The Ordinary Skincare – What To Buy And How To Use It

Your eyes do not deceive you. After two months of wanging on about it on Instagram, Twitter, and even this here blog, IT’S FINALLY HERE. I am finally writing about The Ordinary skincare! And it will be LONG. Soz. There’s a TL;DR version at the end if you want.

For those not in the know, The Ordinary is a brand of skincare products from the rather incredible DECIEM, the creators of Hylamide, amongst others. It was released in 2016 (I think, I lose track of time), and since then I’ve constantly hovered on the brink of pushing that Buy button. I’m not quite sure why it took me so long. For a start, the products can be incredibly confusing for people who aren’t total skincare geeks. Heck, they can be confusing for people who love their skincare! The products don’t have flowery, mystical names or sumptuous packaging. They’re all named for what they are – and that means Sciencey Stuff. And the packaging? It’s incredibly plain, incredibly clinical. I love it, probably precisely for that reason.

Curious about The Ordinary skincare? Here is a write-up of some of their best products.

Anyway, the main thing you need to know about The Ordinary skincare is that, because of the above, it is CHEAP. And I’m talking Chips Cheap. I’m talking “What But Those Ingredients Are In That Mega Luxury Brand That Charges £85 For A Tiny Bottle How Is This Real Life” Cheap. It is real life. And it is incredible. Turns out that when you strip away the fancy packaging and branding and the extraneous ingredients, whaddya know? Simple, effective ingredients alone in a simple bottle are very affordable.

I (finally) placed my The Ordinary skincare order in June, just prior to starting my new job. That means I’ve been using these products extensively for over two months now. And I mean extensively. When the box arrived, crammed full of goodies, I put aside all my usual skincare products. This routine I wrote about? Haven’t used it since June. Since June, I have solely used The Ordinary skincare products, plus a few different cleansers and moisturisers (mainly my Liz Earle and Pai cleansers and Body Shop moisturisers/oils). Oh, and I’ve used this Peachy Fox eye cream* too, because…well, I’ll get to that in a minute.

Anyway, the point is: I really mean everything I say here. Not that I ever don’t, but this is the longest testing period I’ve performed with skincare before writing about it. At the point of starting using The Ordinary skincare my skin was a mess. It was congested, and dull, and incredibly dehydrated. Something was hugely amiss in my skincare world, and boy did I need to mix things up. So, let’s see how that went, huh?



I had never used any form of retinol or retinoid prior to The Ordinary skincare. I knew it was something I should be doing – and if you’ve never really heard of it then there’s a decent crash course here. Basically, retinoids are vitamin A. Your skin converts them to retinoic acid, which speeds up cell turnover,  encourages collagen production, and increases hydration. Retinoids are in a huge number of anti-ageing products for a good reason – they can deliver on the whole “appearance of anti-ageing” thing.

I’m familiar with acids, as you may remember from my skincare routine post. Exfoliating and hydrating acids have been the backbone of my skincare routine for a good few years now.

My purchases from The Ordinary is this category were: Retinol 1% (£5.80), Advanced Retinoid 2% (£8.00), AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution (£6.30), Lactic Acid 5% + HA 2% (£5.50), and Azelaic Acid Suspension 10% (£5.50).

Curious about The Ordinary skincare? Here is a write-up of some of their best products, including retinoids and acids.



Boom boom diddi-boom I’M OBSESSED WITH THE 2% RETINOID AND WANT TO MARRY IT. I started off my retinoid experience with this pleasing formula and I’m so glad that I did. Retinols and retinoids can cause irritation to skin, and you unfortunately just have to Keep Going to get to the benefits. There are no such irritations with this formula. Just clear, glowy, plump skin. I’ll write up my actual routine below, so keep on scrolling if you want to see how I’ve been using this stuff. (Please note that since I’ve purchased it, The Ordinary has re-named this product Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion to fit in with its extended line. It’s exactly the same stuff though, so if you fancy giving it a whirl don’t panic at the different name.)

The Lactic Acid 5% is similarly WUNDERBAR. Like I said, I’ve used a ton of exfoliating acids over the years and none have produced such lovely results as this formula. It does smell a little like cat piss, so that’s the downside, but the upside? Gentle exfoliation that really works.



The Azelaic Acid is a dream to apply. In theory it’s supposed to help brighten skin tone and even out skin texture. In reality, I can’t say that it doesn’t, because both of those things have improved over the past two months. It’s also beautiful on the skin, creating a smoothed and primed appearance. However, once you stick a moisturiser on top that kind of disappears, so… Anyway, it ran out fairly quickly and I haven’t bothered to repurchase (yet), but it’s worth a go.

The Retinol 1% is the daddy of The Ordinary’s retinoids. I believe however that they’ve now switched to Retinol 1% in Squalane to make it silicone-free, which is probably a good idea because this stuff is weird. The texture is almost like Vaseline, but it has to be to keep the retinol stable. And it does work, but holy crap. If you’re a retinol virgin, work your way up to this. I’ve been using it once every two weeks, because it is STRONG. And I mean STRONG. Each time I use it my skin peels like a mofo for a good few days afterwards. It’s obviously doing some good, because my general skin health is through the ceiling, but still. Start off with the 2% Retinoid.



I honestly don’t get the point of the Peeling Solution. It’s hyped up as this super strong acidic product that’s quite tingly and mega exfoliating. It’s supposed to be used as a mask that you leave on for no longer than 10 minutes, and let me say straight up: It Looks Weird. You will  look like you’re getting a vampire facial. And, for me, it just did nothing. No difference whatsoever. I’ll keep giving it a go every now and then, but for now I’m definitely a bit Meh.



