Is The Ordinary Skincare Clean Beauty? No! (And Yes)

August 5, 2022

The Ordinary skincare has been hot hot hot since it dropped into the marketplace in 2016. Its accessible pricing, unisex / clinical branding and (sometimes) uncomplicated ingredient lists have made it what some bloggers have called the world’s most popular skincare brand. But is it as good as the internet seems to think it is? Let’s chat about if The Ordinary is clean skincare (and peek at what I would and would NOT use from the brand).

a woman holds up a bottle and dropper of The Ordinary organic cold pressed rose hip seed oil

By: Lisa Fennessy

IN THIS POST:

The Ordinary is under the DECIEM umbrella, which also owns beauty brands like NIOD and Hylamide (and has had some DRAMA over the last few years), and mega beauty brand Estee Lauder has a shareholder stake in it. The Ordinary’s appeal is that it offers a line of a la carte ingredients at an average price of $10, AKA you can get a bottle of cold-pressed organic rosehip seed oil for under 10 bucks. Like, why WOULDN’T you jump on that?

But the cold-pressed organic rosehip seed oil isn’t the only thing in the line, and I’ve been curious about the ingredient lists of the other products, namely because the brand has blown up and is available at Sephora and Target. So I asked myself (and Kate Noonan, our resident molecular biologist and cosmetic chemist), is The Ordinary clean beauty? Here we go.

RELATED: The ingredients we *always* say NO THANKS to.


Is The Ordinary clean beauty?

If you ask The Ordinary, I’m sure they would say “yes, we’re clean beauty!” as they tout principles of authenticity and transparency. And yes, you can find some really good skincare options here…but also, some skincare I personally wouldn’t use. 

The number one thing we value here at TNK is transparency and The Ordinary’s “everything is chemicals” approach to justifying their formulations is everything but. It’s a dumbed-down approach to a very complex topic and I think it’s insulting to the savvy consumer. 

However, this kind of blurred line is where clean beauty is trending and I’m here to help make it easier for you to make choices that work for you. 

Let’s skip past the marketing and take a more granular look at their formulas to truly answer this question. I wanted to make this really easy to skim, so I made 2 lists:

  1. the YES list = what I would personally use from The Ordinary
  2. the No list = what I would personally skip from The Ordinary 

We’ve never done a post like this before so let us know if you like it and / or if it’s useful or not. 

RELATED: Is Jones Road clean beauty?


a woman holds up a product stopper and bottle of The Ordinary

A quick caveat

This review of The Ordinary is based solely on a look at their ingredients. I haven’t personally used this entire line, so I can’t speak to efficiency or performance (although I did pick up their 100% Organic Cold-Pressed Rosehip Seed Oil for less than $10 at Sephora and I’m a fan). 


How to use this The Ordinary Skincare post:

  • This is meant to be a really quick and easy to use resource. 
  • Use the search function (command + F). Type in your Ordinary product in question and this feature will jump you right to the product and my opinion. 
  • We worked with molecular biologist and cosmetic chemist, Kate Noonan, to highlight ingredients of concern here. You will see these highlighted in yellow
  • For more ingredient intel, be sure to hit up our No Thanks List
  • You can also skip the line and head straight to the YES section to scope out what I would personally use. 

The Ordinary products on display in store

The Ordinary pros and cons: overall thoughts

Holy crap, The Ordinary has a TON of products. Search for reviews and you will find headlines like “The 39 Best The Ordinary Products” or “The 25 Best The Ordinary Products…” That could be a pro for some and a con for others. Here are my thoughts.

Pros: 

  • Accessible 
  • Price 
  • Single-ingredient product options 
  • A robust number of product options 
  • Pick and choose to customize your skincare experience
  • Cute packaging / branding 
  • Packaged in glass 

Cons: 

  • I wouldn’t use the entire line
  • You need to know and understand ingredients to be able to shop / curate a personalized skincare routine
  • Some of these concentrations are strong, creating a large margin for error if products are used incorrectly 
  • The dumbed down and diversional “everything is chemicals” marketing is a big turn off
  • For me, there are waaaay too many products to choose from—this just feels overwhelming to shop this line, and honestly makes me feel dumb

An additional note about The Ordinary Skincare 

After taking a look at The Ordinary, there’s something I wanted to point out that came up for me as we vetted this line. 

I already mentioned The Ordinary’s “everything is chemicals” mantra, but it’s important enough to debunk a bit. The brand is basically saying that because everything (water, air, vitamin C, vinegar, lavender oil, bread, the chair you’re sitting on, your hair) is a chemical, we shouldn’t be hesitant to put it in our skincare at a “safe” level.

The problem is, of course, this holds true for some ingredients, which you’ll see in our note about isoceteth-20 below. But as a general ingredient philosophy, it’s a false premise: There are some chemicals that are not safe at any level.

According to Dr. Warner and Dr. Flaws from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, “Historically, toxicity was evaluated using high-dose testing under the assumption of a linear dose response curve. However, this paradigm of ‘the dose makes the poison’ does not hold for BPA, phthalates, and other endocrine disrupting chemicals.” (1)

Kate adds, “BHT is also an endocrine disrupting chemical and it’s in several Ordinary products.” (2)

This “everything is chemicals” notion is honestly another marketing tactic that’s pushing back against the fear-mongering of the “clean beauty” industry to pull consumers in and, ultimately, to make money off you.

I don’t personally love supporting a brand that does this or puts questionable ingredients in some of their products and not others. 

