The Ordinary skincare initial review

The Ordinary skincare review first impressions early preliminary results Deciem

I finally got around to buying some skincare products from The Ordinary. Yes, on paper this brand is technically right up my street because it has:

A) high concentrations of active ingredients

B) ingredients that are, for the best part, well known for being likely to have a positive effect (usually backed up with large studies and in many case clinical trials)

C) relatively simple formulations (less likely to cause allergic reactions, simply because there are fewer ingredients)

D) packaging that’s likely to keep the ingredients stable and bacteria-free (no jars, etc)

E) very, very CHEAP (let’s face it, some skincare prices are ridiculous or frankly outrageous for what you actually get)

F) no overblown claims of ‘miracle’ products

It’s kind of generic-priced skincare, like how cheap it is to buy own brand paracetamol compared with a fancy big name brand. Paracetamol is paracetamol, retinol is retinol. You get the picture.

Please note though, I only like cheap if it actually works. If it doesn’t work then it’s a waste of your time and your hard-earned cash.

I will pay extra for something that works well if there’s nothing similar available with a lower price tag. I care not a jot for trendy brands or fancy packaging – I don’t proudly keep my skincare on the bathroom windowsill anyway (most things like serums and moisturisers belong in a cool, dark cupboard or drawer in a different room so the ingredients don’t degrade).


Why I’m so careful about skincare products

Okay, so what took me so long to get around to buying some? Honestly, it was a combination of two things. Firstly, I wanted to use some other products up before starting, because they worked and because I don’t like waste. Secondly, I have incredibly reactive skin and I don’t like to be an early adopter when it comes to new facial skincare products.

A quick note about my skin. I’ve had a condition called dermographism since my teens, which is a form of urticaria. The skin on my face and body has a very exaggerated response to even the lightest touch or pressure, leading to redness, flares and wheals. My face and neck are usually the worst affected so I treat them very gently, avoiding scrubs, drying forms of alcohol, and fragrance.

I’m also atopic, so I get various classic allergic reactions including contact dermatitis and delayed sensitivity reactions. Some of these can happen as much as a month after skin contact, so as you can imagine I check ingredients lists very carefully indeed and only make one product change at a time, waiting a month or more before judging the results (stopping sooner if there’s an obvious flare-up). Just to top it all off, I have extreme combination skin as well. Most soothing, emollient preparations break me out like crazy, and my t-zone becomes uncontrollably oily at times, so most products designed for sensitive skin don’t work for me and many preparations for oily skin end up making me more oily.

It’s a condition, I manage it. If you’ve met me in real life, chances are I won’t have been a blotchy, scaly, spotty mess for the most part. That’s because I’ve found a reasonable routine for my skin through very careful trial and error, although there’s still room for improvement.

I often wish I could add one or two more proven ingredients into my routine here and there without throwing everything including the kitchen sink into it, and that’s why The Ordinary skincare appealed to me. I decided to try three of their products on separate parts of my face and body for a month, and to patch test them very, very carefully – using my own untreated skin as a control.

The problem I’ve had with all the other reviews I’ve read is that people who’ve tried The Ordinary products have put them all over their faces. If they’ve reported a good reaction it might be in spite of the product (for example the product is ineffective but something else in their routine has worked, or they are influenced by advertising), and if they have a negative reaction it might also be nothing to do with the product (for example a hormonal breakout, or dry skin that was about to surface anyway). Many reviews have only been carried out for a week, and some people have then said it didn’t work – but many highly effective skincare ingredients affect the skin slowly and will often take between one to three months of diligent usage to give you a result.

So there you have it, I had to do my own patch tests. Here we go. This is a preliminary review after a few days of use, and I’ll do a proper roundup after a whole month of diligent applications. [Edited to add: the one month roundup is here]


The Ordinary skincare initial review

The three products I chose from The Ordinary were:

  • The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%, ‘High-Strength Vitamin and Mineral Blemish Formula’ – £5.00
  • The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5, ‘A Hydration Support Formula’ – £5.90
  • The Ordinary 100% Organic Cold-Pressed Rose Hip Seed Oil, ‘Daily Support Formula for All Skin Types’ – £9.00 for 30ml

It was *very* tempting to buy up the whole shop because the prices are so amazingly low, but I knew I would probably do myself a mischief if I started adding too many new things into my routine all at once.


