The Ordinary | Revolutionary?

At this point, you probably know all about The Ordinary even if you’ve never actually tried anything from them. Posts about the foundations and skincare abound in the blogosphere, but I thought I’d join in and add my two penneth. The Ordinary is a makeup and skincare brand by the Deciem conglomerate and is the budget end of their operations. They’ve stripped back their products to the absolute basic ingredients found in high-end skincare and in doing so are able to sell pure, concentrated ingredients, without frills, very cheaply. A lot of the time what you’re paying for in skincare is fancy oils and supplementary ingredients; The Ordinary takes it back to basics and gives you the bare essentials. This does mean that they won’t work in exactly the same way as say, a £90 serum from Sunday Riley, but if you know exactly what you want to address and are on a budget, it can be fab. If you’re here to read about the makeup, or “Colours”, scroll on down past the skincare stuff for a chat about how I found the Serum and Coverage foundations. 

The Ordinary Retinol 1%, Hyaluronic Acid, Alpha Arbutin, Coverage and Serum Foundations Review

The Ordinary: Skincare

The skincare range is pretty confusing as all products are simply labelled with the name of the active ingredient, which is great if you’re a chemist or Caroline Hirons, but for us mere mortals it involves a fair amount of googling. My skin is fairly dry and occasionally dehydrated. I also suffer from some residual acne and lots of redness from my pre-Accutane days. I have some contact dermatitis on my neck, and my skin is also quite sensitive (it didn’t used to be, but apparently in 2017 my skin decided to have a hissy fit). To counteract the dryness I bought the Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5, which basically makes your moisturiser more effective. I also decided to try and address my pigmentation problems and after a lot of confusion and adding about twelve things to my basket, I finally purchased the Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA, which is designed to “reduce the look of spots and hyper pigmentation”. Since I’m now getting on a bit (25 is looming) I bought the Retinol 1%, which is supposed to be good for ageing but can irritate the skin. After testing everything for about a month I’ve had pretty varying results with each, mistakes were made, but I found some absolute gems!

Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 

Free from silicone, alcohol and nuts
Cruelty-free and vegan 
I now don’t know how I ever managed without this. Within a week of use, it had completely eliminated the patches of dry skin on my cheeks that no amount of exfoliation or moisturising would get rid of, and my skin is plumper and more moisturised than ever. 
It’s a clear solution in a bottle with a pipette, dispensed fairly easily onto the fingertips and smooths over the face pretty easily. I can’t see this lasting longer than two or three months, but at a fiver that’s not really an issue. 
I smooth it over my face and neck before moisturiser in the morning and sometimes the evening unless I’m using a serum that night. It’s slightly tacky, and I think that’s the place where it shows the cheap price point. My understanding is that for a higher price point you could get a less sticky formula that sinks into the skin more quickly, but for me this is great. In the morning I pop it on, brush my teeth and by the time I’m done it’s soaked in and I can apply my moisturiser on top. I was already very happy with my moisturiser; I’m currently using my ever-faithful Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cream (definitely getting the new SPF version when this one runs out!) but this has made it even better.
In case the word acid is freaking you out in the same way it did for me, I don’t understand why it’s called that. The ph is 6.5-7.5, so it’s not remotely acidic, and it certainly doesn’t do any of the things I would associate with acids like burning, tingling or generally feeling a little uncomfortable. All it is is slightly sticky.

Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA

Free from alcohol, silicone, nuts and gluten.
Cruelty-free and vegan.
I haven’t seen many posts mentioning the Alpha Arbutin formula, so hopefully, this will be useful for some people! This is also in bottle-pipette packaging, again fairly easily applied with the fingers. I use this instead of the Hyaluronic Acid in the morning or evening before moisturiser. The HA in the name indicates that this includes some hyaluronic acid, although not in the same quantities as the HA 2%. 
This is designed to reduce pigmentation and general redness, and holy crap does it work. My skin is pretty pink-toned anyway, so redness in my skin really shows up; it doesn’t help that I’m milky-white. While I don’t feel like this has quite the same moisture-boosting effect that the HA 2% does, it still does a better job than my moisturiser alone, and it really works to reduce redness. 
In fact, this did such a good job at bringing down the redness on my face and neck that I’ve started using it elsewhere. I have a skin condition that causes a lot of pain and has left me with angry red scars on my body; it’s chronic, so there’s no respite on that front, but the AA is helping with the scars. These scars are pretty unsightly (imo) and I’ve been self conscious about them for a long time, but this is actually helping. I’ve tried Bio-Oil and other treatments for scars and stretch marks to no avail, but this is actually making a difference. It’s definitely not a cost-effective way to use it, and this is definitely one of The Ordinary’s more expensive products, it’s still way cheaper than anything else I’ve tried, and it’s actually working (can you tell that I’m a bit blown away?). Those scars are still visible, but even a slight reduction in redness is a massive boost to my self-esteem and confidence.

Retinol 1%

Free from water, alcohol, oil and nuts.
Cruelty-free and vegan.

I’ve used this less extensively than the other two it’s something I would pick up when my skin is in decent shape and it’s time to do some concentrarted anti-ageing work. However, of late my skin hasn’t been at its best, meaning I’ve been reaching for HA or AA most of the time. As such they have seen a lot more use and are easier to form an opinion on. However, the few times I have used Retinol 1% it has irritated my skin and resulted in a few days of taking real care of it. This is my own fault, as my skin isn’t really used to retinol treatments and The Ordinary do have a pretty extensive warning on their website. They have a more watered-down retinol, Advanced Retinoid 2%, which would have been a better fit for me. 
However, I probably won’t be buying it any time soon, as I think that at the moment I’m more interested in focusing on my skin’s most pertinent concerns rather than general anti-ageing.