But I really love that this option is accessible and it’s super affordable and some of their products are really great options. So, if this brand is a match for you, I want you to feel good about making a great choice here. Let’s dive in. 

RELATED: Learn more about how beauty certifications can help you vet your products here.


YES (these are products I WOULD use from The Ordinary)

YES: 100% Plant-Derived Squalane | $9.00

Squalane

YES: 100% Organic Cold-Pressed Rose Hip Seed Oil | $9.80

Rosa Canina Seed Oil

YES: Granactive Retinoid 5% in Squalane | $14.50

I’m not going to comment on EVERY product, but this one stood out to me: In The Ordinary, we see “Granactive Retinoid™”. One of our concerns is that retinol can come preserved with BHA or BHT, which you will not see on the label as it’s added at the raw ingredient level. We checked with molecular biologist and cosmetic chemist, Kate Noonan, and she confirms, “this is actually “Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate” retinoid and it is not preserved with BHA or BHT.” So ✅! (More on what to consider when shopping for a “clean retinol” here.) 

Squalane, C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate, Bisabolol, Dimethyl Isosorbide, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate, Solanum Lycopersicum (Tomato) Fruit Extract, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract, Hydroxymethoxyphenyl Decanone

YES: Granactive Retinoid in 2% Squalane | $10.80

Squalane, C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate, Bisabolol, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Dimethyl Isosorbide, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate, Solanum Lycopersicum (Tomato) Fruit Extract, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract, Hydroxymethoxyphenyl Decanone

YES: Ascorbic Acid 8% + Alpha Arbutin 2% | $11.00

Propanediol, Ascorbic Acid, Alpha-Arbutin

YES: 100% Organic Cold-Pressed Moroccan Argan Oil | $6.80

Argania Spinosa Kernel Oil

YES: Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate Solution 20% in Vitamin F* | $17.80

Coconut Alkanes, Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate, Ethyl Linoleate, Coco-Caprylate/Caprate, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Solanum Lycopersicum (Tomato) Fruit Extract, Squalane

*Vitamin F is the new shorthand name for omega-3 + omega-6, FYI.

YES: 100% Organic Cold-Pressed Borage Seed Oil | $4.20

Borago Officinalis Seed Oil

YES: 100% Cold-Pressed Virgin Marula Oil | $9.90

Sclerocarya Birrea Seed Oil

YES: Resveratrol 3% + Ferulic Acid 3% | $9.00

Propanediol, Resveratrol, Ferulic Acid

YES: Pycnogenol 5% | $10

Propanediol, Pinus Pinaster Bark Extract

YES: 100% Plant-Derived Hemi-Squalane | $4.50

C13-16 Isoparaffin

*This ingredient is sugarcane derived, not petroleum derived. 

YES: “B” Oil | $10

Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Squalane, Crambe Abyssinica Seed Oil, Bisabolol, Simmondsia Chinensis Seed Oil, Ethylhexyl Stearate, Isochrysis Galbana Extract, Adansonia Digitata Seed Oil, Argania Spinosa Kernel Oil, Borago Officinalis Seed Oil, Rosa Canina Seed Oil, Sclerocarya Birrea Seed Oil, Oenocarpus Bataua Fruit Oil, Plukenetia Volubilis Seed Oil, Bertholletia Excelsa Seed Oil, Solanum Lycopersicum (Tomato) Fruit Extract, Hydroxymethoxyphenyl Decanone, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract, Tocopherol

a container of The Ordinary brand Ascorbic Acid Powder is held up in front of a store display of products

YES: 100% L-Ascorbic Acid Powder | $5.80

Ascorbic Acid

YES: EUK 134 0.1% | $10

Propanediol, Ethylbisiminomethylguaiacol Manganese Chloride

YES: 100% Niacinamide Powder | $5.80

Niacinamide

YES: 100% Organic Virgin Chia Seed Oil | $7.70

Salvia Hispanica Seed Oil

YES: 100% Organic Virgin Sea-Buckthorn Fruit Oil | $14.90

Hippophae Rhamnoides Fruit Oil

YES: Ethylated Ascorbic Acid 15% Solution | $18.00

Propanediol, Ethyl Ascorbic Acid


MAYBE

There are three products that look good overall, but also include an ingredient called isoceteth-20. Isoceteth-20 is a concern because it has ethylene oxide in it. Ethylene oxide is on our No Thanks List because the United States Department of Health and Human Services National Toxicology Program says, “Ethylene oxide is known to be a human carcinogen based on sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity from studies in humans, including epidemiological studies and studies on mechanisms of carcinogenesis.” (3)

However, in this case, it’s interesting to note that isoceteth-20 has a low enough percentage of 1,4-dioxane that it made the Whole Foods accepted list as an ingredient. So it’s really up to you and depends on whether you really want to be 100% ethylene oxide free or not. My personal take is I can find something better somewhere else, BUT if I fell in love with the performance, I would be okay with using it. I’ve marked all three of these as “MAYBE.”

MAYBE: Lactic Acid 10% + HA | $8.00

Aqua (Water), Lactic Acid, Glycerin, Pentylene Glycol, Propanediol, Sodium Hydroxide, Sodium Hyaluronate Crosspolymer, Tasmannia Lanceolata Fruit/Leaf Extract, Acacia Senegal Gum, Xanthan Gum, Isoceteth-20, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Ethylhexylglycerin, 1,2-Hexanediol, Caprylyl Glycol

*The isoceteth-20 is a concern because it has ethylene oxide (like Polysorbate 20), but they have low enough 1,4-dioxane that they made the Whole Foods accepted list. AKA, depends on whether you really want to be 100% ethylene oxide free. 

