What to Buy from The Ordinary: An AM and PM Routine for Every Skin Type

By Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

News for lovers of cult, ingredient-led and wallet-friendly beauty brand The Ordinary. The company, which has legions of global fans devoted to its stripped- back approach and effective products, will soon be further owned by mega international beauty business Este Lauder Companies. ELC, who already had a 29% stake in the disruptor's parent group DECIEM Beauty, will establish full ownership over the DECIEM portfolio over the next three years.

'But with our loving team around us, and [late founder] Brandon's values running through everything we do, we know that we will always be the same us (we actually can't help it). Together with ELC, we will bring more good things to all of you, and we are excited to build on this promise in the coming years.' A real industry rebel, The Ordinary has taken previously pricey ingredients from rosehip to retinol stripped away all the fancy frills, and delivered effective formulas without the triple-figure price tags. The second big tick comes from the fact that all The Ordinary products are free from parabens, cheap filler mineral oil and any other synthetic nasties. It's no wonder that the brand has taken the world by storm, with hero products regularly selling out and production struggling to keep up with demand. If you're not au fait with this brilliant brand just yet, get yourself up to speed with the brand's Beginner's Guide to The Ordinary here, then amp up your knowledge to true boffin status with our in-depth routine guide below...

Why is The Ordinary so cheap?

As beauty consumers became ever more aware of what ingredients and formulas work, and in what quantities and percentages they do that work best, The Ordinary popped up offering those holy grail skincare ingredients like retinol and hyaluronic acid for less than a fiver. The cheap prices were down to the company's founder offsetting these products against factories, suppliers and technology already in place to produce products for other skincare brands under their umbrella company, so both the brand's margins and sale prices remained small. The brand's candid descriptions, simple packaging and tangible results have made it an overnight success. Two years later and like-minded brands such as The Inkey List are following the same trail that The Ordinary blazed.

Is The Ordinary Skincare any good?

Honestly? The entire range is pretty impressive. It has a whole host of big-name fans, too.

Kim Kardashian-West

On her app, Kim revealed the skincare saviours she uses for 'slowing down the ageing process'. One of her faves was no other than The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2% emulsion.

Dr Anjali Mahto

It's not just celebs that swear by the range, but dermatologists too. Dr Anjali Mahto is a fan of The Ordinary AHA 30% BHA 2% Peeling Solution, revealing 'I like the combination of chemical exfoliators in this product and tend to use it either once or twice weekly depending on how oily my skin is feeling to decongest the skin. AHAs such as glycolic acids and lactic acids are really good for treating blackheads. I like this product because it brightens the skin and target congestion and blemishes.'

What are all The Ordinary products for?

Here's a quick overview of the types of products you can buy from the brand and what they do.

Hydrators & Oils

Think of your classic moisturiser such as hyaluronic acid, which has a plumping effect on the skin, as well as cold-pressed oils that provide vital nourishment. They're brimming with fatty acids including omega-3, omega-6, and omega-9 along with other phytonutrients.

Retinols & Retinoids

A derivative of vitamin A, retinol is the one ingredient that really can do a Cher and turn back time. It increases cell turnover your skin's natural renewal process and triggers the production of collagen and elastin (two proteins responsible for your skin's firmness and plumpness) and regulates oil levels.


These clever skincare ingredients work by preventing and reducing damage to skin cells by neutralising free radicals - atoms (found in pollution and UV rays) that have lost an electron, making them unstable and able to damage skin cells that get in their way. Antioxidants such as vitamins C work to protect the skin by giving these free radicals an electron, rendering them harmless.


It sounds daunting to cover your face in acids, but they are wonderful ingredients that are proven to treat a myriad of conditions from pigmentation to acne and wrinkles. Most work to dissolve the outer layers of your skin, which is important because dead cells absorb light rather than reflect it, resulting in dull-looking skin. There are fifteen acids that most dermatologists rate, but The Ordinary utilise the best, such as glycolic, salicylic, lactic and azelaic.

Vitamin C

As well as being a powerful antioxidant, vitamin C is great for skin brightening. It hinders the production of tyrosinase, an enzyme in the skin, which is responsible for speeding up melanin production that leads to those pesky dark spots.


Your body naturally produces peptides and proteins which are responsible for your skin's natural resilience and strength but, as with everything that seems to keep skin glowing and buoyant, this production process is constantly under attack, be it internally (ageing and stress), or externally (the environment). Adding them into your skincare routine is an easy way to up your levels.


The backbone of any skincare routine, cleansers are vital for keeping your skin in good health. They remove daily build-up of grime as well as stubborn make-up.

What are the best Ordinary products?

1. The Ordinary Caffeine Solution 5% + EGCG

A wonder product for tackling dark circles, this can be used both AM and PM before all other skincare products. Simply pat a few drops along the eye contour to help diminish panda eyes.

2. The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution

Acids fans, rejoice. Because this is a formula that's hard to beat. If dullness, hyperpigmentation and blemishes are a constant concern this resurfacing treatment contains a potent blend of alpha-hydroxy acids and beta-hydroxy acids to banish them. Simply leave on for ten minutes and wait for it to work its magic.

3. The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5

The ultimate hydrating molecule, HA is praised for its ability to retain over 1,000 times its weight in water within the cells of the skin. Think of it as your skin's ultimate thirst quencher. It's also a winner for sensitive skin types because its very gentle on the skin.

4. The Ordinary 100% Plant-Derived Squalane

Did you know that your body produces squalane? But as we age, the amount we make and starts to diminish, which is why using it topically can help to keep your skin soft and healthy. The Ordinary source their squalane from plants and it's a hero ingredient because it can help other ingredients absorb more effectively. It's best applied after your water-based treatments, such as your HA.

