The Complete Guide To The Ordinary Anti-Acne Skincare Products

by Gio
the complete guide to the ordinary anti acne skincare products

I lost count of how many of you have emailed me in the past few months asking me how to use The Ordinary anti-acne products.

I get it. They’re so cheap, you want to get ALL of them. And then you end up with a 10 steps routine that takes all morning to put on. Worse, when you throw too much at your acne, you dry it out and make it worse. Ugh.

Fighting acne isn’t about getting ALL of the products. It’s about getting the right products for your skin and make the most of them.

This quick guide to The Ordinary anti-acne skincare products will help you figure out what products you need, when to use them and how to fit them into your skincare routine. Let’s get started:

Salicylic Acid 2% Solution (£4.20)

Listen, girl. I don’t care if The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution is the IT exfoliant of the moment. It’s not for you. Acne-prone skin needs salicylic acid. Period. Here’s why:

What it is: a leave-in exfoliant with salicylic acid, an oil-soluble exfoliating acid that removes all the dead cells and excess oil stuck in your pores. It also exfoliates the surface of the skin so dead cells can’t fall into the pores in the first place and has anti-inflammatory properties that soothe redness and irritations.

Why it’s good for acne: P. Acnes, the bacteria that causes acne, feeds on the excess oil and dead cells stuck in your pores. Keep your pores clean and you’ll starve the nasty buggers to death.

When to use it: salicylic acid is gentle. You can in the morning and/or evening right after cleansing.

Side effects: like all exfoliants, it can irritate skin if used too often.

Available at: Asos, Beauty Bay and Cult Beauty

Note: The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% has salicylic acid too but I DON’T recommend it. Acne-prone skin is very delicate. Don’t inflame it more with a harsh exfoliant.

Related: Why Salicylic Acid Is Key To Keeping Oily Skin Spot-Free

Retinoid Serum (£4.20-£11.90)

The Ordinary has A TON of retinoid serums (just to confuse you even more!). You can check out my guide to them here. My advice is to start with the lowest concentration and build your way slowly or you risk to seriously dry out your skin, ok?

What it is: a bunch of serums with either retinol or hydroxypinacolone retinoate, two forms of Vitamin A that speed up cellular turnover (the skin’s natural exfoliating process), boost collagen and fight wrinkles. Retinol has a more impressive track record than hydroxypinacolone retinoate but is more irritating and drying. If you’re just starting out with retinoids, I’d go with hydroxypinacolone retinoate first and slowly build my way up to retinol.

Why It’s Good For Acne: it speeds up the skin’s natural exfoliating process, helping to keep pores clean.

When to use it: at night after cleansing/exfoliation. Start with two or three nights a week and build up frequency gradually.

Side effects: it makes skin more photosensitive. Use it at night only.

Available at: Beauty Bay, Cult Beauty and Feel Unique

Related: The Ultimate Guide To The Ordinary Retinoid Products: Which One Should You Choose? 

Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% (£5.00)

Niacinamide is the new skincare superhero on the blog. Zinc is its Robin. Here’s why:

What it is: a serum with niacinamide and zinc. Duh! Niacinamide is a form of Vitamin B3 that treats acne, soothes inflammation and brightens the skintone. Zinc can help regulate oil production.

Why it’s good for acne: neither niacinamide nor zinc are treatments for acne because they can’t kill the bacteria that cause it. But they can calm down inflammation, the underlying cause of acne. When bacteria infects your skin, your immune system kicks into gear, triggering inflammation to remove the threat. This serum brings the inflammation down a notch or two. Plus, niacinamide can help treat post-inflammatory hyper pigmentation (the dark spots pimples leave behind) while zinc reduces oil and shine.

When to use it: you can use it both morning and/or evening after cleansing/exfoliation but before moisturiser.

Side effects: if your skin’s dry, it may be a little too drying for you.

Available at: Beauty Bay, Cult Beauty and Feel Unique

Related: How To Fade Post-Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation

Azelaic Acid Suspension 10% (£5.50)

If you’re not a fan of harsh treatments like benzoyl peroxide (The Ordinary isn’t either), azelaic acid is a great alternative. It’s suitable for sensitive skin, too.

What it is: a light cream with azelaic acid, an acid your skin’s microbiome (the good bacteria that live on your skin) naturally produce. It has anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory and anti-keratinising properties (anti-keratinising means it prevents build up of dead cells in the pores).

Why it’s good for acne: oh, let me count the ways… it kills the bacteria P. Acnes. It reduces the inflammation that triggers acne. And it keeps the pores clean from all the crap P. Acnes likes to munch on. Study after study shows that it’s as effective at treating acne as harsher treatments, including benzoyl peroxide, tretinoin and accutane.

When to use it: you can use it morning and/or night.

Side effects: although rare, it can cause irritations in some people.

Available at: Beauty Bay, Cult Beauty and Look Fantastic

Related: Benzoyl Peroxide: Friend Or Foe?

100% Organic Cold-Pressed Rosehip Oil (£9.00)

I know you’re scared of oils, but this one is very friendly to acne-prone skin. Here’s why:

What it is: rosehip oil is the oil extracted from the hip of roses (the hip is the radish-like ball the rose leaves behind after it blossoms). It’s loaded with moisturising fatty acids and a natural form of retinol (vitamin A).

Why it’s good for acne: acne-prone skin lacks linoleic acid, one of the many fatty acids in rosehip oil. Studies shows that adding it back into your skin reduces mini pimples. Fatty acids also keep your skin from getting dehydrated while vitamin A helps the skin’s natural exfoliating process.

When to use it: as the last step of your night-time routine.

Side effects: it contains vitamin A so it could make your skin more photosensitive. That’s why it’s best to use it at night.

Available at: Cult Beauty, Feel Unique and Look Fantastic

Note: if you’re already using retinol and don’t want to add more vitamin A to your skincare routine, go with 100% Plant-Derived Squalane. It’s one of the few oils that moisturises skin without worsening acne (yep, even fungal acne).

Related: Can Rosehip Oil Treat Acne?