The Ordinary Retinol 1%, Hyaluronic Acid, Alpha Arbutin, Coverage and Serum Foundations Review
Coverage Foundation swatched on the left, Serum Foundation swatched on the right.

The Ordinary: Colours

The Colours range currently only comprises two foundations and two primers. I’ve only worked with the foundations since I’m not really a primer sort of girl most of the time, and it takes so damn long for orders containing Colours to arrive that I simply wouldn’t have had time to test them properly in time for this blog post. The Ordinary are in the process of moving to a much larger headquarters and warehouse, and subsequently will soon be able to improve their currently woeful processing and delivery times. I’ll link a few reviews of the primers at the end for anyone interested in purchasing them, as I’ve generally heard positive things! The Ordinary website also lists “Matte Watercolours” and the enigmatic “Dropper” under the Colours section, so I’m looking forward to trying these future products; Matte Watercolours sounds right up my street!
As for the foundations themselves, they’re both in pump packaging which I’m glad about, as foundation in droppers can get messy quickly. 

I tried applying both foundations with my fingers, a beauty blender, a buffing brush and a flat foundation brush. I’m not a fan of flat foundation brushes generally, and that held true in this case, just kind of moving the foundation around without really working it into the skin. It was much the same when using your fingers. With a buffing brush I found the finish a little patchy and needed more work to get an even finish, but by far the best result came with a beauty blender. I found that a light layer applied all over the face with quite a damp beauty blender, followed by a little extra product in places that need it most, like round the nose or on the cheeks, gave the best finish. Both foundations contain SPF 15.
The shade range for both foundations is good, ranging from very pale to dark with a variety of undertones. I have very pale, cool-toned skin, and generally have real difficulty finding foundations dark enough. I figured that a fiver each was as much as I would gamble on a foundation that’s not available to swatch, but this turned out to be an excellent match. However, I do think they could do with a more shades for deeper skin tones.

Serum Foundation


Shade 1.0P
Free from alcohol, oil, nuts, gluten and soy.
Cruelty-free and vegan.
Designed to offer lightweight medium coverage, I’d say it delivers on that claim, although it’s on the lighter end of medium. The formula is extremely runny but leaves the skin feeling dewy and like it can breathe. It doesn’t cake around the nose and is generally a nice foundation for a bargain price. However, I found myself preferring the Coverage foundation, simply because I’m used to slightly more coverage. The finish is supposed to be semi-matte, but in my opinion is pretty glowy.

Coverage Foundation

£5. 90
Shade 1.0P
Free from alochol, oil, nuts, gluten and soy.
Cruelty-free and vegan.
The Coverage formula is designed to be, unsurprisingly, full-coverage. However, I found it to be closer to medium, especially when applied with a beauty blender. The pigment levels are clearly higher than in the Serum foundation, but it still applies smoothly and feels hydrating. The finish is semi-matte and wears really well on the skin. I do find that it cakes a tiny bit by my nose over the course of the day, but I find this happens a little with any foundation that isn’t very sheer, so this isn’t a deal breaker for me. It’s easily resolved with a quick bop of a beauty blender or even just smoothing it with your fingers. I prefer this formula of the two, and this has actually become my favourite foundation of the moment. I’m more likely to use the Serum foundation at the weekends when I fancy giving myself a break from anything heavy, but the Coverage formula is my new everyday foundation. Even my beloved BareMinerals Original and YSL Touche Éclat have taken a back seat!

The Ordinary Retinol 1%, Hyaluronic Acid, Alpha Arbutin, Coverage and Serum Foundations Review

Overall, I am extremely impressed by what The Ordinary is offering at such a low price point; they’ve created exceptional formulas that work by removing the bells and whistles and focusing on effective solutions. However, their branding is confusing and the website is a minefield, requiring a fair amount of research or a pharmacy degree to be sure what you’re ordering. It’s times like this that I’m extremely glad for the blogging world, as without it I wouldn’t have had a clue what to even consider buying without all the blog posts on the subject.
Other blog posts about The Ordinary for further reading and other opinions:
The Mischa Diaries
Covers: Advanced Retinoid 2%, Hyaluronic Acid 2% +B5 and Alpha Arbutin 2% +HAAmelia Says
Covers: The difference between AHAs and BHAs, Glycolic 7% Toning Solution and the AHA and BHA Peeling Solution
Covers: Organic Cold-Pressed Rose Hip Seed Oil, 100% Plant-Derived Squalane, Hyaluronic Acid 2% +B5, Natural Moisturising Factors +Ha, Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%, Advanced Retinoid 2%, Salicylic 2% Solution, Lactic Acid 5% +HA 2%
The Makeup Directory 
Covers: The Serum and Coverage Foundations
Covers: Lactic Acid 5% +HA 2% and Lactic Acid 10% +HA 2%
That Grace Girl
Covers: Alpha Arbutin 2% +HA, Lactic Acid 10% +HA, Advanced Retinoid 2%, Hyaluronic Acid 2% +B5
Hello October
Covers: Hyaluronic Acid 2% +B5, Salicylic 2% Solution, Lactic Acid 10% +HA and Buffet
Makeup Savvy
Covers: High Adherence Silicone Primer, Glycolic 7% Toning Solution and Salicylic 2% Solution
The Beautiful Blue Bird
Covers: High Spreadability Fluid Primer
Really Ree
Covers: Serum and Coverage Foundations
Sparkly Vodka
Covers: Hyaluronic Acid 2% +B5, Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%, Vitamin C Suspension 23% +HA Spheres 2%, Lactic Acid 10% +HA 2% and Advanced Retinoid 2%
Not directly related but also worth a read is The Makeup Directory’s Skin Care Ingredients Guide.

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