The Ordinary Skincare review

A Skincare Routine That’s Actually Making a Difference For Once

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If you’ve arrived at this site having Googled ‘The Ordinary Skincare Review’ – or words to that affect – then there’s one thing you need to know before you go any further: I hate writing skincare reviews. 

(Which, yes, is an absolutely fantastic way to introduce my The Ordinary skincare review, isn’t it? Does anyone want to buy my book on blogging tips? Anyone at all?)

I hate writing about skincare, however, because – and I’m just going to be painfully honest here – most of the time I just don’t understand it. Like, I’m about to write a “review” of The Ordinary Squalane Cleanser, for instance, and I have absolutely no idea what ‘squalane’ is, or why I need it on my face. None. (Or I didn’t, anyway: I mean, I obviously have access to Google, so it’s not like this is some kind of impenetrable mystery to me, or anything like that, but still. Squa-what-the-WHAT now?)

Because of this, when The Ordinary’s skincare range launched, and everyone started raving about it, I took a quick look at the products, and then I backed away slowly, because while I loved the prices, I felt like I needed to go back to school and get some kind of chemistry qualification, just so I could understand what I was even looking at. Seriously, I expect one day universities will offer degree courses on “Understanding The Ordinary”, but, until then, even just working out which products I might need seemed like more effort than I was willing to put in at the time: sad but true. 

In my defence, though, the other reason I hate writing about skincare – and another reason I was reluctant to dive into The Ordinary – is for the simple fact that most products don’t seem to make a single bit of difference to me, really. I’m fortunate, I suppose, in that I don’t really have a lot of issues with my skin: sure, it’s saggier than I’d like, and every time I accidentally reverse the camera on my phone, I want to cry, but, on the plus side, I’m not allergic to anything, rarely get spots (Although, when I do, they’re EPIC, trust me…), and am just intensely, well, ordinary, really. 

Now, this is all well and good, of course, but it does make buying skincare products have a bit of an ‘Emperor’s New Clothes’ feel to it, really, which is why, at some point last year, I decided it was time to give The Ordinary a go, after all. Well, if I’m going to buy products that don’t make a difference, they may as well be the cheapest ones I can find, right? 

The strange thing was, though, The Ordinary products I bought actually DID make a difference. Which is why I felt a The Ordinary skincare review was in order, although I write this review with the very clear caveat that I am very, very far from a skincare expert, so if you’re reading this in the hope that I’m going to be able to explain all of the ingredients of these products to you, or provide tailored advice on which ones might work best for you, I’m afraid I’m going to have to disappoint you, because what I’m ACTUALLY going to do is show you the ones I’ve been using myself. 

So, here’s my current The Ordinary skincare routine:
The Ordinary Skincare review

The ordinary Skincare Review:


STEP 1: The Ordinary Squalane Cleanser

I’ll be honest: I bought this purely because it was only £5.50, compared to the £15 I was paying for my previous cleansers. Now, cleansers remove my makeup and clean my face, but they don’t change my world, and there hasn’t been a single time – literally NOT ONE TIME – when I’ve washed my face and thought, “Hmm, this washing-of-my-face was so much better than all of the other face-washings I have experienced: in fact, I’d happily pay more for it!” Have YOU, though? I mean, SERIOUSLY? 

So, this product certainly does clean my face, but… that’s pretty much all I have to say about it, really. This is not necessarily a bad thing, I hasten to add (I mean, it’s a cleanser, it cleans: what more do you want?)  it’s just that, on its own, I doubt it would really make that much difference to my skin, although I’m happy to be proven wrong on that. 

STEP 2: The Ordinary Caffeine Solution 5% + EGCG

You might not guess it from the name alone, but this product is designed for the under-eye area (One of my main gripes with The Ordinary: why can’t they just call it something like, “EYE SERUM”? It would make life so much easier…), and aims to reduce dark circles and puffiness. It contains 5% caffeine and also something called EGCG, which, LOL, AS IF I know what that means. Like, that’s just a bunch of random letters, surely? 

