The Ordinary Review: Our guide to the best (and worst) products of 2021 (2023)

We review hundreds of products and brands hereThe Derm Review, and we have to say we haven't seen a brand revolutionize the industry quite like The Ordinary.

The Ordinary Review: Our guide to the best (and worst) products of 2021 (1)

Each of The Ordinary's skincare formulations is simple, contains one or two active ingredients, and is free from additives, fillers, fragrances and coloring. Even the product packaging is minimal with simple names that describe exactly what the product is without any extra fluff or misleading details.

And the best? This brand is very affordable. We're talking $7 retinol serums and $6 vitamin C serums. In fact, almost all of the brand's products cost less than $15. This skincare approach has enabled The Ordinary to become one of the most popular skincare brands out there today.

Although The Ordinary's skin care products are very popular, it is still necessary to evaluate the product formulations to determine what key ingredients are used and if there is any research to support the use of those ingredients. Below we will review The Ordinary's 10 best skin care products through a scientific lens so you can make an informed decision when purchasing these products.

What is in ordinary skin care

Here's a closer look at the active ingredients commonly used in The Ordinary skincare products. Vitamin C, retinol and peptides form the core ingredients of The Ordinary line. These ingredients should all be part of your skincare routine.

VITAMIN C:We've heard for years that vitamin C is the best anti-aging ingredient. Antioxidants can fight free radicals that cause aging and damage.

While THE ORDINARY Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2 isn't the best seller in The Ordinary, it is one of their better formulations.

But ourFavorite Vitamin C SerumIsCarrot & Whip The defense serum.It contains 3 different types of vitamin C that work togetherfights visible damage caused by free radicals and extends cell life. We recommend using it every morning.

RETINOL:Retinol is touted as the "gold standard" for skin care. It is found in No 7 Advanced Retinol 1.5% Complex Night Concentrate. We recommend searching for The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion.

Peptide:Collagen helps increase elasticity and strength. But the collagen molecule is too big to be absorbed into the skin. This is where peptides come into play. The buffet includescopper tripeptide-1, a synthetic peptide designed to stimulate collagen production.

We like themCarrot & Whip The Repairing Serum. It contains 7 plant-based peptides to counteract aging skin.

HYALURONIC ACID:Hyaluronic acid is like a big gulp of water, hydrating and plumping the skin. There's nothing wrong with using a hyaluronic acid moisturizer, but the best hyaluronic acid formulas come in the form of a concentrated, results-driven serum.

Carrot & Stick’s The Repair Serumalready mentioned also contains hyaluronic acid.

PROBIOTICS:that of the skinmicrobiomeis the ecosystem of billions of microbes that live on the surface of the skin. This ecosystem affects how our skin looks and feels. A balanced onemicrobiomeplays an important role in healthy skin barrier function and PH balance. It is the skin's first line of defense.

Harsh skin care products can affect the skinmicrobiome, resulting in a compromised skin barrier.

stay balancedmicrobiomemay:

– Help protect and strengthen our skin.

– Improve skin texture.

Lactococcus Ferment Lysate is a type of probiotic found in The Ordinary Buffet.

But we recommend this probioticprobiotic moisturizerspecially developed to protect and care for the skinmicrobiome.

What are the top 10 best ordinary skin care products?

The Ordinary offers results-driven products at affordable prices - what's not to love? Well, if you're a skincare newbie and don't know the difference between glycolic acid and hyaluronic acid, choosing a product can get overwhelming.

But don't worry, that's what we're here for! Below, we profile The Ordinary's top 10 skincare products, including key ingredients and how these ingredients can benefit your skin.

The usual peeling solution

You've probably seen this blood red scrub all over TikTok, but in case you haven't, The Ordinary Peeling Solution is by far the brand's most talked about product. It is a 10 minute exfoliating facial treatment that contains a total of 30% alpha hydroxy acids (glycolic, lactic, tartaric and citric) and 2% beta hydroxy acid (salicylic acid).

Both AHAs and BHAs exfoliate the skin, but they work in slightly different ways. By sloughing off dead skin cells from the surface, The Ordinary Peeling Solution can help improve skin texture imperfections, clogged pores, blemishes, dullness and fine lines.

And the shade of red on this bowl? That's due to the inclusion of a studied Tasmanian pepperberry derivative, which has been shown to help reduce irritation associated with acid use. But even with this soothing ingredient in the formula, the brand recommends that this product should only be used by experienced acid peel users.