Putting It All Together: The Ordinary Anti-Acne Skincare Routine

You don’t need all the products above. You can get and use them all but if you want to pick and choose, here’s how to do it:

  • Salicylic acid is a must. Period. If you don’t like The Ordinary’s formula, get Paula’s Choice. But use it.
  • Are you using benzoyl peroxide, Tretinoin or Accutane? You don’t need azelaic acid too. If you want to give it a try, discard the others for the time being. (but consult your doctor, first!)
  • Are you already using a retinoid? You don’t need to switch to The Ordinary retinoid. And you may not need rosehip oil, either.
  • Does your skin needs more hydration than it’s currently getting? Get either rosehip oil or squalene oil.
  • Does your skincare routine include niacinamide? If not, get Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 2% (yes, you can use it with vitamin C.)

If you’re going to use all the products, here’s a good anti-acne skincare routine for beginners:


  • Cleanse
  • Salicylic Acid 2% Solution
  • Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%
  • Sunscreen


  • Cleanse
  • Retinoid serum (three times a week)
  • Azelaic Acid Suspension 10% (optional)
  • 100% Organic Cold Pressed Rosehip Oil or 100% Plant Derived Squalane

Are you wondering why Niaciamide goes in the morning, Azelaic Acid is optional or what cleanser to use with this routine? Subscribe to my newsletter below and receive The Ordinary Acne Skincare Routine Cheatsheet, where I explain why this routine works and give you recommendations for the missing products:

This is the basic routine for acne. You can remove/add other stuff as your skin needs. For ex, if you’re using Tretinoin, ditch the azelaic acid in the morning and the retinoid serum at night. If you’ve found a moisturiser you love, you may not need an oil at all. You get the drill.

Have you tried The Ordinary anti-acne products? Share your experience in the comments below.



TJ December 4, 2018 - 7:56 pm

Hi Gio!

Amazing article! Beautifully explained.

I am in my late 30’s and have been struggling with acne for the past 5 months and have oily skin. I dont use too many products on my face cause nothing seems to suit me and am worried i’ll gt more acne
I only use a cleanser and a moisturiser twice a day. I am so frustrated. I dont feel like going to any event with the scars.

The Oridinary products really got my attention but am overwhelmed with all the info available.
PLEASE help me with a product or two to start with. For acne, lots of acne scars and dull aging skin.

Ps. I have an important function in 2weeks so cant risk to go thru the purging process for now.

TJ December 4, 2018 - 8:15 pm

To add to the above note. I read sample regime on The ordinary’s website, which I intended to follow before I came across your article.

Example regimen for signs of congestion & the look of blemishes:
Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%
Salicylic Acid 2% Solution, Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%

Note: For non-comedogenic surface hydration, apply 100% Plant-Derived Squalane as the last step in the AM and PM.
Always avoid unprotected solar exposure.

Is this good to follow?

Gio December 9, 2018 - 3:45 pm

TJ, yes, the regime The Ordinary outlined for you is a good one that will decongest your skin, help you fight acne and keep the oiliness under control. Salicylic acid can cause purging so maybe hold off that until after your important event.

Keep in mind, though, that no topical product can treat acne scars. You should consult a dermatologist for that. But this regime can stop the breakouts.

Meytal December 8, 2018 - 10:41 pm

I really loved reading your articles, and can’t thank you enough for the work you do. I have hormonal acne that started after I quit birth control pills and I’m trying to fight it a few months now. About a month ago I’ve started following the regimen you posted and I thought to incorporate La Roche-Posay`s benzoyl peroxide. Can you please help me plan a new reigimen that will incude the benzoyl peroxide?
Thank you,

Gio December 9, 2018 - 10:19 am

Hi Meytal, thanks for your kind words and support. I hope the regime I suggested is helping you. Benzoyl peroxide is a spot treatment so you can use it on pimples before moisturizer.

Gio December 13, 2018 - 5:19 pm

Anne, I’m replying here because we’ve run out of space in our thread. I wouldn’t DIY vitamin C and salicylic acid. It’s best to layer them.

Pooja December 20, 2018 - 6:23 pm

Hello Gio
Thank you for the blog. I have suffered from acne since I was 11, I am 27 now. I have been using products from the last two years(not sure if you are familiar with it) and I am yet to completely eliminate acne. I still get clogged pores which eventually turn into red painful bumps. The worst part is that I have white bumps on my lips which will inflame any day now. I have stopped using all lip products except a little bit of bene-tint during the day time. The following is my current regimen. Could you please tell me if The Ordinary Products might help my situation and if so which ones could I replace/include in my regimen.
Benzoyl Peroxide(I have stopped this as it aggravates my acne during winter)

Gio January 6, 2019 - 12:43 pm

Pooja, products are good but they can also be quite harsh. Benzoyl peroxide, for example, is something to use only on breakouts and only as treatment. To prevent breakouts in the first place, add a salicylic acid exfoliant in the evening after cleansing. The Ordinary makes a good one.

Reese November 4, 2019 - 11:43 am

Hi! Im on epiduo forte every night and I want to use salicylic acid in the morning, is that possible? Or it will only irritate my acne prone skin?

Gio November 8, 2019 - 2:23 pm

Reese, try using it only 3 times a week.

Chantal December 24, 2018 - 5:01 pm

Hi Gio! I just discovered your blog and it’s been really helpful. I’ve always had an issue with whiteheads/blackheads on my nose and cheeks, but never really put effort into a skincare routine until now. I’m 27 now, and for the last 6 months, I’ve had hormonal cystic acne on my lower cheeks and jaw line. I have combination skin – oily in the summer, dry in the winter. So far, I’ve switched to all natural products (cold cream, superfood cleanser, natural face oils) that have brought a lot of hydration to my dry skin, but they aren’t clearing my acne. I’m really intrigued by The Ordinary and would like to give their products a try. I’m worried that Azelaic Acid and Retinol may be too strong for my skin, and I’d like to avoid overwhelming it with a lot of new products at once. I’m wondering what you think of the routine below. Do you recommend that I also incorporate a serum with antioxidants like Vitamin C? If so, what product and when should I apply the serum? Thank you!
TO Salicylic acid 2%
TO NMF+HA moisturizer
Cold cream to remove makeup
Clay pore-cleansing mask once a week
TO Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%
TO Rosehip seed oil

Gio January 12, 2019 - 5:27 pm

Hi Chantal, the routine you’ve put together is great. I agree with you, start with the basics and if you need more help, you can add retinol and azelaic acid later on. Just salicylic acid and Niacinamide + zinc will help a lot.

