With product names straight out of the chemistry textbook, The Ordinary has become one of the most talked about – yet slightly overwhelming – skincare brands on the market.
Known for its effective and affordable product range, it’s a great way to improve your skin without breaking the bank. You can read more about why we love the brand so much and how it got started in our Brand Spotlight.
The reason its huge range of products can seem daunting is that rather than selling products that contain a mixture of ingredients, The Ordinary sells the ingredients individually.
READ NEXT: Spotlight on The Ordinary
This means that not only do you know exactly what you’re putting on your face, it also means you can create your own The Ordinary Regimen that’s perfectly tailored to you and your skincare needs.
It’s also why The Ordinary is so cheap. You’re not paying extra for excess marketing and packaging or ingredients that may be of no use to you.
To help you choose which are the best The Ordinary products for you, we’ve divided this article into the skin concerns you’re looking to solve, as opposed to listing the products.
If you don’t suffer from enlarged pores, but redness is a particular concern. You can scroll straight down to the redness section. Alternatively, if you’re looking to get rid of blemishes and fight the signs of ageing, you can mix and match the products within these sections. Another beauty, excuse the pun, of buying ingredients at source.
Before we list the best The Ordinary products for different skin concerns, we need to do some housekeeping. Whilst The Ordinary seems to be everywhere, not all of its products are for everyone.
Some of the direct acids may not be suitable for sensitive skin, and all products require a patch test first. We suggest introducing one product at time in order to reduce the chance of irritation. You can read more in our The truth about the acids in your skincare guide.
If you have any skin conditions such as acne, rosacea or eczema, or if you are using any medicated creams or treatments such as Accutane, speak to your doctor or dermatologist before introducing any of these products.
And of course, while you should be using an SPF daily anyway, it is especially important to use SPF after using any of the direct acids mentioned here. This is because they make the skin particularly sensitive to the sun and sun damage. You can read more in our What is SPF? guide.
Now that we’ve made that clear, it’s time to convince you that using The Ordinary doesn’t require a BSc in Chemistry…
Enlarged pores are caused by a variety of lifestyle and genetic factors. If you have oily skin, for example, you’ll likely have enlarged pores.
This is because when excess oil, dead skin cells and dirt collect in your pores, your skin swells and your pores look larger than normal. Oily skin can be hereditary or as a result of your diet.
As we get older, and our skin loses elasticity, it can make pores look bigger. Hormonal changes, including puberty, menstruation, pregnancy and the menopause, can also increase the appearance of large pores in women.
This means your skincare products need to attempt to tackle some of these causes.
£5 | Buy now from Deciem
This is by far the most raved about product from The Ordinary, and having used this product for years, we can see why it quickly sells out on multiple sites as soon it’s back in stock.
Whilst Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% centrally targets the main cause of enlarged pores – congestion – this product is a true multitasker.
As well as de-clogging your pores of the dirt, makeup and pollution they collect throughout the day, the zinc in this treatment targets excess oils and helps reduce breakouts.
How to use: Apply after cleansing and before heavier creams either to the whole face or to target problem areas.
Avoid: Do not use this product at the same time as any products containing Vitamin C or Vitamin C serums.
If you are using Vitamin C, ensure that you use them on opposite ends in the day, for example, Vitamin C in the morning and Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%.
£6.25 | Buy now from Deciem
If you’ve been wondering what that scary-looking blood-red face mask is that’s gone viral on Instagram, look no further.
The Ordinary’s AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution provides chemical exfoliation deep into your pores to improve radiance.
The AHAs (which stands for alpha hydroxy acids) serve to exfoliate the top layer of your skin, resulting in a brighter complexion, whilst the BHAs (beta hydroxy acids) go below the skin’s surface to clear congestion.
This mask instantly improves the appearance of your skin, and with regular use, has been proven to have long-term anti-ageing benefits.
How to use: We’d recommend using this once every two weeks for five minutes to begin with.
This mask can cause some inflammation and a stinging sensation.
Once you’ve got used to the product, you can use it once a week for a maximum of ten minutes. Apply this mask to dry skin and remove with lukewarm water.
