The Ordinary: For Skincare Geeks on a Budget

The Ordinary: For Skincare Geeks on a Budget

Some of you may remember how I pledged – more than a year ago – that Life in a Cold Climate is not going to be one of those ‘look, here’s a new product!’ type of blogs. And I still make an effort to see the bigger picture, to test things thoroughly before recommending anything and not to think new necessarily means better. But sometimes, the news is too exciting to ignore.

You probably already know Deciem – The Abnormal Beauty Company, the owner of Hylamide and NIOD. Deciem has always been about challenging the beauty industry and doing things differently. I find it very refreshing that they focus on things that often draw people to green beauty (integrity, transparency, customer service), but without sacrificing science. They are cutting edge without seeming cold or arrogant or corporate.

I have praised some Hylamide products in the past and also mentioned NIOD. Very generally speaking, NIOD is for the serious skincare nerds – the products are complicated and often demand patience (this Caroline Hirons post is a great introduction to the brand). Hylamide is for normal people who just want something effective that doesn’t cost the earth.

Recently, Deciem launched their third skincare concept, The Ordinary. There are ten products, all relatively simple: a retionid, a Vitamin C serum, a rose hip oil, a hyaluronic acid, and so on. The shocking thing is the price: nothing costs more than 13 pounds and the cheapest product is 4.90. This is almost impossible to believe and that’s the point. The premise of the brand is that we are being charged ridiculous amounts for technologies and ingredients that are completely commonplace and that this should not be the case. If it was any other brand, I would probably doubt the claims, but Deciem has an impeccable reputation when it comes to the formulas of their products (although they hold some unconventional views and can be somewhat evangelical on occasion, but no-one is perfect).

So off I went and immediately ordered five things: Advanced Retinoid 2%; Lactic Acid 10% + HA; 100% Organic Cold-Pressed Rosehip Seed Oil; Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA and Niacinamide 10% + Zinc PCA 1%. It is way too early to say anything conclusive and I will also not describe all the products in detail – the brand web site and this post do an excellent job of that. I will tell you a couple of things, however, that you might be interested in knowing before ordering any products (or not).

First of all, I love the look of the packaging, but if you hate droppers, beware. With the exception of the oil, they feel like hyaluronic products on my skin, even the ones that don’t include the ingredient. They are light, gel-like and a bit sticky – I’m no fan of stickiness, but I’ve realised it’s often difficult to avoid in really good hydrating products and in the serum stage I can live with it.

More importantly, you might be scared off by the 2% retinoid and 10% lactic acid content. I believe there is no reason to fear, unless you are allergic or very sensitive. Both products are gentle. I know I’m not the best judge of that (having elephant skin), but I’ve also followed the reactions of other users and I’ve seen no complaints. If you are still worried, there is the 5% version of lactic acid. I can also confirm that the rose hip oil is very nice and feels more expensive than it is. The arbutin and niacinamide serums are most difficult to judge at this point, as I’ve used them so little and often mixed together.

The Ordinary is a unique combination of affordability and skin geekery. The only thing not entirely accessible about these ten bottles is that you do need to know your ingredients, at least to a certain extent. There are no familiar labels like ‘day cream’ or ‘night cream’ or ‘serum’. To use The Ordinary effectively, you need to know what ingredients would benefit your skin and how to introduce these things to your routine.

Based on my very initial impressions, I believe the products are effective, although not quite as effective as my top-performing serums. But please bear in mind that my top performers cost up to 150 pounds per 30ml and their formulas are much more complex – something The Ordinary is not claiming. Considering the price and the ingredients, I think the line is certainly worth trying, no matter your engagement level with skincare. But I do see two target groups for whom this line seems particularly well suited. The first are obviously skincare enthusiasts on a budget: these people know their stuff and they know there are very few (if any) other places to get that kind of ingredients for these prices.

The other group is people like me: constantly trying new things and looking for the best products out there. The Ordinary will not replace my favourites, but I very much see a place for them in my routine as excellent basics that I would turn to when I’m between products or when something super expensive and pointless has not worked. And it’ll be very interesting to see what the reaction of other brands to Deciem’s gambit will be.

I ordered my products from Victoria Health (no affiliation), but they are also available on the brand web site. I hear the customer service is amazing.

Update: read more about The Ordinary retinoid and vitamin products here.

Update no 2: more about The Ordinary direct acids here.

Update no 3: more about The Ordinary hydrators and oils here.

Austen & The Ordinary


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    • 2

      🙂 What did you order? I also ordered the things immediately after becoming aware of them. Even if you don’t like them, the financial set-back isn’t huge.

      • 3

        I ordered Buffet (peptide complex), but I received a kind mail that it is backordered already! And whilst I was at it I ordered the Superoxide Dismutase. I had my eyes on the CAIS product, but I need to empty some other things first. I’m getting into skincare a bit more seriously.