I’ve lumped the rest of my initial purchase into this one group – there’s an eye solution, some vitamin C, a peptide, and two moisturisers. I was a bit of a stranger to vitamin C initially, but the rest I’m fairly familiar with.

My purchases from The Ordinary in this category were: Caffeine Solution 5% + EGCG (£5.80), Buffet (£12.70), Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate Solution 20% in Vitamin F (LOL told you the names were complex – VITAMIN C) (£14.90), 100% Organic Cold-Pressed Rose Hip Seed Oil (£9.00), and Natural Moisturising Factors + HA (£6.80).

Curious about The Ordinary skincare? Here is a write-up of some of their best products, including vitamin C, peptides, and moisturisers.



Let me start with the Rose Hip Seed Oil, because this stuff is fabulous. BUT, not for your face. I mean, it might be good for your face. For me, I find it weirdly grainy (even though it isn’t) and far too heavy for my facial skin. I’m also not a fan of the scent (which is completely natural), as I enjoy (and can tolerate) fragranced oils. HOWEVER, for non-facial skin this stuff is the BALLS. My son has fairly sore and extensive eczema patches on the backs of his knees, and none of the usual eczema creams have helped. This stuff though? This stuff has cleared it right up. Cleared. Up. Eczema. He now actively requests “THE OIL MUMMY” whenever it flares up. It calms the itching, moisturises the dryness, and disappears the red soreness after a few days of intensive application. I’m going to repurchase this stuff forever because, woah.

The Buffet is a strange concept of a product. It’s apparently called Buffet as some sort of fun-poking at other brands who use the name for their expensive products full of the same ingredients. Ha. Anyway, it’s a fragrance-free clear solution containing all sorts of peptides, amino acids, and hyaluronic acids. In a nutshell, it fights signs of ageing and assists with hydration. And you know what? I can’t tell you that it doesn’t, because my skin is SO much happier right now. You only need a few drops, and it’s an incredibly-priced alternative to much more expensive, similar products.



The Natural Moisturising Factors, however, is very much facial moisturiser. It’s light, and non-greasy, and perfectly decent. I like using it of an evening instead of an oil, and on days where I apply an extra SPF on top. It’s a brilliant quality moisturiser for the price, but hasn’t blown me away in long-term use.

Now, no way am I going to type that long ass name out again, so Vitamin C it is. This is basically a high-strength vitamin C plus fatty acids and natural skin conditioners. It’s meant to increase brightness, provide anti-oxidants to the skin, and decrease irritation. It’s a healer, and if you’re going to insert a vitamin C into your skincare routine (and many people argue that you should), you might as well try this one. I mix a few drops with serum or a moisturiser and whack it on. However, when I stopped using it for a couple of weeks there was literally no difference in my skin, so…



I’m perpetually on the search for a decent eye cream or witchcraft that can help with my dehydrated, puffy, WRINKLY under-eyes. I had such high hopes for this stuff, but sadly they were unfulfilled and the bottle is now gathering dust on my shelf. I mean, it’s a nicely cooling and soothing formula that probably would make a difference to someone else. It definitely de-puffs. It does nothing for the rest of my issues though, and over time I’ve found that it tends to pill up under makeup. Not good.


And that’s all of the products! I’ll provide a quick rundown of how I use them in a daily setting below.

Curious about The Ordinary skincare? Here is a write-up of some of their best products.



Cleanse with one of my own cleansers. Something milky and gentle, normally. Tone (sometimes) with something cool and hydrating. Use an eye cream – normally this Peachy Fox one now that I’ve given up on the Caffeine Solution. Apply 3-4 drops of Buffet over the whole face. Smooth Azelaic Acid over face. Apply a moisturiser and SPF. Let sink in, apply makeup, GO GO GO. Side Note: Always, ALWAYS use an SPF in the morning after using a retinoid or the lactic acid. ALWAYS.




Double cleanse with oil/balm followed by a cream. Let skin dry, then apply 2% Retinoid all over. Leave for 10 minutes. Apply Buffet, then an oil. Done.


Double cleanse with oil/balm followed by a cream. Let skin dry, then apply Lactic Acid all over. Tone (sometimes) with something hydrating. Use an eye cream. Apply Buffet. Mix 2 drops of the Vitamin C in with a moisturiser or oil and massage all over face. Done.

Then I alternate these two routines nightly. One night retinoid, one night acid.


I can’t even begin to fully explain just how much good The Ordinary skincare has done for my skin. It’ll be far too caps-locky. But, stripping my skincare back to these simple, effective products has done my face the WORLD of good. My skin is mega hydrated, and smooth, and (apart from ovulation week) clear. It looks slightly glowy, and even, and I’ve started needing less and less makeup. I’m in love with The Ordinary skincare.

Aaaaand yeah, I placed a new order the other day. And I’d really love to see them bring out some form of cleanser. I’ll be back on this topic…



TOO LONG DIDN’T READ VERSION: These are fab – Advanced Retinoid 2%, Lactic Acid 5% + HA 2%, Buffet, 100% Organic Cold-Pressed Rose Hip Seed Oil. Buy them immediately. These are OK – Azelaic Acid Suspension 10%, Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate Solution 20% in Vitamin F, Natural Moisturising Factors + HA. Can’t hurt to give them a whirl. These are pants – AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution, Caffeine Solution 5% + EGCG. But you never know. Your skin might love them.

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