MAYBE: Lactic Acid 5% + HA | $7.00

Aqua (Water), Lactic Acid, Glycerin, Pentylene Glycol, Propanediol, Sodium Hyaluronate Crosspolymer, Tasmannia Lanceolata Fruit/Leaf Extract, Acacia Senegal Gum, Xanthan Gum, Isoceteth-20, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Sodium Hydroxide, Ethylhexylglycerin, 1,2-Hexanediol, Caprylyl Glycol

*The isoceteth-20 is a concern because it has ethylene oxide (like Polysorbate 20), but they have low enough 1,4-dioxane that they made the Whole Foods accepted list. AKA, depends on whether you really want to be 100% ethylene oxide free. 

MAYBE: Ascorbyl Glucoside Solution 12% | $12.90

Aqua (Water), Ascorbyl Glucoside, Propanediol, Aminomethyl Propanol, Triethanolamine, Isoceteth-20, Xanthan Gum, Dimethyl Isosorbide, Ethoxydiglycol, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, 1,2-Hexanediol, Caprylyl Glycol

*The isoceteth-20 is a concern because it has ethylene oxide (like Polysorbate 20), but they have low enough 1,4-dioxane that they made the Whole Foods accepted list. AKA, depends on whether you really want to be 100% ethylene oxide free. 


NO (these are products I WOULD NOT use from The Ordinary)

These products contain ingredients of concern in The Ordinary Skincare, and I’d skip them. As a reminder, you can check out why these are ingredients we avoid at TNK here.

Two ingredients I want to call out that make The Ordinary “NO” section every time: chlorphenesin and BHT.

Chlorphenesin is a synthetic preservative that is very toxic to eye cells, a strong irritant and a common cosmetic allergen (4, 6). And it shows up in over 25 of The Ordinary skincare products. Specifically ones that are instructed to “use around the eyes” like Argireline Solution 10%. That’s a hard no for me.

BHT is also listed in several of the products listed below too. BHT can induce cell death, promote the formation of tumors (5) and it’s also an endocrine disruptor (2), so also a hard no for me.

NO: Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate 10% | $10.50

Aqua (Water), Coco Caprylate/Caprate, Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Isodecyl Neopentanoate, Plukenetia Volubilis Seed Oil, Coconut Alkanes, Disteardimonium Hectorite, Polyglyceryl-3 Diisostearate, Polyglycerol-3 Polyricinoleate, Glycerin, Hexamethyldisiloxane, Terminalia Ferdinandiana Fruit Extract, Tocopherol, Sodium Chloride, Phenoxyethanol, Chlorphenesin

NO: Salicylic Acid 2% Anhydrous Solution | $6.50

Squalane, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Pentylene Glycol, Salicylic Acid, Oleic/Linoleic/Linolenic Polyglycerides, 4-t-Butylcyclohexanol, Hydroxymethoxyphenyl Decanone, Phenoxyethanol, Chlorphenesin

NO: Retinol 0.2% in Squalane | $7.00

Squalane, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Retinol, Solanum Lycopersicum (Tomato) Fruit Extract, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract, Hydroxymethoxyphenyl Decanone, Bht

NO: Mandelic Acid 10% + HA | $8.00

Propanediol, Aqua (Water), Mandelic Acid, Glycerin, Dimethyl Isosorbide, Sodium Hyaluronate Crosspolymer, Tasmannia Lanceolata Fruit/Leaf Extract, Pentylene Glycol, Polysorbate 20, Sodium Hydroxide, Ethylhexylglycerin, 1,2-Hexanediol, Caprylyl Glycol

NO: High-Spreadability Fluid Primer | $9.00

Hexamethyldisiloxane, Cyclopentasiloxane, Caprylyl Methicone, Peg-12 Dimethicone/Ppg-20 Crosspolymer, Dimethicone, Dimethicone/Vinyl Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Tocopherol

NO: Retinol 1% in Squalane | $8.00

Squalane, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Retinol, Solanum Lycopersicum (Tomato) Fruit Extract, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract, Hydroxymethoxyphenyl Decanone, Bht

NO: Retinol 0.5% in Squalane | $7.50

Squalane, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Retinol, Solanum Lycopersicum (Tomato) Fruit Extract, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract, Hydroxymethoxyphenyl Decanone, Bht

NO: Salicylic Acid 2% Masque | $23.00

Aqua (Water), Kaolin, Squalane, Glycerin, Dimethyl Isosorbide, Silica Cetyl Silylate, Salicylic Acid, Sodium Polyacrylate, Pentylene Glycol, Charcoal Powder, 4-T-Butylcyclohexanol, Sclerotium Gum, Acacia Senegal Gum, Xanthan Gum, Phytic Acid, Polysorbate 20, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Chlorphenesin, Phenoxyethanol

NO: Vitamin C Suspension 30% in Silicone | $7.50

Dimethicone, Ascorbic Acid, Polysilicone-11, Peg-10 Dimethicone

NO: Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2% | $7.00

Ascorbic Acid, Squalane, Isodecyl Neopentanoate, Isononyl Isononanoate, Coconut Alkanes, Ethylene/Propylene/Styrene Copolymer, Ethylhexyl Palmitate, Silica Dimethyl Silylate, Sodium Hyaluronate, Glucomannan, Coco-Caprylate/Caprate, Butylene/Ethylene/Styrene Copolymer, Acrylates/Ethylhexyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Trihydroxystearin, Bht