The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% initial review

Studies suggest that both niacinamide and zinc (the relatively gentle zinc PCA form is used in this preparation) help to support breakout-prone skin, although most studies used 5% solutions of niacinamide. The two main ingredients also have various anti-ageing properties, including refining the size of pores and reducing the action of harmful enzymes.

It’s contained in clean, streamlined packaging with a large dropper bottle, and it’s a water-based serum. The serum is slightly gloopy and it dries fairly quickly so I had to work fairly fast to create a thin, even layer of product. You don’t want to use too much of it in one go, as it could pill up if/when you want to apply other skincare or makeup over the top.

I only applied this to the right hand side of my face, avoiding neck, lips and eye area. I used the smallest amount I could comfortably manage without dragging on my skin, and applied it twice a day (under SPF moisturiser in the morning, and moisturising gel in the evening).

One thing to look out for with niacinamide is a flushing or burning sensation in your skin when you apply it. A percentage of the population are unable to tolerate the ingredient and it’s the classic sign of intolerance to it, so look out for that if you’re trying niacinamide for the first time. Fortunately I was okay, and continued using it.

During the second day I started to get a bit of dryness on the lower half of my face, but it was on both sides of the face so the untreated area was dry too – it wasn’t caused by the niacinamide. I put on some light moisturiser and it was much better by the next day. If I hadn’t patch tested, I would probably – incorrectly – have blamed the product.

Nope, so far, so good. As it can help remodel the pores, I was expecting to wait for at least a month before any visible changes happened because that’s not a surface-only process and your skin takes a few weeks to turn over its cells.

Then I woke up on day six and touched both sides of my forehead. The untreated left side was very oily, and the treated right side now felt normal-to-oily. I looked in the mirror and there was a definite visible difference. It isn’t parched dry at all, just a bit better behaved. The right side of my nose is slightly improved too, and my chin appears unchanged but it’s also the least problematic part of my T-zone.

Well, I certainly wasn’t expecting that after six days.

Now, I’m not suggesting that it’s a miracle potion and you should all rush out and buy some, but it’s a promising start so far, isn’t it? We’re all different, and your mileage may vary with products that initially appear to be working for me.

The best thing for me to do right now is hold back a bit and reserve further judgement until the skin’s had time to turn over – I’ll come back after the full month is up and write a proper review, looking at a range of skin health indicators.


The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 preliminary review

This is another water-based, fairly thin serum containing different weights of hyaluronic acid, plus B5, both of which are able to attract water to the skin to help with hydration. Some of the hyaluronic acid molecules may also be able to get deeper into the skin and create a longer-term skin-restoring and antioxidant effect, theoretically speaking.

I bought this mainly to use as a simple, non-greasy hydrating moisturiser. While my skin is combination, it does get dehydrated quite easily, so this was a possible way to hydrate without clogging pores and causing other irritations.

The test areas were the left side of the neck, and the left under-eye area. The corresponding skin on the opposite side is untreated with this serum, or any other new products.

It’s a product that applies easily and smoothly, and I found it sinks in quickly without stinging. There’s an immediate hydrating effect which I found soothing, and a little cosmetic skin plumping too which helps to reduce fine lines.

I thought the effect was going to be confined the surface of the skin, and that it would go away when I washed the product off. Then, on day five of twice-daily testing, I noticed that the skin on my neck was a bit sensitive and rash-y – but only on the untreated side. I don’t want to speak too soon, but it this hyaluronic acid serum might be helping my reactive skin to calm down. The treated under-eye area also seems a bit less puffy in the mornings when I wake up.

There seems to be much more of a soothing effect than I was expecting. I’ll do a proper report at the end of the month in case there’s a deeper or more cumulative effect.

Mind you, for a £5.90 product I’m more than happy so far, even if there are no further changes.


The Ordinary 100% Organic Cold-Pressed Rose Hip Seed Oil early review

This is a pure rosehip oil that’s made by cold pressing, which allegedly means it has more vitamins etc in it. It sells for £9.00 for a 30ml bottle, and is identical to designer-y cult products that go for, say £20.00 for a 20ml bottle, or £15.00 for a 23ml bottle.

It’s a light moisturising oil, so I bought it for occasional patches of dry skin. It’s allegedly good for spot-prone skin as well as drier skin types, but not everyone gets on with it so this was more of an experiment and a bit of a risk. I figured that if it clogs my facial pores it can still be used on the body, so it won’t go to waste as long as it doesn’t cause sensitivity.

I’m currently testing this on the back of my left hand and around the cuticles, just to see whether it causes a bad reaction. It’s easy enough to use, very light and it hasn’t caused any problems so far.

