The Nerdie Opinion On The Ordinary Products

By November 12, 2017Products
the skin nerd the ordinary

Some of you have been waiting so long to hear me say ANYTHING on The Ordinary products – I was hesitant to say something without giving them a proper go and consistently using the products in my routine. Skincare is pricey and I know that when you’re watching those dolla bills, it is often hard to justify a product that will cost you €40 or upwards so naturally, there has been huge interest around The Ordinary of late.

I’ve used the Hyaluronic Acid 2% with vitamin B5, the Glycolic Acid and the Salicylic Acid 2% solution. What did I think of them? Purely and simply, they work! I think they are good products and the ingredients have the same or similar effects as to what they would have when included in other brand’s formulations… ie. their hyaluronic does hydrate the skin, their salicylic does dry out spots and regulate oil production. Whilst I think that The Ordinary, hypothetically, is a viable option for those who cannot stretch their budget to include more expensive skincare, some things about the products make me feel a bit concerned.

My problem with The Ordinary

Retailing active products without a consult

The issue that I take with The Ordinary is that they are retailing active products without giving advice on how to use them, without restricting usage and without monitoring how their customers are getting on. It is like giving someone who is not a mechanic the tools to fix a car and setting them at it without teaching them how to do it! Your car can end up more damaged than it was in the first place.

I don’t fully understand what they are doing to make The Ordinary products so cheap. I know that they openly do not invest mega money in packaging or marketing (they don’t do TV ads, billboards, campaigns etc.), and I take that on board.

the skin nerd the ordinary

The signature simple packaging of The Ordinary products

The lower price point

Here is the key to understanding why these products end up in any way affordable: each product does not include many ingredients mixed together. For example, The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% with vitamin B5 is pretty much just that. Other brands spend money on ensuring that their formulations contain a sophisticated blend of actives that give the skin multiple benefits whilst still penetrating correctly.

For example, one cosmeceutical brand that often comes in at a higher price point than others has a hyaluronic-acid-based product that includes not only hyaluronic but a patented ingredient that helps the skin produce GAGs (AKA glycoaminoglycans) and botanicals to intensify the effects of the hyaluronic acid.

I spoke with a representative of an admittedly more expensive (but also more potent) range of products who explained where the difference in cost comes from. When it comes to some ingredients, for example, antioxidants like vitamin C, they have to be stabilised so that they can be recognised in the body as they are not naturally found in the body.

The pH balance has to be lowered so that the product can penetrate without irritation. This brand does studies in its own lab to check the compatibility of ingredients and, on top of this, sends formulations for up to six independent, non-biased studies. Tell me that is not going ABOVE and BEYOND to ensure that their products are effective!?

Why is checking the compatibility of ingredients so important? It is the compatibility of the ingredients that allows the product to penetrate into the skin efficiently and deeply and metabolise in the skin. This is why the product works better than others – this is where the money is going, folks.

Information on The Ordinary’s clinical studies is not readily available online, whereas, with many cosmeceutical brands that we would stock in The Skin Nerd store, a quick google of “Brand Name” Clinical Study will bring you to conclusive results.

the skin nerd the ordinary

Allowing people to buy retinol/retinoids without any guidance

One thing that I really don’t like about The Ordinary is the willingness to supply people with actual retinoids and retinol. There is a reason that retinol and retinoids can usually only be given to those who have had a thorough consult and have been educated on usage. People hear me saying “retinol, retinoids, vitamin A are the keys” and trip over their own feet to buy them… and then, since they are buying from a brand that do not provide instruction, apply it daily and nightly and burn the shite out of their skin.

I have seen people burn themselves with vitamin A derivative ingredients like retinol and retinoids before due to using too high a dosage, using acids with them or not using a progressive technique (ie. starting at a very low dosage and gradually bringing up the potency of the active ingredients). Brands create progressive ranges so as to help the skin become used to an ingredient and to ward off any initial irritation.

When you start slapping on 1% retinol to skin that has NEVER used retinol before, your skin will more than likely react with dryness, redness and pain that will take more products and more money to get over. The Ordinary’s own retinol range is progressive in itself, but people see 0.1% and hold it up to 1% and decide that it is better bang for their buck to buy the most potent one.

Lack of information on what the products are

Not only is there little wisdom on how to use the products, there is very little explained about what the products are. If you are not from a skincare background or incredibly clued in to ingredients, you will open the store page and go “Azelaic Acid?! I haven’t heard of that…. Do I need it?”. This leads to people using 3, 4, even 5 different acid products at once and them not understanding that this can strip the skin and cause irritation on a massive scale.