(I’m joking: I think EVERYONE knows EGCG stands for epigallocatechin gallate, don’t they? And if you didn’t, I expect things are MUCH clearer now. You’re welcome.)

This was actually the first product I ever bought from The Ordinary, and I’ve been happy enough with it to re-purchase it several times since then. It’s worked pretty well on my dark circles, but the last time I did the ol’ ‘accidental reverse camera’ thing, I noticed a certain crepeyness to the skin under my eyes, so I suspect I might need a separate product to tackle that. I’m not sure if The Ordinary make such a product, but, if they do, I’m certain it’ll be called something like, ‘YZTRY Monopoposulphatronathon’ or something, so it might take me a while to track it down. I’ll keep you posted.

STEP 3: The Ordinary ‘Buffet’

‘Buffet’ is one of The Ordinary’s hero products, and, as such, I bought it purely because everyone else was buying it, and, as my mum always says, if everyone else jumped into the stream, I would too. It turned out to be a kind of multi-purpose serum, which I was pleased about, because I enjoy a good serum, and generally find them more effective than moisturisers.

This one actually turned out to be pretty effective indeed: it’s one of those ‘a little goes a long way’ products, so you only need a few drops: any more than that, and it can feel a bit greasy, and I also find that it needs a good few seconds to sink into the skin, too. Once it’s absorbed, though, it leaves my skin feeling nice and smooth: so much so that I sometimes just skip the next step, and apply my makeup directly on top of this. 

At £13, it’s one of the more expensive products in this selection (Although not exactly ‘expensive’ compared to some other brands, obviously…), but I’ve still re-purchased it twice since I started using it, which is as ringing an endorsement of it as I can give you. 

The Ordinary Skincare: What I use and why I love it

The Ordinary Skincare Review: What I use and why I love it


In less good news, I’ve just this second noticed that you’re supposed to conduct a patch test before using this, which, NO, I DID NOT. You’re also supposed to avoid ‘acids and vitamin C’, while you’re using it, which, YES! I DID! But only by coincidence, though! Aaaaand, this is why skincare scares me, to be perfectly honest: because I’m in the habit of just blithely ripping open the packaging and slathering it over my skin, and, DO NOT DO THAT, PEOPLE. Read the instructions. Or… actually, I have no idea what would happen in this instance, but I expect your face would fall off, and no one wants that, do they?

STEP 4: The Ordinary Natural Moisturising Factors + HA

When my old moisturiser ran out, I spent ages browsing The Ordinary for something called simply ‘moisturiser’ (I feel the need to apologise here, because I’m starting to remind myself of my dad when he goes into Starbucks and asks for ”a coffee, please”…), and this is what I ended up with: not just ‘moisturiser’ but ‘moisturising FACTORS’. Fancy! (Oh, and also ‘HA’ – which I assume is supposed to be pronounced as initials, like ‘aitch ay’ but which I always read as if I’m laughing, like, “HA!” So, Moisturising Factors plus HA!” it is!)

This is the final step in my routine, and, dammit, it turns out I should’ve done a patch test of THIS, too! OK, I’m thinking they maybe just put that on EVERYTHING, so they don’t get sued? Either that or you’re supposed to do patch tests with ALL skincare, and I’m the only person who didn’t know that? Am I the only person who didn’t know that? I wish I hadn’t started this now, to be totally honest…

Anyway, as I was saying, this is the final step in my morning routine (Other than sunscreen, that is: this doesn’t contain SPF, so I use a separate product for that: there’s a link to my most recent purchase here...), and I don’t always reach it, because, once I’ve applied ‘Buffet’ I don’t always feel like my skin needs any more moisture, really. When it does, though, this is a really nice, lightweight cream, which is easily absorbed, and doesn’t feel like it’s suffocating your skin, as some moisturisers can.

The Ordinary Skincare Review


My nighttime routine, meanwhile, uses all of the above products, but with one extra step, which I insert between ‘Buffet’ and “Moisturising Factors, HA!” (Please read that in the tone of Jesse from Breaking Bad going, “Magnets, bitches!”)

