A few months ago, a friend posted this image on Facebook and it made me laugh…but then it made me panic a little.
Why? Because you bet your ass I had those 10-pound, chunky Steve Maddens (or some generic version of them) and I was NOT using a night serum!!
If you were a teenage girl in the 90s, two things are necessarily true: You owned a pair of those clunkers and you’re now in your 30s. Ergo it’s high time that you start taking a more serious approach to skincare.
My skin isn’t perfect by any means but I know many people have it a lot worse, so I’ll refrain from over-dramatic laments. My gripes in the simplest terms: I have a good deal of redness, occasional zits, random bumps that appear on my cheeks, dark under-eye circles, and some hyper pigmentation. Not the stuff of nightmares, but definitely things I’d love to banish.
Knowing literally nothing about skin serums or really anything beyond washing my face, spraying some toner and slapping on a moisturizer, I dived into the rabbit hole of modern, grownup lady skincare. All I can say is…
Serum? I hardly Know ‘Em!
First off, there’s a HUGE selection out there. Currently, Sephora.com has 405 products in their serum category. Again, whoa. Second, I’d say the vast majority of stuff beauty bloggers rave about is frighteningly expensive. Just take a look any list of recommended serums – anything less than $50 is typically referred to as a “budget” option. Since I didn’t know what I was doing, I wasn’t about to drop hundreds of dollars on serums that may or may not do something for me.
I started with a brand that I liked, Glossier. Their Super Pack is a $65 3-pack of skin serums called Super Glow, Super Pure and Super Bounce. Each one boasts just a couple of beneficial ingredients in fairly low doses, so even if you use them all twice a day, you’re probably not going to jack your face up. I liked the minimal approach and the “baby’s first serums” feel of the package deal.
After I finished all 3 bottles, I couldn’t tell whether or not they improved my skin but using them did make me feel like a responsible, skin-caring grownup. After I’d used every last drop, I decided, maybe I was ready to take the next step, but I didn’t really want to drop another $65 when I wasn’t even sure if they were improving my skin…
No Ordinary Love
I remembered that in researching Glossier’s serums, I also came across a recommendation for The Ordinary, a no-frills, sciency skincare line with crazy affordable prices. I checked out the site but was far too overwhelmed by the large selection and big words, so I filed it away for later.
This time though, I took some time to research which ingredients do what and which products would be best for my skin issues. With the prices what they were, I felt fine about ordering a variety of products to see what worked. Plus I really dug the minimalist vibe – all black & white packaging, no miracle transformation claims and a super informative description of each product. So, here’s what I got in that first order along with their prices & a brief summary of what they do:
- Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% ($5.90) – Niacinamide (Vitamin B3) is indicated to reduce the appearance of skin blemishes and congestion. A high 10% concentration of this vitamin is supported in the formula by zinc salt of pyrrolidone carboxylic acid to balance visible aspects of sebum activity.
*This is basically the same formula as Glossier’s Super Pure
- Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA ($8.90) – Alpha Arbutin reduces the looks of spots and hyper-pigmentation. It’s used at a high 2% concentration versus a standard concentration of 1% and supported with a next-generation form of Hyaluronic Acid for enhanced delivery. Alpha Arbutin is much stronger in effect than Arbutin or Beta Arbutin.
- Advanced Retinoid 2% ($9.80) – This product uses next-generation retinoid active technologies which have been shown to achieve better reduction in signs of ageing than retinol without irritation
- High-Spreadability Fluid Primer ($7.90) – This new generation of primer is a lightweight serum-like formula that increases the spreadability of subsequent complexion makeup to help avoid the unnatural and uneven accumulation of pigments especially around the eyes and on dry skin. The formula also acts as a light, non-oily surface hydrator for a natural dewy look.
The total for these 3 serums and one makeup primer was $32.50 with free shipping, which was half what I paid for the Glossier stuff. You’d be hard pressed to find ONE decent serum for that price, let alone 3 serums… plus what I soon discovered was a damn fine primer that was cheaper than many drugstore ones.
I generally used the Niacinimide and Alpha Arbutin once or twice a day almost everyday and the Retinoid a few times a week at night. Though I know some people have issues with retinoids being irritating, I don’t think I had any noticeable problem. But the general rule with using acids and new skincare that delivers direct doses of ingredients is to start slow and work your way up to more products and more frequent use.
Like pretty much any new skincare regimen, there weren’t overnight results. But it was probably within a few weeks of starting these products that I noticed my skin was smoother and brighter. I absolutely thought that “glowing skin” stuff people talked about was a giant load of marketing BS but I finally kind of got what they meant.
I had gotten very used to my skin without makeup looking really dull and uneven in tone and texture. But after washing my face at night, I started zooming into the bathroom mirror and marveling at how good it looked. The mystery bumps have all but disappeared along with some of the redness, and my complexion looks a lot more even and bright. But don’t take my word for it. The proof is in the pudding – bring on the before & afters!!
Both pics here are post-skincare, pre-makeup. The one on the left was taken around the time I started using The Ordinary products (early May) and the one on the right was taken about 2.5 months later.
Clearly it’s not a crazy dramatic transformation but I see definite improvement. And I’m pretty psyched that the products that I have to thank for that are cheap as chips, as the Brits say.
This is definitely enough to convince me to keep on keeping on with The Ordinary’s products. I’ve been using the ones I started with and added a few more (duh!) that I’ve heard lots of good things about.
I recently started using the Caffeine Solution ($6.70) for under eyes, the Rose Hip Seed Oil ($9.80) for general moisturizing and awesomeness (look into the billions of benefits of this stuff), Azelaic Suspension ($7.90) for brightening and other goodness, Lactic Acid 5% ($6.50) for gentle exfoliation and their Natural Moisturizing Factors ($5.80), a killer moisturizer with hyaluronic acid.
Sounds like a lot of stuff, right? But all those new items cost a total of $30.20!! And I’m willing to bet, if I take another picture 2-3 months from now, my skin will look even better. Well, I hope so.
Check back and I’ll let you know! In the meantime, here are some other good tips for anyone who wants to give The Ordinary a shot…
- There’s a super helpful Facebook group called The Ordinary Chat Room where people post questions and discuss products and skincare routines. It’s a good place to start if you’re feeling clueless and overwhelmed.
- The parent brand of The Ordinary is Deciem, which also houses a few other skincare brands that are slightly pricier but still not bank-breaking. I haven’t tried any yet, but I hear good things.
- The Ordinary offers 2 liquid foundations which many claim to be the holy grail of makeup. They’re both also ridiculously cheap and offered in a huge shade range, but they’re such a cult hit that it’s hard to find the in stock.
- If you get any retinoids or acids, pay attention to the indications about how often to use them, when to use them and the importance of using SPF afterwards. And if you’re new to acids, start off slowly with the low percentage ones and then work your way up. Only ever use one at a time.
- When using multiple skincare products together, apply in order of increasing viscosity. So start with the thin, runny ones and work your way up to the thick serums and oils. And each one will work best if you wait a few minutes between layers.
- You might feel tempted to pile like 8 products on your face at a time, but resist. Limit yourself to one acid, 2-3 serums and then moisturizer and/or oil.
I’m no skincare expert but I’ve learned a lot by being in that Facebook group, researching the ingredients and just trying things out. And I feel good about the fact that I’m taking better care of my skin and getting results without spending cringe-worthy amounts of money to do so.
Here’s another cool thing: The better your skin looks, the less you’ll have to spend on fancy, high-coverage makeup! Win win!
If you have any questions or just want to share your own skincare saviors or experience with The Ordinary, hit me up!