How To Layer The Ordinary Products: Your Fuss Free Guide

how to use the ordinary products

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No idea what the right the ordinary skincare order should be? Make it easy for you to use these products by reading this!

If you’ve read my other blog posts on skincare, you’ll know I’m obsessed with The Ordinary range. Who isn’t, honestly? They have so many good products, and they are so well-priced!

The problem is because they have such a big range, figuring out how to layer them correctly can be confusing. I’m always so excited to get my hands on their new product and then I’ll come home and think, oh no! Should I be using this ingredient with my other products in my skincare routine?

Time and time again, I’ve wished I had a cheat sheet or quick blog post about layering your The Ordinary products, so I can quickly get around and move to my glowing skin routine. That’s why I’ve pulled together this fuss-free guide on how to use The Ordinary products.

Are you a complete skincare newbie? Read this blog post first for a simple guide to a basic skincare routine.

How to Layer The Ordinary Products Correctly

how to layer the ordinary products - how to use the ordinary products

The Ordinary has over 30 products in its range. It can feel totally overwhelming to figure out which products are right for you.

Maybe you got excited and grabbed 3 or 4 products during the Thanksgiving sale, but now you have no idea how to use them together.

For quick reference, The Ordinary grouped its products into 5 main sections. They recommend using them in the order listed below.

  1. Water-Based Solutions
  2. Anhydrous (Water-free solution that decongests and lightly exfoliates)
  3. Oil
  4. Suspension *
  5. Emulsion *

*Depending on the product, The Ordinary recommends that the suspension be applied after the emulsion. Or vice versa.

A Step-By-Step Guide to Incorporating The Ordinary Products Into a Skincare Routine

To create a full skincare routine with The Ordinary products:

  1. Add a cleanser before your water-based solution.
  2. Eye serum can be added to the routine depending on your concerns. If you use the caffeine solution, use this after cleansing. If you use a heavier eye cream for anti-aging, apply this as the last step in your evening routine.
  3. Once a week, a face mask can be used for a deep treatment. We recommend simplifying your routine when using the mask. Use it after your cleanser but before your emulsion. Once a week, I use the Salicylic Acid 2% Masque to help reduce oil and unclog my pores.
  4. In the morning, I always add a layer of sun protection as the final step.

Note: Retinol products should always be used at night.

How to Decide on The Ordinary Skincare Routine That’s Right For You

How To Layer The Ordinary Products: Your Fuss Free Guide
  • Consider your skin type and the main skin issues you want to address
  • Consider your budget. The great news is that The Ordinary is well-priced. If you do have a limited budget, don’t go overboard on layering in too many products. Just stick to the basics.
  • Check how sensitive your skin is. If you have sensitive skin, avoid strong ingredients. If you aren’t sure how sensitive your skin is, we recommend doing a patch test for each product.
  • Layering products can be fuss-free, you don’t need every item under the sun. The best routine is one you can maintain and have enough time for.
  • The Ordinary has a guide on skincare routines here.
  • At the most basic level, your routine should have a cleanser, a treatment, and then a moisturizer or oil.

What The Ordinary Products Shouldn’t be Layered Together?

Lots of the products in The Ordinary range are created around active ingredients. Each of these active ingredients is designed to target a type of skin concern. EG pigmentation or fine lines.

This is great when you are targeting a skin issue, but you should know that some active ingredients can’t interact.

What serums can I use together? Which ones shouldn’t I use together?

We recommend using less than three serums in your routine. Follow the basic guidelines below.

1. Don’t use Niacinamide and Vitamin C in the same routine.

Niacinamide products and vitamin C products shouldn’t be layered together. They can reduce the effectiveness of the formula. This includes vitamin C derivative products. You can use niacinamide serum and ascorbyl glucoside in the same routine if you want to brighten your skin.

2. Don’t mix peptides and acids.

Mixing peptides and direct acids lower the potency of the peptides.

3. Don’t mix copper peptides with antioxidants or direct acids

In particular, copper peptides should not be mixed with EUK 134, pycnogenol, or resveratrol and ferulic acid serum.

4. Don’t mix retinol with AHA’s or BHA’s

Retinol is highly active, which can be irritating to the skin. Layering AHA’s and BHA’s with retinol is a recipe for inflamed, red, dry skin.

5. Don’t mix salicylic acid with a glycolic acid

Mixing these products can lead to skin irritation and damage to the acid mantle. Instead, use one of these products and then layer a hydrating formula like hyaluronic acid.

how to layer the ordinary products that don't go together
how to layer the ordinary products that don't go together

You know I’m a fan of this product, but there are lots of products that you can’t use it with. If you do want to incorporate this into a routine, read our guide here on using the peeling solution

how do you use the ordinary products step by step

Step 1 – Cleansing With The Ordinary products

How To Layer The Ordinary Products: Your Fuss Free Guide

There is only one cleanser in The Ordinary range, The Squalane Cleanser. This product can be used on all skin types.

You guys always ask me, do you need to double cleanse?

  • If you have dry or sensitive skin, do a single cleanse morning and night.
  • If you have acne, do a single cleanse in the morning. In the evening, do a double cleanse with an oil cleanser, then follow up with The Squalane Cleanser. You can buy it here.

Step 2 – Eye Serum – Caffeine Solution 5% +EGCG

How To Layer The Ordinary Products: Your Fuss Free Guide

I don’t think that eye serums are necessary unless you have a specific concern. For example, if you want to brighten dark circles under your eyes. If this isn’t a concern for you, then skip this step.

If you do have dark circles, I recommend trying the The Ordinary Caffeine Solution. It can be applied as the second step after cleansing. This eye serum should be used before water-based solutions.

Step 3 – The Ordinary Water-Based Solutions

A water-based solution uses water to support the absorption of active ingredients into the skin instead of an oil base.

The Ordinary has a huge range of water-based products. Some of my favorite Ordinary products are water-based.

The Ordinary Direct Acids

How To Layer The Ordinary Products: Your Fuss Free Guide

Direct acids for exfoliation called BHAs and AHAs, should be the first of the water-based products to be applied after cleansing.

The product you use depends on your main skin concern, but we have included some basic guides and recommendations below.

  • I recommend that you only ever use one product that has AHA’s or BHA’s in your routine. If you have two direct acid products you want to use, then build a weekly routine to use these products on alternate days. This will reduce the chances of skin irritation.
  • If you have sensitive skin, be extremely careful using strong acids. If you want to use a direct acid in your routine, then use mandelic acid or lactic acid.
  • There are so many amazing direct acids to reduce acne scarring. You must be careful to ensure you don’t irritate your skin or increase pigmentation. See our favorite The Ordinary products for acne scars here.
  • If you buy the peeling solution, please make sure you follow our guide. You should create a safe routine that includes skin protection.
  • Direct acids can impact your skin’s natural protective barrier. Always include an SPF as your final skincare step if you are using a direct acid.
  • My favorite acid is the Glycolic Acid 7% Exfoliating Toning Solution. It always makes my skin look so radiant and fresh. Like I’ve had more sleep than I really did!

The Ordinary Water-Based Hydrators 

How To Layer The Ordinary Products: Your Fuss Free Guide

Water-based hydrators should be applied after direct acids.

 I LOVE water-based hydrators! They are perfect for hydrating oily or acne-prone skin as they’re lightweight. Water-based hydrators include some of The Ordinary’s holy grail products, like Hyaluronic Acid +B5.

  • If you have oily skin and want lightweight hydration, the marine hyaluronic is a great option. It’s super lightweight and quickly absorbs into the skin with no pilling.
  • If you have dry skin or fine lines, I recommend buying Hyaluronic Acid + B5. It is an excellent all-rounder to include in your skincare rotation. It can be used with retinol and even copper peptides.
  • Most products can be layered with hyaluronic acid. It’s great for skincare newbies who are just starting to use actives and want some extra hydration.

General Tips For Applying Water-Based Solutions

  • As a rule of thumb, water-based solutions should be layered from thinnest to thickest.
  • You should ideally not use more than 3 serums in a skincare routine. If you are using more than one serum, make sure to target your priority concern first and then layer other serums over.
  • Layering hyaluronic acid before your other water-based solutions. It will help you seal in moisture.
  • You know your girl loves a good Korean skincare hack, so here’s a tip. You should keep your skin damp for better absorption of water-based serums. Misting water between water-based layers will help the product absorb into the skin better.

The Ordinary Peptides

How To Layer The Ordinary Products: Your Fuss Free Guide

Hailey Bieber is a huge fan of peptides, and we adore them too. Peptides plump the skin and reduce fine lines. As a rule of thumb, peptides should go after water-based hydrators like hyaluronic acid.

  • Our favorite peptide has to be the holy grail – Buffet, it’s the ultimate glow-up product.
  • If you are starting to see some initial signs of aging but don’t want to use retinol, try the Buffet + Copper Peptide 1%.
  • Got eleven lines starting to develop and don’t want to go have Botox? Try the peptide solution Argireline Solution 10%

The Ordinary Water-Based Outliers

There are a few water-based ‘outliers’ that should be used after water-based hydrators and before anhydrous serums.

  • The Ordinary has one product which is a water-based vitamin c serum. It is called Ascorbyl Glucoside Solution + 12%.  This should go after water-based solutions but before anhydrous solutions.
  • One of the best sellers in the range is Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% and this should be used before peptides.

The Ordinary Powders

How To Layer The Ordinary Products: Your Fuss Free Guide

Honestly,  you should just skip these products. It’s unnecessarily complicated. There are better pre-mixed products available that are way easier to use in your routine.

What if you have already purchased them and you want to know how to layer powders into your routine? I got you!

  • If you are mixing vitamin c with hyaluronic acid, use it after your cleanser. Don’t use any direct acids, as this is a potent concentrated formula.
  • If you are mixing the 100% Niacinamide solution, use it after cleansing with hyaluronic acid. Don’t mix with any direct acids or vitamin c. I think the best routine with this is to do a simple cleanse. Then add the 100% Niacinamide into the Natural Moisturizing Factors+ HA as a full routine. Two simple steps.
how to apply the ordinary products

Step 4 – Anhydrous Solutions

An anhydrous solution is a non-water-based solution. Products in this section include all the antioxidants, retinol, and oil-based vitamin c products.

You use these after water-based solutions because they are oils. But they are lighter than thicker hydrating oils like rosehip used for sealing in moisturizers.

They include concentrated active ingredients that are used for treating skin concerns. The actives need to penetrate deep into the skin. 

If you want “lit from within” skin, try the Ascorbic Acid 8% + Alpha Arbutin 2% for your step 4 product. It is one such product that actually works to reduce acne scar and pigmentation and leaves you with a never-ending glow!

Step 5 – Suspensions

how to apply the ordinary products

Suspensions are a light, gritty cream-based formula. The ordinary has three recipes that they call suspensions. All three are used for brightening the skin and should come after water-based products but before oils. 

Now suspensions are a tricky part because there are people who don’t like them. Yes, they are usually the ones that cause piling after hyaluronic acid, but if layered properly, I don’t think you’ll face any issues.

Just like powder, put them on damp skin and see them magically melt into the skin!

  • Azelaic Acid Suspension 10% is ideal for rosacea and can help with redness and skin texture.
  • Vitamin C Suspension 30% is a high-strength brightening treatment. It can also be used to help with anti-aging by evening the skin tone.  
  • Vitamin C Suspension 23% in HA Spheres is a strong water-free vitamin c mixed with hyaluronic acid. It can brighten and hydrate in one easy step. You can try using this after your emulsion if the texture irritates you. 

It can be a bit tricky to find the best layering technique for suspensions, but don’t worry! Just experiment with different combinations and see what works. There are no wrong answers here — we’re all just looking at our own individual skin types when it comes down to this part of the beauty routine.

You may want to try applying these formulas after your moisturizer instead of before in order to get an idea about which one is more effective for you.

step 6 – emulsions

Emulsions are like the holy grail of skincare. They’re lightweight, hydrating/moisturizing products that easily absorb into your skin and give it an even tone without feeling greasy or oily! I think they are as good as water-based serums because nothing can match their combination of rich texture with moisturizing properties.

The ordinary has 2 emulsion formulas as of now:

  • Granactive Retinoid 2%
  • Natural Moisturizing Factors

Step 6 – Oil Based Products

how to use the ordinary products

Isn’t this everyone’s favorite step? It always feels like you are treating yourself by layering on a nice hydrating oil or moisturizer. I love that glazed donut skin feeling of hydration.

The Ordinary only has one moisturizing lotion, Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA. It’s pretty versatile and can be used for any skin type as it’s hydrating but not heavy.

Hydrating Oils from The Ordinary are:

  • Chia seed oil – Best for acne-prone skin
  • Marula oil – A great Drunk Elephant dupe
  • Rosehip oilBest for anti-aging
  • Borage seed oil – Best for eczema
  • Sea buckthorn oil – Best for brightening
  • Plant-derived squalane – Best for fungal acne
  • Morrocan oil – Best for people on a budget, can be used on hair and skin

Should I Use Oil or First or Cream First?

Lots of people argue on this one. I like to use my cream or moisturizer before my oil. I think using the oil helps lock in the hydration and gives you that glass-skin look everyone loves.

For my AM routine, I’ll usually skip the oil and just use this The Ordinary cream.

Step 7 – The Final Step – sunscreen

how to layer the ordinary products

The final step! You’ve made it. And I bet you are glowing.

This step is for the morning only. Always layer on sunscreen with high SPF last to protect your skin. Especially if you are using direct acids or retinol.

The Ordinary has 2 mineral SPF products.

  • Mineral UV Filters SPF 30 with Antioxidants
  • Mineral UV Filters SPF 15 with Antioxidants

Honestly, I think there are better sunscreen products out there. I like sunscreens with a higher SPF, lightweight formula, and no white residue. I would suggest trying Tula Protect + Glow Daily Sunscreen, it’s incredible!

Final thoughts on how to layer The Ordinary Products

I know, The Ordinary is a complicated subject, so much so that even the brand themselves get confused sometimes. This is why I recommend keeping your skincare routines simple and effective. Don’t hoard products just because they are cheap. Don’t buy and apply everything under the roof.

It’s really important to know what you are doing with your skin. Remember, the correct order is Cleanser — eye serum –Water-Based Solutions — Anhydrous — SuspensionEmulsion — Oil — sunscreen.

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    1. Absolutely! Hyaluronic acid would rarely conflict with any other active ingredient as it is just a hydrating formula with the word acid. For Argireline and Matrixyl, there’s no better combo for aging skin than this. So feel free to use these three together. And don’t forget to give your skin time to absorb each product.

      However, if you feel discomfort after, try alternating Argireline and Matrixyl in the morning and evening.

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