A Beginners Guide to the Dos and Don’ts of The Ordinary

Skincare brand The Ordinary has a cult following, and for good reason. The brand offers clinical formulations at an affordable price tag. Accessibility coupled with the effectiveness of the potent ingredients used makes it a favourite for many people.

But, learning how to properly use products from The Ordinary can be tricky thanks to the seemingly complicated nature of the product names. What exactly is Azelaic Acid Suspension 10%?!

In order to demystify these skincare products, DECIEM’s science communications associate manager, Nafisah, has created a handy how-to video as part of DECIEM’s KNOWvember campaign — a month-long venture designed to educate fans of the brand that sit under the DECIEM umbrella.

To begin, Nafisah laid out the three rules of The Ordinary products including the order in which they should be used and the amount needed to work effectively.

— Stop at three serums

“We recommend using no more than three serum formulations in a single regime for optimal layering and ingredient delivery. Generally, we suggest applying water-based solutions first, followed by anhydrous or oil formulations and finally cream or suspension formulas,” Nafisah said.

— Apply serums based on priority

“If you’re using more than one water-based serum you can apply them based on the priority of your skin concerns,” Nafisah said. “That is, the product that targets your most primary concern should be applied first followed by the next, up to a maximum of three serum formulations.”

— You only need the smallest amount of product

Finally, about two to three drops of any serum or oil-free formula and one pea-sized amount of any suspension and cream-like formula should be enough to cover the face and neck.

Nafisah also went on to break down the categories of products offered by The Ordinary and detailed the best way to use these, as well as the products that don’t work well together. When you’re using retinol and acid products, you have to be careful as they can a reaction when used together.


“Our antioxidants are waterless formulas and should be applied after water-based serums but before oils and creams,” Nafisah said. “We do not recommend applying antioxidants in the same routine as products containing copper peptides due to the potential of the antioxidant reacting with the copper ions.

“We also do not recommend combining our EUK 1340.1% with direct acids, direct and ethylated vitamin C or Resveratrol 3% plus Ferulic Acid 3% as the acidic nature of these products may affect the integrity of the manganese-based EUK 134 upon the absorption of both products.”

Direct Acids

The Ordinary’s range of direct acids, also known as chemical exfoliators, include both alpha-hydroxy acids, such as lactic acid and glycolic acid and beta hydroxy acids such as salicylic acid. Both of these work to exfoliate the skin in order to help out skin texture.

“Our direct acids are offered in a variety of formats and should be applied in the evening only,” Nafisah said. “We do not recommend applying direct acids in the same routine as other acids, retinoids, direct or ethylated vitamins C, peptides or EUK 134.”

Vitamin C

Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is an antioxidant that is lauded for its ability to even out skin tone, promote a smoother skin texture and reducing the signs of premature skin ageing.

“The Ordinary offers a wide range of formulations with vitamin C and well-studied vitamin C derivatives including magnesium ascorbyl phosphate, ascorbyl glucoside and ascorbyl tetraisopalmitate,” Nafisah said.

“Direct or ethylated vitamin C should not be applied in the same routine as products containing direct acids, retinoids, peptides, niacinamide or EUK 134.”


Peptides are amino acids that act as the building blocks of proteins like elastin and collagen. Using peptides in skincare helps to improve visible signs of ageing while also firming the skin and reducing breakouts.

“Our peptide formulas are all water-based serums to be applied closer to the beginning of your routine, before water-free formulas, oils and creams,” said Nafisah. “We do not recommend using peptides in the same routine as direct acids or direct or ethylated vitamin C.”


Retinoids are a family of compounds derived from vitamin A, which when used topically, helps to reduce fine lines and wrinkles while also stimulating the production of new blood vessels in the skin, fading age spots and improving skin texture.

“The Ordinary retinoids include a range of formulations at different concentrations to accommodate beginners as well as experienced users of retinol and its derivatives,” said Nafisah. “All of The Ordinary retinoids are formulated to target visible signs of ageing and texture irregularities.

“This category offers anhydrous and water-based formulations. We do not recommend combining multiple retinoid formulas in a single routine. We also do not recommend combining retinoids with direct acids, direct or ethylated vitamin C and copper peptides.”

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