The Ordinary is well-known for its budget, no-frills products. So it’s no wonder they attract people new to skincare – they’re effective, widely available, and budget-oriented.

However, with their vast range of products, it can be confusing for a newbie to find how to build a good beginner-friendly skincare routine, even with the guidance of The Ordinary themselves.

The brand has a quiz tool that compiles an individual routine.

However, it’s automatically generated and there’s no guarantee that you’ll get the right The Ordinary skincare routine steps and product recommendations based on your specific needs.

In this article, you’ll find sample routines for basic skin care needs for each skin type, along with suggestions for certain serums for more common skin concerns, like acne, pigmentation, aging, large pores, and others.

In the following sections you’ll find:

  • Tips on combining The Ordinary products into a routine
  • Guidance on how to layer TO’s products – some are very tricky!
  • Details on creating regimens for the AM and PM
  • Information on how to create a routine using The Ordinary products for your skin type
  • Tips on creating a routine based on specific skin concerns

Let’s go!

Which The Ordinary products should not be used together?

The first thing to note about creating a personalized The Ordinary skincare routine is the products you can use together and the ones that shouldn’t be applied in the same regime.

I offer a detailed explanation of this topic and a downloadable PDF of The Ordinary mixing chart.

There, I cover in depth the individual ingredients and products that should not be used together. I also explain the risks and problems that can occur if you don’t follow the guidance.

highly recommend taking a look as the guide gives you the perfect foundation on the topic.

For any new routines or products you try, I strongly suggest performing a patch test before you start. You can find additional information on patch testing The Ordinary products because I often get questions about specific products.

How do I know which Ordinary product to use?

First, it’s essential to know your skin type.

If you don’t, I invite you to read my article on skincare routine basics, where I explain the different types of skin. I also explore the different skin concerns typical for each skin type.

When you have an understanding of your skin type, you can use the information from this article to make two routines using only TO products – one for the AM and one for the PM.

Keep in mind that The Ordinary recommends sticking to up to three products in any routine, so I’ve followed this principle throughout my recommendations.

How to layer The Ordinary products?

The Ordinary layering routine

When it comes to layering The Ordinary products in the same regime, it’s important to follow this general order:

  • Apply water-based solutions first – such products won’t penetrate the skin well enough if they have to go through oil-based formulas;
  • Use anhydrous solutions – these are TO’s water-free products that target specific concerns;
  • Apply your suspensions – these have a more occlusive nature than the previous types, and can come before or after your moisturizer – whichever works best for your specific routine;
  • Apply oils – oils are usually occlusive and create a barrier on the skin. This is why I always leave them for the final steps of my routine;
  • Finish with emulsions and creams – seal the deal and all the goodies you’ve applied so far with a final application of emulsions or creams that will keep your skin hydrated and protected throughout the day or night.

How do I create an Ordinary regimen?

There’s no single answer on how to create a skincare regimen with The Ordinary’s products. It all comes down to your skin type, skin concerns, desired outcomes, and skin reaction to certain ingredients.

With my guidance and a bit of trial and error, you can design the ultimate routine that will bring you the results you’re after.

The Ordinary AM skincare routine

The Ordinary morning AM routine

Now, let’s discuss The Ordinary skincare routine for AM.

As you’re probably aware, the skin needs a different type of treatment in the morning (when you’re prepping it for the day) and in the evening (when the goal is to take the day off and give your skin the best rest possible).

A good, basic regimen in the early hours of the day should include:

  • Cleanser
  • Antioxidant serum
  • Moisturizer
  • SPF

For the cleansing step, the Squalane Cleanser does a terrific job for most skin types. It’s a gentle face wash that will get rid of all of the sebum accumulated during the night. I give more specific recommendations for different skin types further in the article

You can use Vitamin C or another tolerable alternative for the antioxidant serum step. It’s optional, but antioxidants protect the skin against pollution and oxidative stress throughout the day, so they’re a nice addition.

Next, moisturize with Moisturizing Factors or a suitable moisturizer from the TO range, and finish off with the Mineral UV Filters SPF 30 with Antioxidants which is great for your daily protection.

Shop The Ordinary AM routine products ➤ From Amazon, Feelunique, SkinStore and Lookfantastic

The Ordinary PM skincare routine

The Ordinary evening PM routine

In the evening, your skin needs to get clear from pollution, make-up, and other buildup, and rest. The steps I recommend are:

  • Cleanser
  • Moisturizer
  • Retinoid if tolerated

As you can see, I’ve excluded the antioxidant serum and SPF steps here as you don’t need them at night.