Re the antioxidant serum, it depends. If you’re still young, clear the acne first and then tackle anti-aging. If antiaging is a concern, add a vitamin C serum after BHA in the morning.

Giuliette December 28, 2018 - 12:38 pm

i have acne on my cheeks and i want to start this skin care routine , do you think it could work ?
I would like to add the mineral UV filter spf 15 and I want to ask you what kind of cleanse can i use !
Let me know what u think !

Gio January 12, 2019 - 5:19 pm

Giuliette, thank you for your support. Yes, if you have acne, this routine can work. For the best cleansers for your skin type, check out this post:

Joao January 1, 2019 - 11:22 pm

Hey Gio

I´m 34 year old MEN and i always had acne but im looking to try new products , i really want to get rid of it also the redness and scars , the zone around the nose its always super dry also the fore head , its a never ending battle…

Anyways my friend bought me some gifts for Christmas

Niod Modulating Glucosides , think its to reduce redness .
Natural Moisturizing Factors +HA
Ganactive Retinoid 5% in Squalane
Hyaluronic Acid 2% +B5
Granative Retinoid 2% Emulsion
Niod Sanskrit Saponins

Also bought Murad Pure Skin Food Supplement ( formulated for blemish – prone skin ) its pills.

I just don’t have a clue how to use this and if i need to buy other things .

Could you help me making a AM and PM routine ? Thanks in advance and HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

Gio January 19, 2019 - 6:45 pm

Joao, thank you! Happy New Year to you too! Here’s your routine:

Gentle foaming cleanser (if you don’t already have one, check out my recommendations here:
Salicylic acid (this is what you need to get rid of acne)
Niod Modulating Glucosides

Niod Saponins
Granactive Retinoid 2% (3 times a week. When you’re done, upgrade too the 5% version)
Hyaluronic Acid 2%
Natural Moisturising Factors

Hope this helps!

Joao January 22, 2019 - 1:55 am

Thanks alot for your help , since you said i need Salicylic acid i went to buy some more stuff and i think i got all i need now , maybe you could add this one at the routine i would be VERY APPRECIATED!!!

The Ordinary Salicylic Acid 2% Solution 30ml
The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% High Strength Vitamin and Mineral Blemish Formula 30ml
The Ordinary Azelaic Acid Suspension 10% 30ml

Bought those three , if i need anything else please tell me , i really want to get rid of this.

Very big thanks on advance.

Gio January 24, 2019 - 8:47 pm

Joao, I would suggest you follow the routine above to start with. You don’t need all the products, you need a gentle skincare routine that works for you. Adding too many layers can complicate things as there are more chances of pilling or irritations.

So try the routine as is for now. If you’re not happy with the results, you can add the other two products to your evening routine.

Indy January 3, 2019 - 12:34 am

Hi Gio!
I’m a 17 year old girl from the Netherlands.
I have a combinated skin – very oily but dry and a lot of pores / pimples. I’ve bought hundreds of cleaners the last 2 years but still don’t have a good routine. I’m up every night searsching the best routines but I don’t seem to understand what steps to do and wich exact products to use. Could you PLEASE help me out, and put up a little routine for the morning and evening, with the exact products to use? If you will, please try to explain it how you would to a child, since im also not fully English. I hope you can help me. Thankyou! 🙂

Gio January 12, 2019 - 9:16 am

Hi Indy, I’ve written about the best skincare routine for combination skin here:

Nicole January 5, 2019 - 5:47 am

So I just started using this routine in the past week. I have super sensitive, and acne prone skin. I bought the Granactive Retinoid 2% in Squalane for my retinoid, and the Cold Pressed Rose Hip Oil for the oil choice. I have two questions. 1. Do I still need to use the rose hip oil since the retinoid is in squalane? 2. This is my fourth day following this routine, and I’ve used the retinoid twice. Today my face looks worse than it did when I started this routine. I have a ton of tiny red pimples on my face, and not where I even typically get breakouts. Plus a few full blown pimples in the normal spots have shown up. Should I be concerned? Or is this part of my skin adjusting to this routine and new products? Thank you so much!!

Gio January 24, 2019 - 6:21 pm

Nicole, normally I’d say it’s just a little purging but as your skin its so sensitive, maybe the retinoid is too strong for you. Maybe something with retinaldehyde or r-retinoate would work better for you? It’s impossible to tell without trying but I wouldn’t continue with Granactive Retinoid.

Giuliette January 8, 2019 - 9:03 pm

Thank you so much for your articles , i love them !
I’m suffering with acne from october and know my cheeks are full of white heads and redness. I would like to try this skin care routine would you recommend it to me ?
thank you

Gio January 19, 2019 - 5:59 pm

Giuliette, when you say acne, do you mean just the whiteheads or pimples too?

Sarah January 11, 2019 - 6:56 am

Hi Gio, This information is great as both my teenagers are really suffering with acne. What sunscreen would you recommend as quite a few of them make their spots worse. Thank you in advance.

Gio January 12, 2019 - 6:11 pm

Sarah, glad it helps. Have you tried Elta MD SPF 47 sunscreen? All the Elta MD sunscreens are very good.

Anna January 12, 2019 - 10:16 pm

Hello, I’ve just discovered your website and have found it so enlightening – thank you for sharing your wisdom!
I wondered if you could give me some advice in beginning to use TO products.
I’m 23 years old, and live in the UK. My skin seems to be combination, with closed comedones on my forehead and cheeks, with regular breakouts on the forehead (papules, pustules and occasionally cysts). It tends to be most oily on my foreheads, with some dry patches (e.g. under my eyes).
My long term goal is to try and reduce these forehead breakouts, reduce the CC and just make my skin clearer, smoother and brighter.
Currently I use micellar water, and then another cleanser, either pure rose water or a shop-bought toner (currently Neutrogena purifying toner), and moisturiser.

