SKIN | The Ordinary skincare review

The Ordinary skincare products: Vitamin C, Lactic Acid and Alpha Arbutin

I’ve written about products from DECIEM’s NIOD and Hylamide ranges before, but The Ordinary is the line that everyone’s excited about because it’s so goddamn cheap (like, ten New Zealand dollars per bottle). The whole vibe of the Ordinary is offering single-ingredient-focus formulas that can be layered and coordinated into a routine that addresses your skin’s specific concerns.

The entire point of marketing is to tell people what outcomes and benefits a product will give them, and that’s one of the places where The Ordinary are saving their money. The challenge with their ingredient-focus concept for a lot of people is knowing which products to choose. I feel like I have a pretty sound grip on what skincare ingredients are and what they do, but it took me a while of navigating their website and doing some extra research before I decided on the products I wanted to try.

The Ordinary Lactic Acid 10% + HA 2%, ~$10.60 NZD

Interestingly, Brandon Truaxe, the dude behind DECIEM, isn’t a fan of chemical exfoliants and peels, but they have a lactic acid product in their range because that’s what people want. Well, you have to admire the hustle! Personally I really like lactic acid (and other chemical exfoliants, as I’m sure you know) and was keen to try a formulation with a high concentration and at a suitable pH.

After only a few days of daily use at bedtime (warning: work up to daily use if you’re not used to using AHAs) I noticed my skin was smoother in texture, but honestly I notice that after regular use of any AHA or retinol, I’m just not usually very good at maintaining the routine.

This formulation has glycerin third in the ingredients list, and it feels super moisturising in that slimy way. You might love that or hate that, but when I wash my face in the morning I can feel its texture still, and that at least makes me know it’s sticking around.

The Ordinary Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA, ~$12.40 NZD

Alpha Arbutin is a skin-lightening ingredient, so while you might find it in questionable skin-bleaching creams, it’s meant to be a safer and gentler alternative to hydroxyquinone. I chose to buy this serum because I’ve noticed pigmentation (sun-spots) developing below my eyes. I alternate between applying it all over and applying it directly to the areas I want to fade, because I don’t want to lighten my skin all over.

Alpha Arbutin is usually plant-derived and is proven to reduce pigmentation. I haven’t used it long enough to see any impressive effects but I have read that you need to be using it at least 2–3 months before you see any effects, which makes sense as the pigmentation develops deep within the skin, not directly on the surface.

The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2%, ~$8.85 NZD

I’ll be writing more about Vitamin C in general soon, but I picked this up because I was curious about the water-free solution. Vitamin C isn’t stable in the presence of water, so a formula with no water means it will stay effective longer.

The texture in general is a little weird, as the Vitamin C ‘suspension’ takes the form of L-Ascorbic acid powder in a squalane base, and you can feel the powder on your skin as you rub it in. The Ordinary warns that you will feel tingling once you first start using this lotion, until you build up tolerance, but I didn’t notice anything beyond a slight warming sensation.

Vitamin C is meant to be anti-aging and fading pigmentation or uneven skintone, and over time I’ll hopefully see improvement in those areas, but nothing visible yet.

Each of these The Ordinary formulas also contain hyaluronic acid. Hyaluronic acid is super hydrating, which we should all know by now, but also apparently “supports [the active ingredient] for enhanced delivery”. The addition of hyaluronic acid is never a bad thing, in my eyes, so no harm no foul.

I bought my The Ordinary products from ASOS, because if you hit $30 (or thereabouts) you get free shipping to New Zealand. I had a look at a few sites that sell the brand and that seemed to be the best deal I could find.

Have you guys tried any The Ordinary products? What should I try next?

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  • Thanks for this! I’ve heard so much about them but there are so many different products I’ve been a bit overwhelmed by all the options.

    • You’ve definitely got to put in a bit of research. I’m not sure what I want to try next, but probably the azelaic acid!

      • Lisa

        Victoria Health (a UK stockist of the Ordinary) and Wayne Goss have now done some great reviews and routine recommendations for all different skin types and concerns which helps simplify the process of choosing what you need/want. I’ve just started adding in Azelaic Acid and am really enjoying it. It seems to be dealing with a crazy spot attack I’ve had and fading the scaring faster. I even have my teenage son using it because the packaging is gender neutral enough that he doesn’t think he is using one of my “beauty products.”

        • That’s a really good point I hadn’t considered – without any marketing spend, The Ordinary doesn’t make any assumptions about the people using their products, just that they want clear skin!

  • Alys Persson

    I’ve been using the Alpha Arbutin for awhile, I’m just about done with my first bottle. It’s done pretty well, but I still have spots that are stubborn. I’m unsure how I really feel about it… I should probably spot check with it like you said.