        • 4

          When I ordered from Victoria Health (on the morning of the launch), they were out of everything but one product I wanted. But they resolved it very quickly and I still received my products fast.

  1. 7

    Thanks for the post and the links! I’ll also add that DECIEM ships worldwide for free and has a 1 year money-back guarantee on all their brands. And yep, amazing customer service where if you’re not sure what to buy, you can call or email them (I’ve only done the latter.) They will advise you what to get based on your skincare concerns, and in my experience they have never oversold me and have, in fact, dissuaded me from going overboard with purchases. Of course, I ignored that. 🙂 Also, if you follow them on Instagram they will respond to your questions about a product they’re featuring there, and it’s helpful to read others’ comments. I am not affiliated but I sure can blather on. 😉

    • 8

      Thank you for this, Holly – super useful. I have pointed some Deciem novices in the direction of your comment? Let me know if you decide to get something!

    • 9

      Thank you for this, Holly – super useful. I have pointed some Deciem novices in the direction of your comment? Let me know if you decide to get something!

      • 10

        You’re welcome!
        I’m going to send DECIEM an email tomorrow to find out whether or not they would recommend their Hand Chemistry Retin Oil over The Ordinary’s Retinoid. The former has been marketed as a body product due to a former agreement Brandon had (I think that’s the case), but he has stated it’s suitable for the face and it’s very good. I’m curious to find out what they’ll tell me about how these two products compare!

        • 11

          I have in fact been thinking about getting that oil for my body. I like body products that actually address issues (other than dryness). Let me know if it’s supposed to be better for the face than the new retinoid!

          • 13

            I just heard back from DECIEM, and the rep said that she would recommend Advanced Retinoid over Retin Oil for facial use, but clarified that individual preference may vary due to the strength of the product. Retin Oil is 1% vs Advanced Retinoid at 2%. I know you were disappointed in your Skinceuticals hunt for 2%, so it sounds like you picked the right one out of the DECIEM options. Retin Oil is a dry oil, and contains vitamin C and E, and I love it as a body oil. There’s nothing else like it on the market and altogether I think it’s one of their most innovative products.

          • 14

            Thank you, Holly! This is much appreciated. I plan to get the oil in any case – I don’t understand why so few brands do body products with acids or retinoids, instead selling unicorn tears and rose petals for crazy amounts of money. These days, my problem is texture rather than dryness, so I want some action 🙂

  2. 18

    I am wondering – which The Ordinary products are better for problematic skin, skin with acne problems? Which would you recommend?

    • 19

      Retinol is proven to help with acne, so The Advanced Retinoid 2% or the Retinol 1% would be my first bet. For something gentler, Niacinamide should help, too. The Ordinary has excellent customer service, so you could just contact them for help as well.

      If you decide to order something, let me know how it goes!

      • 20

        Thanks for your advice! I decided to try 100% Organic Cold-Pressed
        Rose Hip Seed Oil as well. Read in one other blog that it’s good for damaged skin. Now I am looking forward to receiving a Deciem packet 🙂

        • 21

          Rose hip oil is always good to have, it’s often quite effective and good to use after the retinoid, too (it’s sometimes called “anti-ageing oil”). If your skin is acne-prone, I would start slow and see how it goes, but if you can generally use oils without issues, there shouldn’t be a problem. Do report back!

  3. 24
    Ashley Laughlin

    I adore the Ordinary, especially the Caffeine solution. I also love the retinoid, and I’m sure I’ll try other products soon enough. It’s such a great line. Also– holla for JA’s Cassandra!

    • 25

      Thanks for stopping by! I have just ordered the caffeine solution, very excited to try it. And glad to see someone appreciating Austen’s early work?

  4. 26

    Thank you for such a great post! I just placed my first order with Deciem for The Ordinary products. Really appreciated your reviews.

    • 27

      You are very welcome! I’m glad you found it useful – what did you order? I’m planning several updates on The Ordinary (as I’ve bought almost the entire range by now), starting next week. So if you’re interested, do stop by!

  5. 28

    I’m very excited to start this new regimen with The Ordinary products. I’m doing the basic “anti-aging” regimen on their site along with the caffeine gel and the silicone primer. FIngers crossed. I already know the AHA 30% + BHA 2% peeling solution works wonders!

    • 29

      I’m ver glad to hear the peeling solution works – I’ve ordered it, but it’s still on its way. Good luck with the routine!

  6. 30
    May wilson

    I have started with lactic acid 10% and vit c suspension for pigmentation but i have ordered retinol 2% and the buffet, should i use lactic acid and retinol on alternate nights? Or do you think they are ok together? Many thanks for any advice x

    • 31

      The responsible advice would be to alternate. In theory, I think my skin would tolerate these two together, but I don’t see much point in that: I use my daily acid toner with AR2% anyway, so adding an additional acid here doesn’t make much sense. For anyone who doesn’t have elephant skin, I think the risk of irritation is real.

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