5. The Ordinary Salicylic Acid 2% Solution

Hailing from willow bark, salicylic acid is a go-to acid for treating acne, blackheads and oily skin. It's a beta-hydroxy acid (BHA) which means it's able to cut through oil, allowing it to unclog pores and blitz away dead skin cells and dirt. It also a great anti-inflammatory, helping to inhibit bacteria growth and stopping spots in their tracks. As for the best way to use it? Simply apply a drop of the solution directly on to the spot.

What you should know, before buying from The Ordinary

One more thing we will say, before you run off to slather yourself in these seriously well-priced potions, you may want to brush up on your skincare knowledge. The brand's lab-style product labels are famously tricky to understand, meaning that putting together a routine is, well, complicated. Frankly, if you've managed to put together your own The Ordinary skincare regime without a science textbook then we salute you.

Whilst it's a great idea to start taking care of your skin from an early age, it's also important to keep things simple. Consultant Dermatologist Dr Anjali Mahto says she's noticing an increase of younger patients becoming more interested in using skincare ingredients to target skin ageing concerns. Whilst 5-10 years ago, many of those concerned with ageing changes such as fine lines, wrinkles, and pigmentation would be 40 upwards, I am now seeing many in their 20s expressing concern and keen on finding preventative treatments' she reveals.

I suspect this is a result of increased access to information, pressures to look good placed on the female aesthetic, social media and filters, selfie and celeb culture.' By over-using potent ingredients, your skin doesn't actually need can cause more harm than good so it's important you keep things simple and avoid too much mixing. But what should you do if you don't know your Granactive Retinoid from your L- Ascorbic Acid Powder? No need to worry, because we've got the lowdown on the ideal skincare routine from The Ordinary - regardless of your skin type and concern. A post shared by The Ordinary, NIOD, & more. (@deciem) Read on for our straight-talking guide on what you should be buying from this game-changing beauty brand, with an AM and PM routine for every skin type, from blemishes and breakouts to eternally thirsty skin.


A no-filler ethos means The Ordinary's potions are particularly potent, so sensitive souls should approach with caution. However, there is a routine that will work to nourish and soothe easily irritated skin. In the morning, reach for moisture-binding Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5then follow with Natural Moisturising Factors + HA, which is essentially a fancy name for a great no-nonsense moisturiser.


After dark, try the 100% Plant-Derived Squalanefor hydration without clogged pores, then top with your Natural Moisturising Factors + HA once more.


Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 is a perfect choice for dry skin. This wonder ingredient can hold up to 1000 times its own weight in water, meaning it delivers heavy-duty hydration without making skin feeling suffocated.

The molecular size of HA determines its depth of delivery in the skin. This formulation combines low, medium and high molecular-weight HA, meaning it works just about everywhere you want it to. Even better, it's supported by vitamin B5 to bolster surface hydration.

Next, double your hydration dose with Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA, which seals all the good stuff into the skin's surface. It's packed with fatty acids that work to protect and hydrate the outer layer of skin.


Come evening, repeat your morning routine, but sandwich a layer of 100% Plant- Derived Squalane between your serum and moisturiser for an extra shot of hydration. For a brightening once-a-week treatment, apply AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution, which works by exfoliating the skin's topmost layer for a brighter, more even appearance. Sound good? We think so, too. Apply it for no longer than ten minutes though we recommend three minutes max for newbies.


Salicylic Acid 2% Solutionis your new best friend it contains a beta hydroxy acid and witch hazel to unclog pores and clear up blemishes. Follow this with Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%, which regulates sebum production to keep your complexion in balance.


If you're a long-time acne sufferer, you've likely got a few scars to show for it. Applied in the evening, skin-regenerating Retinol 1% in Squalanecan work wonders on fading acne marks and pigmentation. It truly is an all in one ingredient' says Cosmetic Doctor and Founder of Skndoctor Dr Ewoma Ukeleghe.

'Unlike acids that dissolve the surface levels of skin, retinol binds itself to receptors in our skin cells encouraging them to make new skin that then pushes up through the epidermis, replacing dead and damaged cells along the way.' If you're new to the retinol game, try diluting a drop of this serum with your regular moisturiser until your skin is accustomed to the actives.


The mysteriously named Buffetis your first port of call for tackling fine lines. Turns out, the name refers to the buffet-like array of skin-boosting ingredients within: think peptides, hyaluronic acid and amino acids. Seal the deal with Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA.


Come evening, you can go to town with the regenerating treatments. First up, swipe Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution over cleansed skin to dissolve dead skin cells, allowing your Buffet serum to sink in super deep. Follow this with Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion, and finish with an optional layer of moisture via 100% Organic Cold-Pressed Rose Hip Seed Oilor 100% Plant- Derived Squalane. For an added boost, treat with AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solutiononce a week.

The Ordinary routine for...Pigmentation


Fading pigmentation is no easy feat, but with the gel-like Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA serum you're in with a fighting chance: the high concentration of active ingredients works to reduce melanin production. Follow this with - deep breath - Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate Solution 20% in Vitamin F, which is essentially a great Vitamin-C infused oil.


In the evening, slough away dull skin cells with Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution before applying your Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA once more. Finish with Azelaic Acid Suspension 10%for a brightening boost, or choose Granactive Retinoid 2% in Squalanefor increased cell renewal. Once a week, reach for the AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solutionas a potent brightening treatment.


Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%is your secret weapon when it comes to regulating sebum production. Slather it on, then seal with Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA.


Come evening, try the Salicylic Acid 2% Solutionto clear any breakouts, and top with Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%, to finish.

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