If you haven’t heard of The Ordinary yet, you must be living under a rock (yes, L, I’m talking to you, 😉 ). This unassuming brand has rocked the skincare world like a hurricane, winning hearts everywhere thanks to its odd mix of science-backed actives and insanely low prices.
The only Ordinary product that’s not getting much love? Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2%. Just google its reviews and you’ll find an endless list of complaints. It’s too heavy. It’s gritty. It stings. It slides makeup off…
Is this serum really that bad or… may it be that people are just using it wrong? Let’s take a closer look at the serum and find out:
Ascorbic Acid is the pure form of vitamin C. It’s the most effective but also the most unstable.
Let’s start with the pros:
- It fights free radicals, preventing wrinkles
- It inhibits melanin production, fading dark spots and melasma
- It boosts collagen production, keeping skin firm
- It brightens skin, giving the complexin a lovely glow
Now, for the cons:
- It’s super unstable: it loses effectiveness when exposed to light and air (good thing The Ordinary’s put it in a tube)
- Irritating: for it to work, you need to use high concentrations that sting skin (only for the first couple of weeks)
To enhance its effectiveness and stability, The Ordinary has suspended very fine L-Ascorbic Acid powder in a water-free formula. And, boy, do you feel that powder on your skin! Applying this serum is like slathering on a scrub that stings!
Used alone, the powder doesn’t dissolve or absorb into your skin. It just stays there, on your surface, for the entire day. No wonder so few people can put up with it!
I’ve found a way to make this work, but before I tell you, let’s see what else is in this serum, shall we?
This is the name for the hyaluronic acid, an awesome molecule that attracts water from the environment into your skin. Basically, a godsend for dry skin.
The Ordinary uses dehydrated hyaluronic acid spheres. You don’t find these in skincare products all that often because they only work in water-free formulas.
Here’s how it works: when these dry spheres sink into your skin, they start attracting all the water molecules they see, both from the air outside and the deepest layers of the skin inside. This moisture swells them up and plumps up the skin. Translation: your wrinkles look smaller. Plus, your skin is super hydrated.
The Right Way To Use The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2%
Let’s go back to the gritty texture, now. How the heck can you apply sandpaper on your skin and be comfortable with it?
With a little bit of hyaluronic acid. And nope, I don’t mean the HA in the formula. That’s not enough.
I wish I had come up with this trick myself, but it was the lovely Laura from The Ordinary (yes, the brand is well-aware of how much this texture sucks) who shared it with me when I visited their London shop for a little shopping spree.
I know what you’re thinking: do I have to buy another product to make this one work? Yes, you do. I always have an extra hyaluronic acid serum at home, so it was no biggie for me. My friend Paris preps her skin with a hydrating mist first. You can try that, if it’s more your thing. The point is to get your skin hydrated.
But, yep, you can’t use this serum alone. Even if you like what it does for your skin, it’s too unpleasant to use on its own.
Plus, I’m worried about stability when the vitamin C remains on your skin. I guess that’s part of the reason why The Ordinary recommends you use it at night.
Does This Thing Ever Sink In?
Another common complaint is the heaviness of the texture. Lots of people have complained it takes forever to sink in. Others added they can’t use anything on top of it (think makeup) or it’ll slide off.
I agree that the serum takes a couple of minutes to sink in. If it takes more than that for you, you either have very oily skin or you’re using too much of it.
I made the same mistake the first time I used it, too. The tube dispenses way too much product. Like, 3 times they amount you really need. You use that huge dollop, it will take forever to sink in!
Be very careful when you squeeze it out of the tube. You can’t apply the extra on your skin but you don’t want to throw it away either. That’d be a waste!
The Real Problem With The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2%
I may have found a way to make this thing work, but I have a little complaint to add to the list of grievances, too: vitamin C here is all alone. There are no vitamin E and ferulic acid to keep it company.
This matter because vitamin C works a lot better when used together with vitamin E and ferulic acid. These three antioxidants boost each other’s effectiveness and the protection of your sunscreen!
The good news is that they don’t necessarily have to be in the same product. If these antioxidants (or even just one of them) is in your moisturizer, they’ll still help vitamin C do its job better.
I get it why The Ordinary has kept them out. If you want to keep the prices this low, you have to cut corners somewhere. But this skincare geek would be happy to spend £10 more for this serum if it meant vitamin C got to play with its BFFs.
Truth Time: Does The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2% Work?
This is a pretty demanding serum, doesn’t it? It’s ok on its own but it needs prep + friends to work its best. Makes you wonder if’s worth the effort?
For me, it was. I can’t say that it has transformed my skin, but that’s because vitamin C serums are always part of my skincare routine. For me, they do more of a maintenance job now. But if I stop using them, I do see a difference!
When I use a vitamin C serum, my skin is brighter and smoother. Plus, there’s plenty of proof the form used here boosts collagen production and fights free radicals.
Would I recommend it to you? It depends. Here’s the deal: science says it works. Plus, there are a couple of tricks to combat its gritty texture and the stinging that comes with it. But, it’s up to you to decide if it’s worth the extra effort.
P.S. If you decide against it, The Ordinary has three more vitamin C serums you can try, instead!