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Top Shelf: The Ordinary
Regina Belmonte
Published on

One thing I learned very, very quickly when I first started working on the beauty end of publishing was that the best foundation is really great skin.

While I’m lucky enough to have been born with pretty good skin, I went through a spell of terrible adult acne several years ago. A dermatologist friend suggested that I see my gynecologist and ask about getting a prescription for birth control, which would help if my acne was hormonal. It was, and it did. My skin cleared up, and after the last of the hyperpigmentation finally faded away, it never looked better. I always looked like I was glowing. Without highlighter!

So that’s the gold standard of great-looking skin for me now: How my skin looks when I’m on the pill.

The thing is, no one wants to have to take medication to keep her skin clear. And especially now, with the TRO on contraceptive medicines, those of us who use hormonal birth control for reasons unrelated to procreation and the prevention thereof, like PCOS or (as with me and so many people I know) acne, are going to have to find other options.

This is where I introduce you to my absolute favorite skincare find of the last few years: The Ordinary.

"Clinical formulations with integrity," says their website. "Alleluia!” says my bank account, because these powerful products are crazy affordable. “Where have you been all my life?” says my not-so-inner beauty nerd, because The Ordinary is all about the science, no frills attached.

If you value efficacy, value for money, straightforwardness, and simplicity, The Ordinary fits the bill for all those. Each product is named for the active ingredient that is dominant in it. So, no Miracle Chuchu Cream, or Revitalizing Keme Emulsion.

The packaging is simple and elegant, clinical in its cleanliness and uniformity—a good kind of ordinary that looks neat on your shelf. The products are formulated by an in-house team of biochemists and materials-chemists in Canada, and designed to be simple but effective, delivering the results you want for a fraction of the price of the more famous serums on the market.

The first product I added to my cart was Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%, because my years as a beauty editor taught me that Niacinamide (Vitamin B3) is one of the best ingredients for reducing blemishes (and most products that have it usually only contain 4% — this is 10%!), and that Zinc is excellent for controlling sebum (oil, ladies, oil!).

The second was Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA (Hyaluronic Acid). Alpha Arbutin is an active ingredient that reduces the appearance of spots and hyperpigmentation, a problem I have because I have the terrible habit of picking at the stray zits that occasionally pop up on my face, which tends to leave dark marks behind that take ages to fade. (Don’t do it!! I always regret it!) Hyaluronic acid is probably the most popular humectant (a substance that helps your skin retain or preserve moisture).

I apply a few drops of both all over my face, morning and night. Usually I give a product a testing period of at least two weeks before I make any conclusive opinions about it, but these two immediately made my already good skin look that much better the morning after I first started using them. I noticed that the typically oily areas of my face were less greasy. My skin felt supple, its texture felt improved, and whatever pores I had left looked even less visible than they were before. I would gaze into the mirror thinking to myself that it was insane how luminous I looked.

The formulas don’t necessarily feel super luxurious, because that’s not the point. (And the ingredients that make higher end products feel so amazing are also what make those products so expensive a lot of the time.) If you use too much, your face can feel a bit sticky, but the serums do sink in, and the results will banish any minor complaints about the products’ textures.

I was so impressed by how well those two products seemed to be working for me that I ordered more: Advanced Retinoid 2% (to use at night, for anti aging), Lactic Acid 5% + HA 2% (a very mild acid peel, because peels slough dead skin cells off, making your skin fresh and smooth, and I love them — I use this every night), and Azelaic Acid Suspension 10% (an antioxidant for brightening, that I use in the morning because the silicone in the product functions almost like a primer of sorts, making my skin look velvety).

If your problem is dryness, The Ordinary offers a full range of all the miracle oils you always read about: Rose Hip, Moroccan Argan, Virgin Marula, Squalane. If you want brighter skin, aside from the brighteners I’ve already mentioned (and fallen in love with), they also have a selection of different formulas of Vitamin C.

The Serum and Coverage Foundations they recently released have a waitlist that is 20,000 people long, and unfortunately, I am not on it. I’m obsessed.

It’s getting bad, because every time I try new products, I like them so much that I end up ordering even more. Thankfully, this isn’t a problem because The Ordinary is the most affordable skincare brand I’ve ever been in love with. I’ve been recommending The Ordinary to anyone who will listen (and many do!), and I love the products so much that I’m over my word count. I mean, come on.

Which skincare brand are you absolutely in love with, word count be damned? Leave a comment or tag us on Instagram @iamClaireph.