Step 3.5:  The Ordinary 100% Organic Cold-Pressed Rose Hip Seed Oil

I bought this purely because ASOS described it as, “Essentially a facial in a bottle,” and I’m a complete sucker for claims like that, basically. It was only later that I realised this is ALSO described as being good for “dry, itchy skin”, which I don’t actually have, but, oh well: I already had it by then, so I figured I might as well give it a go.

Now, this is an oil, and it is VERY oily, so, I don’t use it every night, and I don’t always use ‘Moisturising Factors, Ha!’ afterwards, because it just feels a bit too much once I’ve rubbed in the oil. Even so, the first few times I used it, I was worried that it was making me look a bit too shiny the next morning: the thing is, though, my skin might be a bit shinier (Or maybe it’s just that “glow” people are always talking about?), but I also find that this makes it look healthier, too: it’s smoother, firmer, and just better, somehow, than it is without it, and if I don’t use this for a few nights in a row, I will really notice the difference: and not in a good way.

How to get great skin on a budget

The Ordinary Skincare Review: after shots

Now that I’ve written all of that down, it seems like a huge amount of products, although I know some people use more, and are probably just gearing up to tell me that they can’t believe I don’t also use X,Y and Z products – why, my skin must want to jump off my face in protest!

While I don’t know nearly enough about skincare to know whether that’s true or not, though, I DO know that this routine seems to be working for me right now, so I’m happy to stick with it for as long that continues to be the case. Of course, my main issue now is that I’ve no idea which of these products is the one (or ones) that’s making the most difference. I’m pretty sure it’s not the Caffeine Solution or Squalane Cleanser, because I’d been using both of those for a while before I added the rest into my routine, and hadn’t noticed much difference. I don’t think it’s the moisturiser (HA!) either, because, as I said, I don’t always use it. So my hunch is it’s probably Buffet, Rose Hip Seed Oil, or both. 

Now: what else do I need to buy from The Ordinary, I wonder? 

The Ordinary Foundation Review

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  • Rosie


    Great review! I felt EXACTLY the same about The Ordinary when I first heard about it – I thought unless I get a chemistry degree I would never know which products I should get from them… no benefits on the labels only weird words! 😀
    Thankfully some internet research helped, and I am SO glad I made the effort! I have been terrible in the past when it came to skincare mainly because I had the same “problem” as you – I did not notice any difference no matter what product I used.
    However I was surprised how much of a difference The Ordinary products have made for my skin – I feel they have given me “the glow” which I have been trying to achieve for such a long time. I use “Buffet” in the morning, so I suspect from your review, this really might be the product which makes the most difference. Other than that I use their glycolic acid toner and the granactive retinoid 2% in squalene in the evening and I have never been happer with my skin!

    January 17, 2020
    • Alexa


      You can actually write to their experts on their website, describe your skin and ask for recommendations. In the contact section.

      February 15, 2020
      • Pamela


        Great post ever, thanks for sharing! ❤️ Ordinary is great, but for me tretinoin (Retin-A) is much more powerful than any retinol. One of my friend, was a satisfied user of Retin-A, suggested me to use Retin.A.0.05%. So happy???? I googled ‘Ret247get’ and got Retin-A. First 2 weeks my acne breakout little more than the usual. but after that, acne seemed to be decreased. Now I am cured and my skin is glowing. And I am quite satisfied with this .

        June 4, 2021
    • James


      Hi Rosie,
      Can you help me with a regime please. I’m really struggling with all the products and it’s uses.
      I’ve got acne prone skin, an AM and Pm regime would be of great help.

      Many thanks

      March 31, 2020
  • Miss Kitty


    I don’t know if I can get The Ordinary here downunder, but I also noticed a huge difference in my skin when I started using an oil at night. I never had used one before because I have oily skin and I thought it would be a redundant step, but it made such a difference. I actually wake up with glowy skin, I thought that was something that only happened in TV ads! Also started using a retinol at night (you definitely don’t want to slather that all over your face to start with, build it up slow!) and have noticed a difference in fine lines and general crepe-ness. The other product I love is a salicylic acid in the morning, which has cleared my skin up of blackheads and the other big painful cyst pimples. I don’t know whether the brand really matters, as long as you are using ingredients that work for your skin. It’s taken me years, but I finally have a skin care routine that works for me!

