This is a straightforward guide to show you which products are best for oily and acne prone skin by “The Ordinary” – a budget friendly, straightforward, treatment-focused skincare brand from Canada.

If you are looking for The Ordinary products for general anti-aging needs, please refer to this post.

The Ordinary: A 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.

Oily vs. Acne Prone: Is there a difference?

If you’ve landed on this post, that means you’re probably looking for The Ordinary products for oily, acne prone skin.

So let’s first differentiate the difference between oily and acne-prone skin. (Psst…I also explain what causes oily skin in this post, in case you want to check it out.)

Oily Skin is a Skin Type

Skin types classified as “oily” tends to have overactive pores that produce too much sebum, or skin oil. It’s important to understand that skin of all types naturally produce oil to keep skin healthy and prevent it from drying out. It’s when your skin produces too much oil due to factors such as genetics, environment, and hormone that leads to issues such as shiny skin, clogged pores, and acne.

Acne is a Skin Concern

All skin types, whether oily, dry, or combination can be acne-prone if you don’t use the right products.

It’s a common misconception that oily skin needs to be “dried out” and the oils eliminated. If your skin does not get the moisture it needs, it will think it’s dehydrated and actually produce even more oil to balance out what it thinks is dry skin.

I am including The Ordinary treatments suitable for oily skin, to help control oil, give skin the moisture and exfoliator it needs, as well as treatments suitable for breakouts.

Related: If you are looking for solutions for acne scars or pigmentation left behind due to acne, take a look at this post here for some treatment options.

Occasional breakouts vs. persistent acne

Please keep in mind that the treatments in The Ordinary’s range are suitable to treat occasional breakouts. For persistent acne treatment over a long period of time, it’s more suitable to find other brands that offer benzoyl peroxide as well.

Best active ingredients for Oily Skin

To recap, if you want to:

  • Treat breakouts
  • Control shine
  • Reduce sebum (oil) production

You should look for the following ingredients:

Important: Many people with oily skin think they do not need moisturizers because it will exacerbate their oily skin issues. Wrong – oftentimes your skin is over producing sebum, or oil, because it’s dehydrated. Oily skin needs proper moisturization as well.

The Ordinary for Oily Skin Shopping Guide

Ingredient Deep Dive: What they do

Niacinamide (Vitamin B3):

Described as a “high strength vitamin and mineral blemish formula”, The Ordinary’s Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% can be used as treatment for occasional breakouts and blemishes.  It will also help to reduce sebum (oil) production and has been shown to improve skin’s overall tone as well.  

the ordinary niacinamide 30ml

Related: I did an very in-depth post all about the benefits of adding niacinamide into your skincare routine. There are other product options rounded up in that post to consider beside The Ordinary, also at budget-friendly price points!

A Note About Niacinamide and Vitamin C: There have been confusion over the use of Vitamin C formulas conflicting with Niacinamide. The concern was that combining these two formulas may cancel out effectiveness or worse, cause skin irritation. However, recent studies have shown this not to be the case.

*Personally, I have been using the Niacinamide myself for the past three weeks, and have found it helpful in treating the very occasional pimple that appear in my jaw/chin area.

Salicylic Acid:

For persistent breakouts, you should consider using a stronger treatment, such as Salicylic Acid.

The Ordinary offers a Salicylic Acid 2% Solution which is a BHA (beta hydroxy acid) that is a chemical exfoliant which helps to reduce the appearance of blemishes with continued use. My personal experience is that Salicylic Acid tends to try out my skin so I use these treatments very sparingly. Full disclosure, however, is that I do not have oily or acne prone skin, so I wouldn’t need to use these treatments on an ongoing basis anyway.

Update: It seems like The Ordinary is updating the Salicylic Acid 2% Solution as of May 2020 so the product isn’t available for purchase. As an alternative, you can consider the Salicylic Acid 2% Masque. It’s a different form – a clay based mask instead of a liquid treatment. Its formulation is meant to be used 1-2 times a week for up to 10 minutes at a time. Based on the reviews it seems to be quite effective against blackheads and whiteheads as well.

Non-Comedogenic Hydrators:

The Ordinary’s Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA is an excellent choice for a more traditional form of moisturizer. Rich in fatty acids, amino acids, and ceramides, it packs plenty of essential ingredients that keeps your skin balanced and hydrated without extra fillers that may clog up pores and cause breakouts.

After moisturizer, The Ordinary suggests adding 100% Plant Derived Squalene into your routine for added moisturization benefits due to weather or environment (think winter, air conditioning, or airplane rides).

Squalene helps to lock in moisturization and keep your skin hydrated so that it balances out and calms your skin’s tendency to over-produce oil. Squalene is neither water or oil based and it is non-comedogenic so it is less likely to clog your pores and can be easily absorbed into the skin and is suitable for all skin types.

*Personally, I use this after my nighttime moisturizer 2-3 times a week to help seal in the hydration. I do not find it “completely ungreasy” like The Ordinary’s website suggests and would liken the feel to an oil. If you do not like the feel of oils on your skin, you probably will not enjoy using Squalene much.

The Ordinary for Oily/Acne Prone Skin: A Sample 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. There is a wealth of information, in addition to formats, time of use, and targeted concerns on this page that you can use as reference. 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 -> Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% -> Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA -> Mineral UV Filters SPF 15 with Antioxidants

PM Routine:

Double Cleanse -> Tone -> Salicylic Acid 2% Solution (if persistent acne) -> Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% -> 100% Plant Derived Squalene

Optional: Salicylic 2% Masque 1-2 times a week, for up to 10 minutes at a time

Related: In case you want to check it out, I’ve rounded up the Best Foundations for Oily Skin (something to suit every budget!) It can be difficult for makeup to last all day for Oily Skin, so be sure to check it out if you struggle to find a suitable founation for your skin.

Here’s the video in case you want to watch: