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Today we're talking the Ordinary; the OG of single ingredient actives and - as a result - the source of much confusion! I know some people have 'moved on' from the brand, but I feel they're doing a great job of updating their formulas and approach with new releases and there are a handful of their original products that have stayed in my routine all these years later. So, let's dive into my favourite combinations from the Ordinary and a couple I think you should avoid...
First, we're going to discuss an antioxidant power couple: the Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate Solution 20% + Vitamin F | £19.50 | + the Resveratrol 3% + Ferulic Acid 3% | £9.90. Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate (let's start calling it ATP for short!) is an oil-soluble Vitamin C derivative that has a few benefits over the pure form of the ingredient; as an oil-based product, there's no potentially-irritating low pH to worry about, an oil-based formula also helps with getting the ingredient into the skin in the gentlest way possible (which is why it can be formulated at such a high concentration), plus it's going to be shelf-stable for a good amount of time. It's not as well-studied as pure-form Vitamin C but it will still protect your skin from free radical damage by acting as an antioxidant, boost your skin's overall glow and help with discolouration. Though, the jury is still out on if this can boost collagen. There's also Vitamin F in here to support your skin barrier. Resveratrol is another antioxidant, typically found in grapes, with the power to reduce oxidative stress in the skin and prevent premature ageing. So is Ferulic Acid, and it's actually thought to boost the efficacy of Vitamin C, making them a perfect pairing. Individually, I think these are both nice products, but together: you're really boosting the antioxidant benefits of your AM routine and taking the bouncy, healthy, glowing skin look to the next level!
The next combination I recommend checking out is the Lactic Acid 10% + HA | £8.80 | + the Soothing & Barrier Support Serum* | £17.30. Lactic acid is an AHA chemical exfoliant that's the perfect balance between being effective and giving impressive results and also being on the gentler, more hydrating side of things (the hyaluronic acid also acts as a water magnet, helping to increase hydration levels in the skin). There are two versions of this serum; the 5% and the 10%, so you can try the lower concentration if you have sensitive skin, but I still find the 10% doesn't irritate my skin. It delivers some amazing results for me; I use it before bed 2-3 times a week and it not only gives that visible glow boost by morning, but it also really helps smooth out skin texture. It's really important when exfoliating to support the skin's natural barrier so it doesn't become irritated or dry. The Barrier Support serum is perfect for this, being formulated with soothing cica extract, ginger root to calm inflammation, ceramides (a component of the skin barrier that can be topped up topically), niacinamide to encourage the skin to produce its own ceramides and calming bisabolol. It's calming, moisturising and hydrating, making it the perfect chaser for stronger actives.
Finally, for our perfect pairings, we have something to tackle discolouration and hyperpigmentation: the Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA* | £10.50 | + the Azelaic Acid Suspension 10%* | £11.10. I often say that hyperpigmentation is an issue that requires a multi-pronged attack, which is why I recommend either using a multi-active formula or carefully combining beneficial ingredients that won't overwhelm the skin when used together. These are two such ingredients and they also layer nicely with the Alpha Arbutin being a water-based serum (to go on first) and Azelaic Acid being a creamy silicone suspension (to follow). Independently, I don't think you'll see dramatic results, but together they can absolutely help in fading post-blemish marks, melasma and similar issues. The Alpha Arbutin (formulated with hyaluronic acid to help boost hydration in the skin) is a tyrosinase-inhibitor, meaning it interferes with the signals that cause the skin to over-produce melanin (creating dark spots) after injury. Azelaic Acid is also a tyrosinase-inhibitor but has an additional benefit in that it's excellent against redness and inflammation, making it great for skin conditions such as acne and rosacea. Using these together should deliver real, visible results!
On to the pairings I don't recommend and why! Let's start with the Multi-Peptide + HA Serum* | £15.90 | + the Salicylic Acid 2% Solution* | £6.10. These are great products individually but they tackle different issues, work in different ways and using them together can actually be counterproductive. Peptides are short-chain amino acids that are hydrating and can have skin-plumping and even collagen-boosting benefits, making them a well-ageing staple. However, they work at a slightly alkaline pH, and salicylic is obviously an acid. It's thought that exfoliating acids like this can break the peptide bonds, rendering the peptide ineffective when used together. From well-ageing to treating breakout-prone skin; salicylic acid is an oil-soluble BHA, meaning it can get right into the pores and clear out spot-causing debris. This solution can be used as an all-over serum if you're acne-prone, but I tend to use it more as a spot treatment as and when (and where!) I need it; overnight it works to seriously reduce the redness, angriness and swelling of the breakouts I've applied it to, without being overly drying. Personally, I'd alternate these on different nights, because you really don't need to use an acid on a daily basis.
The other pairing you're going to want to avoid is the AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution | £8.90 | + the Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%* | £5. Honestly, I don't recommend these products individually, but as two of the most popular products the Ordinary makes, I feel it's my duty to extra-recommend not combining them! This exfoliating peel (which combines glycolic, lactic and salicylic acids) can be fine used carefully by the right person, for example: someone with mature skin, who is experienced in strong actives, has maybe had an in-office peel before and is using this one a week. But, for most people, I just think: why? There are few people who need this level of exfoliation if everything else in their routine is working for them, so I'd honestly recommend using one of the Ordinary's leave-on exfoliating serums instead of this. It's so harsh that I wouldn't use this alongside anything else active; just slap on a rich ceramide cream and leave it at that! But, I especially don't recommend following it with the niacinamide serum the Ordinary do. Even alone, I don't think this serum is for everyone; some people have seen amazing results on their acne and scarring with this product, so that's fair enough. For me, niacinamide is an amazing active with the power to boost skin barrier function, regulate oil production and prevent discolouration from spreading through the skin. However, its benefits are proven at 3-5% concentrations so a 10% formula starts going into dicey territory for me when it comes to risk vs. reward. A lot of people find this product irritating alone, so I absolutely would not use it with the peel!
Have you tried any of these products or combinations from the Ordinary?