1) Would you recommend I use the anti-acne skincare routine you have posted above, or do you think I need to modify it at all.
2) Do you recommend using a cream moisturiser as well as the oils, or is one of them sufficient?
3) Are there any particular cleansers you’d recommend?

Thank you so much for all your help!

Gio January 24, 2019 - 7:24 pm

Anna, thank you for your kind words. To answer your questions:

1. Yes, you can use this routine, but don’t use Niacinamide + zinc on dry area. Also, on dry areas, you may want to use exfoliation and retinoids on alternate days so as not to dry out skin even more.

2. I recommend you use either a cream moisturizer or an oil. Both is overkill for oily skin.

3. You can check out my cleanser recommendations for oily skin here:

Janet Boldt January 16, 2019 - 5:10 am

Hi there, thanks for the info. You briefly touched on it but would it be okay to use rose hip seed oil after the Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion? My skin isntnoverly sensitive but I still want to limit possible irritation. Should I use a regular moisturizer after the retinoid instead?

Gio January 19, 2019 - 7:01 pm

Janet, if your skin isn’t sensitive, you should be able to use Rosehip oil without problems.

Helen January 20, 2019 - 4:55 pm

Can u explain why u recommend use TO Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% at night and TO Salicylic acid 2% in the morning? Does it have any underlying purposes or I can switch them?

Gio February 8, 2019 - 6:53 pm

Helen, if you’re using retinoids at night, then I think it’s gentler for skin to exfoliate in the morning. But you can switch them if you prefer.

Anna January 23, 2019 - 10:07 pm


Just wondering if you have any advice for me.
I have combination skin – oily forehead which is prone to breakouts, and drier cheeks. I have closed comedones on both my forehead and cheeks.
I want to incorporate some TO products to help reduce breakouts, reduce the congestion signs and brighten my skin appearance. I also want something to plumpen and soften my skin.
At the moment, I’m using a clay facewash/mask, a spot-purifying toner and a hydrating moisturiser.
I currently am not using any oils, actives or other TO products in my routine

Gio January 24, 2019 - 8:55 pm

Anna, you can follow the routine for combination skin I shared here:

Ilya January 25, 2019 - 6:37 pm

Hello !
I would like some advice. I have hormonal acne (due to pcos) mainly on my forehead and chin and oily skin which is prone to breakouts, and I also have dark spots -blemishes on my chin. I recently bought some products from The Ordinary, including Salicylic Acid 2%, Retinol 0.2% in Squalane and Niacinamide 10%+ Zinc 1%. How exactly should my AM and PM routine be like? Is it true that Retinol should not be mixed with acids?

Gio February 8, 2019 - 6:47 pm

Ilya, you can use salicylic acid followed by Niacinamide in the morning and retinol every other night.

paul January 28, 2019 - 4:18 pm

Hey GIO , im looking for some advice , i actually bought alot of products but not sure how to use them and maybe you can help me out.
I bought all these things…

The Ordinary Salicylic Acid 2% Solution 30ml
The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% High Strength Vitamin and Mineral Blemish Formula 30ml
The Ordinary Azelaic Acid Suspension 10% 30ml
Niod Modulating Glucosides
Natural Moisturizing Factors +HA
Ganactive Retinoid 5% in Squalane
Hyaluronic Acid 2% +B5
Granative Retinoid 2% Emulsion
Niod Sanskrit Saponins

Also bought a cleanser from clinique and bought some pills .

Any chance you could help me making a routine for AM and PM . I suffer more from redness and big pimps im 29 year old and i don’t know why i can get rid of this , every week i get always 2-3 new , i also get on my forehead its really frustrating , im a guy and i need to use makeup just to feel better

Gio February 7, 2019 - 6:29 pm

Paul, let’s go back to basics with your routine. You don’t need al this stuff now.

In the AM, cleanse, salicylic acid, modulating glucosides and sunscreen. In the PM, cleanse, Granactive retinoid in Squalane (3 times a week), niacinamide + zinc and natural moisturizing factors.

Try this for a month and see what happens.

Amábile February 9, 2019 - 8:38 pm

Hey! I came across The Ordinary watching a random youtube vid and decided to look for some acne treatment products. I’m glad I found your article. I’ve just placed my order of the products you recommend, but it’s going to take awhile until they arrive because I live in Brazil. Anyway I’m hopeful this time I’ll have a routine that works for me, as I have tried some products and had no luck.

Amábile February 9, 2019 - 8:43 pm

I also bought The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution 240ml and plan on using it after using my usual cleaner and the proceding with the routine (both AM and PM). Is this a good idea?

Gio February 15, 2019 - 12:44 pm

Amabile, I’m sure the routine will help. I wouldn’t recommend glycolic acid. If you have acne, salicylic acid is hands down the best exfoliant for you. Overexfoliating skin could lead to more dryness and acne, so stick to just one product.

Keep me posted. 🙂

Carley February 28, 2019 - 1:17 pm

Hello, your article was a great read! Could you help…I think my skin type is normal/dry. I live in the UK so think it’s the winter season that’s causing the dryness, I have some dry patches under my eyes at present.

My current routine is Lucy Bee cleansing milk followed by Lucy Bee moisturiser. I know this isn’t enough for my skin.

I’ve suffered with acne since the age of 25 I’m now 31. I believe my acne to be hormonal because it wasn’t until I had the mirena coil removed in 2011 that the acne started a month after. I recently had a baby 5 months ago and from the third trimester my acne completely disappeared and has reappeared 3 months post partum.

The acne at present is forehead and chin. Only recently has the odd pimple started to appear just above my jawline. Before my pregnancy I had painful cysts on my forehead and jawline I want to stop the acne in its tracks before it gets worse again.

What products would you recommend starting with and then building up to?

Many thanks!

Gio March 1, 2019 - 9:14 am

Carley, definitely start using salicylic acid every evening after cleansing. You can also use niacin amide + zinc in the morning before moisturiser. This should help prevent the acne, but if it isn’t enough, you can always add more products later on.