Avoid: This product is not suitable for sensitive skin and should not be used if you do not have prior experience with chemical/acid exfoliants.
Do not use this product alongside any retinol products. Avoid direct sunlight and use SPF.
From sensitive skin to rosacea and eczema, the causes of redness and inflammation vary in severity. It’s usually a sign that your skin isn’t happy about something so be careful when introducing new products and keep an eye on any that cause a reaction or make things worse.
£5.90 | Buy now from Deciem
A hero product for all ages and skin types, The Ordinary’s Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 provides hydration that soothes red and irritated skin and assists with general skin repair.
Hyaluronic acid is a strong humectant, meaning that it can attract up to 1,000 times its own weight in water, providing deep hydration.
This specific formula is enhanced with Vitamin B5 to encourage hydration on the surface of the skin. We firmly believe this is an essential product in your skincare routine, regardless of skin type.
How to use: Apply morning and evening after cleansing onto damp skin (we like to use a facial spray but water is fine). Use before any serums or heavier creams.
FURTHER READING: What does hyaluronic acid do to your skin?
£5.50 | Buy now from Deciem
Another multitasker, the Azelaic Acid Suspension 10% targets dullness and uneven skin tone, brightening any redness.
It can also be used to effectively combat irregular skin texture, all-round improving the appearance of the skin.
Its lightweight formula means that it sinks into the skin without leaving any sticky residue or making the skin look oily, which is certainly a pet peeve for us!
How to use: Can be used in the AM or PM, after cleansing, toning, and any water-based serum. Follow with a moisturiser.
Avoid: Do not use alongside any other strong acids, peptides or antioxidants.
We’re back with a quick reminder: whilst these are effective treatments for blemishes, none of these products should be used as a long-term treatment for acne.
If you suffer with persistent or severe breakouts, we recommend consulting a doctor to discuss the best course of treatment. You can read more in our What is acne? guide.
£5.50 | Buy now from Deciem
While it sounds basic, the best cleanser should form the foundation of any skincare routine for blemish-prone skin.
We love this Squalane Cleanser because it transforms from a balm consistency to an oil when applied to your hands or face, providing for gentle and effective cleansing.
And it removes makeup like magic.
Squalane is a gentle ingredient which dissolves trapped makeup and facial impurities that can cause blemishes if not removed properly.
We recommend this product regardless of skin type as an essential first step in your skincare routine.
How to use: We recommend a double-cleansing routine, using the Squalane Cleanser as your first step to remove makeup, dirt or pollution from the day.
Massage between your palms for 30 seconds in order to activate the oil-like consistency, then apply to the face.
Remove with a warm washcloth. Can be used morning and evening.
Then follow with a gentle foaming cleanser (Clarins Foaming Cleanser with Tamarind is a favourite of ours) to leave the skin fresh and clean. Double cleansing is always a good idea, just to make sure your skin is clean. Follow up with toner to remove any remaining traces of cleanser and dead cells. You can find out more in our What does toner do? guide.
£5.50 | Buy now from Deciem
Salicylic Acid is a miracle product for reducing the appearance of blemishes and fighting acne.
It gets deep into your pores to remove impurities and dead skin cells, and it reduces the production of excess oils which can exacerbate blemish-prone skin.
We love this product as a gentler alternative to The Ordinary’s Salicylic Acid 2% serum, although the serum can provide additional benefits as a targeted spot-treatment, and can increase the effectiveness of this routine for blemish-prone skin.
How to use: Apply once a week to dry skin and leave on for no longer than 10 minutes. Rinse off with lukewarm water.
Avoid: Do not use this product if you have especially dry or sensitive skin.
£6.80 | Buy now from Deciem
Who’s it for? Best suited to people with acne-prone skin, or people who get regular breakouts around their period.
Why we love it: Due to the presence of glycolic acid, this toner offers mild exfoliation for the skin.
Just like AHA, this removes dead skin cells and gives you a fresher brighter skin.
It also improves skin texture to the point that if you’ve got scarring from acne, using this on a continued basis should help reduce it and make it less visible.