    • It’s hard to know which pigmentation-fading product to use – I went with alpha-arbutin over niacinamide in this case because you’re not meant to mix niacinamide with vitamin C, and I didn’t want to mess up and do that by mistake! Interesting to hear it hasn’t been totally effective for you, although at its price it’s a lot to ask that it’s 100% effective within one bottle’s use? Idk

      • Alys Persson

        I agree, I have a second bottle and am going to really make my decision after I get through it. I definitely see a brightening effect, it’s just these stubborn sun spots. In all fairness to Deciem though, I was only using it once a day. And I know exactly about the Niacinamide and Vit C thing, there are so many products I’m always wondering “so… is this going to create a reaction….?” I added the Alpha Arbutin last night and no problem. I am totally in love with the Non Acid Acid Precursor from NIOD and it’s the one I get worried about mixing with.

        • I’ve read lots of good things about the NAAD from NIOD but obviously as their formulas get more advanced they get more expensive too! Do you use it instead of an AHA? Since it’s 8–9 times more expensive than The Ordinary’s Lactic Acid I think it’d have to be 8–9 times more effective to sway me towards it!

          • Alys Persson

            I do use it instead of other acids. I had been using a BHA that got discontinued and the replacement made me break out. My skin tends to be reactive so I was worried about trying other stuff. So I went for the NAAP and I’ve been on the same bottle for about 5 months, zero irritation, but I’m definitely interested in trying something cheaper. The NAAP I often think isn’t as “aggressive” as other chemical exfoliators, (maybe that’s in my head) so I guess I’ve paid for the gentleness of it. The Ordinary didn’t have all the extra acids just a few months ago haha so there wasn’t much for me to choose from! Do you get promo codes for Deciem? I signed up for them but have never ever received one! Nothing ever goes on sale! Also, The Chemistry Brand Hand Chemistry is pretty magical.

  • I didn’t realise how affordable they were! I definitely want to check it out!

    • I know! I don’t know why I waited so long…

  • damn I can’t get past those prices aye – thanks for writing about these Morgan!

  • I definitely want to try the Alpha Arbutin – I have a few old blemishes that have become hyper pigmented over time, not to mention under my eyes!

    Jasmine xx

    Jasmine Talks Beauty

  • Lisa

    I bought 5 different bottles when The Ordinary first launched (Alpha Arbutin, Hyaluronic Acid, Latic Acid, Retinoid, and the Buffet) and have really enjoyed all of them and believe they have made a real difference to my skin. I love their price point and the chance to try a range of different formulas without huge expense. Recently I’ve been trying the Niacinimide and the Hyalamide SubQ serum and eye serum. I am now addicted to anything Deciem and am very keen to try the Vit C. Thanks for the tip on using ASOS for the free delivery to NZ. I’ve used Victoria Health and Deciem itself but they include shipping. Deciem have stores in Melbourne and Sydney now and if I am lucky enough to get to Oz this year I will definitely stock up.

    • I’d love to go to a store! I’d definitely end up buying one of everything, haha. I’ve heard good things about the Buffet from a few people so I’m keen to try that next!

      • Lisa

        Can I ask…how do you use the Vit C? I’ve seen a few reviews tha the Vit C will pill if you layer it with anything.

        • I haven’t noticed any pilling, that’s interesting! It did feel a bit weird when I put Josie Maran Argan Milk over it though. Although I do often forget to put moisturiser on over my serums so that could be why I haven’t noticed! I’d usually put the alpha arbutin in targeted areas, wait 10 minutes or so and put the Vitamin C on. Then I’d leave that about half an hour and if I remembered (lol) put moisturiser on over the top – at the moment its Sunday Riley Tidal, which doesnt seem to feel weird with it at all.

  • That Lactic Acid sounds amazing!! Might need to try it out 🙂

    xx Sofia | SOFIAADOT

    • It’s definitely worth a look – it’s so affordable!

  • Chloe

    Thanks for the free shipping tip! I have been looking so hard to find a website that sells this products with cheaper shipping costs! I was going to buy on Australian website since it looked like their shipping cost is cheaper than Deciem website. I have heard so many good things about this product and I cannot wait to try this out!

    • If you’re based in Australia I think they have it at Priceline now too? Don’t quote me on that. I’m so glad it’s ~going global~!

  • I really want to make an order from The Ordinary but still deciding what to get (and holding out for their foundation!). I like the sound of the Lactic Acid!

    The Makeup Directory

    • I just read about their foundation launches! It sounds like they’re going to have a massive colour range, which is awesome.

  • Yeah, like you say, I tend to think I’m generally alright at navigating skincare options but browsing The Ordinary’s products made me feel unprepared! I bounced around their website a ton before feeling somewhat secure in my choices.

    • I think Beautylish have started stocking them and apparently they give a bit more advice on what you can use and when. After doing some more research and reading other reviews I feel like there are a ton of products I missed ob my first way through!