It takes a couple of minutes to sink in, and has a light, fruity natural smell to it. It’s agreeable enough, but it’s too soon to tell whether it’s having any obvious effect yet. At some point in the next few weeks I’m going to be a bit braver and try patch testing on my face with it, but I won’t do that until the month is up with the other new products.

So that’s it for the initial report – come back in a few weeks for the full review.

[EDITED TO ADD: Full review here]


You can find out more and buy the products from The Ordinary at Deciem and Victoria Health. I bought mine from Victoria Health which had good customer service and free shipping on orders worth £25 and over.


Have you tried any products from The Ordinary yet? With strong formulations and prices from only £3.90 to £14.90, are you tempted?


9 Responses to The Ordinary skincare initial review

  1. Harriet February 22, 2017 at 2:04 pm #

    Thank you for all this information, and it is interesting to learn that the products are not tested on animals.

    .Kind regards Harriet

  2. Penny Golightly February 23, 2017 at 8:58 am #

    Hi Harriet, the ones I bought from The Ordinary all say that they’re vegan on the packging as well as not being animal tested. Nice for the bunnies, I approve too.

  3. Chloe March 9, 2017 at 3:00 pm #

    This is a really useful review, thanks Penny! I have just purchased the above products also and stumbled across your post when looking for how best to use The Ordinary range. If they work for me I think I’ll share a review also. Hope the products continue to work for you!

  4. Penny Golightly March 9, 2017 at 9:28 pm #

    Thanks Chloe! Come back and let us know how you get on in a few weeks.

  5. Sandie Riley April 13, 2017 at 7:34 am #

    I tried the retinol 1% for two days and on third day I had what can only be described as severe sunburn over my face. For the following week the top layer of skin detached. Thank goodness back to normal now. Upon investigation via Google etc (the instructions are minimal as well as the packaging – the store gave no special instructions) I discovered that this should be tested first, then applied once every three days at first, gradually building up to a regular application. I had applied at night and used Factor 50 sun cream in the morning
    and I have normal skin. Please be careful with these products.

  6. Penny Golightly April 13, 2017 at 6:41 pm #

    Hi Sandie – am I right in thinking this was the first time you’ve tried retinol? What you’re describing there is a fairly normal response to the first exposure to 1% retinol, i.e. redness and peeling. For most people this goes away after a few weeks of regular use, but some unlucky people (myself included) end up stuck with it and can’t use the product.

    I’d recommend using just a *tiny* amount to start off with, the size of half a pea or less, mixed into your usual serum or moisturiser at night, then broad spectrum factor 50 SPF during the day. Try that once per week for a few weeks, then step it up slowly. Avoid other potential irritants at the same time, and be sure to use moisturiser. The makers of The Ordinary themselves recommend using their much gentler Advanced Retinoid 2% instead, and that might be a better place to start if your lifestyle means you can’t put up with a few weeks of irritation and peeling. However, people who are currently using other brands of 1% retinol long term will be used to this concentration already, and will probably be delighted at the very competitive price point.

    The price point has caught a lot of people out, I think – we tend to mistakenly believe that nothing this cheap could be this concentrated or powerful, but this brand bucks the trend with the majority of its products. Most of them are STRONG and it’s important to research what the ingredients are and how they can affect you. I’m patch testing the Advanced Retinoid 2% and have had good results so far with zero irritation after 6 days, so watch this space for a review coming up in a few weeks.

    Penny xx

  7. Sarah May 13, 2017 at 12:15 am #

    Thanks so much for this review! I brought the same products as you but also got the caffeine eye serum and the advanced retinoid and so far so good! Love these products and I’m only day 3?

  8. Sophie May 30, 2017 at 11:44 am #

    Hi Penny, I stumbled across your blog review whilst researching which Ordinary products to get.
    Can I ask, how did you decide which products to buy? Like you, I have oily combination skin with large pores, but I’m confused about which products to get as there are so many to choose from!

  9. Annie June 18, 2017 at 12:45 pm #

    I’ve also stumbled across these products on Adore Beauty who say they are the exclusive Australian stockist. Is there no cleanser in their range? It’s actually quite difficult to know what to buy as there is very little information provided which is a shame. Inexpensive yes that’s great and if they are great products even better but we need to have some idea of what we should buy to address our skin issues or skin type. I’m wanting to address aging skin and just taking a stab in the dark as to what to buy.