NO: Marine Hyaluronics | $8.00

Aqua (Water), Glycerin, Algae Extract, Pseudoalteromonas Exopolysaccharides, Pseudoalteromonas Ferment Extract, Ahnfeltia Concinna Extract, Arginine, Glycine, Alanine, Serine, Valine, Isoleucine, Proline, Threonine, Histidine, Phenylalanine, Aspartic Acid, Pca, Sodium Pca, Sodium Lactate, Salicylic Acid, Citric Acid, Propanediol, Dimethyl Isosorbide, Ethoxydiglycol, Polysorbate 20, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Salicylate, Sodium Benzoate, Hexylene Glycol, 1,2-Hexanediol, Phenoxyethanol, Caprylyl Glycol

NO: Mineral UV Filters SPF 15 with Antioxidants | $8.90

Aqua (Water), Cyclopentasiloxane, Zinc Oxide, Titanium Dioxide, Glycerin, Peg-10 Dimethicone, Helianthus Annuus Seed Oil, Peg-9 Polydimethylsiloxyethyl Dimethicone, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Hexyl Laurate, Dimethicone/Peg-10/15 Crosspolymer, Polyglyceryl-4 Isostearate, Astaxanthin, Disodium Uridine Phosphate, Ethyl Ferulate, Rosmarinus Officinalis Leaf Extract, Tasmannia Lanceolata Fruit/Leaf Extract, Haematococcus Pluvialis Extract, Picea Mariana Bark Extract, Arginine, Aspartic Acid, Glycine, Alanine, Serine, Valine, Isoleucine, Proline, Threonine, Histidine, Phenylalanine, Sodium Pca, Pca, Sodium Lactate, Glucose, Maltose, Fructose, Trehalose, Urea, Allantoin, Sodium Hyaluronate, Linoleic Acid, Oleic Acid, Phytosteryl Canola Glycerides, Palmitic Acid, Stearic Acid, Isochrysis Galbana Extract, Lysolecithin, Lecithin, Triolein, Pentylene Glycol, Dipropylene Glycol, Polyglyceryl-10 Oleate, Polyglyceryl-5 Trioleate, Polyglyceryl-10 Stearate, Tocopherol, Alumina, Citric Acid, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Sodium Chloride, Sodium Hydroxide, Phenoxyethanol, Chlorphenesin

NO: Mineral UV Filters SPF 30 with Antioxidants | $9.70

Aqua (Water), Cyclopentasiloxane, Zinc Oxide, Titanium Dioxide, Peg-10 Dimethicone, Glycerin, Helianthus Annuus Seed Oil, Peg-9 Polydimethylsiloxyethyl Dimethicone, Hexyl Laurate, Polyglyceryl-4 Isostearate, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Dimethicone/Peg-10/15 Crosspolymer, Astaxanthin, Disodium Uridine Phosphate, Ethyl Ferulate, Rosmarinus Officinalis Leaf Extract, Tasmannia Lanceolata Fruit/Leaf Extract, Haematococcus Pluvialis Extract, Picea Mariana Bark Extract, Arginine, Aspartic Acid, Glycine, Alanine, Serine, Valine, Isoleucine, Proline, Threonine, Histidine, Phenylalanine, Sodium Pca, Pca, Sodium Lactate, Glucose, Maltose, Fructose, Trehalose, Urea, Allantoin, Sodium Hyaluronate, Linoleic Acid, Oleic Acid, Phytosteryl Canola Glycerides, Palmitic Acid, Stearic Acid, Isochrysis Galbana Extract, Lysolecithin, Lecithin, Triolein, Pentylene Glycol, Dipropylene Glycol, Polyglyceryl-10 Oleate, Polyglyceryl-5 Trioleate, Polyglyceryl-10 Stearate, Tocopherol, Alumina, Citric Acid, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Sodium Chloride, Sodium Hydroxide, Phenoxyethanol, Chlorphenesin

NO: Amino Acids + B5 | $8

Aqua (Water), Propanediol, Betaine, Sodium Pca, Panthenol, Sodium Lactate, Arginine, Pca, Aspartic Acid, Glycine, Alanine, Serine, Threonine, Valine, Proline, Isoleucine, Lysine Hcl, Histidine, Phenylalanine, Glutamic Acid, Citric Acid, Dimethyl Isosorbide, Polysorbate 20, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, 1,2-Hexanediol, Caprylyl Glycol

NO: Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA | $19

Aqua (Water), Alpha-Arbutin, Polyacrylate Crosspolymer-6, Hydrolyzed Sodium Hyaluronate, Propanediol, Ppg-26-Buteth-26, Peg-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Lactic Acid, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Ethoxydiglycol, Phenoxyethanol, Chlorphenesin

NO: Argireline Solution 10% | $8.50

Aqua (Water), Propanediol, Acetyl Hexapeptide-8, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Gellan Gum, Sodium Chloride, Isoceteth-20, Dimethyl Isosorbide, Potassium Sorbate, Phenoxyethanol, Chlorphenesin

NO: Matrixyl 10% + HA | $11.50 

Aqua (Water), Glycerin, Butylene Glycol, Palmitoyl Tripeptide-1, Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-7, Palmitoyl Tripeptide-38, Sodium Hyaluronate, Hydroxypropyl Cyclodextrin, Ppg-26-Buteth-26, Peg-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Polyacrylate Crosspolymer-6, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Carbomer, Polysorbate 20, Ethoxydiglycol, Phenoxyethanol, Chlorphenesin