The ordinary niacinamide + zinc

If you struggle with oily skin and breakouts, you probably know that most drugstore products "treat" these problems by over-drying the skin with ingredients like alcohol, astringents, and harsh surfactants. Luckily, The Ordinary has a better solution.

The Ordinary Niacinamide + Zinc is a powerful vitamin and mineral imperfection-fighting formula that combines 10% Niacinamide with 1% of the zinc salt of Pyrrolidone Carboxylic Acid (PCA). These ingredients work in a unique way to balance oil production while reducing the acne that is responsible for causing breakouts.

An added bonus: Niacinamide is known to reduce signs of aging, strengthen skin barrier and improve dullness. So not only is this serum designed to help reduce congestion and pimples, but it also aims to give your skin a healthy glow.

The usual hyaluronic acid + B5

The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid + B5 is a hydration support formula that combines 2% Hyaluronic Acid and Provitamin B5 (Panthenol). Although all skin types can benefit from this product, it is particularly good for those with oily skin.

If you have oily skin, you know that it can be difficult to find a moisturizer that doesn't turn your face into a greasy mess. That's because most moisturizers contain emollients that sit on the skin to lock in moisture.

There is nothing wrong with plasticizers; In fact, they are very helpful for people with normal to dry skin. But those with oily skin may find that emollients make their skin look oily. If this sounds like you, we think you would benefit from hydration support formulas like The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid + B5.

In addition, The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid + B5 not only supports skin moisture, but can also reduce signs of skin aging such as fine lines and wrinkles. That's because the formula includes three forms of hyaluronic acid with different molecular weights, plus a hyaluronic acid cross-polymer to provide multi-deep hydration and visible plumping of lines and wrinkles—without stripping water from the skin just to temporarily improve surface hydration.

The ordinary retinol 0.5 in squalane

If you're trying to prevent or reduce signs of aging then you've probably heard it's a good idea to add oneRetinol-Seruminto your nightly routine. Retinol is clinically proven to minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, improve uneven skin tone, restore skin firmness and reduce the appearance of enlarged pores.

The Ordinary Retinol 0.5 in Squalane is a highly stable, anhydrous solution of 0.5% pure retinol in a squalane base. This is a moderate strength formula. So if you haven't used retinol in the past, the brand strongly recommends that you start your retinol cycle with The Ordinary Retinol 0.2% in Squalane, which is the lowest strength the brand offers.

The reason you should start low on retinol is the potential for skin dryness, peeling, and irritation. These side effects are due to the way retinol works; It increases cell turnover, which can make your skin look worse before it starts looking better. If you survive this first phase, known as "retinization," you'll reap the benefits of smoother, brighter, and more youthful-looking skin.

The ordinary azelaic acid suspension

This light cream-gel contains 10% azelaic acid, which is produced by yeast, which is part of the normal skin flora. While azelaic acid doesn't grab as much attention as hyaluronic acid or glycolic acid, we think it should!

Because azelaic acid is a true multitasker. Research shows that azelaic acid can help reduce acne, improve rosacea, fade hyperpigmentation, lighten skin tone, and more. While all skin types can benefit from The Ordinary Azelaic Acid Suspension, it is best suited for those with acne-prone skin and/or dull skin.

The usual buffet

Key ingredients – or “technologies” as the brand calls them – in The Ordinary Buffet include peptide complexes like Matrixyl 3000, Matrixyl synthe'6, SYN-AKE and Argirelox, which target multiple signs of aging at once. All of these technologies are formulated on a base of 11 skin-friendly amino acids and multiple hyaluronic acid complexes.

One of our writers who tested The Ordinary Buffet reports that the light, clear liquid absorbs very quickly into the skin, providing instant hydration and a plumping effect. Regarding the results, she mentioned that while this peptide serum didn't produce any dramatic changes, it did help reduce the appearance of fine lines, especially crow's feet. Not bad for a serum that costs under $15, right?

The ordinary lactic acid + HA

This highly effective superficial exfoliating formula contains 10% Lactic Acid, an AHA that exfoliates skin to improve dullness and texture imperfections. Like The Ordinary Peeling Solution, this formula contains the studied Tasmanian Pepperberry derivative to reduce irritation associated with the use of acids. This product is a good option if you have never used acids to exfoliate your skin or if you have sensitive skin, as lactic acid is the gentlest of all the AHAs.

