Beauty,  New Finds,  Skincare

An Arm and a Leg’s Worth of The Ordinary Skincare

The Ordinary. Their products are all over Instagram. And Pinterest. And beauty magazines. And lately it seems every South African beauty blogger from PE to Joburg has placed an order with Cult Beauty in order to get her hands on some.

Needless to say, I hopped on the bandwagon in a big way! In such a big way in fact, that I got slapped with a customs levy of 55% of my parcel’s value. It was so bad, I hesitated even paying, but in the end, my beauty-loving side got the best of me, and I forked out the cash.

On to The Ordinary. They are a subsidiary of the Toronto-based company Deciem, run by an absolutely eccentric individual by the name of Justin Truaxe, just reading their ‘About’ page leaves one feeling confused and slightly frightened. While they describe what they do  as “(fighting) innovation stagnancy” and “(existing) to communicate integrity”, I would say that they provide incredibly affordable options to those who are interested in stepping up their skincare routine. And that is exactly what I wanted.

I tried to grab little bit of everything that The Ordinary has to offer when I placed my order. I got three retinols (of differing strengths, so that I could step up to the next one after finishing the previous), three acids (a peel, a toner and a leave-on one), and a Vitamin C serum.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2%

This ‘suspension’ (read ‘gritty-feeling-cream’) contains super fine L-Ascorbic Acid powder which is designed to provide the skin with direct exposure to the Vitamin C. The reason you may see Vitamin C mentioned in so many products (like my absolute favourite Rose Hip Oil from Suki Suki Naturals), is that it is an antioxidant, used to brighten complexions, reduce discolouration and reduce fine lines.


  • A burny, tingly feeling is normal, but should subside after a few uses, and should not be too painful to handle. The Ordinary recommends diluting the suspension with a cream of your choice until your skin grows used to the product.


AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution

It’s like a little red burny facial. This thick, cherry-looking liquid is designed to act as a masque, sitting on your face for 10 minutes before removing, before revealing bright and beautiful skin. With time, The Ordinary’s peeling solution should improve skin texture, tackle blemishes, reduce fine lines and decongest pores.

The difference between AHA (alpha hydroxy acids) and BHA (beta hydroxy acids), is that the former is effective in the short term, while the latter ensures long-lasting results. Bonuses included in this product are hyaluronic acid, Vitamin B and Tasmanian Pepperberry.


  • Don’t use this if your skin is sensitive or sunburnt
  • Be careful not to exceed 10 minutes at a time, and to not use it more than 3 times a week
  • Protect your now sensitive face with lots of sunscreen

Alpha Lipoic Acid 5%

It’s a super potent, highly concentrated, crazy-effective antioxidant! And if that description isn’t frightening enough, The Ordinary does everything except make you sign a contract stating you won’t overuse it, or go in the sun with it on.

The Ordinary states that alpha lipoic acid has an antioxidant capacity that is 40,000% stronger than networks of Vitamins C and E (*insert nervous giggling*). It is formulated to improve skin texture and give the face a ‘glow’ from the first use.


  • No seriously, alpha lipoic acid is so sensitive to sunlight, you can only use this in the dead of night
  • Alpha lipoic acid also has a thing against water (it decreases the acid’s effectiveness), so don’t mix it with water, and ensure your face is dry before application
  • Don’t go overboard! Too much of a good thing can leave you with sad and sensitive skin

Side note: I haven’t used this yet, and am really scared, should I do a live first impressions on Instagram?

Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution

This toner is mild enough to use once a day, but should still be used with caution by those who have sensitive or sunburnt skin. Containing alpha hydroxyl acids, The Ordinary’s Glycolic Acid toner is supposed to improve skin texture, by providing a mild exfoliation with each use. It’s one of their more raved about products, and I have very high expectations!


  • Sensitive skinned people should be careful not to overdo it with this solution
  • Use of sunscreen is advised after the use of this product, so it would be wise to only use it at night, and then lather up with SPF in the morning


Cautions for retinols

  • Skin becomes especially sensitive to the effects of the sun during retinol use, so make sure to cover up and use a sunscreen every day
  • The Ordinary warns that acne may flare up or worsen during the first few weeks of retinol use
  • Dry, flaky or peeling skin is common when using retinol for the first time, that is why a ‘step up’ system is suggested, where you start on a low concentration and build your way up to greater strengths


Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion

The first retinol in my routine will be The Ordinary’s famous Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion, described as a moderate strength, and low irritation formula. The emulsion is a combination of Granactive Retinoid (solubilized Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate) and a “form of pure retinol in a protective capsule system”.

The Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate (HPR) is essentially a form of retinoid that is said to offer a better result than “retinol, retinyl palmitate and nearly all other forms of non-prescription retinoid”, according to the company’s site. The whole point of the emulsion is to lessen the irritating effects of retinol-type products.

Granactive Retinoid 5% in Squalene

Next up is the Granactive Retinoid 5% in Squalene, a high strength formula with little to no irritating effects. This contains the active complex called Granactive Retinoid (which formed part of the previous formula). Again, this is to lessen or eliminate the irritation retinoids can cause skin.


Retinol 1% in Squalene

Described as a high strength, high irritation product, this will be the last retinol in my step up programme, and is the most likely to cause flaking and peeling of the skin.

All of the retinol products mentioned are aimed at preventing the signs of ageing, such as fine lines and spots. As this will be my first time using retinols, I’m not really sure of what to expect. I won’t be able to see massive results as I don’t have many lines to begin with, but we will see if the prevention part of the promise is true.

Before you even ask, you can bet I will be doing regular updates on each and every product I’ve listed above. I’m really excited to start putting more effort and time into my skincare routine, and these few products are the perfect way of doing that. If you’ve tried any of I would love to know your thoughts. Let me know in the comments, or find me on social media.






More like this: Here are some other skincare products I have been loving!


  • Raeesa Setar

    I’m so interested in the Alpha Lipoic Acid now! The danger excites me But seriously, I need to purchase the Retinols next… I’m slowly building up to those. I used the Glycolic toner last night, followed by the Lactic Acid 5% mixed with a little of the Marine Hyaluronics, and then slapped on some of the Azelaic Acid Solution (which thankfully didn’t burn at all!) – it has a smoothe almost silicon primer finish, and is matte which I loved, the ended with the plant derived Squalane. I’m hoping I did things right but this morning my skin looked so good so if think maybe I did! Waiting for stuff to come into stock – I have my eye on the caffeine eye treatment thingy. How did you find the Vit C? I’m not sure if that’s the one that people said stained their pillowcases – maybe it was another. Looking forward to following your The Ordinary journey! Enjoyed this review

    • Megan Beth Smith

      RIGHT?! Something about getting perfect skin at the risk of almost burning my face off is very exciting! I need you to tell me all about the Lactic Acid, Marine Hyaluronics and Azelaic Acid! Haven’t tried the Vitamin C yet as I am resisting the urge to put all the products on at once. Thank you for reading!

  • Refiloe

    I probably raised my eyebrows and cringed a bit more than five times while reading this post. I’ve been so skeptical about trying The Ordinary’s products because of all the cautions that come with them, (I’m not the most dedicated person to reading instructions so you can imagine how long I’ve had to think about the consequences of my predictable actions). I love how honest this post is and I think I might dive into The Ordinary as well.

    Please do an Instagram update of your thoughts and progress! Lovely article and gorgeous pictures!

    • Megan Beth Smith

      You have no idea how carefully I’ve been reading those instructions! Anything with the word ‘acid’ in the name is damn scary to be putting on your face! Thank you for checking out the article!

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