How to decode which products you need from skincare brand The Ordinary

23 October 2019
By Fashion Quarterly

If you have any kind of interest in beauty or skincare whatsoever, then there’s a very high chance you would have heard about The Ordinary.

Launched in 2016 by parent company Deciem, The Ordinary skincare brand created major excitement amongst beauty editors and skincare aficionados alike, due to their science-driven products containing powerful high-end ingredients made available at insanely affordable prices – for example, retinol priced from $25 as opposed to retinoids by other brands who might charge $100+ for essentially the same ingredients.

Instead of fancy descriptive names, The Ordinary tells you exactly which active ingredients each product contains – from glycolic and hyaluronic acids to retinol, Vitamin C and squalane, this innovative skincare line brings clinical technology and all the latest “buzz” ingredients to a mainstream audience which has both skincare fans (including Kim Kardashian) and skincare newbies  scrambling to get their hands on the most popular products before they sell out. The brand’s Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution, for example, initially sold out before it had even hit shelves, such was the hype.

Aside from their affordability and accessibility (the brand is available in New Zealand at 13 Farmers stores nationwide, including the country’s first counters at Farmers Newmarket and Farmers Queen Street, and online at, another key selling point of the brand is the ability for multi-product usage as part of an overall routine to target specific skin concerns and achieve very real results.

This “layering” technique sounds complicated, but it’s really not, so long as you follow some basic guidelines…


The Ordinary products

There’s a skincare solution for every concern with The Ordinary.

When it comes to addressing various skin concerns, The Ordinary has a product for everything. Here, we break down optimum combinations and suggest a recommended order of application (as a general rule, water formulations should be applied before oil formulations). In terms of how many products to use, the brand also recommends using a maximum of three serum formulations in a single regimen.

For more information on which products might be good for you, visit for comprehensive product guides and usage recommendations. If you are in the Auckland area, Farmers Newmarket and Farmers Queen Street are the only places in New Zealand where you can pay a visit to The Ordinary counters and have a specialised skincare consultant advise on the best products and tailor a regime specific to your skin.


Suggested morning routine: Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%

Suggested evening routine: Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%, Salicylic Acid 2% Solution (as a spot treatment), 100% Plant-Derived Squalane.

About this routine: If you suffer from pesky spots or congestion is a key issue for you, a combination of niacinamide, zinc and salicylic acid is going to help fight acne on all fronts. Niacinamide, a form of Vitamin B3, has long been used by dermatologists as an ingredient to repair cells from the inside out so they function better, while zinc is a known anti-acne agent that regulates oil production and is also an antioxidant which protects the skin from free radicals. Squalane can be applied as a last step both morning and evening (perhaps start just with evening application) for non-comedogenic surface hydration. As with most skincare usage (particularly acids and retinoids) solar exposure should be avoided.


Suggested morning routine: ‘Buffet’, Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5

Suggested evening routine: ‘Buffet’, Granactive Retinoid 2% or 5% in Squalane, 100% Organic Cold-Pressed Rose Hip Seed Oil

About this routine:
The ‘Buffet’ product is a must-have on anyone’s shelf, given the ingredient list includes a “who’s who” of actives (and therefore does a little bit of everything for your skin). Hyaluronic acid is a naturally-occurring acid produced by our skin cells that helps to keep skin hydrated and retain moisture. Adding it topically gives additional hydration for a radiant and plump complexion which in turn, also minimises fine lines. The Ordinary’s hyaluronic acid has added B5 for multi-depth hydration. In the evening, swapping out the hyaluronic  for a retinoid will counter the signs of ageing and this Granactive Retinoid in Squalane uses active technology to give you the best results without the typical effects and irritation some people experience with retinols. Start on a lower percentage (or the Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion) and build up as your skin adjusts. As with any retinol usage, avoiding solar exposure is necessary. You should also avoid retinoids if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Lastly, rosehip seed oil is great for skin hydration and also acts as a barrier product.


Suggested evening routine: Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution OR Granactive Retinoid 2% or 5% in Squalane used on alternative nights to avoid causing irritation.

About this routine: There’s no question why The Ordinary’s Glycolic Acid Toning Solution has flown off the shelves since the minute it was released. Glycolic acid is a wonder ingredient when it comes to chemical exfoliants… no more grainy, scratchy exfoliants which scrub and scratch your face! The Ordinary’s formula is supported by Tasmanian pepperberry to help reduce signs of redness and sensitivity associated with the use of acids, as well as ginseng root and aloe vera for radiance and soothing benefits. This isn’t a product which necessarily should be used every day; The Ordinary recommends interchanging it with the Granactive Retinoid on alternative nights, but you could also start off using each product once a week and build up your skin’s resilience to use it two or three times per week (you may experience some redness and flaking as your skin adjusts). Glycolic acid contains AHA (alpha hydroxy acid) which may increase your skin’s sensitivity to the sun and particularly the possibility of sunburn. As with retinoids, the daily use of suncreen is recommended, as is protective clothing. You should avoid sun exposure while using this product and for a week afterwards.



Suggested morning routine: Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5, Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA

Suggested evening routine: Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5, 100% Plant-Derived Squalane (alternatively, 100% Cold-Pressed Virgin Marula Oil or 100% Organic Cold-Pressed Moroccan Argan Oil can be used instead of 100% Plant-Derived Squalane in the evening – try to find the one which suits you best).

About this routine: If your skin is feeling dry and dehydrated, hyaluronic acid is your number one. You already have hyaluronic acid naturally-occurring and the addition of this product will add extra hydration, which plumps and repairs the skin, leaving it feeling smooth, nourished and radiant. Combined with the The Ordinary’s Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA (the HA stands for hyaluronic acid) to give non-greasy surface hydration, you’ll be well on your way to invigorated, nourished skin! In the evening, pair the hyaluronic acid with squalane instead, for an overnight boost of hydration. You’ll wake up with skin feeling plump and refreshed.


Suggested morning routine: Vitamin C Suspension 30% in Silicone

Suggested evening routine: Caffeine Solution 5% + EGCG

About this routine: If your skin is looking tired and colourless and your eyes hollow with dark circles, then alternating these two products will work wonders. Vitamin C is a strong antioxidant that boosts the skin’s regeneration process and helps to repair damaged skin cells, leaving skin looking brighter and firmer. Much like a coffee does for your body when consumed, caffeine when applied topically can be a great pick-me-up for the skin – it’s especially great for improving the appearance of dark circles and puffiness, so should be applied lightly to the eye contour. EGCG stands for Epigallocatechin Gallatyl Glucoside, a highly-purified ingredient derived from green tea leaves to help reduce sun damage.

This article is brought to you in partnership with Farmers, the exclusive in-store stockist of The Ordinary in New Zealand. To find out more about The Ordinary, visit or pop into Farmers in Westfield Newmarket or Queen Street to experience the brand in person, at the country’s only The Ordinary counters. As with any new skincare products, use only as directed and patch testing prior to use is advised. If irritation occurs, cease use and consult your physician. Always avoid solar exposure while using these products, particularly retinoids.


Sign up & Join
FQ Insider

Unlock exclusive content, behind-the-scenes insights, and special offers by becoming an FQ Insider.

Fashion Quarterly Winter 2023 Cover
Fashion Quarterly Winter 2023 Cover

Sign up & Join
FQ Insider

Unlock exclusive content, behind-the-scenes insights, and special offers by becoming an FQ Insider.

Sign up to the Fashion Quarterly newsletter.

*Ts&Cs apply.
Find out more at