To avoid the irritation that can come from using AHAs, The Ordinary has found that using Tasmanian Pepperberry helps reduce the impact.
The Pepperberry is what gives the toner its pale peachy colour.
This glycolic acid toner also contains ginseng root and aloe vera which gives you the radiance and soothing benefits with results being in as little as a week.
How to use: After cleansing saturate a cotton pad and sweep across the face and neck. Use this in the evening and no more frequently than once per day.
Avoid: Your may notice an increase in skin sensitivity so avoid direct sun contact, and use an SPF product to avoid the chances of sunburn. Limit sun exposure while using this product for a week after while your skin adjusts.
We explain more about the science of ageing in our How to prevent wrinkles guide but as we get older, our skin’s natural elasticity and structure drops and becomes weaker.
Using SPF daily and protecting your skin from any extra damage from the sun can help, but retinoids are the main way to stem the tide of wrinkles and fine lines. You can read more in our skincare ingredients guide and discover retinol alternatives in our best anti-ageing cream, best eye cream and best neck cream lists.
£7.80 | Buy now from Deciem
If exploring retinoid and retinol treatments feels like a minefield to you, we recommend you start with The Ordinary’s Granactive Retinoid 2% in Squalene.
We love this retinoid treatment as it is an especially gentle formula that offers anti-ageing benefits without the irritation associated with other retinoid and retinol treatments on the market.
This lack of irritation has become a particular selling point of some of the latest skincare launches, including Boots’ No7 Advanced Retinol 1.5% Complex Concentrate and Avon’s Anew Skin Reset Plumping Shots, but as is becoming the norm, The Ordinary got there first.
How to use: Introduce this product slowly into your skincare routine, starting twice a week in the evening until you are confident that it will not cause irritation.
Even though it causes less irritation than many other retinoid products, it could still cause problems if your skin is particularly sensitive.
We also recommend using this treatment every evening after water-based serums, followed by heavier creams or moisturiser.
Eventually you can progress to the higher potency Granactive 5% in Squalene. SPF is an absolute must when using this product.
Avoid: Do not use if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Use with caution if you have acne-prone skin as this product may cause breakouts for the first few weeks of use.
Do not use with any other retinoid or retinol treatment. Do not use with Vitamin C, benzoyl peroxide (common in acne treatment creams), or AHA/BHA products.
£7.80 | Buy now from Deciem
Rich in linoleic acid and pro-vitamin A, The Ordinary’s 100% Organic Cold-Pressed Rose Hip Seed Oil is an excellent gentle anti-ageing treatment.
Vitamin A has been proven to reduce the appearance of wrinkles and research suggests that it may even assist in skin-reconstruction.
And while Rose Hip Seed Oil also offers great anti-ageing benefits, this product suits all skin types because of its moisturising properties and its ability to reduce the appearance of acne scarring and dark marks.
How to use: Apply once a day in the evening after water-based serums.
We recommend letting this fully dry first before sleeping on any white pillows (trust us!).
£2.75 | Buy now from Beauty Bay
Who’s it for? Best for dry skin, and dry, frizzy, damaged hair.
Why we love it: This is a great multi-purpose product for skin and hair.
There is no sign of oil, water, alcohol or silicone in this moisturiser.
Hemi Squalane is more of an emollient that will help reduce ongoing loss of hydration, so you will notice when your skin feels dehydrated that you may lose elasticity and suppleness to the skin, this can restore that.
The great thing about this is that it leaves your skin feeling light and dry – no heaviness.
Similarly, if you feel your hair is on the dry and frizzy side, just rub this into the ends of your hair and it can restore its hydration levels.
There have been a lot of reviews on this produce for hair use especially for bleached hair which you can use all over your hair.
How to use: For hair – Work it through damp hair and can be used on clean hair daily.
For skin – Apply a few drops to the entire face once daily or as when needed.
Avoid: If this irritates then stop using.
After graduating from the University of East Anglia with a degree in History, Katie has gone on to pursue a Master’s Degree in Human Rights at University College London and is currently interning at a legal representation charity. When she’s not poring over books on politics and legal theory, she’s obsessing over cat TikToks, playing with makeup, or prowling ASOS