Decoding The Ordinary for Dummies

If you’re not a skincare passionate, you may have never heard about The Ordinary, but if you’re a little and you’re not a skincare geek, you probably have checked their website and spent a few minutes in total dismay. If you recognize yourself in one of these two figures, this post is for you.

I heard about this brand when I started taking care of my skin – I mean using moisturizer, eye cream, and serum – so when I read the name of their products I was like WHAAT? But when it comes to something scientific I need to understand asap and I start studying like crazy. I spent about 1 week learning about actives and how they work and what they do. So I thought you may find helpful a little super simplified guide to them. I’m not going to talk about every single product of the line but only about what I think you’ll need to start an efficient skin care routine.

  • Retinol (Advanced retinoid 2% and Retinol 1%)
    Retinol is simply the name of the pure form of vitamin A. It’s a skin-restoring ingredient : it can help visibly increase the appearance of firmness, diminish the look of fine lines and wrinkles, significantly improve uneven skin tone, smooth and refine the surface of the skin. Retinol is a scientifically proven  anti-aging ingredient . Use it!The Advanced Retinoid 2% is yes more powerful, but it’s a mix of two next-generation forms of retinoid actives, meaning that it’s going to be less irritating on your skin.
  • Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%
    This weirdly named element is, after retinol and vitamin C, one of the most exciting skincare ingredients. It’s also known as vitamin B3 ; it helps to improve the appearance of enlarged pores, uneven skin tone, dullness, fine lines, and wrinkles. In Japanese and Korean skin care products niacinamide is often used as a skin brightener and lightener.Zinc, on the other hand, is indicated to reduce the appearance of blemishes and congestion . This serum can be considered a more affordable – and maybe more effective – dupe of the Glossier’s Super Pure.
  • Vitamin C (Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2% and derivatives)
    It’s a potent antioxidant and skin-soothing agent ; its pure form of L-Ascorbic Acid has been shown to reverse multiple signs of skin aging while brightening the skin . The issue with this vitamin is that it’s naturally in powder form and is pretty vulnerable to UV light and air. The Suspension by TO contains no water to make this product more long-lasting but a lot of customers are not pleased by the powdery consistency. I saw on the website that a suspension in silicone and a 100% ascorbic acid powder are coming soon, so these may be an even better option, but you can also pick one of the derivatives – the Ascorbyl Glucoside Solution 12%, the Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate Solution 20% in Vitamin F or the Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate 10% – which are considered less irritating and more delicate.I decided to pick this one which has incredible reviews on Amazon. I don’t know how well it works on my skin yet, but the application is totally fine and I get no irritations.
  • Acids (AHAs and BHAs)
    You may have already used exfoliants in scrub forms but the best ones – especially for your face – are the chemical ones. If your skin looks dry, dull, rough, and uneven – the result of built-up skin cells – you’ll fall in love with them. Alpha hydroxyl acids (AHA) exfoliate the skin’s topmost surface for a brighter and more even appearance . Beta hydroxyl acids (BHA) also exfoliate the skin with an extended function to help clear pore congestion . I have both dry skin and clogged pores – as black and white heads – so I love using both the forms.I started by using the TO Lactic Acid 10%, which I love, and then I bought the CosRx BHA Blackhead Power Liquid and the TO AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution most recently. They work amazingly and I wouldn’t be able to pick one. The Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution is said to be amazing too, but it has been out of stock for a long time and I decided to pick the peeling solution instead – and, at the end, I think it’s even better for me.

  • Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5
    This is an element we already have in our skin, but its production decreases while aging. has restorative abilities and can boost skin’s moisture content, soothe, and defend against moisture loss. It’s capable of holding up to 1,000 times its own weight in water, helping skin with hydration . And we’re not talking about moisture! Both dry and oily skin types need it.After watching this video from one of my favorite skincare gurus, I decided to skip the hyaluronic acid from TO and I picked this one from Hada Labo : it works so well and is even less expensive!
  • Oils
    We – almost – all need oils, even oily skin types. I decided to pick the Rose hip one because everyone talks about it like a magic potion. It’s advised to be used more on oily skin, but since it’s summer and I don’t need heavy oils…I’m no expert about oils, I only know that my skin is really picky with them, but I’m sure this video by Renee will help you picking the perfect one for you.
  • Buffet
    This is a combination of actives and is a more classic skincare product – it could be simply called “ anti-age serum ” in another brand’s collection. The reviews about it are great and I can’t wait to see the results. You can use it by itself or in combination with any other active.
  • Caffeine Solution 5% + EGCG
    That weird acronym stays for Epigallocatechin Gallatyl Glucoside, which comes from green tea leaves. This serum is supposed to help reduce puffiness and dark circles in the eye contour . A girl from Beautylish told me that she uses it – successfully – also on her tights to treat cellulite. I still have to try, I’ll keep you updated!

I hope this little guide helped you to decode The Ordinary’s website. If you need more info, check this detailed page : you can even find out which products are advised to be used for your concerns. In a next post, I’m going to talk about how to create your own skincare routine using these and other products.

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  • Anch’io ho studiato per bene prima di acquistare, non ho ancora testato nulla perché devo studiare bene gli abbinamenti (e finire parte degli altri sieri che sto usando) ma nutro grandi speranze sulla vitamina C. Sappi che in Italia vendono anche direttamente dal sito

    • Ah ecco, non pensavo, perché fino a poco tempo fa leggevo di ragazze inglesi che impazzivano per averli e quindi compravano da altri negozi online. Anch’io sto testando gli abbinamenti (tipo vit C e retinolo o acidi e retinolo nella stessa routine) e per ora la mia pelle non mi ha mandata a quel paese 😛 speriamo bene!

    • Right? I was a little scared using the Lactic 10% (I got it as sample at a presentation of the brand by Beautylish in San Francisco) since some people – who are even used to acids – broke out using it, but I had zero issues!
      Ps : I saw you’re using the Triple C serum…how is it? Does it work??

      • The Triple C serum is the best thing I have ever tried. No joke. I was using the Klairs Vitamin C serum for a while (and I loved it,) and then I moved on to Glossier’s Super Glow (and it was good,) but the Triple C serum became addicting to use. The first night I used it, I woke up to an even complexion – No redness! It also doesn’t irritate my skin. If you can withstand the Lactid Acid 10%, I think the Triple C will work great for you too.