Five years ago, The Ordinary changed the skincare industry forever. Launched by Deciem, a “science-first” umbrella beauty company, the brand gave rise to a new era of clued-up skincare consumers who knew their hyaluronics from their glycolics. (Previously, beauty enthusiasts were just told what products did — i.e., moisturized dry skin or busted pimples — but not which ingredients were required or how they worked.) It did this by only offering simple vegan, cruelty-free products based around one or two key ingredients at incredibly low prices. Instead of paying out for expensive serums with filler ingredients and fancy packaging, customers could research the exact ingredient they needed and buy it straight from The Ordinary for, in many cases, less than $10.
While its journey behind the scenes has been less than straightforward, and in some cases heartbreaking, The Ordinary’s reign in the skincare industry is still going strong. If you’re wondering where to start with its products, here are our 7 top picks.
Caffeine Solution 5% + EGCG
This solution is like that double shot oat latte that motivates you to get out of bed on a rainy Monday, but for your eyes. Every morning or evening, massage a small amount into your eye contour, and it’ll help to reduce the appearance of dark circles and puffiness.
How does it work? Because it’s a vasoconstrictor (which sounds like a snake but isn’t), caffeine limits blood flow by restricting blood vessels. This means that when it’s applied under your eyes, dark coloring or redness is reduced. (Note: this will likely only happen if your dark under-eyes are linked to puffiness from a bad’s night’s sleep or a hangover. This solution won’t cure genetic dark circles.)
The highly concentrated caffeine in this solution works in tandem with Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), an anti-inflammatory plant compound commonly found in green tea.
While The Ordinary is known for its potent (yet effective) strong direct acids, this cleanser is one of its more gentle offerings. Clean and unclog your pores from dirt, makeup, and other impurities by massaging a few drops of the cleanser into your face when it’s dry. (First decant into your palms and rub together until it melts.) When you’re done, splash with cool water to remove. Your skin will feel hydrated and refreshed.
How does it work? The hydrating effect of this cleanser, which is suitable for all skin types, is due to its namesake ingredient: squalane. Commonly harvested from olive oil (although it’s naturally present in our skin too), it’s a natural emollient, which means it helps to seal moisture into your skin.
Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%
If you’re going through a bad breakout, you need this serum in your life. It’ll help to get rid of blemishes, minimize pores, and generally just clear up your skin. It’s really simple to use — just massage it into your face in the morning and in the evening. (If you’re using heavy creams and moisturizers, apply this serum first. The rule is: Always go from thinnest to thickest!)
How does it work? Niacinamide, a form of vitamin B3, is the star of the show. It helps to tackle your zits by reducing sebum production, the natural oil that gets stuck in your pores and leads to pimples and blackheads. The vitamin also helps to improve moisture retention, while zinc steps in to fix patches of damaged skin and improve the production of collagen (the protein that gives skin its firmness and elasticity).
Everyone loves getting compliments on their glowing skin. If yours is looking dull, give your face a helping hand with ‘B’ Oil. You only need to apply a few drops every day (preferably after water-based treatments) and you’ll be oozing radiance. It’s suitable for all skin types.
How does it work? The magic ingredient in ‘B’ Oil is purified microalgae. Found in lakes and ponds, as well as the sea, microalgae (which, quite simply, is microscopic algae) is chock full of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. It’s hydrating, moisturizing, and is effective at cleaning out your pores. ‘B’ Oil also contains a vitamin-packed blend of argan, Brazil nut, and rosehip oils.
Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5
While it was previously limited to the brains of cosmetic scientists and hidden in complicated ingredient lists, the words “hyaluronic acid” are now well-known by many beauty enthusiasts. Its main purpose is hydration: Simply rub a few drops into your face morning and night to boost moisture and give your face a healthier, more plumped-up look.
How does it work? It sounds like something out of a science lab, but our bodies actually naturally produce hyaluronic acid (about half of it is in our skin). Its main function is to retain water, keeping the tissue in our body well lubricated. But aging, as well as external factors like sun exposure and pollution, decreases our hyaluronic acid content. Adding more via our skincare routine can help to boost hydration and improve smoothness. This serum also contains vitamin B5, which helps to protect the skin’s barrier and promote healthy tissue growth.
Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA
This one is for those suffering from thirsty, dehydrated, dry skin. Massaging the non-greasy, creamy formula into your skin (after you’ve applied serums!) will help to boost hydration and moisture.
How does it work? The formula works by giving your skin an added boost of natural moisturizing factors. Basically, these are the compounds that our skin naturally produces to keep itself moisturized, protected, and hydrated. They include hyaluronic acid, amino acids, fatty acids, and ceramides.
Salicylic Acid 2% Masque
If you’re always getting blemishes, like zits or blackheads, this charcoal and clay-infused jelly mask could be your new go-to. Recommended for use once or twice a week at about 10 minutes per go, it’ll clear out your pores and leave your face feeling smooth and looking radiant. (If you fall in love with the mask, the brand is offering the formula in 100ml bottles from June 24 onwards!)
Some notes before you use: before you smother your face in this product, make sure you do a patch test to check for an allergic reaction (you should do this with all new products your skin comes into contact with). Make sure you read all instructions before you apply, and be aware that this mask may increase sun sensitivity for one week after use. That means SPF 50 is a must!
How does it work? This mask is effective at treating blemished skin because it contains salicylic acid (which is why a patch test is important). The acid helps to exfoliate away top layer-residing dead cells (hence the sun sensitivity risk), and at the same time, it reduces inflammation and redness.
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