With over 50 (!!) products in its portfolio, many of them being in the same clear/white/brown bottles, it’s no secret The Ordinary is notoriously difficult to shop for. Today, I’m going to break down how to pick the best The Ordinary and build a routine for your dry skin care needs.

Characteristics of dry skin

If you haven’t read my post about understanding your skin type, I highly recommend you start there first. The worst thing is to waste money on products that don’t work because you were shopping for the wrong products to begin with.

Related: If you want to learn more about what products and ingredients dry skin types should look for in general, check out this post.

In general, dry skin types have the following common chracteristics:

  • Feels tight after you wash your face
  • Dry, flaky patches around your face (may be itchy)
  • Small to invisible pores
  • Prone to fine lines

Reminder: Dry Skin is a skin type and is different from dehydrated skin, a skin condition.

Dry Skin friendly The Ordinary products & ingredients

Main concern: To treat dry, flaky skin.

You want the look of healthy, glowing and moisturized skin.

Look for products and ingredients such as:

  • Mild, pH balanced cleanser, preferably glycerin based
  • Moisturizers that contain: hyaluronic acid, ceramides
  • Gentle exfoliator to get rid of dead skin cells and help skin cell renewal and regeneration
  • Moisturizing sunscreen for protection

The Ordinary products for Dry Skin by category

Best Cleanser for Dry Skin

The Ordinary Squalene Cleanser is a gentle, soap-free, moisturizing cleanser that is effective at dissolving makeup and other impurities and not drying out the skin.

What it feels like: It is a unique balm-like consistency and transforms into a clear oil-like consistency after you rub it in between your palms.

It has a pH of 5.5-6.6 and is oil-free and glycerin-based.

Directions: Dispense product into hands. Rub together to warm the product, allowing it to melt into an oil. Massage well onto dry face and rinse with warm water.

Best Exfoliators for Dry Skin

People with dry skin need to avoid harsh exfoliators or they run the risk of irritating the skin and wearing down the protective skin barrier.

The Ordinary’s Lactic Acid 5% + HA is a good option as it’s a very mild AHA (alpha-hydroxy acid) exfoliator. It contains Tasmanian pepperberry that is known to reduce signs of inflammation and sensitivty that is usually associated with exfoliation.

What it feels like: Liquid consistency, mild superficial peeling formulation.

Please Note: If you have sensitive skin or previously had sensitive reaction to chemical peels, please refrain from using. Try a more gentle approach: a fine powder exfoliator like Dermalogica’s Daily Microexfoliant might work better instead (it’s one of my favorites!).

Directions: Apply once per day, ideally in the PM. Can be diluted with other treatments to reduce strength until skin develops tolerance. Avoid contact with eyes. Contact of the product with the skin must be of limited frequency or duration. Please always remember to use a sunscreen whenever using AHA formulas.

Best Serum Treatment for Dry Skin

The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 is your best bet for a suitable treatment.

Fun fact: Hyaluronic Acid is known to be able to attract up to 1,000x its weight in water.

The Ordinary’s formula contains three forms of Hyaluronic Acid with varying molecular weights to offer deep-penetrating hydration to skin layers. It’s a vegan formula with a pH of 6.5-7.5.

Directions: Apply a few drops to face AM and PM before creams. 

Best Moisturizer for Dry Skin

The Ordinary Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA is a great basic, everyday moisturizer option for dry skin.

Key ingredients include: 11 amino acids and fatty acids, ceramides, glycerin, and hyaluronic acid.

These are all beneficial ingredients to keep skin moisturized and healthy.

What it feels like: It is non-greasy moisturizer, does not have a noticeable scent. It has a pH level of 6.5-7.0 and is alcohol-free and oil-free.

Directions: Apply after serums as needed for effective surface hydration.

Sunscreen for Dry Skin

The Ordinary currently offers two sunscreens in its portfolio – an SPF 15 and SPF 30, with two more on the way (an invisible SPF 35, and a mixed-filter SPF 50).

I always go with at least SPF 30 whenever possible, so the Mineral UV Filter SPF 30 with Antioxidants would be my pick.

What it feels like: Non-greasy sunscreen with a matte finish. It’s a mineral sunscreen so expect some white cast after you first apply it. You also need to apply it 15-20 minutes before sun exposure (vs. a chemical sunscreen which starts to work immediately).

Related: For a more in-depth guide to sunscreens, check out this post.

Please note: Some reviews also mention that for dark skin, the white cast may be more noticeable.

Directions: Shake well before use. Apply to face liberally and evenly 15 to 20 minutes before UV exposure. To maintain protection during continued UV exposure, reapply every 2 hours or after material water exposure, towel-drying, swimming, or extensive perspiration.

Optional: Hydrators & oils to support additional hydration

Shopping for oils and hydrators in The Ordinary is also confusing (I’m working on another post for this!) but here are my top picks for great general purpose hydrating oils for dry skin:

100% Plant Derived Squalene is a hydrator that can actually prevent the ongoing loss of hydration.

“B” Oil contains a purified form of micro-algae combined with a blend of squalene and marula, argan, baobab, patua, brazil nut, rosehip oil.

100% Cold-Pressed Moroccan Argan Oil is rich in fatty acids and vitamins which supports healthy skin and reduces the appearance of flaking.

Bonus Multi-purpose: Moroccan oil can be used on hair as well as skin.

The Ordinary Dry Skin Product Roundup

Example dry skin skincare routines with The Ordinary Products

Morning Routine:

Cleanse with Squalene Cleanser -> Tone -> Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 -> Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA -> Mixed UV Filters SPF 30 with Antioxidants

Evening Routine:

Cleanse with Squalene Cleanser -> Tone -> Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 -> 100% Plant Derived Squalene

Optional: Lactic Acid 5% + HA once a day, during evening routine (in place of Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5)

Swaps: Can swap out 100% Plant Derived Squalene for either the 100% Cold-Pressed Moroccan Argan Oil or “B” Oil based on your preference.

A cheat sheet to pin for later

The Ordinary Guide for Dry Skin