Linda February 23, 2019 - 12:52 pm

Hi Gio, when layering these products, do you have to wait a few minutes in between or can I just apply them one after the other continuously? Thanks!

Gio February 28, 2019 - 5:28 pm

Linda, if they absorb quickly on your skin, you can apply them after the other. As a rule, it’s best to wait until a product has fully absorbed.

Michelle February 27, 2019 - 2:13 am

I’m so glad I came across your website, especially this page!!!! I’m going to try the routine you outlined for my hormonal/cystic acne around my mouth (I’m 32 and have had it on and off for 3 years). My questions are:
1. Can I use my normal gel moisturizer in the AM and where do I put it in the order? Do I need something different???
2. I use the Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair eye creme every morning as well…..can I continue???
3. What would be a good nighttime moisturizer to use???

The Ordinary is all new to me so I’m excited to place an order. I have normal skin for the most part…..a bit dry on the under eyes.

Thank you so much!!!

Gio March 1, 2019 - 9:28 am

Hi Michelle, to answer your questions:

1. Yes, you can use it in the morning before sunscreen.
2. The eye cream contains retinol so use it at night before moisturizer.
3. If you’re not comfortable with squalene oil or another oil, you can use your morning moisturiser instead.

Michelle March 8, 2019 - 12:49 am

Thank you for the reply! I got my order today…..gonna try rose hip oil at night and see how that works. Thanks again!!!!!!!

Gio March 8, 2019 - 6:12 pm

My pleasure!

Carley February 28, 2019 - 2:02 pm

Sorry that should have read I didn’t have any problems with acne until I got the mirena coil in 2011 and a month after the acne started*

So Peace March 11, 2019 - 1:17 pm

Dear Gio,
I thank you this regimen and I will definitely try it out! 🙂
I also purchased some of these products from The Ordinary among a few more like the “Buffet” since I also want to do something anti-aging for my skin (my acne treatsments have dried out my skin so badly that it looks SOOO much older than it actually would) but still, I am concerned about my skin:
I started getting acne 5 years ago at the age of 19. Till then, I have never had acne before (also, nobody in my family has ever had suffered from acne) but I also used to be on birth control before that (2011-2014). In 2014, I went to live in the USA as an au pair and after 4 months (this time period seems to be an important one in my acne skin history) I got my very first acne pimple which stayed there for weeks! I was so shocked! I also got very sick during that time and had to take antibiotics which probably messed up my gut system. Back at home in Germany, my skin did get better but never stopped producing these acne pimples leaving scars behind all over my face.
I went to a dermatologist who gave to me VERY drying cosmetics which my skin did not like at all. In the beginning, it was fine but after 4 months my skin was so dry and itchy and even more inflamed. After months, I quitted using these products, took a lot of probiotics to get my gut in balance again and started using natural cosmetics (in October last year). After that my skin was flawless for (again) about 4 months. This year in January, I had the worst breakout I have ever had and my face hurts and itches like crazy! I am so afraid of going outside, seeing my friends, doing sports, eating stuff that might be unhealthy for me, etc.
I took a hormonal test saying that I suffer from hyperthyroidism which seems to be the cause of my acne (way too much testosterone, way too little and almost no progesterone, erstiol and erstradiol). By now, I am 24 and look like a teenager. I can’t wear any makeup since it just makes my inflamation and itchyness worse. So people often ask me whether I can’t wash my face properly. Since everyobdy has had pimples while growing up sooner or later it seems as if everybody knows better than me how to treat my skin.
It’s so ashaming and frustrating. I don’t need to be reminded of how I look like all the time :/
I will definitely try out your regimen but if there is any tip you have for me (since I’ve been also suffering from neurodermatitis since I was a baby my skin tends to be super dry everywhere on my body besides the face which is more oily especially at the t-zone) I’d be so happy to hear about that! (:

Thank you so much for reading my whole text and thank you for helping so many people out there who suffer from acne, the depression and self-doubts it brings and the pain! 🙂
Greetings from Germany <3

Gio March 16, 2019 - 12:15 pm

So Peace, I hear ya! Acne is so painful, more for the soul than for the skin.

For the love of your skin, do NOT use anything Anti-Aging until your skin has gone back to normal. What it needs now, it’s a minimal skincare routine: cleanser, salicylic acid exfoliant, moisturizer and sunscreen. If you want to try the skincare routine above, introduce only 1 new product a month. That way, if something doesn’t agree with your skin, you’ll know what it is.

Also, consider getting treatment for your hyperthyoridism. If you don’t treat the case, there’s only so little skincare can do.

So Peace March 25, 2019 - 2:35 pm

You are my hero, Gio, and I thank you for a) understanding and b) helping with your knowledge! I’ll take your advice and adapt my regimen to your hints 🙂
Yes, I am about to treat my hyperthyroidism with my naturopath and, even though I’m sure it’ll take a while till it’s normal again, I am positive, now that I know the reason for my acne, that it can just get better.
Say, do you switch regimens in winter and summer times and if so, what do you change? I don’t know much about that yet and the next couple of months I will travel from very hot to very cold weather.

I’ve been using the TO regimen you recommend on this page and my skin LOVES it. The inflammation got less and oh, even though I still have many blemishes on my skin I already feel so releaved! 🙂

Sending lots and lots of sunshine and love from Germany! 😉

Gio March 29, 2019 - 1:38 pm

So Peace, so glad to hear the new regime is helping! Hang in there. Skincare is already helping and once you start addressing the root cause, you will finally get your clear skin back. It’ll take time, but you can do it.

The main change is in textures. When you’re in hot climates, it’s best to stick to lightweight, even gel textures. In colder climates, richer consistencies usually work best.

Hope this helps!