For the cleansing and hydrating steps, you can use the same products as in your morning routine.

I recommend finishing off with The Ordinary’s Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion, which is a gentle and non-irritating retinoid. Don’t use it every single day, if you’re new to retinoid – two to three times per week is enough.

Shop The Ordinary PM routine products ➤ From Amazon, Feelunique, SkinStore and Lookfantastic

Skin cycling with The Ordinary products

Since it’s not a good idea to use retinol every single night (at least not before your skin builds a tolerance towards the ingredient) I strongly encourage you to try the cycling approach.

Essentially, you can use alternative treatments on days when you’re not using retinol. These will complement your efforts to deal with any skin imperfections or concerns more quickly.

When you’re not using a retinoid, you can use exfoliators and/or additional hydrators, or even anti-aging support.

I’ve outlined several alternative PM routines if you want to try the skin cycling method.

The Ordinary exfoliation routine

The Ordinary exfoliation routine

When it comes to exfoliation, it’s best to do it in the evening as it sensitizes your skin to sun damage. I recommend the following routine:

  • Cleanser
  • AHA and/or BHA serum as tolerated
  • Moisturizer

Again, for the cleanser, go for the Squalane Cleanser.

You can use the Lactic Acid 2% or 5% and/or the Salicylic Acid 2% for the second stage of your routine. Remember to be careful with the use of acids, especially if you have sensitive skin.

Exfoliation helps your skin renew itself more effectively and ensures that your pores are clog-free at all times. As an oily-prone person, I use salicylic acid almost daily, in one form or another.

Complete the regimen with a hydrating phase using Moisturizing Factors.

Shop The Ordinary exfoliation routine products ➤ From Amazon, Feelunique, SkinStore and Lookfantastic

The Ordinary hydration + peptides routine (anti-aging)

The Ordinary anti-aging routine - hydration and peptides

If your skin leans drier and you’re looking to build a PM regimen to support healthy hydration levels, you can also add peptides to the mix – they never hurt, and instead, give great skin support.

And since you have antioxidants in your morning routine, what better time than the evening when you’re not using retinoids?

This is especially important if you’re using vitamin C in the morning. If that’s the case, it’s better to avoid other active ingredients to prevent them from canceling each other out.

Here are the steps I recommend:

  • Cleanser
  • Hydrating serum and/or peptide-rich serum
  • Moisturizer

Again, start with the Squalane Cleanser or a suitable cleanser for your skin type.

Follow up with a combo of Marine Hyaluronics and any serum with peptides from The Ordinary range: Matrixyl 10%, Buffet, or Buffet with Copper Peptides.

I like Marine Hyaluronics more than the brand’s Hyaluronic Acid Serum as it’s much easier to incorporate by any skin type, yet it gives superior hydration to the skin.

Matrixyl 10% features a good concentration of the matrixyl 3000 complex – a peptide blend proven to deliver anti-aging benefits to the skin.

While Buffet has matrixyl and several other peptides to deliver even more powerful effects, the Copper Peptides is the most potent formula by the brand in terms of anti-aging effects – if your skin is more mature, it’ll love the latter.

If you want to be extra, you can add the Multi-Peptide Eye Serum to your routine. However, I’d say that you can bring the other peptide products underneath the eye area and save the extra expense.

Finish off with Moisturizing Factors to seal in all that goodness.

Shop The Ordinary anti-aging routine products ➤ From Amazon, Feelunique, SkinStore and Lookfantastic

The Ordinary routines for different skin types

As you’re by now aware, creating the perfect The Ordinary routine ultimately comes down to skin type. Here are my recommendations for building a routine based on your specific needs.

The Ordinary routine for dry skin

If you have dry skin, you’ll need more support in terms of lasting hydration.

Of course, this means that you’ll benefit from a more creamy cleanser such as the Glycolipid Cream Cleanser, which is strong enough to remove sunscreen and makeup.

A great addition is the Marine Hyaluronic serum, which is super lightweight but boasts powerful hydration abilities and can be layered as needed, especially if you use it in your morning routine, where makeup and sun protection are among the many layers on your face.

Alternatively, you can also use the Hyaluronic Acid serum. However, it has a trickier, stickier consistency that isn’t appreciated by many. If you end up not loving it, do try the Marine Hyaluronics.

If you want a bit of exfoliation without compromising (and even supporting) the levels of hydration in your skin, the Glycolic Acid 7% Solution is a great choice.

For your moisturizing step, I recommend the Natural Moisturizing Factors + PhytoCeramides because it’s so intense, full of lipids that are invaluable for dry and flaky skin and is extra nourishing.