NO: Salicylic Acid 2% Solution | $5.90

Aqua (Water), Saccharide Isomerate, Cocamidopropyl Dimethylamine, Salicylic Acid, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Polysorbate 20, Citric Acid, Sodium Citrate, Sodium Hydroxide, Phenoxyethanol, Chlorphenesin

NO: High-Adherence Silicone Primer | $6.00

Aqua (Water), Isodecyl Neopentanoate, Dimethicone, Dimethicone/Bis-Isobutyl Ppg-20 Crosspolymer, Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer, Isohexadecane, Hexamethyldisiloxane, Isoceteth-20, Polysilicone-11, Tocopherol, Polysorbate 60, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Phenoxyethanol, Chlorphenesin

NO: Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion | $10.50

Aqua (Water), Glycerin, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Ethyl Linoleate, Propanediol, Dimethyl Isosorbide, Cetearyl Isononanoate, Bisabolol, Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate, Retinol, Tasmannia Lanceolata Fruit/Leaf Extract, Inulin Lauryl Carbamate, Glyceryl Stearate, Ceteareth-12, Ceteareth-20, Cetearyl Alcohol, Carrageenan, Xanthan Gum, Acacia Senegal Gum, Cetyl Palmitate, Sucrose Laurate, Polysorbate 20, Isoceteth-20, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract, Hydroxymethoxyphenyl Decanone, Behentrimonium Chloride, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Disodium Edta, Dehydroacetic Acid, Benzoic Acid, Ethylhexylglycerin, Phenoxyethanol, Chlorphenesin

NO: Caffeine Solution 5% + EGCG | $7.50

Aqua (Water), Caffeine, Maltodextrin, Glycerin, Propanediol, Epigallocatechin Gallatyl Glucoside, Gallyl Glucoside, Hyaluronic Acid, Oxidized Glutathione, Melanin, Glycine Soja (Soybean) Seed Extract, Pentylene Glycol, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Polyacrylate Crosspolymer-6, Xanthan gum, Lactic Acid, Dehydroacetic Acid, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Propyl Gallate, Dimethyl Isosorbide, Benzyl Alcohol, 1,2-Hexanediol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Phenoxyethanol, Caprylyl Glycol

NO: Azelaic Acid Suspension 10% | $25

Aqua (Water), Isodecyl Neopentanoate, Dimethicone, Azelaic Acid, Dimethicone/Bis-Isobutyl Ppg-20 Crosspolymer, Dimethyl Isosorbide, Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer, Polysilicone-11, Isohexadecane, Tocopherol, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Isoceteth-20, Polysorbate 60, Triethanolamine, Ethoxydiglycol, Phenoxyethanol, Chlorphenesin

NO: Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution | $10

Aqua (Water), Glycolic Acid, Rosa Damascena Flower Water, Centaurea Cyanus Flower Water, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Water, Propanediol, Glycerin, Triethanolamine, Aminomethyl Propanol, Panax Ginseng Root Extract, Tasmannia Lanceolata Fruit/Leaf Extract, Aspartic Acid, Alanine, Glycine, Serine, Valine, Isoleucine, Proline, Threonine, Histidine, Phenylalanine, Glutamic Acid, Arginine, Pca, Sodium Pca, Sodium Lactate, Fructose, Glucose, Sucrose, Urea, Hexyl Nicotinate, Dextrin, Citric Acid, Polysorbate 20, Gellan Gum, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Sodium Chloride, Hexylene Glycol, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Benzoate, 1,2-Hexanediol, Caprylyl Glycol.

NO: AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution | $8

Glycolic Acid, Aqua (Water), Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Water, Sodium Hydroxide, Daucus Carota Sativa Extract, Propanediol, Cocamidopropyl Dimethylamine, Salicylic Acid, Lactic Acid, Tartaric Acid, Citric Acid, Panthenol, Sodium Hyaluronate Crosspolymer, Tasmannia Lanceolata Fruit/Leaf Extract, Glycerin, Pentylene Glycol, Xanthan Gum, Polysorbate 20, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Benzoate, Ethylhexylglycerin, 1,2-Hexanediol, Caprylyl Glycol

NO: “Buffet” | $30.20

Aqua (Water), Glycerin, Lactococcus Ferment Lysate, Acetyl Hexapeptide-8, Pentapeptide-18, Palmitoyl Tripeptide-1, Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-7, Palmitoyl Tripeptide-38, Dipeptide Diaminobutyroyl Benzylamide Diacetate, Acetylarginyltryptophyl Diphenylglycine, Sodium Hyaluronate Crosspolymer, Sodium Hyaluronate, Allantoin, Glycine, Alanine, Serine, Valine, Isoleucine, Proline, Threonine, Histidine, Phenylalanine, Arginine, Aspartic Acid, Trehalose, Fructose, Glucose, Maltose, Urea, Sodium PCA, PCA, Sodium Lactate, Citric Acid, Hydroxypropyl Cyclodextrin, Sodium Chloride, Sodium Hydroxide, Butylene Glycol, Pentylene Glycol, Acacia Senegal Gum, Xanthan Gum, Carbomer, Polysorbate 20, PPG-26-Buteth-26, PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Ethoxydiglycol, Sodium Benzoate, Caprylyl Glycol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Phenoxyethanol, Chlorphenesin

