I deliberated for ages over whether The Ordinary from Deciem deserves to be a ‘Best Pick’ — I found their customer service terrible and I can’t stand their pseudo-science and exaggerated claims — but they have a couple of gems that have made their way into my regular skincare routine. They’re the skincare equivalent of (now defunct) American Apparel — plenty of hype, some truly excellent stuff, and idiocy that might just eventually sink the company. Clever gimmick and initial hype can only go so far.
Let’s start with the good, shall we? I love the white and grey aesthetic of the packaging! It’s simple but in a pleasingly luxurious way. The products are both luxurious and incredibly affordable. Beautiful packaging and key ingredients that would rival some expensive cosmeceutical brand on the marketing. And that’s why it’s such a surprise when you see the prices — they are $4.50–17.80, and everything is boxed and perfectly presented. It’s the glass-bottled serums that I think are the best thing, though — they layer very well and can easily fit into a routine (unlike the ones that come in a tube!). The beauty (or the downfall) of The Ordinary serums is its simplicity. Each features just 1 (max. 2) key ingredient and it is quite clearly labelled as to its concentration, purpose and effect.
This also brings me to the bad. I don’t trust “clinical” brand any more than I trust “all-natural” ones. The focus on delivery systems, use of science-y jargons and chemical names, and listing percentages appeal to the wannabe scientists and the skincare enthusiasts. It implies science without actually providing the necessary proof of clinical studies and relevant data. It’s a gimmick much like the fear-mongering appeal of “green” brands, and one that I don’t appreciate. “Clinical formulations with integrity”, they state, bold statement when they have not provided evidence to support any of their clinical claims. Integrity is earned — it’s not given just by filling PR releases with science-y jargons. Deciem’s advert for The Ordinary implies integrity equals low price. Surely Deciem remembers they also have other skincare lines and they’re significantly more expensive!?
Anyway, sidetracked. After testing a good number of The Ordinary for more than 6 months, my most favourite, perhaps unsurprisingly, happens to be as simple as a formulation can be — 100% Plant-Derived Squalane — just one ingredient. The colourless, scent-less “oil” (in quotation because squalane technically isn’t an oil) gives dry skin a major moisture boost without sitting heavy. I use it straight or mix a drop or 2 into my moisturiser or facial oil. It also works brilliantly at taming flyaways and smoothing dry ends without making roots lank and greasy. It’s identical in every way to HABA’s Squalane II but for a small fraction of the price — ¥2,700 versus CDN$7.90 for 30ml.
I also like Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate Solution 20% in Vitamin F. Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate (a.k.a Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate) is one of the most expensive vitamin C derivatives and The Ordinary’s version, CDN$17.80 for 30ml, is barely more expensive than purchasing it as a raw ingredient. The oil serum is light enough to use in warmer weather but substantial enough really nourish and brighten the skin during the winter months. This isn’t for everyone — those with oily, acne-prone skin might want to sidestep this — but it’s a great option if you’re curious to see what this form of vitamin C can do for your skin. Their other glass bottled serums that I tried, disappointingly, didn’t show real, tangible results on my skin.
I can’t wholeheartedly recommend The Ordinary. Ultimately, the brand is very aptly named, as it is quite ordinary — a run-of-the-mill brand with a clever gimmick and some good products. Their customer service is some of the worst I’ve seen. Add to that their arrogant attitude when paying customers (products I have are a combination of personal purchase, gift, and PR samples) do complain, and it just completely turns me off. I don’t care how cheap the products are, poor customer service is automatically a deal-breaker for me. Lots of companies push out similar products and do it better than they do. They aren’t as special as they think.