Shop The Ordinary routine for dry skin ➤ From Amazon, Feelunique, SkinStore and Lookfantastic

The Ordinary routine for oily skin, combo, and acne-prone skin

People with oily, combo, and acne-prone skin usually struggle with excessive sebum production.

In this case, it’s essential to choose products that help control the sebum, as well as clean the skin in deep and unclog the nasty buildup that causes pimples.

Considering this, I recommend using the Glucoside Foaming Cleanser instead of the Squalane Cleanser.

The Glucoside Foaming Cleanser, as the name suggests, foams, which is why it’s more effective in removing any excess sebum.

I highly advise using a product with niacinamide to help with sebum production control.

With The Ordinary, the solution you can try is the Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%.

I, personally, am not a huge fan of this specific product because of its texture and the high concentration of niacinamide and I’d always suggest finding another alternative (there are plenty on the market).

I don’t suggest using any of The Ordinary powders, including their niacinamide powder.

Don’t forget that acne-prone skin needs a deep cleaning, which only BHAs can achieve because it’s oil soluble and penetrates deep into the pores.

The Ordinary offers two amazing products in this range that can be used daily – the Salicylic Acid 2% Anhydrous Solution and the Salicylic Acid 2% Solution.

If your skin is super oily, you may also find the brand’s Salicylic Acid 2% Masque quite useful a couple of times per week – it will literally suck the sebum out of the skin and mattify it.

Another important fact to remember about people with acne is that they also produce more acne-causing bacteria while also suffering from PIH.

Because of that, I strongly recommend introducing Azelaic Acid 10% Suspension into your PM routine as it’s proven to fight the harmful bacteria in the skin while helping to lighten any pigmentation.

I swear by this product. It has helped me lighten even the most stubborn acne spots, and I see my redness diminishing quickly upon application.

Check how I integrate this product to avoid azelaic acid pilling – a notorious problem with azelaic acid products.

When it comes to your AM routine, Alpha Arbutin 2% and/or Vitamin C will be helpful as well.

You can use either the individual serums of the brand or the combined product Ascorbic Acid 8% + Alpha Arbutin 2%.

For a moisturizer for oily skin type, I recommend the Natural Moisturizing Factors + Beta Glucan – it has a light texture, it’s comforting and moisturizes well without the heaviness present in their other moisturizers.

Shop The Ordinary routine for oily and combination skin ➤ From Amazon, Feelunique, SkinStore and Lookfantastic

The Ordinary routine for sensitive skin

Overall, if your skin type falls under the category of “sensitive”, it’s best to look for gentler versions of all types of products and steer clear from the potent ones.

In other words, I strongly advise staying away from strong acids and strong retinoids, if your skin can’t handle them. The powder products are out of the question for you.

Some of the most popular problems of sensitive skin types include redness, which can be soothed with Azelaic Acid 10% in the evening.

For the morning, I recommend using Marine Hyaluronics to keep the skin’s hydration levels high and allow it to heal (note that you can use the product in your evening routine, too).

When it comes to active serums, you can rely on Ascorbyl Glucoside Solution 12% (a gentle and stable vitamin C derivative) in your AM routine, as it’s a much gentler version of l-ascorbic acid and has a much smaller chance of causing irritation.

As for retinoids, the Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion is a safe bet as it’s the brand’s product with the most gentle and well-tolerated formula.

If you want to use an exfoliating acid in your PM routine, the Lactic Acid 2% or the Mandelic Acid are some good options. These are both gentle solutions, yet have a strong enough concentration of the active, without being too much (as is the case with most other The Ordinary products).

On days when you want to give your skin a good rest, you can use an oil like the 100% Organic Cold-Pressed Borage Seed Oil, which will fight sensitivity, inflammation, and redness.

Keep in mind that hyaluronic acid, especially TO’s, can be irritating to sensitive skin, which is why I don’t recommend that you use it.

Shop The Ordinary routine for sensitive skin ➤ From Amazon, Feelunique, SkinStore and Lookfantastic

The Ordinary routine for mature skin

For people with aging skin, a retinoid is an absolute must in your routine.

When it comes to The Ordinary skincare routine for beginners with mature skin, you can try the Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion and apply it several times a week, gradually increasing the frequency of use.

When you reach a point where you can use the product every night without a sign of irritation, you can switch to a stronger product concentration, or to one of the brand’s retinols.

On days when retinoids are not part of your regime, you can use the 100% Organic Cold Pressed Rosehip Seed Oil as it’s naturally rich in vitamin A (retinol), meaning that it can contribute to your efforts gently.