NO: “Buffet” + Copper Peptides 1% | $30.90

Aqua (Water), Glycerin, Lactococcus Ferment Lysate, Copper Tripeptide-1, Acetyl Hexapeptide-8, Pentapeptide-18, Palmitoyl Tripeptide-1, Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-7, Palmitoyl Tripeptide-38, Dipeptide Diaminobutyroyl Benzylamide Diacetate, Acetylarginyltryptophyl Diphenylglycine, Sodium Hyaluronate Crosspolymer, Sodium Hyaluronate, Allantoin, Glycine, Alanine, Serine, Valine, Isoleucine, Proline, Threonine, Histidine, Phenylalanine, Arginine, Aspartic Acid, Trehalose, Fructose, Glucose, Maltose, Urea, Sodium Pca, Pca, Sodium Lactate, Citric Acid, Hydroxypropyl Cyclodextrin, Sodium Chloride, Sodium Hydroxide, Butylene Glycol, Pentylene Glycol, Acacia Senegal Gum, Xanthan Gum, Carbomer, Polysorbate 20, Dimethyl Isosorbide, Sodium Benzoate, Caprylyl Glycol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Phenoxyethanol, Chlorphenesin

NO: Squalane Cleanser | $19.90

Squalane, Aqua (Water), Coco-Caprylate/Caprate, Glycerin, Sucrose Stearate, Ethyl Macadamiate, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Hydrogenated Starch Hydrolysate, Sucrose Laurate, Polyacrylate Crosspolymer-6, Isoceteth-20, Sodium Polyacrylate, Tocopherol, Hydroxymethoxyphenyl Decanone, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Malic Acid, Ethylhexylglycerin, Chlorphenesin

NO: Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA | $10.50

Aqua (Water), Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Cetyl Alcohol, Propanediol, Stearyl Alcohol, Glycerin, Sodium Hyaluronate, Arginine, Aspartic Acid, Glycine, Alanine, Serine, Valine, Isoleucine, Proline, Threonine, Histidine, Phenylalanine, Glucose, Maltose, Fructose, Trehalose, Sodium Pca, Pca, Sodium Lactate, Urea, Allantoin, Linoleic Acid, Oleic Acid, Phytosteryl Canola Glycerides, Palmitic Acid, Stearic Acid, Lecithin, Triolein, Tocopherol, Carbomer, Isoceteth-20, Polysorbate 60, Sodium Chloride, Citric Acid, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Pentylene Glycol, Triethanolamine, Sodium Hydroxide, Phenoxyethanol, Chlorphenesin

NO: The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 | $13.50

Aqua (Water), Sodium Hyaluronate, Pentylene Glycol, Propanediol, Sodium Hyaluronate Crosspolymer, Panthenol, Ahnfeltia Concinna Extract, Glycerin, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Citric Acid, Isoceteth-20, Ethoxydiglycol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Hexylene Glycol, 1,2-Hexanediol, Phenoxyethanol, Caprylyl Glycol

NO: Multi-Peptide Lash and Brow Serum | $14.50 

Aqua, Glycerin, Butylene Glycol, Myristoyl Pentapeptide-17, Biotinoyl Tripeptide-1, Oligopeptide-2, Acetyl Tetrapeptide-3, Caffeine, Panthenol, Arginine, Glycine, Glycoproteins, Larix Europaea Wood Extract, Trifolium Pratense Flower Extract, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Dextran, Maltodextrin, Zinc Chloride, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Xanthan Gum, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Polysorbate 20, Sodium Metabisulfite, Caprylyl Glycol, 1,2-Hexanediol, Sodium Benzoate, Benzoic Acid, Ethylhexylglycerin, Phenoxyethanol, Chlorphenesin

NO: Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% | $11.70

Aqua (Water), Niacinamide, Pentylene Glycol, Zinc Pca, Dimethyl Isosorbide, Tamarindus Indica Seed Gum, Xanthan Gum, Isoceteth-20, Ethoxydiglycol, Phenoxyethanol, Chlorphenesin

NO: Multi Peptide Serum for Hair Density | $17.90

Aqua (Water), Propanediol, Butylene Glycol, Glycerin, Caffeine, Biotinoyl Tripeptide-1, Acetyl Tetrapeptide-3, Larix Europaea Wood Extract, Pisum Sativum Extract, Scutellaria Baicalensis Root Extract, Triticum Vulgare Germ Extract, Glycine Soja Germ Extract, Trifolium Pratense Flower Extract, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Apigenin, Oleanolic Acid, Arginine, Glycine, Calcium Gluconate, Zinc Chloride, Lactic Acid, Gluconolactone, Dextran, Maltodextrin, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Xanthan Gum, Pentylene Glycol, Dimethyl Isosorbide, Polysorbate 20, Ppg-26-Buteth-26, Peg-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Sodium Metabisulfite, Sodium Benzoate, Phenoxyethanol, Chlorphenesin

NO: Sulfite 4% Cleanser for Body + Hair | $8.00

Aqua (Water), Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Polysorbate 20, Xanthan Gum, Tocopherol, Phytic Acid, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Benzyl Alcohol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Phenoxyethanol, Chlorphenesin

NO: Behentrimonium Chloride 2% Conditioner | $8.00

Aqua (Water), Cetearyl Alcohol, Behentrimonium Chloride, Cyamopsis Tetragonoloba (Guar) Gum, Phytic Acid, Phenoxyethanol, Chlorphenesin

NO: Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA for Scalp | $12.80

Aqua (Water), Squalane, C12-13 Alkyl Glyceryl Hydrolyzed Hyaluronate, Arginine, Aspartic Acid, Glycine, Alanine, Serine, Valine, Isoleucine, Proline, Threonine, Histidine, Phenylalanine, Glutamic Acid, Glucose, Fructose, Sucrose, PCA, Sodium PCA, Zinc PCA, Magnesium PCA, Manganese PCA, Urea, Sodium Lactate, Lactic Acid, Hexyl Nicotinate, Lauryl Glucoside, Myristyl Glucoside, Polyglyceryl-6 Laurate, Isoceteth-20, Dextrin, Hexylene Glycol, Potassium Sorbate, Phenoxyethanol, Chlorphenesin

