I bought my first “The Ordinary” products earlier this month and can’t help but notice how difficult it was to decipher which products were right for me. Aside from feeling like I needed a degree in Chemistry to pronounce the names, the products weren’t categorized into what I’m typically used to seeing – the traditional Cleanse, Tone, Moisturize model. I was quite overwhelmed and confused when browsing The Ordinary’s website, so I thought I’d go ahead and learn more about this brand and do some videos to help explain how to pick to pick the right Ordinary products for your skin type and needs.
A couple of things to note about this brand that might help you navigate the products better:
- First, if you are like me and are shopping for traditional cleansers, toners, and moisturizers, you will be thrown off. This is because The Ordinary mainly focuses on treatments rather than cleansers, toners, or moisturizers – so understanding that first and foremost should help you to begin to understand the brand a little better.
- Deciem, which is the parent brand that owns the Ordinary, does offer cleansers and moisturizers. But The Ordinary focuses primarily on treatments that fits into your current routine after the toning, and before moisturizing. [Note: the exception here is the Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution, which is recommended that you use this after your cleanser and before any other product]
- The Ordinary Treatments are classified into either water based or oil based. It’s important to use water based products first before you use oil based products, as this is the correct way to layer your skincare.
Now as you know, skincare is not an easy or straightforward topic. There is a lot of information about this topic in particular, and different products for different people. There will be separate posts for different skin types –
- Aging, Mature Skin
- Oily, Acne Prone Skin
- Dull Skin, Hyperpigmentation
- Dry, Dehydrated Skin
If you’ve landed on this post, that means you’re probably looking for The Ordinary products for general anti-aging, preventative care.
For Aging, Mature Skin
You want to treat:
- Wrinkles, lines
- The look of lifted, firmer skin
You should look for The Ordinary products in the following categories:
- Peptide Serums
- Oils and Hydrators to aid in locking in moisturization
Optional: If you happen to have texture-related issues (rough skin), you may also want to consider adding a chemical exfoliant such as AHA peel to your regimen if your skin can tolerate it. (May not be suitable for sensitive skin.)
Let’s take a look at each of these categories to see what they do:
Retinoids are a class of actives chemically related to Vitamin A and help with concerns such as acne, anti-aging, and hyper-pigmentation. They work by helping turn over your dead skin cells at a more normal rate and promoting collagen production. This, in effect, helps to renew your skin and promote healthier and younger looking skin.
Downside of retinoids: Some people may experience mild irritation when they start to use retinoids.
As skin ages, we start to see skin sag, and part of the reason is because of the loss of collagen and moisture. Collagen is produced naturally by our bodies, but the aging process slows the production of this essential protein. To help skin looking firm and supple, serums rich in peptides as well as oils and moisturizers will aid in collagen production and helps keep the skin moisturized are also essential in an anti-aging skincare routine.
AHA, also known as alpha hydroxy acids, are chemical exfoliants that help get rid of dead skin cells that build up over time. Your skin sheds dead skin cells naturally, but the process slows over time as you age. When dead skin cells build up and your skin can’t act quickly enough to get rid of the buildup, the result includes wrinkles and loss in firmness as well as dull skin and clogged pores. Adding an AHA chemical exfoliant once a week to your routine may help you achieve smoother, brighter looking skin.
The Ordinary offers all of these treatments in their portfolio, at different levels of potency. Which one you use will depend on personal preference and your skin’s tolerance level of actives.
When shopping for The Ordinary products to target anti-aging, you should consider the following questions
- Sensitive skin?
- Any texture-related issues that you want to further address: rough skin, uneven skin tone?
- Any other specific skin concerns I want to target?
As a general rule of thumb, I would purchase three treatments from The Ordinary for a good anti-aging skincare routine: 1) a retinoid, 2) a peptide serum, and 3) an oil to aid in moisturization.