In addition, aging skin can greatly benefit from the brand’s peptide products.

Peptides function by repairing and rebuilding damaged cells, as well as triggering the skin to generate collagen, which decelerates the aging process.

The Matrixyl 10% and the Argireline Solution 10% are suitable introductory products, but if you’re after something more complex and complete, I recommend the Multi-Peptide + HA Serum or even the “Buffet” + Copper Peptides 1% as they’re among the best peptide products on the market – definitely a great bang for your buck.

Vitamin C products are also appropriate for aging skin, as long as you can tolerate them. They will help promote collagen production in the skin, minimize wrinkles, and fight age spots.

Shop The Ordinary routine for mature skin ➤ From Amazon, Feelunique, SkinStore and Lookfantastic

The Ordinary products for different skin concerns

When talking about The Ordinary regimen builder, it’s vital to take into account the skin problems that you want to solve. Here are a few product recommendations that you can try for specific skin concerns.

The Ordinary products for acne and congested pores

The Ordinary acne routine

For people with acne or those of you looking to treat blackheads, whiteheads, and anything similar, I strongly recommend The Ordinary’s salicylic acid and niacinamide products, as well as the occasional AHA.

These include:

  • AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution
  • Salicylic Acid 2% Solution
  • Salicylic Acid 2% Masque
  • Salicylic Acid 2% Anhydrous Solution
  • Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%

You can also give the Azelaic Acid Suspension 10% a go as it’s a great support in the fight against acne-causing bacteria and post-acne hyperpigmentation.

Shop The Ordinary routine for acne & congested pores ➤ From Amazon, Feelunique, SkinStore and Lookfantastic

The Ordinary products for pigmentation

The Ordinary pigmentation routine

On the other hand, if you’re looking for TO products for sun spots, uneven color patches, and similar, I suggest trying some of their vitamin C’s, alpha arbutin, direct acids, or retinoid products.

These include:

  • Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate Solution 20% in Vitamin F
  • Vitamin C Suspension 30% in Silicone
  • Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2%
  • Ascorbyl Glucoside Solution 12%
  • Ascorbic Acid 8% + Alpha Arbutin 2%
  • 100% L-Ascorbic Acid Powder
  • Ethylated Ascorbic Acid 15% Solution
  • Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate 10%
  • Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA
  • Aloe 2% + NAG 2% Solution
  • Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution
  • Azelaic Acid Suspension 10%
  • AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution
  • Salicylic Acid 2% Solution
  • Lactic Acid 10% + HA
  • Lactic Acid 5% + HA
  • Mandelic Acid 10% + HA
  • Salicylic Acid 2% Anhydrous Solution
  • Salicylic Acid 2% Masque
  • Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion
  • Granactive Retinoid 5% in Squalane
  • Retinol 1% in Squalane
  • Retinol 0.5% in Squalane
  • Granactive Retinoid 2% in Squalane
  • Retinol 0.2% in Squalane

Shop The Ordinary routine for pigmentation and sun spots ➤ From Amazon, Feelunique, SkinStore and Lookfantastic

The Ordinary products for redness

The Ordinary redness and irritation routine

If you’re looking to get rid of skin redness and soothe inflammation, I encourage you to try the Azelaic Acid Suspension 10%.

This paste-like solution comes very close to a chemical exfoliant and can help you get rid of dead skin cells and clogged pores while calming any signs of redness.

It not only makes the skin clearer, but it also reduces swelling, which is often caused by acne or other conditions.

Also, their newest addition, the Aloe 2% + NAG 2% Solution is a healing serum that helps to treat post-blemish spots and reduce redness in the skin.

Shop The Ordinary routine for redness ➤ From Amazon, Feelunique, SkinStore and Lookfantastic

The Ordinary products for large pores

The Ordinary large pores routine

If your main concern is large pores, I advise you to give the following products a go:

  • Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%
  • 100% Niacinamide Powder
  • AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution
  • Salicylic Acid 2% Solution
  • Salicylic Acid 2% Masque
  • Salicylic Acid 2% Anhydrous Solution

These will unclog your pores, deal with any textural imperfections, and will shrink your pores back to (almost) non-existence.