Ecila March 12, 2019 - 3:19 pm

HI there!
Thank you for such an enlightening article! I’ve been using the ordinary since they came out and I can honestly say that it’s rhe only reason I don’t get true breakouts anymore, just a few pimples here and there. Niacinamide 10% + zinc 1% is a blessing to this earth. My problem is that while I don’t get actively painful pimples anymore I still have a lot of clogged pores and blackheads. I had used salicylic acid last summer to clear them with a lot of success but I’d stopped using it for about 2 weeks last September and once I started back up, it would cause extreme sensitivity to my skin. At one point I mixed a drop into my pure squalene to dilute it and it ended up causing the top layer of my skin to peel off completely over the course of a 3 hour long distance bus ride. I’ve been since too afraid to use it since but I want to use something similar that can clear my clogged pores. You mention azealic acid and from the looks of it serves similar purposes so I was wondering if I could use that instead of salicylic acid? And if I were to use it how much should I use and when?

Gio March 15, 2019 - 6:48 pm

Ecila, sorry to hear Azelaic Acid doesn’t agree with your skin anymore. Yes, Azelaic Acid is a great alternative. Use it three times a week at night.

Amábile March 14, 2019 - 11:27 am

I have a question about quantities. For AM, I’ve applied: 3 drops of niacinamide (2 Face + 1 neck) and an amount of about a fingernail of azelaic. For PM routine I’ve applied: 5 drops of Retinol 0.2% in squalane (4 face + 1 for neck) and it took a few minutes to dry out (also, do I have to wait for it to dry?), 4 of Niacimide (3 for the face + 1 for the neck) and 3 of Squalane oil (2 face + 1 neck), are those good quantities? I am very new to skincare routines (in fact this is my first try with products like these) so any help would be great. Also thank you for this article, it’s super helpful and I wouldn’t be able to put together such a great routine alone!

Gio March 16, 2019 - 11:51 am

Amabile, thank you, so glad you enjoyed the article. I think you are overthinking this! Yes, applying the right amount is important, because applying more than you can lead to irritation or waste of product. But there isn’t a certain number of drops of each ingredient you have to apply and if you apply one more or less you’ll be in trouble.

Having said that, you can find a general guideline here:

Hana Iman March 17, 2019 - 6:26 am

Hi Gio! Thankyou for your guideline, ive sufferred acne for 8 yrs now. ive been trying all sorts of products but to no avail. I know niacinamide is good and its my third bottle for over one year already. At first it i can see changes to my skin but overtime, it just got worst. Not sure if its the niacinamide or what. But Here is my skincare routine:
3. TO Niacinamide
4. TO magnesium ascorbyl phosphate
5. Moisturiser
6. Sunscreen
2. Toner
4. Benzoyl peroxide
Thankyou for reading

Gio March 21, 2019 - 2:05 pm

Hana, apply BP on blemishes only before moisturiser. It works better that way.

Lynn March 18, 2019 - 3:42 pm

Thank you for all of this information! I definitely want to try the Ordinary collection, I just don’t know where to start.
I’m 34 and have suffered on and off from acne since I was a teen. I am using Clear Days Ahead cleanser by Philosophy in the morning and night. I also use their spot treatment. After I wash my face I use a moisturizer usually just in the morning before makeup. I have combination skin and my t-zone can get very oily. The Ordinary collection really interests me and I’d love to know how to add it to my skin care regime. Thank you so much in advance!

Gio March 21, 2019 - 4:21 pm

Lynn, I’d start by adding niacin amide + zinc before moisturiser in the morning. Hope this helps.

Kassidy March 20, 2019 - 2:01 pm

What do you use for a cleanser?

Gio March 21, 2019 - 4:06 pm

Kassidy, you can find some good options here:

Yasmin March 21, 2019 - 10:38 pm

Hi Gio,
Great post! I started using the Ordinary products a couple of months ago and I’m finding that my skin is drying out quite a bit. I have had an acne issue for the longest time and so based on a recommended regimen I started using in the evening Mandelic acid (4 times a week), Salicylic acid (2 times a week), and Retinoid 2%w. Squalane (once a week). In the morning I use hyaluronic acid and Niacinamide. I use a very rich moisturizer for hydration but my skin is so dry to the point that it starts to peel if I don’t remoistutize throughout the day.

I’m tempted to try the regimen that you recommended above but I get the feeling that using the salicylic acid everyday will continue to dry out my skin. Can you recommend a regimen that’s sustainable on a daily basis without having the dry-out effect?

Please and thank you 🙂

Gio March 29, 2019 - 1:12 pm

Yasmin, I think the main problem is that you’re using both mandolin and salicylic, giving your skin more exfoliation than it needs. Pick one and use it only 3 times a week.

Sunitha April 10, 2019 - 8:20 am

Hi Gio!
Enjoy reading your blog! I’m so glad I came across it. So detailed and informative!
I am planning to buy some products for The Ordinary. I have oily, dehydrated, acne prone skin with large pores and red marks/scarring. I want to try their following products:
-Salicylic Acid 2% Solution
-Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion
-Azelaic Acid Suspension 10%
-Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate Solution 10%
-Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%
-Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5
-Caffeine Solution 5% + EGCG
-100% Organic Cold-Pressed Rose Hip Seed Oil
Could you please help me in creating a AM and PM routine? Which moisturiser would you suggest for this skin type?
The only acid I currently use is the Pixi Glow tonic (alternate days) and my cleanser is Neutrogena Visibly clear pore and shine daily wash (I double cleanse at night if I have makeup on)
Thanks a lot in advance!

Gio April 12, 2019 - 3:54 pm

Sunitha, I would love to help you create the perfect skincare routine for you. You can book your consultation here:

Amábile April 11, 2019 - 4:10 am

Hey Gio, I have been following the routine for roughly a month (I noticed that my skin is brighter, I have not been having acne in my nose bridge, but my chin and my forehead looks almost the same as before and I have had 2 breakouts in mu chin…) I noticed that after I apply niacinamide when I am applying the squalane oil it feels like my skin or the product is peeling off, there’s more peeling when I wait for 1-2 minutes for the niacinamide to be absorbed. Do you know if it is the skin or the niacinamide that is peeling off? and if there’s anything I should do to prevent this? Thanks!

Gio April 12, 2019 - 3:50 pm

Amaile, it looks like peeling. Are you applying the products too quickly one after the other? Another thing you can do is switch the order and use Niacinamide in the AM and azelaic acid in the PM.

