I bought my first The Ordinary products earlier this month and can’t help but notice how difficult it was to decipher which products were right for me. After doing my research, I compiled this guide so you can decide which The Ordinary products are right for you.

The Ordinary: A Brief Background

A couple of things to note about this brand that might help you navigate the products better:

  • First, if you are like me and are shopping for traditional cleansers, toners, and moisturizers, you will be thrown off.  This is because The Ordinary mainly focuses on treatments rather than cleansers, toners, or moisturizers – so understanding that first and foremost should help you to begin to understand the brand a little better.
  • Deciem, which is the parent brand that owns the Ordinary, does offer cleansers and moisturizers. But The Ordinary focuses primarily on treatments that fits into your current routine after the toning, and before moisturizing. [Note: the exception here is the Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution, which is recommended that you use this after your cleanser and before any other product]
  • The Ordinary Treatments are classified into either water based or oil based. It’s important to use water based products first before you use oil based products, as this is the correct way to layer your skincare.

Now as you know, skincare is not an easy or straightforward topic. There is a lot of information about this topic in particular, and different products for different people. There will be separate posts for different skin needs –

  1. Aging, Mature Skin
  2. Oily, Acne Prone Skin (can also check out this post if you have oily skin and wonder what causes it)
  3. Dull Skin, Hyperpigmentation
  4. Dry skin, dehydration concerns

If you’ve landed on this post, that means you’re probably looking for The Ordinary products for general anti-aging, preventative care.

Related and Important: In order to avoid wasting money on products that don’t work for you, it can be helpful to understand your skin type.

This post explains how you can determine your skin type so you’re purchasing the right products for your unique needs. Anti-aging is a category of skincare that applies to every skin type.

The Ordinary Treatments For Aging, Mature Skin

You want to treat:

  • Wrinkles, lines

You want:

  • The look of lifted, firmer skin

You should look for The Ordinary products in the following categories:

  • Retinoids
  • Peptide Serums
  • Oils and Hydrators to aid in locking in moisturization

Optional: If you happen to have texture-related issues (rough skin), you may also want to consider adding a chemical exfoliant such as AHA peel to your regimen if your skin can tolerate it. (May not be suitable for sensitive skin.)

Let’s take a look at each of these categories to see what they do.

Retinoids, Peptide Serums, and Oils

Retinoids are a class of actives chemically related to Vitamin A and help with concerns such as acne, anti-aging, and hyper-pigmentation. They work by helping turn over your dead skin cells at a more normal rate and promoting collagen production. This, in effect, helps to renew your skin and promote healthier and younger looking skin.

Downside of retinoids: Some people may experience mild irritation when they start to use retinoids.

Peptide Serums and Oils

As skin ages, we start to see skin sag, and part of the reason is because of the loss of collagen and moisture. Collagen is produced naturally by our bodies, but the aging process slows the production of this essential protein. To help skin looking firm and supple, serums rich in peptides as well as oils and moisturizers will aid in collagen production and helps keep the skin moisturized are also essential in an anti-aging skincare routine.

A note about acids

AHA, also known as alpha hydroxy acids, are chemical exfoliants that help get rid of dead skin cells that build up over time.  Your skin sheds dead skin cells naturally, but the process slows over time as you age. When dead skin cells build up and your skin can’t act quickly enough to get rid of the buildup, the result includes wrinkles and loss in firmness as well as dull skin and clogged pores. Adding an AHA chemical exfoliant once a week to your routine may help you achieve smoother, brighter looking skin.

Consider your unique needs

The Ordinary offers all of the above treatments in their portfolio, at different levels of potency. Which one you use will depend on personal preference and your skin’s tolerance level of actives.

When shopping for The Ordinary products to target anti-aging, you should consider the following questions

  1. Sensitive skin?
  2. Any texture-related issues that you want to further address: rough skin, uneven skin tone?
  3. Any other specific skin concerns I want to target?

As a general rule of thumb, I would purchase three treatments from The Ordinary for a good anti-aging skincare routine: 1) a retinoid, 2) a peptide serum, and 3) an oil to aid in moisturization.

How To Shop: The Ordinary retinoids

The Ordinary retinoids are classified into two major groups: Granactive retinoids, which uses a newer technology that significantly lowers the irritability factor and what I will call “regular” retinoids. Both groups allow you to pick the individual product’s potency, and the major difference between the two group besides technology is cost.

