Skin Savvy: The Ordinary

Skincare products are near impossible to review right out of the gate. There is an adjustment period. My sensitive skin is acne-prone, so I generally give skincare about a week before I make any hard decisions. Some products are exceptions to this rule; I knew, for instance, that I didn’t like First Aid Beauty’s cleanser immediately. Sometimes that first impression really is the one that counts.

I’ve been intrigued by the Ordinary for a while now. Simple ingredients, minimalist packaging, low cost: the premise seems ideal for people looking to strip down their skincare routines and get back to basics. And, boy, am I looking to get back to basics. My current skincare routine has run its course, and the cost of upkeep is starting to wear. I’m currently investing an embarrassing amount in my face for a skincare routine I would best describe as, “Yeah, it does the job, I guess.”

The Ordinary is only available from Sephora online, at least here in Canada. It’s also sold through, which seems to have a bigger selection including some of the Ordinary’s cosmetic lines. The products range in price from about $5-$30 (CND), and they cover a variety of steps in the skincare routine.

Originally, I was simply in the market for a new serum. That led me to The No-Brainer Set ($29.99 from Sephora, currently out of stock by the looks of things), which included the Natural Moisturizing Factors +HA (hyaluronic acid), “Buffet” – the serum, and Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion, which I ended up Googling after the fact because I did not know what the heck it was. Turns out, retinoids are used in the treatment of a variety of skin conditions. Acne is on the list.

I also picked up the Lactic Acid 10% + HA (hyaluronic acid) ($6.70 from Sephora), a chemical exfoliant that was recommended for sensitive skin, and, because I was on a roll with my shopping basket, the Ascorbyl Tetrasopalmitate Solution 20% in Vitamin F, which is a very long way of saying extra-hydration for my skin ($17.80).

As with any new skincare product, I didn’t switch over to my new products completely. I started alternating days, substituting them in for products that I had established were safe for my skin.

“Buffet” and Natural Moisturizing Factors


I’m still not sure why “Buffet” appears in quotation marks, but it seems to be the official name for this product. Ridiculous as that is, “Buffet” and Natural Moisturizing Factors were some of the easiest to acclimate to my skin. They absorb quickly without a greasy residue. They wear well under my make-up without leading to creasing, breakdowns, or glossy patches on my face. “Buffet” really surprised me: I’ve been using a serum that almost leaves my face feeling stiff and sticky afterwards. “Buffet” had no such effect, but neither has it been too greasy. It’s just the right amount of moisture for my face.

I did swap these two out and pair them with my current serum and other moisturizers from my collection. They obviously don’t have to be worn together to be effective, so you could easily pick up “Buffet” or NMF if you’ve already got a serum or moisturizer that works for you.

Lactic Acid 10% +HA


Admittedly a product that still scares me. Exfoliants alone give me the heebie-jeebies, let alone a chemical exfoliant. With acid. Two acids, actually. And at least one of them goes completed unsupported in the scientific community in terms of the benefits it poses for the skin (I’m looking at you, hyaluronic acid).

Lactic acid is supposed to be a gentle way of sloughing off dead skin from the face, as oxymoronic as that reads. Why the heck did I buy this stuff again? Oh, because it does seem to be gentle for sensitive skin and help with acne. However, because of its effects on the outer layer of skin, it can lead to sun damage, which undermines the claims on the package that it’s good for anti-aging.

So far, I have been taking precautions with this product. I have limited its use to no more than twice a week and obviously foregoing my other exfoliant in the process. I have also been diluting the Lactic Acid solution before applying it to my face, and I have been rinsing thoroughly afterwards. I haven’t noticed any irritation as a result of my prudence, but I have still found my skin softer and smoother after the treatment with less redness than my traditional exfoliant.

More research necessary.

Ascorbyl Tetra…Gosh, I So Don’t Want to Type This Again


I’m going to call it ATS 20% for short, okay?

My first attempt to use this product resulted in horror. It’s oil. It is light oil, but it is essentially straight oil that I had applied to my face. I freaked out and immediately tried to sop up some of my error with a cotton pad. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that it had already done the work for me, settling into my skin with at first a natural glow and then silky smoothness. Best of all, I did not experience a fresh breakout even though this stuff definitely landed in my t-zone.

I don’t have the guts to try it in the morning and at night yet, but I’m liking this product the more I use it. I find it a more effective boost of hydration that my argan oil, not to mention safer to use on my skin since it has yet to produce any kind of breakout.

Granactive Retinoid 2 %Emulsion


A product I have used sparingly. Like lactic acid, it seems that this one can also increase the risk of sun damage to the skin, and while I’m not outside so much, I still don’t like the idea that I’m opening up my skin to harm. Due to the risk of sun damage, this stuff should ONLY be applied at night.

Still, the Retinoid Emulsion seems to be a helpful hydrator. I’m not looking for anti-aging products, so I can’t attest to whether it’s helping my fine lines, but it’s certainly got my skin feeling good.


I can’t stress enough that I haven’t experienced a breakout yet. Granted, I am taking it VERY slow with these products, but I’m testing them during my skin’s most tempestuous time, and it seems to be holding up. I’ve developed one little blemish under my eye, likely from the influx of oils, but a steady treatment of my favourite spot treatment seems to be keeping that spot at bay.

I have noticed that my skin is much, much softer in the mornings after going through the nighttime routine. I am still quite dry after applying my acne cleanser in the morning, which is to be expected, so I may try adding some ATS to my morning routine, see if that doesn’t help.

Not all of these products will make their way back into my Sephora basket. However, I could easily make “Buffet” my new standard serum, not to mention have a bottle of ATS to quell some of my wintertime dryness. It would be nice to have a skincare budget that’s realistic again.


One Comment Add yours

  1. I love your honesty about these products!! Even though the Ordinary products are a holy grail for a lot of users, using them can be kind of daunting because they are the “pure product” without much filler, and potentially can have bad effects if used incorrectly, so I appreciate that you highlighted the potential dangers of the lactic acid and the retinoid!


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