Amábile April 20, 2019 - 3:07 am

Is it okay to use both niacinamide and salicylic acid every morning? If so I’ll try:
Salicylic Acid 2% Solution
Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%

Retinoid serum
Azelaic Acid Suspension 10%
100% Plant Derived Squalane oil

Gio April 20, 2019 - 3:39 pm

Yes, this routine is fine. 🙂

Samantha Olson April 15, 2019 - 1:02 am

I feel silly for commenting on such an old post, but I’m having such trouble. I have oily skin naturally which is quite acne prone. My derm gave me clindamycin lotion and tret and told me to wash my face in the morning with a benzoyl peroxide facial wash. My skin LOVES it – no spots. A first since I was maybe 13! But… the ben/tret combo is quite drying, and i still have lots of the little headless white bumps. A better circumstance than inflamed spots obviously, but my derm says I’m not to expect pretty, bright skin from this routine, it’s only to address the spots. So I’m thinking of alternating salicylic acid and the ben/tret on opposite days, adding squalane and the niacinamide/zinc to my daily routine. Would hyaluronic acid help with the dryness?

Gio April 20, 2019 - 3:12 pm

Samantha, yes, hyaluronic acid would certainly help with dryness. But be careful when adding new products to your skincare routine. Introduce a new one at a time so as not to overwhelm your skin.

Aftab May 13, 2019 - 8:39 pm

I have combination to oily, acne prone skin with true acne scars and hyperpigmentation.
Can I use the following skincare routine?

Salicylic Acid 2% Solution
Azelaic Acid Suspension 10%
Hyaluronic acid 2% + B5

Retinoid serum + Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA (three times a week)
Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% (optional)
100% Organic Cold Pressed Rosehip Oil as a moisturizer

Gio June 4, 2019 - 6:04 pm

Aftab, yes you can.

Aftab June 10, 2019 - 7:51 am


Adriana May 17, 2019 - 3:16 pm

Hello! I have to say that this post was a life saver. You explained everything so well that I had to go to “The Ordinary” website right away!

I’ve bought some of the items that you recommended and I’d really appreciate if you could comment on the routine I’m planning on following :).

Salicylic acid
Niacinamide 10%

Azelaic acid
Niacinamide 10%

Thank you so much!!

Gio June 4, 2019 - 5:32 pm

Adriana, so glad to hear this post helped! And yes, this is a great routine for you. 🙂

Jessica May 28, 2019 - 3:32 pm

Hello! I’m 30 and have very oil, acne prone skin. My skin has kind of been on the fritz for the last 5 years while I was pregnant, breastfeeding, and then even now being back on birth control i’m constantly breaking out. I’m going to be getting some of these ordinary products to try, in hopes they help!

I was curious, though, what are your thoughts on the Ordinary Squalane cleanser? Is it good for someone with oily, acne prone skin?

Gio June 4, 2019 - 7:51 pm

Jessica, I’m currently testing the sunscreen and the review will be up soon. It does a wonderful job of taking everything off but the texture’s really thick and hard to spread. It’s up to you if that’s a dealbreaker.

Jericko May 30, 2019 - 2:16 pm

I know that this is an overdue post but I just want to ask how will I create an AM/PM skincare routine with these following skincare products for my acne-prone oily skin:
COSRX Good Morning Gel Cleanser
COSRX Salicylic Acid Cleanser
Witch Hazel Toner
The Ordinary Niaciamide 10% + Zinc 1
The Ordinary Azelaic Acid Suspension 10%
The Ordinary 100% Plant-Derived Squalane
The Ordinary Retinol in Squalane 0.5%
Nature’s Republic Aloe Vera Gel

Also, If there’s some products I need to remove or add, please feel free to add them to your reply.
Thank you very much. 🙏🏻

Gio June 4, 2019 - 7:03 pm

Jericko, I would love to help you create the perfect skincare routine for you. You can book your consultation here:

In alternative, you can check out this post for the right order of application:

Jericko May 30, 2019 - 2:17 pm

I also forgot the COSRX BHA Blackhead Power Liquid. My bad 🤦‍♂️

Ana June 26, 2019 - 6:13 pm

Hi Gio! Thanks a lot for this post, it was a great introduction about the products of The Ordinary.
My doubt is: I’ve recently came back from dermathologist and she recommended me Differing gel (adapalene 0.1%), but I don’t think it’s working very well since I still have breakouts, specially on the chin zone, shoulders and hairline, and very red skin on the cheeks. I thought about replacing Differin with the Salicylic Acid from The Ordinary, plus the Niaciamide 10% + Zinc 1, what do you think?? Also, should I stop using serum, and what about toner ? I use a Korean line with aloe to calm skin. Could you recommend me a demo routine? 🙂 thank you so much! Ana

Gio July 6, 2019 - 2:49 pm

Ana, talk to your dermatologist about the side effects of differin and ask to switch to something else.

Karina June 30, 2019 - 4:36 am

Hi Gio,
Your article is incredible and super informative. However, I am confused as to using Salicylic Acid in the mornings if its a type of BHA exfoliant. It was a part of your recommended AM routine is this meant for everyday? Wouldn’t irritation or more breakouts form from over exfoliating? Im just confused about that so I wanted to make sure I understood correctly before I tried to regimen.

Thanks so much, I hope to hear back from you at your earliest convenience!

Gio July 6, 2019 - 2:42 pm

Karina, this is the routine I would personally use in this case, but it’s not set in stone. If you find that daily exfoliation is too much for you, use salicylic acid every other day instead.

Elena July 2, 2019 - 8:22 pm

Hi Gio, I’m currently using azelaic acid for rosacea, and my skin is mostly great except that I always get 2-5 huge painful cysts around my period. Tretinoin has worked well for me in the past, but is it too much exfoliation? Should I go with salicylic acid instead, or just spot treat? I have very sensitive skin and have totally wrecked my moisture barrier in the past, so I try to keep my routine very basic, but clearly need to add something for the zits. Here’s my current routine:

AM: cleanse
azelaic acid (15%)
moisturizer (CeraVe AM with Niacinamide + HA)
PM: double cleanse w/cleansing balm and gentle foaming cleanser
Azelaic acid [would switch for tretinoin, probably alternating days]

Gio July 6, 2019 - 2:36 pm

Elena, you can use a salicylic acid exfoliant only on pimple prone areas.

