Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2%: The Dud Of The Line Or A Misunderstood Gem?

by Gio

the ordinary vitamin c suspension ha spheres

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.

Their Advanced Retinoid 2% Serum and Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution have already become cult. If you want to get your mitts on them, you’ll have to join the waiting list!

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

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:

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?

Related: Types Of Vitamin C In Skincare Products

Sodium Hyaluronate

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.

How to neutralize the gritty texture:

  • Squeeze a tiny bit of The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2% on the palm of your hand.
  • Add a few drops of your fave hyaluronic acid serum (I’m using Elemental Herbology Age Support Hyaluronic Acid Booster Plus).
  • Mix them together and apply the mixture on your skin.

The extra moisture from the hyaluronic acid dissolves the powder and enhances its penetration: problem solved!

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!

Price & Availability: £5.00 at Asos


IngredientsAscorbic 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.

PR Sample. Affiliate links.

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Isa June 8, 2017 - 7:29 pm

Thank you! I will try it the way you proposed!

Gio June 10, 2017 - 6:35 pm

Isa, my pleasure. Let me know how it goes. 🙂

annjopp June 16, 2017 - 3:48 pm

Hi, I think it’s very interesting idea to use hyaluronic acid serum with this product, but I heard that it’s very important to use low PH products before using serum containing vitamin C and to wait if you need to put something on your face that has high ph level. Have you checked Ph level of Elemental Herbology product? At this moment I’m using LIQ CC Serum Light 15% Vitamin C BOOST (it contains also Sodium Hyaluronate, Tocopheryl Acetate, Magnesium Sulfate) and I really like the results, I have also tried Synchroline Synchrovit C serum (10%, liposomal vitamin C with SOD and zinc), but I think I’m going to buy The Ordinary 23% serum soon…

Gio June 17, 2017 - 12:39 pm

Annjopp, most products are formulated at a skin-friendly ph so you don’t need to worry about them. It’s only with things like retinol, vitamin C and acids (AHAs) that you need to be careful what you mix them with.

Amanda July 28, 2017 - 7:34 pm

I think she means, mixing the Elemental Herbology Age Support Hyaluronic Acid Booster Plus with the vitamin c together – will this make the PH too high? Or mixing any hyaluronic acid with vitamin c.

Gio August 5, 2017 - 11:21 am

Amanda, most products are formulated at a ph that’s skin-friendly so there shouldn’t be any problems. You can always apply the vitamin C first and follow up with a hyaluronic acid serum. That would also help the vit C penetrate more deeply into your skin.

cheryl February 18, 2018 - 3:09 pm

I think the question they are asking is that vit c has to be at a low ph to be effective (3ish?) And hylauronic acid is higher (6ish?) so would raise the ph. Wouldn’t that make it less effective? Could you mix it with an oil like squalene instead?

Gio February 24, 2018 - 1:09 pm

Cheryl, I guess that depends on the ph of the serum you’re mixing it with. It would be good to do a test and use a ph strip to verify ph. But now that The Ordinary has brought out Vitamin C in silicone, I recommend that one. It’s much easier to use.

Elle de Jonge August 31, 2017 - 9:40 pm

Holland here
Yes what a good idea.
i used aloe vera gel from Urtecram..wit hyaluronic acid . And it works!
And allright first Vit C (Ordinary)

With love Elle

Gio September 1, 2017 - 4:35 pm

Elle, so glad it works for you. 🙂

Paris B September 14, 2017 - 1:52 am

Hi Gio

Thank you so much for sharing my post, and also for affirming that the way I was using this product was the way it should be! i.e. mixed with a water medium. I’ve given mine away so I can’t test it with a hyaluronic serum as you suggest. I do like that it’s very affordable, but I really haven’t had a lot of luck with The Ordinary as a brand. Pity! Hope you’re well 😀

Gio September 17, 2017 - 7:58 am

Hi Paris, my pleasure. I love how throughout your reviews always are. This serum has a really weird texture, it’d be a pain to use it without a water-based medium. I like The Ordinary, but I think of it more like a supplement line. If your skin is more on the dry side or your fave serum doesn’t contain vitamin C, then you can just add the NMF product or one of their vitamin C serums and you’re covered. Hope you’re well too! 🙂

nora November 2, 2017 - 5:00 pm

is it ok to use this in the morning or even twice a day?

Gio November 5, 2017 - 5:10 pm

Nora, yes you can use it in the morning. You could use it twice a day if your skin is used to vitamin C so there’s no irritation. If it’s your first time with vitamin C, use it only in the morning.

Mel December 27, 2017 - 1:00 am

Hi! Just wondering, wouldnt it lower the efficiency of the vit c suspension emulsion if I mix it with the HA+b5 serum??

Gio December 31, 2017 - 8:34 am

Mel, nope. There’s nothing in that serum that would interfere with vitamin C.

umaima December 29, 2017 - 9:08 am

can we aplly moisturizer after this or before applying serum?

