You’ve spotted it all over Instagram. You’ve admired its endless array of cute dropper bottles and minimalist, expensive-looking packaging. You’ve read about the crazy waitlists, 25,000 people deep. You’ve heard the swirling rumors about the drama behind the scenes. And you’ve definitely seen the too-good-to-be-true prices. We’re talking about The Ordinary, the Canada-born skin-care line that concocts research-based, active ingredient-driven products for less than $15 a pop.
Until recently, you could only find The Ordinary’s extensive (and frequently sold-out) offerings online at the Deciem website. Over the past few months, however, the company has started opening brick-and-mortar shops left and right, everywhere from Brooklyn’s Court Street to London’s Covent Garden, with many more supposedly on the way. But if you can’t make it to one IRL just yet, we’ve created this handy guide to better decipher what’s inside those cute little bottles and squatty tubes, with the input of cosmetic chemist and The Beauty Brains co-founder Randy Schueller and Miami-based dermatologist S. Manjula Jegasothy.
First up, we talk consistency — because even though the products are named simply enough for their star ingredients, it can feel like you need a deep knowledge of chemistry to understand what’s inside. (Is Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate 10% a gel? Cream? Liquid?) And the next mystery to unravel: scent. Because the brand doesn’t use any added fragrance (and they’re vegan and cruelty-free, too), the raw ingredients in these potent products can carry some pretty unexpected notes. Some formulations are bacon-y, others fishy; some smell faintly of tea leaves or peaches, while others have no scent at all.
And finally, we looked at how certain products layered under makeup — because even the best skin-saving serum in the world can make foundation pill or concealer crease, and that’s just no way to live. The only thing we can’t account for is exactly how these babies will work on your skin. But at only $5-$14 a pop, there’s never been a more affordable way to find out.