To say the launch of The Ordinary in 2016 was ‘disruptive’ in the beauty world would be an understatement. The brand turned the skincare market on its head, shook it around then flipped it back over again.
At the centre of the revolution? Transparency – in both price and formulation. Until then, the industry was powered by big promises, and lots of smoke and mirrors.
Skincare was packaged up in glossy wrapping, splashed with famous faces and marketed by ‘result’ (such as wrinkle-fighting or radiance-boosting) rather than what was actually inside the bottle.
Why The Ordinary is so beloved
Deciem’s The Ordinary stripped all of the beauty jargon back, zeroing in on what really counts – the ingredients. Each clinical-looking black and white bottle focuses on just one or two actives, from retinol to hyaluronic acid or niacinamide, each clearly stating the concentrations – something that had traditionally been kept under wraps by big beauty businesses.
Allowing shoppers to mix and match clinically-proven ingredients, the genius concept has seen the billion-pound company – now owned by Estee Lauder – pick up countless awards and scoop the title of ‘UK’s most popular skincare brand’ time and time again. Oh, and then there are the ultra-long waiting lists for new and improved products (new lash and brow serum, we’re looking at you)…
Despite the no-BS marketing and clear-cut ingredients lists, deciphering the brand’s 56 skincare formulas can be a minefield, even for the most seasoned ‘skin-tellectuals.’
Here, I reveal the brand’s biggest sellers, and how to get the most out of every one…
6 of the best The Ordinary Products and how to use them
1. The Ordinary Natural Moisturizing Factors + Beta Glucan, £12
One of The Ordinary’s newest launches, the Natural Moisturizing Factors + Beta Glucan builds on the success of its original moisturiser, the Natural Moisturising Factors + HA. Like its predecessor, this new moisturiser has an overall gentle formulation that’s suitable for all skin types, but there are a few upgrades which make it a fantastic option for oily skin.
Firstly, it has a gel formula rather than a cream, making it ideal for oily skin types and those who prefer something lightweight for the summer. That doesn’t mean it scrimps on hydration though: this new formula contains skin lipids and ceramides to deeply moisturise and quench the skin, keeping your barrier happy and nourished. At only £12, it’s an affordable moisturising hero.
2. The Ordinary Squalane Cleanser, £8
The formula hero is squalane – a hydrating ingredient that calms redness, boosts suppleness and supports our skin’s protective barrier. It does all this without blocking pores, making it suitable for every skin type including the sensitive or acne-prone.
The cleanser starts off as a balm then transforms into an oil-like consistency once rubbed between the palms. Work it into dry skin, rinse and repeat if you’re wearing makeup or SPF. It traps and dissolves impurities without stripping the complexion, leaving it perfectly clean and comfortable.
3. The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5, £7.90
It’s easy to see why this moisture magnet is so popular – it’s quite simply the best The Ordinary product for supercharged hydration, something that all skin types can benefit from.
Its magic lies in the size of its hyaluronic acid molecules. Comprising both medium and high-molecular weights, it works on multiple different skin depths.
This means it’s able to plump and smooth the skin immediately, at surface-level, as well as pulling in intensive moisture deep down. Its powers of hydration are dialled up even further with the addition of moisturising Vitamin B5.
Both ingredients are super gentle and work seamlessly with other actives without irritation. Apply two to three drops both morning and night, as the last step before your moisturiser or SPF.
4. The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%, £5
It’s official. This is the best The Ordinary product ever with one selling every two seconds around the world. Literally thousands use this in their The Ordinary skincare routine.
But what does it really do? The formula is all about combating excess oil production, which it does via a blend of zinc and niacinamide. The latter is included at a pretty high strength (you’ll typically find 5% in other products).
Fans say the product has totally transformed their oily faces, stopping spots in their tracks and minimising the appearance of pores and blackheads.
Niacinamide is also a superstar for fighting pigmentation so it’s a smart choice if you’re prone to post-blemish marks, too. It can be applied both morning and night and, while The Ordinary advises using niacinamide at a different time of day to Vitamin C due to a risk of sensitivity, most experts rule the efficacy of either won’t be affected if you layer them up.
In that case – as always – put on the product with the thinnest consistency first.
5. The Ordinary Buffet Multi-Technology Peptide Serum, £14.30
Consider this bad boy the best The Ordinary product for all-round anti-ageing. Unusually, it’s one of the brand’s few products to contain multiple active ingredients to target a range of different issues. Think: reducing fine lines and wrinkles, boosting hydration, busting pigmentation, brightening dullness, firming and smoothing.
It’s all down to a clever blend of power ingredients, including matrixyl 3000 to stimulate collagen production, prebiotics to strengthen the skin barrier and hyaluronic acid for plumping and hydration prowess.
In short, your skin’s left looking infinitely more youthful with a healthy luminosity.
Buffet is a great pick if other potent anti-agers (such as retinol) are too strong for your sensitive skin or if you don’t have time for a multi-step routine. Apply a few drops at both morning and night, ahead of your moisturiser or SPF.
6. The Ordinary Salicylic Acid 2% Solution, £5.10
This iconic spot treatment went off sale for two years in 2019, during which time it accumulated a 400,000-strong waiting list. But it’s now back and better than ever, much to its loyal followers’ delight, thanks to a new and improved formula.
Over time, devotees say their skin becomes clearer and smoother with fewer spots, whiteheads and blackheads. It’s not designed to be an all-over treatment but a targeted on-the-spot fix.
Using retinols or AHA products such as those containing glycolic or lactic acid? It’s best to alternate your usage day by day or apply these at night and The Ordinary Salicylic Acid 2% Solution in the day since mixing can cause dryness and irritation.