Shopping for The Ordinary retinoids:
The Ordinary retinoids are classified into two major groups: Granactive retinoids, which uses a newer technology that significantly lowers the irritability factor and what I will call “regular” retinoids. Both groups allow you to pick the individual product’s potency, and the major difference between the two group besides technology is cost. I recommend going with the Granactive Retinoid if budget allows, especially if you are concerned with your skin’s ability to handle a retinoid product and sensitivity concerns. If you take a look at the chart I created below, you will notice that there are three products in the Granactive group –
- Granactive Retinoid 2% in Squalene
- Granactive Retinoid 5% in Squalene
- Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion
The difference between these 2% in Squalene and Emulsion is the base – for those who prefer a “Creamy, hydrating emulsion” you would pick the 2% Emulsion product but please note that this format does not contain pure retinol. The retinoid in squalene offers pure retinol formulas and what The Ordinary describes as “better compatibility with several steps in a regimen.” In other words, unless you have a strong preference for a creamier, emulsion format, it’s recommended that you go with the 2% or 5% squalene products. Between the 2% or 5%, it’s based on your skin’s sensitivity factor. While the Granactive technology reduces the irritability factor, you sill need to consider your own skin’s needs and reactiveness to a retinoid product. If you have concerns or reservations, it’s best to start with the 2% and work your way up as your skin builds up tolerance.
Other Treatments From The Ordinary to Add to your Anti-Aging Skincare Routine:
After you’ve picked a suitable retinoid from The Ordinary’s collection, I would pick up a peptide rich serum such as “Buffet” – this formula is suitable to use as a treatment both in the morning and at night as a generalist serum to target signs of aging and loss of firmness. Another product I would pick would be an oil from The Ordinary’s “Hydrators & Oils” collection. They have many different hydrators and oils to pick from at very reasonable prices (100% Plant derived squalene, organic cold pressed rose hip seed oil, Moroccan argan oil, virgin marula oil), so which one you pick is dependent on personal preference. (Please note that Squalene is not an oil, but an oil-alternative that also has high emollience and acts as an exceptional hydrator for the skin.) For anti-aging concerns and needs, I would recommend going with the Rose Hip Seed oil, as this is high in omega fatty acid content which is ideal to maintain moisture and combat signs of aging. Some might prefer Marula Oil as it’s a more “luxurious” oil and Rose Hip Seed may be more polarizing due to scent, but if the aroma doesn’t bother you, Rose Hip Seed oil is more targeted as an anti-aging product vs. Marula, which is suitable more for people who don’t have major skin concerns and just want the added benefit of an oil to support their hydration needs. If your skin is especially dehydrated, or need an extra boost of moisture at times (winter, dry climate/season, travel), adding the Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 is an excellent choice. Hyaluronic acid is great to add to any skincare routine that needs a boost of moisture as it hydrates well, absorbs easily, and is pleasant to use (and cost effective to boot!).
Lastly, if you do have other skin concerns you want to target, such as rough skin or want extra brightening benefits, you could consider adding the AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution as a 1-2x exfoliating treatment to your routine. This will help to renew your skin’s surface at a faster rate, and address any dullness or texture concerns you may have. Again, if you have sensitivity concerns, however, it’s best to start with a 2% retinoid and allow your skin to build up the tolerance over time before using a high-active concentration such as this product. The AHA 30% formula is a very high concentration of free acid: only recommended for people who are comfortable using chemical peels at home and do not have sensitive, peeling, or open wounds in the skin.
Using the products that I mentioned above, and after doing much research on The Ordinary’s website, I saw that they have example regimens that you can consider. There is a wealth of information, in addition to formats, time of use, and targeted concerns on this page that you can use as reference. For simplicity’s sake, here are the morning and nighttime routines laid out. Please remember that The Ordinary’s treatments are meant to be used in addition to your regular cleansing and moisturizing products.
Cleanse -> Tone -> “Buffet” -> Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 -> Moisturizer -> Sunscreen
Double Cleanse -> Tone -> “Buffet” -> Granactive Retinoid 2% or 5% in Squalene -> 100% Organic Cold-Pressed Rose Hip Seed Oil -> Moisturizer
Optional: 1-2x per week: AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution as a chemical exfoliating peel
Here’s the video that explains the above information in greater detail!
And a handy cheat sheet for reference!