The Ordinary

The Ordinary is the bloggers’ darling du jour. I’ve been using some of their products since early December 2016, when my Mum asked me to look them up and order anything I thought she’d like. She does all of her online shopping by proxy through me!

I had heard that the prices were reasonable but they’re shockingly cheap. The star of the show is the Advanced Retinoid 2% Emulsion and it’s only €9.80. Plus, a little goes a long way. The bottle is small but the potent emulsion is easily spreadable over your face (avoid lips and eyes). This isn’t some watered-down dupe of a retinol derivative. It tingles, especially if you’re not used to retinol products. Crucially, it works.

I’ve been using this every couple of days in the evenings (and wearing sunscreen every day too; this is vital if you’re using retinoids). The difference in my skin is noticeable. It’s almost as good as prescription retinol. My skin is more even-toned, there are less visible fine lines and it’s smoother. Less occasional acne too. And, I got the ultimate compliment. Someone close accused me of having botox! That’s a great result in my book.

The Ordinary is part of the Deciem umbrella of brands. Deciem focuses on advanced functional beauty.  Their mission is to communicate with integrity and bring to market effective, more familiar technologies at reasonable prices. They’re tired of dishonesty in the beauty market, where they claim that commonplace technologies are referred to as groundbreaking. They also believe that ridiculous pricing strategies confuse the audience, in a bid to disguise relatively basic technologies as advanced when it’s just pretty packaging and marketing accounting for the jumped up price.


Impressed reviewers of The Ordinary have run the gamut from beauty journalists amazed at its effectiveness, to lay reviewers who claim to have abandoned half-full pots of La Prairie in favour of it.

My scientist sister was recently explaining the risks associated with parabens to me so I was particularly glad to see that Deciem products (across all of their brands) are free of parabens, sulphates and mineral oil, among other things. They also reject animal testing and decided not to sell in China because it requires animal testing before a beauty product can be marketed there.

But back to the products.

I also tried the 23% Vitamin C Suspension.

I didn’t love this although I can see that it works, albeit temporarily (but at €5.80 I can’t really complain). The formulation is a powder suspension so it’s gritty and tacky on application. It dries in but I’d disagree with The Ordinary’s suggestion that you wear it morning and evening. (I also saw that their website now suggests that it’s more suited to bedtime application so maybe they’ve heard this back). This lotion definitely affected my makeup when I put a little on in the mornings.

Used in the evening for a couple of days however, it seriously brightened my skin and seemed to even out scars from old blemishes. It’s a temporary effect but very welcome when you want to go make-up free or just wear less.

They’ve an interesting guide to using Vitamin C here and they agree that their formulation isn’t ideal but the upside is that it’s more effective than other brands’ versions which use a heavy silicone base (meaning they’re more pleasant to apply).

My one gripe was the grittiness but the product does what it claimed to. I’m ambivalent about it but I’m still using it every few nights. For that price and the brightening effect I’ll probably buy it again.

The last product I tried was their 2% Hyaluronic Acid Formula which costs €6.80. The supposed benefit is that hyaluronic acid can attract up to 1000 times its own weight in water and keep your skin more hydrated than moisturiser alone.

This gave the least noticeable improvement to my skin but it’s essentially just a booster for whatever moisturiser you already use so I suppose that’s why. I’ll admit that my skin has felt particularly hydrated and plump lately. But that could be down to more frequent and generous application of moisturiser or my using this booster before I apply my moisturiser. It’s hard to tell.

If you’re tempted to try a hyaluronic acid or to buy a new product claiming to be packed with it, then keep in mind The Ordinary’s warning that many brands use a form of hyaluronic acid which simply sits on your skin (because the molecules are too large to penetrate the skin) and actually draws out moisture, giving you a short term feeling of hydration but actually draining your skin of moisture in the process.

This product apparently doesn’t have the same problem because it uses three forms of hyaluronic acid each with different molecular weights so it claims to plump without drawing out water from your skin. I can’t vouch for the science but my skin hasn’t been dry since using this. Again, is that because I’m using more moisturiser? I don’t know. But it’s €6.80 which is the cost of a fancy juice so you can’t go wrong trying it for yourself.

If you're interested to hear more about how and why the prices are so low without compromising on the efficacy of the products beauty guru Caroline Hirons has a short but telling interview with their maker here.

This advanced anti-aging serum is next on the list to try.

It’s by Hylamide which is the next step up in terms of Deciem brands so it’s pricier than The Ordinary but has rave reviews. I’ll report back!