Shop The Ordinary routine for large pores ➤ From Amazon, Feelunique, SkinStore and Lookfantastic

The Ordinary products for skin texture

Lastly, if you’d like to see your skin texture improve, the following can become an active part of your routine:

  • Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%
  • Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution
  • Lactic Acid 5% + HA
  • Lactic Acid 10% + HA
  • Mandelic Acid 10% + HA
  • Aloe 2% + NAG 2% Solution
  • ​​Azelaic Acid Suspension 10%
  • Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion
  • Granactive Retinoid 2% in Squalane
  • Granactive Retinoid 5% in Squalane
  • Retinol 0.2% in Squalane
  • Retinol 0.5% in Squalane
  • Retinol 1% in Squalane
  • AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution
  • Salicylic Acid 2% Anhydrous Solution
  • Salicylic Acid 2% Masque

Of course, not all at once 🙂

Shop The Ordinary routine for skin texture ➤ From Amazon, Feelunique, SkinStore and Lookfantastic

What are the top 5 The Ordinary products?

Here are the official top five The Ordinary bestsellers that you can spot online and are the ones that get the most attention from the masses, as well as my personal comment about each of them:

  • The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% and Zinc 1% – a product that is created with a poor formula, is unpleasant to use, and the percentage of active ingredients is higher than optimal, which can be irritating for some skin types.
  • The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid – a product that a lot of folks think is useless as it has a sticky, low-quality formula. It does contain hyaluronic acid, but you can see HA being used almost everywhere these days, so it’s not worth getting a special product for the purpose, especially if its consistency doesn’t live up to expectations.
  • The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% – a strong solution that irritates sensitive skin types and is not suitable for daily use on the face. However, it is among the most budget-friendly products on the market, and you get a great amount for a small investment. The good thing is that you can use it on the body as well, which is certainly a plus.
  • The Ordinary AHA, BHA Solution – this product is the most misunderstood and viral from the brand’s entire catalog. Many people use it incorrectly, especially when it comes to application on skin types that don’t tolerate it well. Generally, there is not much point in introducing such a strong concentrate in your routine, since you can achieve the same results with a daily regime full of other products that are not so irritating to the skin.
  • The Ordinary Moisturizing Factors – this is an okay product, but the consistency is a bit tricky to use and it’s not that universal. For example, for people with oily skin, it is likely to be too much.

According to my personal observations and experience, I’d say that the following five products deserve to comprise the list of the top 5:

  • The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion – it is super gentle yet effective and is suitable for every skin type. Even oily folks can use this without it being too much.
  • The Ordinary Ascorbic Acid 8% + Alpha Arbutin 2% – a stable vitamin C serum that is available for a low price, yet combines two cult ingredients that fight pigmentation. It’s a true bargain for what you get.
  • The Ordinary Lactic Acid 5% – an extremely gentle AHA product at a fairly good price. It’s well tolerated and shows excellent results in most people. You can use it daily with no irritation.
  • The Ordinary Salicylic Acid 2% Solution – this serum offers great results yet doesn’t cost a fortune. If you’re prone to skin congestion and are on a budget, definitely give this one a try.
  • The Ordinary Marine Hyaluronics – an extremely lightweight product, perfect for any skin type. It has an elegant formula (unlike most TO products), which is easy to implement and even layer up in any routine. The serum delivers excellent hydration to the skin. Again, it’s budget-friendly and accessible to all.

As you can see, the products I believe are the best are very different from the actual bestsellers.

This is because the bestsellers are often purchased by users who are not that experienced and are often vulnerable to opinions and hype on social networks, where misinformation prevails.

In reality, several treatments have a better formula than the standard on the market. At the same time, they’re very inexpensive, which becomes an even more important factor with the growing prices of everything.

Shop The Ordinary bestsellers & best products ➤ From Amazon, Feelunique, SkinStore and Lookfantastic

How do I know which retinol from The Ordinary to use?

In short, if you are a beginner, The Ordinary’s granactive retinoid emulsion is the most gentle yet effective option. Apart from all of its other benefits, it has a light texture that is suitable even for oily skin.

On the other hand, if you are more advanced, I suggest going for one of the other options, ordered by formula potency:

  • Granactive Retinoid 2% in Squalane
  • Granactive Retinoid 5% in Squalane
  • Retinol 0.2% in Squalane
  • Retinol 0.5% in Squalane
  • Retinol 1% in Squalane

Shop The Ordinary retinoids ➤ From Amazon, Feelunique, SkinStore and Lookfantastic

Creating a routine with The Ordinary can seem a bit of a challenge at first, especially if you’re not very experienced.

However, with enough information to help you make the right choices, you’ll soon have several options at your fingertips.

Was this article helpful to you? If yes, I’d love to hear from you in my comment section, and if not – do let me know how I can improve it, as I always take my readers’ opinions into consideration.

Alternatively, you might be interested to learn more about the difference between granactive retinoid and retinol or see if you can safely use glycolic acid and retinol in the same routine. Hint: yes, but… 😉

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