NO: Concealer | $7.00

Aqua (Water), Caprylyl Methicone, Dimethicone, Dimethicone/Vinyl Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Isodecyl Neopentanoate, Dimethicone/PEG-10/15 Crosspolymer, Cetyl Diglyceryl Tris(Trimethylsiloxy)silylethyl Dimethicone, Dimethicone/Bis-Isobutyl PPG-20 Crosspolymer, PEG-9 Polydimethylsiloxyethyl Dimethicone, Polysilicone-11, C12-14 Pareth-12, Dipropylene Glycol, Xanthan Gum, Tocopherol, Sodium Chloride, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Phenoxyethanol, Chlorphenesin. May Contain [+/-]: Titanium Dioxide (CI 77891), Iron Oxides (CI 77491, CI 77492, CI 77499), Tin Oxide, Bismuth Oxychloride (CI 77163), Mica, Triethoxycaprylylsilane

NO: Coverage Foundation | $8.00

Aqua (Water), Coconut Alkanes, Dimethicone, Isodecyl Neopentanoate, Caprylyl Methicone, Methyl Methacrylate Crosspolymer, Glycerin, Trimethylsiloxysilicate, PEG-9 Polydimethylsiloxyethyl Dimethicone, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Dimethicone/PEG-10/15 Crosspolymer, Coco Caprylate/Caprate, Cetyl Diglyceryl Tris(Trimethylsiloxy)silylethyl Dimethicone, Sucrose Laurate, Dipropylene Glycol, Polysilicone-11, Tocopherol, Polyglyceryl-3 Diisostearate, Polyglyceryl-3 Polyricinoleate, Disteardimonium Hectorite, Hectorite, Dimethicone/ Bis-Isobutyl PPG-20 Crosspolymer, Dimethyl Isosorbide, Sodium Chloride, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Phenoxyethanol, Chlorphenesin. May Contain [+/-]: Titanium Dioxide (CI 77891), Iron Oxides (CI 77491, CI 77492, CI 77499), Tin Oxide, Aluminum Hydroxide, Bismuth Oxychloride (CI 77163), Mica, Triethoxycaprylylsilane

NO: Serum Foundation | $7.50

Cyclopentasiloxane, Aqua (Water), Caprylyl Methicone, Coconut Alkanes, Methyl Methacrylate Crosspolymer, Trimethylsiloxysilicate, PEG-9 Polydimethylsiloxyethyl Dimethicone, Coco Caprylate/Caprate, Dimethicone/PEG-10/15 Crosspolymer, Cetyl Diglyceryl Tris(Trimethylsiloxy)silylethyl Dimethicone, Dipropylene Glycol, Tocopherol, Polyglyceryl-3 Diisostearate, Polyglyceryl-3 Polyricinoleate, Polyglyceryl-4 Isostearate, Disteardimonium Hectorite, Hectorite, Sodium Chloride, Hexyl Laurate, Dimethicone/Vinyl Dimethicone Crosspolymer, PEG-10 Dimethicone, Stearic Acid, Alumina, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Phenoxyethanol, Chlorphenesin. May Contain [+/-]: Titanium Dioxide (CI 77891), Tin Oxide, Iron Oxides (CI 77491, CI 77492, CI 77499), Aluminum Hydroxide, Bismuth Oxychloride (CI 77163), Mica, Triethoxycaprylylsilane


Final thoughts on The Ordinary Skincare

Phew. That was A LOT. But does it help to see it broken down into categories? You tell me! 😂

It helps me to answer the question “Is The Ordinary clean beauty?” because there are more products on the NO list than on the YES list. And if that’s ultimately what the brand is selling, I’m not sure I want to be buying.

But, that’s the beauty of clean beauty (😉): YOU get to decide. You get to take all this info and make an informed choice for yourself. And that’s more powerful than any retinol solution. 


Do you use / would you use The Ordinary?

xo, lisa in cursive

TNK Team Note: This article contains affiliate links. TNK uses affiliate links as a source for revenue to fund operations of the business and to be less dependent on branded content. TNK stands behind all product recommendations. Still have questions about these links or our process? Feel free to email us.


References

1 . Warner, Genoa R.; Flaws, Jodi A.; Bisphenol A and phthalates: how environmental chemicals are reshaping toxicology; Toxicological Sciences; 2018, 166.2: 246-249.

2. Shalenie P. den Braver-Sewradj, Rob van Spronsen & Ellen V. S. Hessel; (2020) Substitution of bisphenol A: a review of the carcinogenicity, reproductive toxicity, and endocrine disruption potential of alternative substances; Critical Reviews in Toxicology; 50:2, 128-147, DOI: 10.1080/10408444.2019.1701986.

3. Ethylene Oxide; Report on Carcinogens, Fifteenth Edition, National Toxicology Program; Department of Health and Human Services, 15th RoC 2021.

4. Jingyi Wang, Yang Liu, Wendy R. Kam, Ying Li, David A. Sullivan, Toxicity of the cosmetic preservatives parabens, phenoxyethanol and chlorphenesin on human meibomian gland epithelial cells, Experimental Eye Research, Volume 196, 2020, 108057, ISSN 0014-4835. 