The ordinary salicylic acid mask

As the name suggests, salicylic acid is the key ingredient in this 10-minute rinse-off mask. It is present at a 2% strength, which is the highest allowable concentration in an OTC product.

The formula also contains kaolin clay and powdered charcoal, known for their deep-cleansing abilities due to their porosity and large surface area available for adsorption. They help remove facial impurities that would otherwise remain on the skin's surface and clog pores.

You can use The Ordinary Salicylic Acid Masque once or twice a week when you want to improve a dull complexion, clogged pores, blemishes and/or textural imperfections.

The usual toning solution with glycolic acid

For those new to acid peels, The Ordinary Glycolic Acid Toning Solution is a good place to start. This toner provides mild exfoliation thanks to 7% Glycolic Acid combined with Tasmanian Pepperberry Derivative to reduce irritation associated with the use of acids. Other soothing ingredients include rose petal water, cornflower water, aloe vera leaf water, glycerin, ginseng root extract, and amino acids.

One of our writers tried The Ordinary Glycolic Acid Toning Solution and after a few weeks of use reported that it helped improve skin's brightness and clarity while reducing blackheads and bumps.

The ordinary caffeine solution

This lightweight formula contains a high concentration of 5% caffeine combined with highly purified epigallocatechin gallatyl glucoside (EGCG) from green tea leaves.

Caffeine is an antioxidant and a stimulant that causes blood vessels to constrict, which tightens and firms the skin as excess fluids are removed, while reducing the amount of blood that pools under the eyes (a major factor contributing to contributes to dark circles). . EGCG is a type of polyphenol antioxidant that targets free radicals, particularly those caused by UV-induced oxidative damage.

The combination of these powerful antioxidants makes The Ordinary Caffeine Solution a great option for those looking to reduce puffiness and dark circles.

What is the best The Ordinary Serum?

The Ordinary serum collection is quite extensive, so you might be wondering which one is the best. While the serum you choose will depend on your skin concerns, we think The Ordinary Buffet is one of the brand's best serums. With a combination of peptides, probiotics, amino acids, and multiple hyaluronic acid complexes, The Ordinary Buffet aims to help reduce multiple signs of aging while improving your skin's hydration.

What is the best ordinary moisturizer?

While The Ordinary serum collection includes a variety of products, the brand only has one moisturizer: The Ordinary Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA.

In case you don't know, Natural Moisturizing Factors (NMF) are elements that protect and moisturize the outer layer of skin. The Ordinary Moisturizer replenishes the NMF with 11 amino acids, phospholipids, alpha/beta/gamma fatty acids, triglycerides, sterols and sterol esters, glycerin, ceramide precursors, urea, saccharides, sodium PCA and hyaluronic acid.

One of our writers who tested The Ordinary Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA said, "This is my new daily moisturizer. Its light, creamy texture absorbs so quickly into my skin, leaving it hydrated without feeling greasy.”

What is the best ordinary toner?

The only toner offered by the brand is The Ordinary Glycolic Acid Toning Solution.

What is the best normal skin care routine?

If you're interested in creating a skincare routine using The Ordinary's products, the brand offers a short 4-minute questionnaire on their website that asks about your skin concerns and product preferences. After entering your information, The Ordinary will give you The Ordinary's skincare routine to follow.

So is there one The Ordinary skincare routine that's better than the next? We don't think. Everyone is unique, and what works for one person may not work for another.

It may take some trial and error to create The Ordinary's perfect skincare routine for you. Or maybe those products don't work well with your skin, and that's okay, there are plenty of other skincare brands to consider (we'll give you a few recommendations below).

How to use the ordinary peeling solution?

Although The Ordinary Peeling Solution is very popular, it is still important to educate yourself about its use as it is such a powerful solution. Remember, The Ordinary Peeling Solution is only recommended for people experienced in acid peeling. If this is you, read on to learn how to use The Ordinary Peeling Solution.

Clean your face and wait for the skin to dry completely - do not apply to wet skin! Apply the solution evenly to the face and neck with your fingertips, avoiding the eye area. (Tip: You can apply petroleum jelly to the delicate skin around your eyes if you really want to keep the solution from getting near your eyes).

Do not leave The Ordinary Peeling Solution on for more than 10 minutes. Rinse thoroughly with lukewarm water. It is recommended to only use this solution once or twice a week.

