, use only as directed (and always on unbroken skin), and patch test before diving into something new (there's more on this on the brand website). Of course, when you are using skincare with 'active' ingredients (as in, the ones that can change the behaviour of your skin), it's crucial to go slowly and build up a tolerance.

Here, we break down the five best-selling products from The Ordinary, including exactly who should be using them – and how.

AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution

Who is it for?

Experienced users of resurfacing acids, who are looking to smooth texture, fade pigmentation and brighten dullness. If you've tried, and liked, a milder glycolic-acid product before, this is the next step (it's potent!)

How it works

This weekly resurfacing treatment contains a cocktail of acids that works to resurface the skin, leading to smoother texture and increased radiance.

“It uses a combination of alpha and beta hydroxy acids, also known as AHAs and BHAs,” says Kaka. “AHAs are hydrophilic (water-soluble) in nature, and exfoliate the topmost layer of the skin; BHAs are lipophilic (oil-soluble), and work both on the skin surface and inside pores to help clear congestion.”

So, why is this peel so popular? Perhaps it’s the potency. “It uses a 30% concentration of AHAs (glycolic, lactic, tartaric and citric acids) and 2% BHA (salicylic acid),” he explains – a strength significantly higher than most options on the shelves. However, this also means that the sensitive skinned should steer clear – and, as with all active skincare, it’s vital to follow the instructions.

A note: The blood-red hue may look intimidating, but it's actually due to the addition of skin-soothing Tasmanian pepperberry extract.

How to use it

Apply this peel to your clean, dry face and neck, using your fingers, one or two evenings per week. Leave it to work for up to 10 minutes (for many, a couple of minutes will be sufficient) before rinsing thoroughly with lukewarm water.

“Avoid the eye contour and contact with eyes both during application and rinse off,” advises Kaka. What's more, always wear a broad-spectrum SPF during the day, as acids may increase your skin's sensitivity to the sun.

What not to use it with

The brand does not recommend combining this formula with other acids, vitamin C, or retinols in the same regime.

Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%

Who is it for?

A real crowd-pleaser, almost all of us can benefit from this serum: specifically, anyone targeting visible shine, enlarged pores or signs of congestion.

How it works

This serum uses a high concentration of niacinamide – 10% to be exact. It's a widely used skincare ingredient that offer myriad benefits – in particular, helping to reduce shine and enlarged pores. "It also incorporates zinc PCA at 1%, to further balance visible sebum activity," says Kaka.

How to use it

Apply to the entire face in the morning and night after cleaning, before heavier oils and creams.

What not to use it with

It's best not to combine strong vitamin C-based products with this one.

"Buffet"

Who is it for?

Anyone looking to tackle the common signs of ageing, such as fine lines and wrinkles.

How it works

The Ordinary describes "Buffet" as "a multi-peptide serum designed to target multiple signs of ageing at once".

Peptides are short chains of amino acids that are linked together via peptide bonds and come together to form proteins. "Two of the most important structural proteins within the skin are collagen and elastin, which provide the skin with structural support and help to maintain firmness, texture and elasticity," Kaka says. “Buffet" offers a selection of renowned peptide technologies that collectively aim to reduce the appearance of multiple signs of ageing.

How to use it

Apply to the entire face in the morning and evening after cleaning, before heavier oils and creams.

What not to use it with

It's best not to combine “Buffet” with acids and vitamin C products.

Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5

Who is it for?

Not just for the eternally dry-skinned, this one is a great hydrating serum for all skin types.

How it works

Kaka calls this one "a water-based serum that offers multi-depth hydration". We can see why: it incorporates a high 2% concentration of hyaluronic acid – a well-studied ingredient known to attract up to 1,000 times its weight in water.

So, what makes this serum such a stand-out? "It incorporates low, medium and high-molecular weight hyaluronic acid to achieve effective multi-depth hydration," he explains (and indeed, not all hyaluronic serums use such considered technology). It also contains Vitamin B5 (Panthenol), for enhanced barrier support – a welcome bonus.

How to use it

Apply a few drops to the face both morning and evening after cleaning, before heavier oils and creams.

Caffeine Solution 5% + EGCG

Who is it for?

Anyone with eye issues – think dark circles and puffiness.

How it works

"This product contains a concentration of 5% caffeine to reduce the appearance of dark circles and under-eye puffiness," says Kaka. "It also contains a compound from green tea called EGCG, otherwise known as Epigallocatechin Gallatyl Glucoside." Don't worry about pronouncing it – just know it's a great antioxidant that may help reduce puffiness and dark circles under your eyes.

How to use it

Massage a small amount onto the eye contour, both morning and evening.

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