5. Xiaoqing Xu, Aimei Liu, Siyi Hu, Irma Ares, María-Rosa Martínez-Larrañaga, Xu Wang, Marta Martínez, Arturo Anadón, María-Aránzazu Martínez,Synthetic phenolic antioxidants: Metabolism, hazards and mechanism of action, Food Chemistry, Volume 353, 2021, 129488, ISSN 0308-8146.

6. S. H. Wakelin, I. R. White; Dermatitis from chlorphenesin in a facial cosmetic; Contact Dermatitis; Volume 37, Issue 3; September 1997.

By Lisa Fennessy

Lisa is the founder of The New Knew. Passionate about clean beauty, organic eats and nontoxic lifestyle, Lisa writes to create awareness. Conscious consumerism and informed decisions will impact the marketplace, our health and THE WORLD!

22 Comments

  1. Reply

    Michelle

    This is a great resource! So much information but easy to digest. Thank you.

  2. Reply

    Jane

    Thanks for covering The Ordinary! Ive been using it for a couple years now but just their squalane because while it is nice to see simple basic names for the products sometimes all the chemicals can be a bit daunting but still I appreciate the no frills in your face this is what you’re buying kind of labeling. Thank you very much too for highlighting which ones are a no really saves us a lot of time checking and looking it up on EWG.
    Can Biossance be next please? Lol I feel much better about using brands after you review them since you’ve tried so many and you can give us a good idea on where the brand stands and its performance and what’s worth trying. Saves us so much time and money!😁 thank you n again!

  3. Reply

    Annette

    Thank you for all of the work you put into these posts, I really appreciate it. Your post on Jones Beauty also answered a lot of questions for me. I hadn’t heard of this brand, but I have to agree; too many choices!!

  4. Reply

    Gina

    Thank you for this incredibly thorough post and all this information!

  5. Reply

    Laura

    Wow this is honestly such a helpful posts that obviously took a TON of work. I hope you realize how much we appreciate it!!!

    1. Reply

      Lisa Fennessy

      Thank you for reading Laura! xo, Lisa

  6. Reply

    Angela

    Amazing review! Loved this! Thanks for putting in the leg work so we as consumers can make better choices!

    1. Reply

      Lisa Fennessy

      Happy to do it, thanks for reading Angela! xo, Lisa

  7. Reply

    Joy

    Appreciate this post! I felt comfortable with the 100% oils of the line. Thank you for confirming.

    1. Reply

      Lisa Fennessy

      Me too Joy but then I was also surprised to learn there were actually more options than I realized on the YES LIST. So fun! xo, Lisa

  8. Reply

    Debra

    After reviewing the yes list, my question is how can these be so inexpensive?

    1. Reply

      Lisa Fennessy

      Hi Debra! I have / had that question too. We compared the organic rose hip oil to the organic rose hip oil sold at Mountain Rose Herbs and it was priced similarly. I think part of this speaks to the large markup on skincare products in general which is a whole other topic. Hope this helps! xo, Lisa

  9. Reply

    Autum

    Extremely thorough post and we all greatly appreciate the hard work you and team puts in! I’m extremely overwhelmed with how many choices this brand offers so typically when I get a headache just thinking about it, I will just pass. There’s just no way one person should need this many options. lol

  10. Reply

    Lehigh

    Amazing! Love this way of presenting info! Unfortunately, my “buffet” I just reordered is on the no list, so thanks for the helpful info!

    1. Reply

      Lisa Fennessy

      So glad this was helpful! Thanks for the feedback! xo, Lisa

  11. Reply

    Susan

    PHENOXYETHANOL is an anesthetic used until 1950’s it is a dreadful ingredient and is fatal to infants and kidney compromising in adults.

    Sleep paralysis inducing when exposed exponentially to doses that are high due to being in so many slimy products that you could be putting on yourwelf not knowing, of course radish root ferment is a safe alternative.

    PHENOXYETHANOL is often used in cohort conjunction with CHLORSPENISIN another antiquated toxic anesthetic also ran from the eafly 20th century, it is highly toxic along with lovely PHENOXYETHANOL it causes anemia’s or varying vafieties pernicious or other wise.
    Yuk the list is horrible, but these ingredients are very very old so old that a recent studies is trying to (after all the decades away) advocate its nasty return as a “safe” anesthetic?, you could’nt make it up if you tried.

    1. Reply

      Lisa Fennessy

      We have listed phenoxyethanol on our NO THANKS LIST with references and citations if anyone reading this wants to know more. xo, L

  12. Reply

    Susan

    Please forgive my typo’s in my last post, i was unable to edit them.
    Thank you

  13. Reply

    Janice Burdick

    This is a fantastic article!! Thank you so much for this comprehensive list of yes’s and no’s. I appreciate it SO MUCH. Extremely informative and helpful.

    1. Reply

      Lisa Fennessy

      Always Janice! Thanks for reading! xo, Lisa

  14. Reply

    Debbie Panjaitan

    Dear Lisa,

    thank you for writing this. I’ve literally just browsing for The Ordinary skincare and found this article. It opened my mind. I can’t thank you and your team enough. I am starting to reevaluate my skincare routine and want to find out about sort of therapeutic skincare with minimum ingredients. Before curious about The Ordinary, I stumble upon Cos De Baha, a Korean brand. I think it is similar to The Ordinary but with minimum ingredients. I am wondering if you could take a look at the brand? I really appreciate it. Thanks in advance.

    1. Reply

      Lisa Fennessy

      Hi Debbie! Thanks for pointing out that brand…we will take a look! xo, Lisa

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