Finally, the acids in The Ordinary Peeling Solution can increase your skin's sensitivity to the sun and particularly the possibility of sunburn. Use sunscreen, wear protective clothing, and limit sun exposure while using this product and for a week afterwards.

What are the main ingredients in common skin care products?

After reading about The Ordinary's best-selling skincare products, you might be wondering what exactly ingredients like peptides, retinol, squalane, and salicylic acid can do for your skin. Below is a brief description of the key ingredients used in The Ordinary's best-selling products.

Ordinary retinol

The Ordinary Retinol products are ideal for those with signs of aging and/or acne prone skin. According to a publication in the journal Clinical Interventions in Aging, retinol can minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, improve uneven skin tone, restore skin firmness, and shrink the appearance of enlarged pores.

Once applied, retinol is converted into retinoic acid, which works deep within the skin where it promotes collagen synthesis, increases elasticity and repairs connective tissue. It also increases cell turnover, which helps prevent clogged pores and promotes smoother, healthier skin.

The ordinary salicylic acid

The Ordinary Salicylic Acid Masque and Ordinary Peeling Solution use salicylic acid, a type of beta-hydroxy acid (BHA), to soften and dissolve keratin. Keratin is a protein found in the skin that acts as a "glue" to hold cells together. This allows salicylic acid to exfoliate the skin and slough off dead skin cells, promoting a healthier, more even-toned complexion.

Salicylic acid also has the ability to penetrate deep into the pores, where it helps unclog and allow oil to flow out more freely. Therefore, salicylic acid is known to break down blackheads and blackheads.

The ordinary hyaluronic acid

Hyaluronic acid is a glycosaminoglycan (GAG), a long polysaccharide (sugar molecule) composed of disaccharides called amino sugars and uronic acid, which occurs naturally in the dermis. GAGs are negatively charged and therefore tend to attract positively charged sodium and potassium ions. This in turn causes the GAGs to absorb and hold a large amount of water.

In fact, hyaluronic acid is able to hold more water than any other natural substance - up to 1,000 times its weight in water! Therefore, using products with hyaluronic acid helps to improve skin hydration and reduce signs of aging.

The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid + B5 is a product that contains hyaluronic acid as a key ingredient, but the brand uses this hydrating ingredient in many of The Ordinary's skincare products.

The ordinary glycolic acid

Glycolic acid is a type of alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) that exfoliates skin by targeting corneocytes (dead skin cells that make up the stratum corneum) in a process called corneocyte desquamation. By improving their breakdown and increasing the separation of skin cells, the rate of cell turnover is increased, resulting in smoother, brighter skin and a more even complexion.

You will find that Glycolic Acid is The Ordinary Exfoliating Solution and The Ordinary Glycolic Toning Solution. According to a publication in Molecules magazine, AHAs can be used to easily exfoliate all skin types with minimal risk.

The ordinary lactic acid

Another AHA that the brand uses frequently is lactic acid, which you can find in The Ordinary Peeling Solution and The Ordinary Lactic Acid + HA.

Lactic acid offers many of the same benefits as glycolic acid, but lactic acid has a larger molecular size than glycolic acid. This means that lactic acid does not penetrate the skin as deeply as glycolic acid, making it a gentler AHA.

Lactic acid also confers unique benefits that most other AHAs cannot provide, such as: B. increasing hydration, stimulating collagen synthesis, improving skin discoloration and much more.

The common azelaic acid

Azelaic acid is a unique ingredient as it has numerous pharmacological uses in dermatology. It is known to help with common skin conditions like acne, rosacea, and hyperpigmentation.

Azelaic acid helps with acne by normalizing the shedding of dead skin cells and preventing the growth of acne bacteria. According to a publication in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, it has an antimicrobial effect on aerobic and anaerobic (Propionibacterium acnes) microorganisms both in vitro and in vivo.

Azelaic acid is an antioxidant and may help fade hyperpigmentation and improve skin brightness as azelaic acid acts as a tyrosinase inhibitor.

Azelaic Acid Ordinary Suspension can benefit all skin types, but is particularly good for those with acne, hyperpigmentation, rosacea, and/or dull skin.

The ordinary squalane

Many of The Ordinary's skin care products contain squalane because it is a very effective emollient. Squalane is a saturated and stable hydrocarbon that mimics squalene (note the e), a natural compound in your skin that plays an important role in lubrication and protection. Squalane helps replenish and strengthen the skin's lipid barrier.

The Ordinary Squalane is a 100% pure squalane facial oil, but you can also find this ingredient in several other products such as The Ordinary Squalane Cleanser and The Ordinary Retinol products.

The ordinary niacinamide

The Ordinary Niacinamide + Zinc is a great option for all skin types due to its high concentration of niacinamide, the amide form of vitamin B3 (niacin), which provides the skin with many benefits. For example, a publication in the Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology states that niacinamide can repair the skin barrier and improve skin hydration, as well as reduce inflammation, blotchyness, hyperpigmentation, acne and wrinkling.

You should consider The Ordinary Niacinamide + Zinc if you have acne-prone skin, as niacinamide has antimicrobial and sebostatic effects, meaning it can help protect against bacteria that cause acne while also helping to reduce oil production to reduce.

Two double-blind studies published in the International Journal of Dermatology (one in 1995, the other in 2013) found that a topical preparation containing 4% niacinamide treated moderate acne as well as 1% clindamycin (a topical antibiotic prescribed for acne). applied twice a day for eight weeks. And a study published in the Journal of Cosmetic and Laser Therapy found that a 2% topical niacinamide formulation could reduce oil production.

The usual reviews

The usual reviews on the brand's website are generally very positive. We've found that many of The Ordinary's reviews focus on the brand's effective formulations and affordability. It is not uncommon for customers to compare The Ordinary skincare products to some of the most well-known and respected skincare brands as comparable and cheaper.

Other reviews from The Ordinary appreciate the detail the brand goes into explaining their products, ingredients and the science behind why they work well for skin. This helps customers feel informed about their skincare purchases and demonstrates The Ordinary's mission to provide clinical skincare solutions with integrity.

Negative The Ordinary reviews come mostly from customers who have experienced reactions such as skin irritation and breakouts to these products. To prevent this, the brand recommends following the Ordinary Patch Test Guide. Patch testing is a simple way to predict whether you will have an initial negative reaction to a new product. It is recommended to do a patch test before incorporating any new product into your routine.

Our verdict

Overall, we think The Ordinary's products are well formulated with quality, evidence-based ingredients. And it's a plus that the products are inexpensive, which makes this brand accessible to many consumers.


  • Products contain evidence-based ingredients
  • Products are fragrance free
  • The brand is very transparent and they also take the time to educate consumers on how the ingredients in their formulations work
  • The usual reviews are very positive
  • Affordable cost (all products under $15)


  • Due to the nature of some The Ordinary skincare products (e.g. acid peels, retinol products), reactions such as irritation and sensitivity are possible. However, these reactions can be prevented by performing a patch test prior to use.

What are some alternatives to ordinary skin care?

When it comes to finding effective and safe skin care, you don't have to compromise.

If you're looking for effective skin care products that skip harmful toxins, we recommend a brandCarrot & Whip.

Carrot & Stick strives to develop plant-derived formulas that deliver exceptional results without the reliance on toxic chemicals or traditional preservatives.

Taking a strict love approach to skincare, Carrot & Stick perfectly balances the gentle care of plants with innovative science.


Where are The Ordinary skin care products sold?

The Ordinary's skincare products are sold on the brand's website as well as through third-party retailers such as Amazon, Ulta, and Sephora. The brand has a store locator and authorized retailer list on its website.

What is the normal return policy?

All Deciem brands, including The Ordinary, offer a 365-day full refund policy.

Is ordinary cruelty free?

The Ordinary is cruelty-free. DECIEM and The Ordinary do not test on animals and do not encourage others to do so. For this reason, none of their brands or products are sold in stores or conventional retailers in mainland China, as such sales require animal testing for registration purposes.

Is the ordinary vegan?

The Ordinary is a 100% vegan brand.

J Am Acad Dermatol 1987 Dec;17(6):1033-41.

molecules. April 2018; 23(4):863.
J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. Februar 2010; 3(2): 22–41
Int J Dermatol 1995 Jun;34(6):434-7.
Int J Dermatol 2013 Aug;52(8):999-1004.
Clin Interv Aging. 2006 Dez; 1(4): 327–348.
J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. Januar 2009; 2(1): 26–30.

  • Written byDr. Kaitlyn Rose
  • Fact Checked byElle MacLeman


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