This post will introduce you to the Best The Ordinary Treatments for Dark Spots and Acne Scars- including a break down of the Vitamin C formulas and other treatments! Buckle up, because this is (another) in-depth post!

The Ordinary: A Brief Background

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

  • The Ordinary focuses primarily on treatments that fits into your current routine after the toning, and before moisturizing.
  • 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 types –

  1. Aging, Mature Skin
  2. Oily, Acne Prone Skin
  3. Dull Skin, Hyperpigmentation
  4. Dry Skin, Dehydration

The Ordinary Treatments for Dull, Uneven Skin

Hyper-pigmentation, dark spots, and discoloration is a skin concern that all skin types can experience.

In general, you want to:

  • Treat dull, uneven skin tone
  • Discoloration caused by sun damage or acne scarring

You should look for the following The Ordinary treatments:

The Ordinary Vitamin C formulas

Vitamin C is important in any anti-aging skincare routine, from just starting out to further along in the aging process.  It targets multiple signs of aging, and is especially effective at brightening skin and minimizing discoloration.

It can be very confusing shopping for Vitamin C, however, because different brands call it different things, as there are derivatives of Vitamin C. 

Let’s go into a little more detail about shopping for the appropriate Vitamin C treatment in The Ordinary’s offering. 

The 5 Vitamin C formulas in The Ordinary’s portfolio:

  1. Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2%
  2. Vitamin C Suspension 30% in Silicone
  3. Ascorbyl Glucoside Solution 12%
  4. Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate 10%
  5. Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate Solution 20% in Vitamin F

Can you see how it can be confusing? Only two of these treatments are even called “Vitamin C.” Let’s dig into these products a little deeper.

If you want the strongest concentration: Vitamin C Suspension Formulas

Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2% and Vitamin C Suspension 30% in Silicone are the most potent versions of Vitamin C among the five treatments available in The Ordinary’s range.

They both contain L-Ascorbic Acid, which contains a high concentration of Vitamin C and widely regarded as the strongest version of Vitamin available in skincare products while still being a cost effective solution. The downside is that L-Ascorbic Acid is delivered in powder format, so the absorption is not as ideal as other Vitamin C Derivatives that absorbs better.

Strongest formulas, different textures

For those of you who want the most potent, concentrated version of Vitamin C and do not mind heavy serums with:

  • possible tinging
  • formula taking a little time to be fully absorbed into the skin

Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2% and Vitamin C Suspension 30% in Silicone both fit the bill. Pick Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2% if you don’t mind a grittier texture, pick Vitamin C Suspension 30% in Silicone if you want a smoother texture.

Note: The reason why this is Vitamin C 30% is because silicone slightly impairs the concentration of Vitamin C as it makes contact with the skin, so to make up for this discrepancy there is a higher concentration of Vitamin C in this formula.

The Ordinary Vitamin C Treatment Guide

Remaining Vitamin C Formulas: Higher price, less concentration, but easier to use

If the feeling of the product matters more to you, and you want a more pleasant user experience (think lighter serums/creams, faster absorption, less stinging) and do not mind paying a higher price, consider one of the remaining three formulas:

The Ordinary Vitamin C Cheat Sheet

The Ordinary Vitamin C Guide

Other The Ordinary Treatments for Dark Spots

Glycolic Acid Toning Solution 7%

After cleansing, I like to use the Glycolic Acid Toning Solution, which is an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) that helps to exfoliate the skin. This 7% toning solution offers mild exfoliation for improved skin radiance and visible clarity. The formula also improves the appearance of skin texture with continued use.

Note: I use it 3-4 times a week instead of every day as a personal preference because I have sensitive skin and don’t want to use an acid every day. For those of you with higher tolerance to acids you can use this every day, preferably in the evening.


I raved about all of the benefits of adding niacinamide into your skin care routine in this post – basically, it’s a versatile ingredient with a multitude of benefits, including brightening and renewing the surface of your skin by encouraging cell turnover.

There has been concern about mixing niacinamide with vitamin C formulas, but I’ve also explained this not to be the case in the post.

Alpha Arbutin

Alpha Arbutin has long been used in Asian skincare products for its “whitening” and brightening benefits. It helps reduce the look of spots and hyper-pigmentation. The Ordinary’s Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA is a high concentration (vs. standard of 1%) and is suspended in Hyaluronic Acid for moisturization purposes. It can be used in the AM and PM as a brightening treatment after cleansing and toning and before the use of your moisturizer. If you use it during the morning, be sure to use sun protection.

Azelaic Acid Suspension 10%

Azelaic Acid is produced naturally by the yeast that lives on the skin, and is also found in grains. Its benefits include brightening the skin tone and improving the evenness of skin texture. The Ordinary’s Azelaic Acid Suspension 10% is a lightweight cream-gel product offers a high concentration of 10% high-purity Azelaic Acid that’s appropriate to use both in the morning and night, as long as you use sun protection during the day.


I highlighted the use of The Ordinary’s AHA 30% + BHA 2% peeling solution in my anti-aging post. It can be added to your skincare routine once or twice a week to improve skin texture and brighten the skin. You could consider this as your twice a week treatment, but only if you feel that your skin is not too sensitive for an at-home chemical acid peel.

Example Routines

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.

AM Routine

Cleanse -> Tone -> Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA -> Ascorbyl Glucoside Solution 12% -> Moisturizer -> Sunscreen

PM Routine

Double Cleanse -> Glycolic Acid Toning Solution 7% -> Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% -> Azelaic Acid Suspension 10% -> Moisturizer

Important: Sunscreen is important in every skincare routine, but especially so when you’re adding Vitamin C or acids that encourage cell turnover and exfoliation. If you are struggling to find a suitable sunscreen for your skin type, check out this post.

Cheat Sheet of My Top Products

The Ordinary Product Guide for Dark Spots