Skincare for Everybody

An extraordinary idea for a beauty company: affordable quality.

Wendy Duren Current PSL, Health & Wellness

Granactive Retiboid 2% Emulsion speeds cell turnover and boosts collagen production.

111 East


A lot of ink has been spilled of late on upstart skincare company The Ordinary. It’s no wonder: The line, owned by Canadian beauty company Deciem, is upending the industry with the novel concept that quality skincare can be offered at a fair price.

Conventional beauty wisdom holds that if price point is your concern, you should look to industry behemoths. L’Oréal USA, for example, spends millions of research dollars on its luxury brands Lancôme, Giorgio Armani, and Yves Saint Laurent Beauté; the technological advancements made for those pricey lines will eventually trickle down to the budget-friendly L’Oréal and Garnier brands. The problem is, that wait often takes years, as the parent company squeezes the most it can from its premier lines.

The Ordinary’s model throws all that out. The reasoning is simple: Skincare’s least costly ingredients are the active ones. What inflates the price are the aforementioned years of research, showy marketing campaigns, extraneous packaging, and nonessential ingredients like fragrance and emollients. Cut the costly bits and sell streamlined formulas with effective levels of active ingredients at an affordable price, and voilà, you have The Ordinary, skincare for everybody.

This approach has created more demand for The Ordinary than Deciem has, at times, been able to meet. Last year, when two foundation products were introduced, the waitlist quickly grew to 75,000. (I was one of the waiting, and it took forever to get the products.) After that, The Ordinary founder Brandon Truaxe turned to the Estée Lauder Companies for an infusion of cash to ease production woes; this seems ironic, but the result is you can now get what you want, when you want it — at least until the next company growth spurt makes for an even longer wait. So get ahead and put these in your cart now.

Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution ($8.70)

Glycolic acid is the gold standard of exfoliation. It brightens and evens skin tone. Use at night, after cleansing, before serum.

Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 ($6.80)

Hyaluronic acid actually attracts moisture and can hold up to a thousand times its weight in water — which means this drenches thirsty skin and plumps fine lines. It can be used in the morning or evening prior to oil or moisturizer (but I find that the tacky finish makes this better for nighttime use).

Vitamin C Suspension 23% +
HA Spheres 2% ($5.80)

Vitamin C is a hero for breaking down dark spots and uneven skin pigmentation. However, it is unstable and degrades easily (many C serums contain orange dye and fragrance in an attempt to mask this). This suspension is water-free and does not degrade; the HA is hyaluronic acid. Use at night, after thinner serums.

Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion ($9.80)

Retinol speeds cell turnover and boosts collagen production. At less than 10 bucks, I’m tempted to fill the bathtub with this and soak in it. That’s not advisable, but nightly use from hairline to nipples is.

Buffet ($14.80)

The most expensive product in the range is this multiple-peptide serum. Peptides are fragments of protein, and proteins are the building blocks of skin. This boosts collagen and elastin production. Use after cleansing in the morning or evening.

Serum Foundation ($6.70)

This foundation is available in 21 shades with pink and yellow undertones. It claims to be light coverage, but I find it skews toward medium when applied with a beautyblender sponge. This wears nicely throughout the day, and for the price, you can’t beat it. But I’ll stick to my La Mer foundation even if it costs $100 more, thanks.

Which brings me to my only objection with The Ordinary: What I enjoy most about these products is their price. But I don’t enjoy or look forward to using them, as I do with my La Mer; simply thinking about La Mer’s foundation evokes its hallmark scent and the ease with which it blends over my skin.

The Ordinary was designed to be utilitarian, not artisanal. And it is. Your skin will appreciate the products even if you lack the attendant emotional attachment to a shiny bauble in your purse.