Consults are key

This is the reason why my opinion on The Ordinary may come off as negative. My personal philosophy and the philosophy of The Skin Nerd as a brand as well is that education is key. Why is education important? Because the best path to skin health cannot be paved without the help of a professional and without taking the most beneficial approach which is on the inside with supplements, on the outside with cosmeceutical and cosmetic skincare and on top with the purest mineral makeup available.

This is because I am results-driven. Myself and the Nerdettes want to see people happy with their results and track and monitor progress, and switch up the regime if need be!

As a recap, are The Ordinary products effective? YES! Are they as effective as some more expensive options recommended in a thorough skin consult? Unfortunately, I don’t believe they can be.

Get yo’ self a consult here!

Jennifer Rock

About Jennifer Rock


  • Edel Carty says:

    Thank you so much for writing that article. It explains the brand very well and I think your right. Well done. Edel Carty

  • Jane says:

    Hm, not sure I agree. While it can be confusing to build a DIY routine, the company is very willing to consult via email and Facebook and they do tell you to start low and go slow, as well as which products interact poorly. I don’t think you can fault the company for people using too many products too often. You see that with lots of brands… it’s in vogue now to layer 12 or 13 steps; the more, the merrier. You can tell people over and over they don’t need so many products but it’s fashionable now to use tons of products and steps .

    • Jennifer Rock Jennifer Rock says:

      In my opinion, it is that people may be more inclined to overuse as they don’t have someone informing them directly of the risks to their long-term skin health. I am a huge fan of layering but there is layering products that work well together and there is layering products that don’t, and without the information available at time of purchase, many will not even look at it. In theory, The Ordinary is great – however, as someone who cares about skin health as well as visible results, I feel like education when using products is key.

  • Rachel says:

    I totally agree with you Jennifer. Being working in the professional side of Skincare and seeing so many clients come into the salon with irritated and unhealthy barrier as a result of poor consultation and Recommendation. Using high doses of retinol prescribed by doctors or acne claiming products that yes clear spots but leave the skin so red and irritated all
    Over! Ouch!!!! Consult is vital to the each individual as each persons skin is as unique as them. Everyone has a different skin type and concern or many concerns. Ingredients is key!! Also how many different ingredients for each different concern. No matter what you read in a magazine about loading serum after serum and how fashionable it may be? Does not make it true for everyone. It is about each individual and what is best for there Skincare needs? After an indept consultation on live style, diet, hormones, medication, health? All of the underlying problems that are related to most skin concerns no matter how many serums u layer will never make a difference before getting to the root of the problem. Education and consultation is everything and key to true long lasting and healthy results ?

  • Suman says:

    Loads of brands do retinol Retinoid
    …why single out the ordinary!.

    • Jennifer Rock Jennifer Rock says:

      I am not specifically singling out The Ordinary – it is just the topic of this article! However, what makes other brands different is that they consult and educate their customers so that they know how to use the products!

  • Grace says:

    Have heard they will be starting consults in some for at some stage in the near future. Having tried a few of the products after weeks of read & re-reading the info on the website & what the do, I think they are a bit hit & miss. Although, I do rate their foundation.

    • Jennifer Rock Jennifer Rock says:

      Unless they require a consult for their products, the same thing will still happen and not everyone will choose to have a consult! Good to know about their foundation x

  • Kayla says:

    Well done Jennifer on writing this.
    I am dermal therapist and unfortunately deal on a daily basis with the consumer hearing about Retinols and salicylic acid things like that and walk in to buy the strongest one in the hope their skin will be amazing too. After a consultation majority of the time we find these ingredients would do them more damage than good at that point in time. Couldn’t imagine how many people just read online, self diagnose and end up in retinoid response, irritated and stripped. Education is by far the key, skin is a whole entire body issue that needs to be addressed and consulted with a professional.

  • Aideen Veldman says:

    Thanlks for this honest review, I am a 51 year old who is obsessed with all thing skin ,& having tried most lotions & potions over the years ,I love the honesty of the ordinary, but the big thing is I know what I’m doing , with years of hits & misses under my belt, , you are totally right about consulting, & that the skin is an origin , it’s simple really if you re sick you go to a doctor & they prescribe, same. As your consult !! I’m very lucky I don’t know what it’s like to get spots or have a break out , I even remember when retinol started being used I was in my 20s. , it was the holy grail of skincare , I have been using it since , any way what I’m trying to say is that you did not give the Ordinary a bad review , you actually said it’s very active which is a good thing , again if you know what you are doing !!! Dangerous if you don’t , simple as that, thanks for the review I’m delighted you think it’s so active!!! As a lover of all thing skin , also in my top 10 Environ , & image , as you’ve said mix & match & if it works stay with it , thanks Jen xxx

  • Jenny Mullen says:

    Jennifer, u hit d nail on d head. Each person is different & each skincare routine needs to b tailored to each individual, no matter what ur age. I would love to try The Ordinary but because of lack of sufficient info & temperamental skin I feel I can’t! I’m sure it’s safe for most people but skin is such a minefield regarding how it good it makes u feel, is it worth d risk?

