Want to try out the cult beauty brand’s iconic line but don’t know where to start? Here’s our comprehensive guide to The Ordinary and their skincare solutions (that you don’t require a PhD to understand).
Skincare fanatics and industry insiders have been waxing lyrical about The Ordinary’s range of high-performance products since its ground-breaking launch in 2016\. But what if you don’t know your salicylic acid from your retinols? Do not fret, we are here to help! We’ve decoded the key ingredients and hero products so you know what they _actually_ do, how to use them and how they can be made up into a skincare routine to suit your specific skin type and concerns.
If you are a newbie to the brand, here’s a few things right off the bat: all their products are cruelty-free and do not contain parabens, mineral oil, sulphates, or any other ‘nasties’ that simply do not benefit the skin. They are also pleasingly purse-friendly, thanks to the brand’s choice to resist unnecessary packaging and glorified marketing jargon resulting in affordable price points across the range. They pride themselves on providing clinical formulations with integrity. So, let’s breakdown the basics…
Retinol is a derivative of vitamin A, which is a brilliant all-rounder to fight the signs of ageing. This clever ingredient boosts collagen production, tackles fine lines and pigmentation in the skin, and thanks to its ability to speed up cell turnover, it unclogs pores so benefits skin prone to spots or suffering with mild acne.
The Ordinary offers three strengths of retinol in a squalane base – [0.2%](https://www.fenwick.co.uk/beauty/skincare/treatments/specialist-treatments/retinol-0.2-in-squalane/2530001950373.html), [0.5%](https://www.fenwick.co.uk/beauty/skincare/treatments/specialist-treatments/retinol-0.5-in-squalane/2530001950359.html) and [1%](https://www.fenwick.co.uk/beauty/skincare/treatments/specialist-treatments/retinol-1-in-squalane/2530001950335.html) – that are to be used at night after cleansing and before your moisturiser or oil. Due to the high-performance nature of this ingredient, it’s best to start with the lowest percentage first and build up as your skin gets used to it. The [Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion](https://www.fenwick.co.uk/beauty/skincare/treatments/specialist-treatments/granactive-retinoid-2-emulsion/2530007595912.html) is a slightly richer, lotion-like consistency compared to the squalane and contains the brand’s developed retinoid complex that is more potent, and is slightly more expensive.
##### Direct Acids
Acids aren’t as scary as they sound, we promise! They can be broken down into two families, alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta-hydroxy acids (BHAs) that are renowned for their ability to slough away dead skin for brighter, more youthful results.
Some of the standout AHAs in the range can be found in their [Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution](https://www.fenwick.co.uk/beauty/skincare/cleansers-and-toners/toners/glycolic-acid-7-toning-solution/2530000982528.html) – a brightening and smoothing treatment to tackle dull skin – and [Lactic Acid in 5%](https://www.fenwick.co.uk/beauty/skincare/treatments/exfoliators/lactic-acid-5-ha/2530007590290.html) and [10%](https://www.fenwick.co.uk/beauty/skincare/treatments/exfoliators/lactic-acid-10-ha-2/2530007711589.html), which is combined with hyaluronic properties to ensure a mild exfoliation that won’t irritate the skin.
As BHAs tend to work deeper into the pores, this makes them ideal for spot-prone skin, and their [Salicylic Acid 2% Solution](https://www.fenwick.co.uk/beauty/skincare/treatments/specialist-treatments/salicylic-acid-2-solution/2530001950366.html) is the perfect response to angry blemishes – apply directly to the spot to reduce redness and the scarring that are often left behind.
If you need some serious exfoliation, look to their [AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution](https://www.fenwick.co.uk/beauty/skincare/treatments/peels/aha-30-bha-2-peeling-solution/2530007713279.html), which is a heavy-duty treatment that eats away at dead skin and reveals a bright complexion (albeit after a slight tingling, so don’t be alarmed). Use once or twice a week for no more than 10 minutes, and we wouldn’t advise using this if you have very sensitive skin or have been known to react to highly active products.
##### Vitamin C
Beloved in the beauty world, vitamin C is an ingredient that almost everyone would benefit from – it’s an antioxidant that brightens dull skin and boosts collagen production, but also protects it from ‘free radical damage’ (stress, UVAs, pollution etc. that can lead to wrinkles and pigmentation).
There are different types of vitamin C, all with different strengths and uses. The Ordinary’s [Vitamin C Suspension 30% in Silicone](https://www.fenwick.co.uk/beauty/skincare/serums-and-oils/oils-and-gels/vitamin-c-suspension-30/2530001877991.html) contains the most potent form, L-ascorbic acid, which is a silky serum that tingles on contact with the skin, whereas the [23% strength vitamin C with HA](https://www.fenwick.co.uk/beauty/skincare/serums-and-oils/oils-and-gels/vitamin-c-suspension-23-ha-spheres-2/2530000942836.html) contains hyaluronic acid, so is a great morning serum for those with dehydrated skin.
##### Moisturiser & Oils
Finally, the products you and I would consider as ‘the final step’ are their range of hydrating lotions and oils.
Their oils do have specific benefits for certain skin types or concerns, but are all fairly multi-tasking and would work for all skin types. For instance, their [Borage Seed Oil](https://www.fenwick.co.uk/beauty/skincare/serums-and-oils/oils-and-gels/100-organic-cold-pressed-borage-seed-oil/2530006403201.html) has anti-inflammatory and repairing benefits, whilst their [Moroccan Argan Oil](https://www.fenwick.co.uk/beauty/skincare/serums-and-oils/oils-and-gels/100-organic-moroccan-argan-oil/2530000942737.html) is particularly good for parched, winter skin that also nourishes dry, damaged hair.
Their take on a moisturiser, the [Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA](https://www.fenwick.co.uk/beauty/skincare/moisturisers/day-creams/natural-moisturizing-factors-ha/2530007711510.html), is made up of hydrators naturally found in the skin – amino and fatty acids, glycerine and hyaluronic acid etc – to deeply hydrate and protect the skin morning and night and works well with any acid or treatment from the range.