Face Theory Is Just As Impressive As The Ordinary (& Affordable, Too)

Photo Courtesy of Face Theory/Design by Refinery29.
There are a handful of cult skincare brands you're likely to spot when scouring #shelfies belonging to beauty influencers, dermatologists and makeup artists. The painstakingly curated list often includes Glossier (almost always the Milky Jelly Cleanser), The Inkey List (everyone is going wild for the new Omega Water Cream) and Decree (a luxe skincare collection founded by expert Dr Anita Sturnham). Nestled among them, you might notice a more under-the-radar brand named Face Theory.
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Set to become the next big thing in skincare, Face Theory touts itself as a 'natural' and 'clean' brand but while those words may mean lots of things to different people (or, perhaps, not much at all), that's not the real selling point. Much like adored skincare brand The Ordinary, it's the high-performing ingredients and affordable price tag (products start at £9.99 and nothing exceeds £24.99) which are most revered. Whatever your skin concern, there's probably a Face Theory product you'll be interested in adding to your repertoire. Blackheads and breakouts? Try the salicylic acid serum. Uneven skin tone? There are moisturisers, cleansers and targeted treatments which feature exfoliating acids and brightening vitamin C.
On TikTok, the hashtag #facetheory has 39.8 million views and counting but it isn't just the internet's skincare enthusiasts who are impressed — experts are, too. On Instagram, aesthetician Alicia Lartey often shares snapshots from her bathroom cabinet in which you'll always catch a glimpse of Face Theory (specifically the Mandelibright, Exaglow and Lumizela serums). "They are so good and very underrated," she responded to a follower who was intrigued by the brand's hype. Adding to social media's collective interest are the pretty incredible before and after videos (especially on TikTok, where users say the products have cleared up their skin), not to mention Reddit threads in which beauty lovers break down their skincare routines and share hidden Face Theory gems.
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Right now, you can get 15% off your order with code SITE15, so which buys, if any, are worth your hard-earned money? I'm a skincare-obsessed beauty editor and I tried £107 worth of Face Theory products. Here are my honest thoughts.
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The best Face Theory product for all skin types: Amil-C Whip M5 SPF 30, £18.99.
Let me introduce you to my new favourite daily moisturiser. First off, the texture: it's substantial enough to moisturise even dry skin but not so thick that it feels suffocating or slippery. It's an excellent all-rounder, too. Vitamin C and SPF 30 are a dream team of ingredients and work together to shield skin against damaging UV rays (they're around even when it's cold and cloudy) as well as dulling, pore-clogging pollution. Thanks to the addition of niacinamide, it's a great option for those with excessively oily skin. While my face got a little greasy towards the end of the day, I didn't break out into shine half as quickly and my skin looked and felt matte for longer. If you're into minimal skincare, this is the only product you need in the morning after cleansing.
The best Face Theory product for dry skin: Relaxing Night Cream M10, £11.99.
This is a great, heavy-duty moisturiser for dry skin or what experts refer to as 'normal' skin (without any concerns). Though it's much too thick for my acne-prone complexion, the combination of moisturising shea butter, glycerin and argan oil lends it a soft, pillowy texture that makes skin feel silky and plump. It's not a product I'd continue using but a tiny amount goes a long way, so this is good value for £11.99.
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The best Face Theory product for under-eyes: Ocuwake Eye Cream EYE1, £15.99.
This product is £15.99 for 30ml (currently on sale for £11.99), making it the largest and most affordable eye cream in my bathroom cabinet. In other words, it's surprisingly cheap for the amount you get — but don't let that put you off. While most dermatologists want you to be wary of eye cream's big claims (no, it can't get rid of under-eye bags), there are a handful of ingredients which are recommended to minimise the appearance of dark circles over time, such as vitamin C, which is the star component in this product. It sits alongside antioxidant ferulic acid (which improves firmness and brightens skin) and highly moisturising vitamin E. Considering the very delicate skin around your eyes is the first to feel the effects of the cold weather, this is a welcome addition. I've been using this for weeks and haven't made a dent in the tube. The once tight and uncomfortable skin around my eyes now feels softer and more plump. It makes a brilliant lip balm, too.
The best Face Theory product for uneven skin tone and texture: Regenacalm Serum S1 Pro, £22.99.
I started using this nighttime 3% retinoid as a substitute for prescription strength Differin to treat small breakouts and skin staining left behind by spots. I was wary that the combination of retinoid and vitamin C (two very potent ingredients) would irritate my skin, making it dry and sensitive, but I'm getting on really well with it. I can safely say that it has helped to stave off new spots (thanks to the retinoid) and I love the gorgeous glow it gives (that'll be the vitamin C). It's hydrating enough to be used on its own, too. My only gripe is the smoky smell, which other reviewers have commented on as well, though it does fade after a short while.
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The best Face Theory product for breakouts and blackheads: Clarifying Cleanser C2 Pro, £14.99.
A little word of warning: this tingles! Recommended for combination and oily skin, it fuses exfoliators like glycolic acid (4%) and salicylic acid (2%), which chip away at old skin to make it appear brighter and smoother in texture over time. It's luxuriously creamy and smells lovely (like freshly squeezed oranges) but I wouldn't use it to remove makeup like the label suggests. Why? If you're using it to double cleanse, the acids could cause irritation, especially in reactive skin types. Instead, remove your makeup with a micellar water (try CeraVe's new Micellar Cleansing Water with Niacinamide & Ceramides, £10), then go in with this cleanser — you only need a little scoop. My skin doesn't take too kindly to acids but this is a rinse-off product (not a leave-on like most acid exfoliators) so it hasn't caused me any issues. I'll use this to the last drop.
The best Face Theory product for acne & hyperpigmentation: Lumizela Azelaic Acid Serum A15, £21.99.
Aesthetician and skin expert Alicia Lartey says that azelaic acid "is one of the most slept on multi-purpose ingredients in the skincare world". As it's antibacterial, it's a go-to ingredient for those with acne and can treat those pesky red, pink or purple skin stains left behind by spots. Consultant dermatologist Dr Anjali Mahto is also a fan of azelaic acid for brightening skin. This serum calmed down a couple of very angry, red jawline spots but I used it sparingly — just twice a week at night, as 15% is very strong and can cause uncomfortable tingling. The countless five-star reviews speak for themselves, though. "Been using this for 4 months now and have seen a big reduction in hyperpigmentation. Skin is the most even it's ever been," wrote one user. If you're using any acid-based products, it's important to wear sunscreen during the daytime, as they can make skin sensitive to sunlight.
Refinery29's selection is purely editorial and independently chosen – we only feature items we love! As part of our business model we do work with affiliates; if you directly purchase something from a link on this article, we may earn a small amount of commission. Transparency is important to us at Refinery29, if you have any questions please reach out to us.

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