Gio December 31, 2017 - 8:33 am

Umaima, yes, you can. I always applied moisturiser after this.

K January 22, 2018 - 5:32 am

Can you elaborate on Vitamin E not needing to be in the Vitamin C serum? I was under the impression Vitamin E needed to be combined with the C (using some kind of emulsifier to break it down) in order to get it to interact with the C and boost its benefits. Thanks.

Gio January 28, 2018 - 3:04 pm

K, that would be the best option but as long as you give skin all the antioxidant it needs, it will find a way to use them together.

Michelle March 1, 2018 - 3:05 am

Hello, what do you think about possibly mixing this product with The Ordinary’s Resveratol + Ferulic Acid serum? It’s mentioned on their site and I was wondering if maybe that would help with the gritty texture?

Gio March 9, 2018 - 7:23 pm

Michelle, I haven’t tried this myself but I’d definitely give it a go. 🙂

Fi March 7, 2018 - 11:23 am

HI Can you use this and the Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion together in the evening as believe you shouldn’t use these in the morning? Which would you apply first or should you alternate them each night? Thanks

Gio March 9, 2018 - 6:48 pm

Fi, I wouldn’t recommend using them together because they’re both very powerful and may irritate your skin if it’s not used to them or is on the sensitive side. It’s safer to just use them on alternate nights.

Leanne March 10, 2018 - 1:57 pm

Hi, can I mix granactive retinod 2% in squalane with this product or is it too much on the skin?
Would it be best to mix with a night time moisturiser ?

Gio March 16, 2018 - 7:36 pm

Leanne, that definitely would be too much for the skin. Apply it BEFORE the night time moisturiser.

wenaerz March 19, 2018 - 1:40 pm

hi can i use niacinamide and vit c afterwards? thanks

because i have three the ordinary product and i dont know which to use first in the AM and PM. thanks again
alpha arbutin
and vit c

Gio March 23, 2018 - 7:33 pm

Wenaerz, you can use vitamin C followed by alpha arbutus in the morning and niacinamide at night. Just don’t forget the sunscreen!

Sally April 11, 2018 - 11:13 pm

Can you use the vitamin c after the ordinary’s granactive retinoid 2% or can these two products not be used together?

Gio April 14, 2018 - 8:24 am

Sally, the main problem I see with this is irritation. If you have very resistant skin, you may be able to tolerate this powerful combo but for sensitive skin, it’s way too much.

Christina Lacayo April 25, 2018 - 3:29 pm

I just got this product yesterday and blended it with Estee Lauder Advanced Repair. I had no irritation or burning whatsoever. I had a mild warming sensation, if anything. I’m so glad I read this article before using the product because I had been curious about the Ordinary for a while. Thank you so much for all the work and research you do.

Gio April 27, 2018 - 10:11 am

Christina, my pleasure and thank you so much for all your support! So glad your skin can tolerate this serum well.

adreanimal May 5, 2018 - 12:58 pm

I’m still confused by using products contain Hyaluronic acid to dissolve the grittiness of the product, bcs as we know vitamin c is not stable with water, right (?) Still using it with nothing and i just hate that gritty feeling on my face, duh..

Gio May 19, 2018 - 10:09 am

Adreanimal, yes, vitamin C is unstable in water BUT the reaction doesn’t happen all at once. Vitamin C doesn’t become completely useless the second it comes in contact with water. This is an issue for products that stay on the shelves for months but if you mix them and apply it on your skin straight afterwards, it’ll still work.

Wemmy May 31, 2018 - 7:35 am

I have just purchased the vitamin c suspension, according to what I have read here that it is safe to add Hyaluronic serum(TO) to the vitamin C and apply straight to the face.
Can I follow on with a moisturiser (olay 7 in 1 total effects ) and a sunscreen is that correct?
This will be my first time with the vitamin C, please stir me right.

Gio June 2, 2018 - 3:06 pm

Wemmy, yes, everything you said is correct. But if it’s your first time with vitamin C, then use it only a couple of days a week and build frequency overnight. It’s a high concentration and could irritate your skin if you use too much, too soon.

Diana July 23, 2018 - 2:40 pm

I’ve been researching it all day and I still can’t find any info on whether it’s worth combining Buffet with Vit C Suspension + HA at night? I feel that Buffet is more lightweight, but at the same time I’d love the Vitamin C to work first on the cleansed skin.
And could I use Vit C not with Hyaluronic acid serum, but with a toner? I have a Japanese one by Hada Labo and it’s super moist.

Gio July 28, 2018 - 6:34 pm

Diana, vitamin C needs to penetrate skin to work while peptides remain on the skin’s surface so go with vitamin C first and Buffet later. And yes, you can use it with a toner.

Review: The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2% – Splurge On Beauty August 30, 2018 - 10:32 pm

[…] Imma skip the ingredients and long science-y explanation. Imma just give yall a summary of this this and that. But if you want to know more about the science and functionality of the ingredients do check out this website here. […]


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