  • Souhila says:

    I wish I had read this review before I started using the ordinary regimen. I have been sufferings from adult acne, on and off since I can remember, but in the past few months it’s been persistent. I did some research online and decided to go for the ordinary. I’ve been using 3 acids for about 3 weeks until my skin just started going bananas! I have this very strange rash now, all over my face, behind my ears and a bit on my neck. Waiting for Monday to book a Dr appt:( It’s very itchy and ugly. You totally described me in your article!!

  • gosia.irl says:

    Thank you for this! Everyone is going nuts for Ordinary products these days, I can see them on Instagram and Facebook and I was wondering what was the fuss about… So I went to the website and I thought I there was something wrong with me… I couldn’t understand their range, the names and the little table with what to use with what (or not), there is nothing to tell you what to use for what problem. It is so confusing and you definitely need a degree in chemistry! The price point is quite a surprise and only because I don’t know what to buy I haven’t bought anything yet. It is strange that this company is reluctant to give guidance to their customers (or very little)…


    • Jennifer Rock Jennifer Rock says:

      I understand what they’re doing but I feel that if things like retinol are available for purchase, there has to be more guidance! x

  • Gillian says:

    Hi Jennifer, I’ve developed really bad deep lines on my decolletage recently and thought I’d try a retinoid on it. Do you think my chest area could cope with a higher strength on my chest – my face seems to react with no problems.
    Or do you have a post about use of retinoids I could read? can’t see anything obvious! Thanks so much!

    • Jennifer Rock says:

      Hi Gillian, when it comes to retinoid and retinol use, I’d thoroughly recommend speaking about this with your consultant/at your clinic or salon! x

  • Sara Stoner says:

    I too, can completely relate to the problems described with the ordinary. I have been using Paulas Choice skincare for 10 years, and loved it. Paula’s choice has an affiliated website called where they rate most skin care products without bias . They rate many of the ordinary’s products very high, so I decided to switch. I thought I was familiar with the products and ingredients my skin needed. Because the products have few ingredients I did layer 3-4 of the ordinary products in the evening , just one in the mornings . I now have a super sensitive itchy, dehydrated neck with fine wrinkles on the sensitive areas. I don’t know what I’ve done, but I better book in at a dermatologist, it’s been 2 months without using the ordinary on my neck and is still sensitive, looks dry and slightly wrinkly. Not sure if it’s an allergic reaction, or like others have mentioned i have damaged the skin.

  • Rianna says:


    I’ve seen you say not to use retinols with other acids,
    So I’ve been using The Ordinary for a couple of days to combat a mixture of spots/under skin spots, acne scars and fine lines and I’ve been using The Following:

    Salicylic acid 2% (for my spotty bits)
    Ascorbyl Glucoside solution 12%
    Resveratrol Ferulic acid 3%
    Azelaic acid suspension 10%

    Salicylic acid 2% (for my spotty bits)
    Granactive Retinoid 2% in squaline
    Resveratrol Ferulic acid 3%
    Azelaic acid suspension 10%

    I’ve also ordered the ordinary toner and am eagerly awaiting that! 😁 but now I’m wondering if these products are all compatible with one another?

    • Jennifer Rock says:

      Hi Rianna, it’s not that you shouldn’t use retinols with other acids ever! I personally haven’t used enough of The Ordinary products to have advice to give on them and I haven’t ever trained with them. x

  • Eva says:

    Hi Rachel. The comments in this post makes me even more concerned than the actual products being sold.

    Before it was sold in small amounts blended in, for example moisturiser, and a woman may have had only one product with a certain ingredient that might react with others. Now the chemicals come in more concentrated amounts, and a wide variety with names no one knows about and with little research behind it.

    Its not just the ordinary, its everywhere. I am certain that in 10-20 years time the problems will rear their ugly heads. I am a chemist and I recoil when I read of some young woman’s “Layering routines”. Even sharing it on youtube after one 1-2 years usage max. Lathering on uncontrolled amounts of acids with other ingredients not knowing how they will react together and not at all in the long run. Basically making themselves this generations guineapigs – and its even for free – the company cannot be blamed as people choose to blend them (Its not stated on the bottles and there is a reason for that!) and the reactions on long term usage is still unknown.

    At Lundbeck the medicine doesn’t see the light of day before its been tested for 20+ years, most often getting rejected for little side effects reported 10 years down the line. But this stuff? It can be sold in those doses as its too low to be medicinal, but when people pile it on for years, god knows what will happen.

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