I recommend going with the Granactive Retinoid if budget allows, especially if you are concerned with your skin’s ability to handle a retinoid product and sensitivity concerns. If you take a look at the chart I created below, you will notice that there are three products in the Granactive group

The Ordinary Shopping Guide - Anti Aging

Squalane vs. Emulsion

The difference between these 2% in Squalane and Emulsion is the base – for those who prefer a “Creamy, hydrating emulsion” you would pick the 2% Emulsion product but please note that this format does not contain pure retinol.

The retinoid in squalane offers pure retinol formulas and what The Ordinary describes as “better compatibility with several steps in a regimen.” In other words, unless you have a strong preference for a creamier, emulsion format, it’s recommended that you go with the 2% or 5% squalane products.

2% vs. 5%

Between the 2% or 5%, it’s based on your skin’s sensitivity factor. While the Granactive technology reduces the irritability factor, you sill need to consider your own skin’s needs and reactiveness to a retinoid product. If you have concerns or reservations, it’s best to start with the 2% and work your way up as your skin builds up tolerance.

How to Shop: The Ordinary peptide serums and oils

The “Buffet”

After you’ve picked a suitable retinoid from The Ordinary’s collection, I would pick up a peptide rich serum such as “Buffet”.

This formula is suitable to use as a treatment both in the morning and at night as a generalist serum to target signs of aging and loss of firmness.

Related: I wrote an in-depth review of “Buffet” here and answered all of the frequently asked questions about this very popular treatment. I highly recommend you taking a look first if you’re considering purchasing it.

Rose Hip Seed Oil vs. Virgin Marula Oil

For anti-aging concerns and needs, I would recommend going with the 100% Organic Cold-Pressed Rose Hip Seed Oil. This is high in omega fatty acid content which is ideal to maintain moisture and combat signs of aging.

Some might prefer 100% Cold-Pressed Virgin Marula Oil as it’s a more “luxurious” oil and Rose Hip Seed may be more polarizing due to scent, but if the aroma doesn’t bother you, Rose Hip Seed oil is more targeted as an anti-aging product.

Marula is which is suitable more for people who don’t have major skin concerns and want the added benefit of a general all-purpose oil to support their hydration needs.

Hyaluronic Acid

If your skin is especially dehydrated, or need an extra boost of moisture at times (winter, dry climate/season, travel), adding the Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 is an excellent choice.

Hyaluronic acid is great to add to any skincare routine that needs a boost of moisture as it hydrates well, absorbs easily, and is pleasant to use (and cost effective to boot!).

Acids for exfoliation and addressing rough texture

Lastly, if you do have other skin concerns you want to target, such as rough skin or want extra brightening benefits, you could consider adding the AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution as a 1-2x exfoliating treatment to your routine.

This will help to renew your skin’s surface at a faster rate, and address any dullness or texture concerns you may have. Again, if you have sensitivity concerns, however, it’s best to start with a 2% retinoid and allow your skin to build up the tolerance over time before using a high-active concentration such as this product.

The AHA 30% formula is a very high concentration of free acid. It is only recommended for people who are comfortable using chemical peels at home. It is not recommended for people with sensitive skin, problems with peeling skin, or open wounds in the skin.

The Ordinary Shopping Guide - For Anti Aging Skincare

The Ordinary: Example Anti-Aging Routine

Using the products that I mentioned above, and  after doing much research on The Ordinary’s website, I saw that they have example regimens that you can consider.

For simplicity’s sake, here are the morning and nighttime routines laid out. Please remember that The Ordinary’s treatments are meant to be used in addition to your regular cleansing and moisturizing products.

AM Routine:

Cleanse -> Tone -> “Buffet” -> Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 -> Moisturizer -> Sunscreen

PM Routine:

Double Cleanse -> Tone -> “Buffet” -> Granactive Retinoid 2% or 5% in Squalane -> 100% Organic Cold-Pressed Rose Hip Seed Oil -> Moisturizer

Optional: 1-2x per week: AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution as a chemical exfoliating peel

The Ordinary Example Regimen for Anti Aging

The Ordinary Anti Aging Video Guide

The Ordinary Anti-Aging Cheat Sheet for Pinterest

The Ordinary Guide to Anti Aging Products