The name of its parent company, Canada-based Deciem (“the Abnormal Beauty Company”) may ring no bells but chances are, you’ve heard of The Ordinary, arguably the most disruptive, unusual skin care brand in the world right now. What makes The Ordinary so, well, extraordinary? Going by the motto “clinical formulations with integrity,” the brand makes potent, innovative, science-backed, cruelty-free, high-quality skin care basics — and prices them all at less than $20.
While its peers mark up products by around 95 percent, The Ordinary isn’t interested in gouging its customer. “It doesn’t make sense for a brand to sell a simple formula that costs $1 to make for $500, while the rest of the world operates on less greedy margins,” co-CEO Nicola Kilner told the Cut. And no, Kilner and co. aren’t skimping on ingredients.
Unlike other beauty brands (among them, fellow millennial-beloved, once-digital-only brand Glossier), The Ordinary doesn’t spend tons of money on marketing. And it appears all those acids and clinical ingredients your skin loves — niacinamide, retinol, hyaluronic acid, etc. — are much, much cheaper than Paula’s Choice’s pricing would have you believe. (To wit: high-quality niacinamide reportedly costs less than $10 per pound.) Thus, The Ordinary sells its hero product, the refreshingly simple-named Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% — the percentages indicate the concentration levels of the products inside — for only $5.90. By contrast, the Paula’s Choice equivalent retails for $42.
As one would expect, between its crazy-affordable pricing, crazy-effective offerings and minimalistic, flat-lay-perfect packaging, the brand is killing it. The Ordinary has sparked countless Reddit threads, Facebook pages and, we imagine, brunch conversations. Last year, the brand sold close to nine million products. In November, Kilner shared that sales had risen over 479 percent from the first quarter — and that was before the brand launched its Sephora partnership and opened its first stateside brick-and-mortar location (in New York City).
Needless to say, we’re hooked. We value transparency. We love a budget-friendly, does-what-it-says-it-does product. To top it off, the brand makes it easy to find the products that will work best for you. All of its offerings boast names as straightforward as the aforementioned niacinamide-centric serum. Each product on The Ordinary’s website is accompanied by a painstakingly detailed account of its ingredients, clinically tested benefits and proper usage. It’s no wonder they’re constantly selling out.
Still, to make your shopping experience even easier (particularly if the word “squalene” means zilch to you), we’ve rounded up the crème de la crème — 11 extra-Ordinary products you absolutely must try. We promise you’ll be an instant convert.
100% Organic Cold-Pressed Rose Hip Seed Oil, $9.80 at Beautylish
This insanely high-quality rosehip seed oil is chock-full of omega fatty acids and padded in vitamin C. The former work to calm and soothe skin, erase scars and even skin tone, the latter is amazing for protection against environmental damage.
Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2%, $5.80 at Beautylish
Redditors love this oft-sold-out, pH-balanced (to approximate your skin's natural barrier), under-$6 cream. It contains dehydrated spheres of hyaluronic acid that help smooth skin, along with the antioxidant vitamin C, which brightens your skin, strengthens its barrier and helps prevent sun damage and stave off signs of aging. Allow us to reiterate: It costs less than $6.
Salicylic Acid 2% Solution, $5.30 at Beautylish
Salicylic acid is one of acne's biggest foes. It's a heavy-duty (yet non-irritating) exfoliant that penetrates deep inside the walls of pores to break up blackheads and remove lingering gunk. Sensitive-skin-havers, proceed with caution (or use primarily as a spot treatment). Fans of Paula's Choice's #1 best-selling ($29) BHA: this is an excellent dupe.
Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion, $9.80 at Beautylish
Retinol, also known as vitamin A, is beloved for its skin-smoothing and anti-aging properties. It stimulates collagen growth, promotes cell turnover, exfoliates away dead skin cells and, in turn, helps reduce the appearance of lines and hyperpigmentation. It's basically a cure-all for skin and this serum is cheaper than most (if not all) over-the-counter options.
100% Plant-Derived Squalane, $9.75 at ASOS
A star product amongst star products, this light, non-greasy, intensely moisturizing face oil is packed with good-for-you antioxidants. Plus, it's clinically proven to be non-irritating and it's the cheapest (as in most affordable) unsaturated-squalane-based face oil on the market today. (As a comparison, a bottle of Peter Thomas Roth's Oilless Oil Purified Squalane Treatment sells for $38.)
Resveratrol 3% + Ferulic Acid 3%, $7.50 at ASOS
Per one reviewer: “OH OH OH OH OH MY GOSH, THIS WITH ASCORBYL GLUCOSIDE. THE WRINKLES ON MY FOREHEAD ARE GONE GONE GONE. GONE WITH THE WIND. I’VE BEEN TRYING TO DIMISH THEM WITH SO MANY DIFFERENT INGREDIENTS. This is crazy. Really crazy. This is magic.” We think that about says it all.
100% Cold-Pressed Virgin Marula Oil, $9.90 at Beautylish
This under-$10 oil feels far more luxurious — and non-oily — than your basic face oil. Why? Marula oil is intensely hydrating and packed with essential fatty acids similar to those found in the outer layer of the skin, so it’s super-quick-drying and ideal for all skin types. (It also contains flavonoids, vitamin E and four times more vitamin C than an orange.) Use it on your face, hair, cuticles — any dry bits, really.
Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5, $6.80 at Beautylish
For the acne-prone (and anyone who loves their skin), a great oil-free moisturizer that leaves no annoying residue. For those unfamiliar, hyaluronic acid (HA) isn’t actually an acid, but a sugar that attracts and holds water. (Fun fact: Each molecule can hold up to 1,000 times its weight in water.) Babies have it in spades, but our bodies produce less of it as we become older. That’s where this smoothing, plumping, über-hydrating (because HA and vitamin B5) serum comes in.
Niacinamide, a naturally occurring form of vitamin B3, is another skin care star: it kicks cell DNA repair into high speed and in so doing regulates oil production, shrinks pores, reduces blotchiness, makes skin more receptive to moisturizers and fights sun damage. It may even have anti-cancer properties. Not bad for the low, low price of $16 — or, if you're patient — $6.
AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution, $11.05 at ASOS
Alpha hydroxyl acids clear away dead cells on the topmost layer of the skin; beta hydroxyl acids likewise break down old, crusty cells whilst also de-gunking pores. Tasmanian pepperberry, which gives the solution its reddish-brown color, soothes irritation; vitamin B5 hydrates skin and helps it heal. Spread a few drops of this formula over your freshly cleansed, dry face at night (no more than two times a week), leave the peel on for 10 minutes, admire the radiant, bright, velvety results. (And don't forget to follow-up with sunscreen in the AM!)
Serum Foundation SPF15, $8 at ASOS
Pro tip: shake the container very well before gingerly pressing the pump to dispense this very liquid formula (which comes in 21 shades ranging from pale to deep). A little goes a long way. As you can probably guess based on its consistency, the formula, while chock-full of pigment, doesn't feel thick or cakey. It's also matte-finish, SPF 15, vegan and cruelty- and oil-free.
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