You've got to hand it to The Ordinary. It always keeps on top of the most talked-about skincare trends. It was one of the first brands to really champion beta-glucan (a hydrating ingredient that experts say works 20% harder than hyaluronic acid) in its latest Natural Moisturizing Factors moisturizer. And when we all fell for niacinamide (which minimizes excess oil production and fine lines and is anti-inflammatory), it brought us the bestselling Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% (a snip of the price of other serums on the market at just $6). It makes sense, then, that the brand's scientists are leaning into one of the biggest beauty movements right now: skin barrier support.
What is the skin barrier?
Everyone has a skin barrier. It's the name given to the outermost layer of skin, which prevents water loss and stops harmful things like bacteria from getting inside. When your barrier is happily intact, your skin feels soft and supple. When it isn't, you can expect flaky, dry, rough, or red skin that's usually sore to the touch. You might associate a damaged skin barrier with cold weather, when high winds and central heating both have a hand in zapping skin of moisture. However, anything can throw your skin barrier off balance, including over-cleansing, incorrect use of skincare ingredients like retinol and exfoliating acids, and too much UV exposure (sunburns, we're looking at you).
Products that claim to fix and maintain the skin's barrier aren't exactly new, but on September 14, The Ordinary will add the Soothing & Barrier Support Serum to its burgeoning ski-care family. The brand claims that the new product helps to improve the look of uneven skin texture, soothes the appearance of redness associated with dry skin, and promotes brighter skin. This all sounds promising, but what exactly is inside it? I was the first beauty journalist to receive a sample in early July and of course, I made a beeline for the ingredients list.
What ingredients are in The Ordinary’s Soothing & Barrier Support Serum?
First up, lipids, an umbrella term for fats and oils. Without subjecting you to a science lesson, the lipids in this serum are ceramides, essentially fatty molecules that hold the skin barrier together. Ceramides occur naturally in the skin but our reserves often run low, resulting in dry, itchy, and inflamed skin. Serums and moisturizers containing ceramides help replenish these reserves. Then there's vitamin B12. Compared to vitamin C and vitamin A (aka retinol), this vitamin is often overlooked in skin care. But various studies have shown that topical application is beneficial, particularly for atopic dermatitis, a condition that results in dry, itchy, and cracked skin.
Gallic acid derivatives also make up this soothing serum. Gallic acid (which comes from plants) is an antioxidant, so it helps protect skin against environmental aggressors like pollution and UV. (That said, wearing a high-factor, broad-spectrum sunscreen is still a must in the daytime.) Combined with niacinamide and redness-reducing centella asiatica, this serum sounds like the perfect addition to anyone's skincare routine, not just those prone to redness, dryness, or sensitivity.
Is The Ordinary’s Soothing & Barrier Support Serum any good?
First, I had to get past the Pepto Bismol-esque appearance. No other serum in my routine is bright pink! The inclusion of fermentation-derived cyanocobalamin (basically vitamin B12) is responsible for the fuchsia hue, according to a brand representative at The Ordinary. I have to admit that the serum has a slight whiff of cardboard, but it's not bad by any means. I'd rather this than something perfumed as fragrance often irritates my skin. Happily, the smell dissipates quickly, as does the product. It doesn't leave behind a pink tinge, nor does it feel tacky.
"The Ordinary's barrier serum took me by surprise, to be honest — and not just because of the Barbie-pink color," says R29's senior writer Karina Hoshikawa. "Since my skin is so oily, I don't tend to lean into hydration and barrier support as much as I probably should. However, after using this stuff for two weeks, my skin feels touchably softer, smoother, and just happier in general." Oily skin can get dehydrated, too, and with my acne-prone complexion, I swear by two principles: One, less is more when it comes to potent actives and acids, and two, proper hydration is actually instrumental in warding off breakouts since it means my sebum production won't kick into overdrive.
I've been using this serum every day for almost a month now, after cleansing and before sunscreen in the daytime, then after cleansing and before moisturizer in the evening. At first, I thought, How special can a moisturizing serum be? But I didn't realize just how much my skin would benefit from this extra moisturizing step. No matter how hard I try to stay out of the sun, outdoor dinners, drinks and catch-ups with friends mean my skin has felt rather frazzled this summer. To keep my breakouts under control, I also sometimes use tretinoin, a high-strength retinoid that can make skin dry. Incorporating this serum into my routine has helped to alleviate parched areas and flaky pieces of skin typical of retinoid use.
While I can't say I've noticed any difference in the faint lines underneath my eyes or on my forehead, my skin tone has vastly improved. In the last week, I've not felt the need to wear any foundation or concealer, just a little blush to add color to my cheeks. Used in tandem with retinoids, I'm certain this serum has resulted in fewer breakouts and blackheads, too (that'd be the niacinamide, which controls sebum).
At $17, this serum is pricier than others in The Ordinary's repertoire. It doesn't necessarily target a certain skin issue like Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA, which is great for hyperpigmentation, or Aloe 2% + NAG 2% Solution for helping to fade post-acne marks. However, that means everyone can use it. Sure, lots of skin care nowadays boasts similar ingredients, particularly ceramides and antioxidants, but I like that they're all in one place in this serum, which is still relatively affordable. Is it a must for post-summer skin? Probably not, but I am sold on its lightweight approach to boosting moisture.
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