    January 18, 2020
    • Miss Kitty


      I remembered something else I meant to say – if you do want to understand more about skincare and the science behind it, Google Stephanie Nicole on YouTube. I learnt a lit from her videos, she puts things in an easy to understand way.

      January 19, 2020
  • Kelly Glen


    I am the same when it comes to skincare, why do they have to make everything so complicated and means you need a science degree to understand how it works. I think you did a great job of describing the products.

    January 18, 2020
  • One of my 2020 resolutions this year was ti start using skin care, mainly because a co-worker thought I was 34 when I am actually 26… so, yeah. But I find it so overwhelming! I also thought of The Ordinary because of their prices, but it’s exactly what you said, I feel I need a whole degree to understand what products exactly I need.
    Thank you for your review, it’s very helpful. I will for sure give a try to the Buffet. I also heard a lot of good things about retinoid, but haven’t tried it myself yet.


    January 19, 2020
  • ooh now this is tricky for me, because I’m an absolute The Ordinary addict, but I don’t use ANY of the same products as you- my routine is AM: hyaluronic acid+B5 (HA!), vitamin C in magnesium, moisturiser+sunscreen (not The Ordinary) and PM: as AM but retinol in squalane instead of vit C (and of course no sunscreen). So I’ve never used Buffet or the rosehip thing and now I really feel I’m missing out…!!!

    January 20, 2020
  • Amy


    This made me laugh a lot, thank you!

    I’m blessed with excellent genetics and so my skin routine is washing it every other day or so (every day dried my skin out) and Nieva body lotion a few times a day (when I do my hands really).

    I’ve been thinking it would be nice to have a moisturiser with sun cream, so I’ll head to Google and see if I can figure out if The Ordinary does one. ????

    January 20, 2020
  • I use The Ordinary because I am nearly 40 and I figure I should probably look after my skin, but also have no idea what I am doing and can’t afford to spend £££ on products recommended by a salesperson (that, let’s face it, I will probably remember to use once a week!). I REALLY wish The Ordinary had a counter somewhere, so someone could tell me what I should be using. But I based my “routine” on a blog post (all diff products to yours but essentially similar kind of thing, I assume anyway, who knows what these things are meant to do?) and got 5 products. One of which is my personal hero – my skin is so dry and rough at the moment and their Glycolic Acid toner leaves it soft and smooth and like I have had a facial in just a couple of swipes. I need to figure out the hydrating better tho, so I think some Rose Hip Seed is in my future. And probably Buffet too. Fingers crossed I will suddenly have beautiful skin! x

    January 20, 2020
    • hi, just a response about ‘I wish The Ordinary had a counter somewhere’- they actually have several shops in London and even though their shops are always busy, the staff are always really helpful in my experience!! Not sure where you’re based but I just thought I’d point that out! It was from a staff member in a shop that I discovered that if you buy a The Ordinary product and don’t like it/it doesn’t suit your skin, you can return it for a full refund within a year of purchase EVEN IF YOU HAVE USED SOME OF IT! (which blew my mind!)

      January 20, 2020
  • Oh, Amber – you’re just the best! I love reading your honest reviews and was pretty excited to read this one about a skincare product I recently found, too! I’ve been using The Ordinary for about a year now, while I haven’t tried Buffet yet, the Niacinimide + Zinc (another crazy name, oh boy) has been LIFE CHANGING for me. I have/had oily skin and this has completely changed my skin (it’s used for both redness and oiliness). I actually wear less foundation than I used to, mostly just concealer and a touch of powder so I don’t get shiny later on in the day. But I use and love all the other products you mentioned!
    All the best <3

    February 6, 2020