Lana July 5, 2019 - 11:21 am

Hi, I’m currentl trying the regimen u posted above and thres been no problem so far. Just wanna ask if it’s normal that my skin on the side of my nose is peeling a bit. Any recommendations on what should I do?

Gio August 8, 2019 - 6:12 pm

Lana, it could be too much exfoliation. Use salicylic acid only every other day.

Hina July 13, 2019 - 2:49 am

Hi, my skin is sometimes dry and most of the time oily.. Acne prone plus clogged pores on chin area.. I am in mid 30s and facing dullness and fatigue.. I have had adult acne breakout in my early 30s..which was treated by my dermatologist.. So now.. Main issue is.. I need some anti aging stuff and some treatment for my clogged pores on chin.. Please help me out.. I’m so confused to see so many reviews and suggestions..

Gio August 8, 2019 - 4:22 pm

Hina, check out this skincare routine for your skin type:

Amaira July 13, 2019 - 9:31 am

Hi, I’m 25 years old and had already taken accutane. But after 1 year the acne came back. I bought the ordinary niacinamide which at start made me break out a lot but now I can see it’s working. I have lots of acne pitted holes and scars. I also have the two in one Poreless power liquid with Bha from the cosrx brand. I’m thinking of buying either the retinol or retinoid or salicylic from the ordinary but don’t know which one to buy. Plz suggest me one along with how to use all of them including the cosrx one. Thank you

Gio August 8, 2019 - 4:21 pm

Amaira, definitely use salicylic acid after cleansing in the morning.

Tilda July 21, 2019 - 3:06 pm

Hi! Thank you so much for this helpful article! I ordered the Ordinary Products and I think they will work great on my skin! Just after 2 days of using your routine I can see difference in my skin! But my question is that I workout during lunch and after I shower it feels like most of the products goes away, should I apply the AM routine again or just leave it? And I also use jojoba oil instead of rose because that’s what I had at home hehe, does it work just as fine or should I get rose oil?

Gio August 8, 2019 - 6:28 pm

Tilda, definitely cleanse and reapply the sunscreen! You may reapply niacinamide as well if you feel you need it but I wouldn’t use salicylic acid again. Too much exfoliation isn’t good for skin. Jojoba oil works just fine, too.

Heena July 28, 2019 - 7:51 pm

Hey, I am a 20 year old and I am suffering from acne since 4 years now. I had been using salicylic, benzoyl peroxide, retino A products and these made my skin further dry and flaky. Also I have acne scars.I have an extremely sensitive skin too. Please suggest me some good moisturizing creams and serums. Can I used the vitamic c hyoluronic acid cream?

Gio August 9, 2019 - 4:42 pm

Heena, I wouldn’t use vitamin C until your skin has fully healed, but Hyaluronic Acid is ok. Here are some good serums with it:

And here are my recommended moisturisers for your skin type:

Gerard McNally August 24, 2019 - 11:15 pm

Thank you so much for your helpful and compassionate dvice for us acne sufferers. IMy 15 year old daughter has oily skin and very mild acne. presenting with small spots in the T Zone. It seems to be slowly getting worse. I don’t want to intervene with harsh products.. Do you recommend the inclusion of any The Ordinary products as part of her routine, which at the moment is cleanse, tone and moisturiser with mild products plus the occasional face mask for breakouts. Thank you

Gio September 14, 2019 - 5:53 pm

Gerard, definitely get her on salicylic acid. It’ll help keep the acne under control and make her skin less oilier.

Amna September 1, 2019 - 9:47 pm

heyy i am gonna try their products but i am unsure from where to start. i have acne prone skin, like i get 3-4 pimples every month and lots of scars and blemishes. should i buy niacinamide + zinc and granactive retinoid 2% in squalane?

Gio September 14, 2019 - 6:36 pm

Amna, try Niacinamide and salicylic acid first.

Sara October 23, 2019 - 9:12 pm

Hi Gio, I was looking to get started with The Ordinary in conjunction with my existing Tretinoin rx and stumbled across your site. WOW! Such a wealth of information. I have combination but mostly dry skin, acne has started to subside but still have hyper-pigmentation, scars & redness. I’m just not sure if sqaulane (or something else) is best before or after the tretinoin or after.
Here is my regimen:

2% Salicylic Acid Cleanser (Neutrogena)
Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA
Azelaic Acid Suspension 10%
Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%
Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA
Sunscreen (Juice Beauty tinted CC cream)

2% Salicylic Acid Cleanser (Neutrogena)
Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA
Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%
Tretonin (Rx)
100% Plant-Derived Squalane

AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution (up to twice per week, not Tretonoin those days)

Gio November 8, 2019 - 1:30 pm

Sara, you’re doing too much! It’s true Niacinamide helps fade away dark spots, but this particular product is only for oily skin. It’s too drying for your skin type.

Also, why do you need both alpha arbutin and Azelaic Acid? if you throw everything at your skin at the same time, you won’t know what really works for you. You also risk drying out your skin more.

Eni November 3, 2019 - 5:11 pm

Loved your article! Well I wanted to ask about salicylic acid, can i replace it with azelaic acid and apply it in the morning routine?

Gio November 8, 2019 - 2:24 pm

Eni, it depends on what your skin concerns and goals are. Why would you like to make this change?

alexandra November 14, 2019 - 4:01 am

Hi! i am 30 yrs old and just bought some products from the ordinary (before seeing your article) but I do not know how to use them together. I have hormonal break outs mostly on my chin area (cystic), I also deal with dryness and tinny little pimples on my forehead. The products I bought are the following:
– Buffet
– Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%
– Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5
– Retinol 0.2% in Squalane

Thank you so much !


Gio December 15, 2019 - 11:21 am

Hi Alexandra,

I’d love to help you create the best skincare routine for your skin. Please, check out this post to find out how to deal with acne and dryness:

If you need more help, you can book a skincare consultation here:

1 2 3

Comments are closed.