Skincare By Someone Who Doesn’t Really Do Skincare

First things first. Nothing in this post is sponsored. No #ad, not #spon and I bought all products mentioned myself. AS IF someone paid me to write this… but if you want to pay me, get in touch!

I thought being in my early 30s was enough of a punishment without having to deal with spots. Yet, HERE WE ARE. So let’s get into it. Like many people, I have a spotty T-zone, dry cheeks and hormonal breakouts. The skin on my face can look quite dull and uneven. I wasn’t in the habit of being very kind to my skin, beyond daily washing and moisturising.

(n.b. If you’re wondering why I had a infected eyebrow, it was entirely my fault. I poked my eyebrow regrowth a bit overzealously with tweezers, then on my wedding day, I had about an inch of make-up on the already angered area. Oops.)

Earlier this year, I set about fixing my wasteland of a face before The Wedding. I was quite out of the loop with skincare. Actually, I was never IN the loop, barring some dabbling in the Oil Cleansing Method a few years ago, which I still think is great. 

I saw an ad for The Ordinary range by Deciem and liked the look of the packaging. I have a slight aversion to shiny pretty skincare ranges, show me something that’s deliberately styled to be no-frills and apparently I’m SOLD. I knew sod all about skincare so I didn’t know the brand name, but I’ve since found there’s a lot of buzz around The Ordinary and the products have won loads of awards.

After several bourbon and diet cola drinks, I went on the Deciem online store and picked out a handful of products that sounded good. I had three reasons for doing this; firstly, they were much cheaper than I expected, I got six products for a relatively measly £34.80. Secondly, I was slightly drunk. Thirdly, I got £2.05 back through TopCashback, which is better than a poke in the eye. (You really should sign up for TopCashback if you haven’t already, via my affiliate link. You earn money when you purchase things, and that’s it. I just paid £200 of real, actual money into my bank account.) 

Anyway, back to The Ordinary. I bought:

The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%. Good for acne, enlarged pores, oily skin, uneven tone and texture, redness

The Ordinary Azelaic Acid Suspension 10%. Good for acne, dullness, dark spots, hyperpigmentation, redness

The Ordinary Salicylic Acid 2% Solution. Good for acne, oily skin, uneven tone and texture

The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5. Good for dry skin, loss of elasticity

The Ordinary 100% Organic Cold-Pressed Rose Hip Seed Oil. Good for dry skin, dullness, dark spots, hyperpigmentation

The Ordinary High-Spreadability Fluid Primer. This is for wearing under foundation, which I don’t do often, so I haven’t got much to say about it yet.

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The box of products came. I opened it, all excited, then realised I didn’t know how to use them. Felt really stupid. Hid the box for a couple of weeks.

Eventually, I did the research. As I understand it, The Ordinary products are stripped back to their key useful ingredients, which is why they’re so cost-effective. On the other hand, figuring out how to use them is not the easiest.

I’m not a skincare geek (I only just discovered skincare geeks are AN ACTUAL THING,) but here’s what I learned. With The Ordinary, you build up layers of different products. There are serums, creams and oils, and these should be applied in a that order. Some should be used at night before bed, some are best used in the morning. Some, when layered, can cause “pilling” which is when the product slides into little weird balls of crud on your face. Some should only be used a couple of times a week because the formulations are quite strong. Products with different pH levels shouldn’t be mixed. Products which do the same thing shouldn’t be used together.

There’s some information here on The Ordinary site about how to build a “regimen” which will give you some basic instructions, but I found this blog from honestyforyourskin.co.uk really, really useful. There’s some great tips in the comments too. Once I’d got the rules straight, building a “regimen” felt less impossible, but getting to this point did feel like solving multiple logic puzzles.

The Basic Bits

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For face wash, I use a 99p job from Lidl – Cien Aqua Rich Gentle Facial Wash for normal and combination skin. It feels gentle enough to use twice a day.

Once a week I use the sister product Cien Aqua Rich Daily Exfoliating Wash, also 99p. It has a small amount of scrubby nobbles in it, but it’s not as abrasive as a product like St Ives Apricot Scrub, which I’ve used in the past. (Many people say that St Ives scrubs are far too rough.)

I had concerns that the “bits” were dreaded plastic microbeads, so I contacted Lidl and apparently “the beads are made from bamboo which is produced by grinding and sieving the sap of the bamboo. They are of vegetable origin.” So there we go, happy days.

I use Lidl’s Cien Cleansing Face Wipes to remove make-up, 59p a packet.

My go-to face moisturiser is Nivea Soft, which I’ve used for years. It’s currently £4.29 at Superdrug for 200ml, but I usually wait until it’s on offer. (Actually, my Grandma is the one who always spots when it’s on offer because she’s a legend.)

The Regimen

Mornings are simple, I do the same every day.

Step 1. Wash face with Cien Gentle Facial Wash.
Step 2. When face is dry, apply a thin layer of The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%.
Step 3. When this is dry, apply Nivea Soft.

A real skincare geek would put add an SPF here, but I’m a terrible person and don’t.

Evenings are a little more complicated. Step 3 is always a product from The Ordinary, but I swap in a different one each day.

Step 1. Cien Cleansing Face Wipes to remove make-up.
Step 2. Cien Gentle Facial Wash to wash face. Once a week I’ll use Cien Daily Exfoliating Wash instead.
Step 3. When face is dry, apply one of a revolving carousel of The Ordinary products (see below)
Step 4. When product has dried, apply about four drops of The Ordinary 100% Organic Cold-Pressed Rose Hip Seed Oil.

As I mentioned earlier, there’s a whole stack of rules for how to use The Ordinary products, and generally it means separating stuff out. That’s why I do the following with step 3.

Monday – The Ordinary Salicylic Acid 2% Solution
Tuesday – The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5
Wednesday – The Ordinary Azelaic Acid Suspension 10%
Thursday – The Ordinary Salicylic Acid 2% Solution
Friday – The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5
Saturday – The Ordinary Azelaic Acid Suspension 10%
Sunday – Skip stage three. Day of rest and all that.

This is much more complicated than I’m used to, but it’s worth it. My skin’s never looked better.

Some other things I’ve learned:

  • Pay attention when applying Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%. I slathered it on too quickly when my face was still wet, not realising that it made chalky white smears all over my face. My driving instructor didn’t mention it during a two hour lesson, I only noticed when I got home.
  • If you use the Azelaic Acid Suspension followed by Rose Hip Seed Oil, don’t overdo the Azelaic Acid Suspension. It’s tempting as it’s a cream with a nice texture, but you only need a light layer and you must wait for it to be absorbed before applying the oil. Otherwise, you get product “pilling” which is gross and I hate it.
  • Applying the Rose Hip Seed Oil feels SO nice, but like most of the products here, you only need about 4 drops for your whole face. The oil gets absorbed within an hour or so, which is why it’s best for bedtime. Also, yes – putting oil on oily skin is a good thing, promise.
  • Salicylic Acid is an ingredient found in spot creams, so if a blemish does start coming up, I’ll apply this directly, it helps a lot.
  • When I started the regimen, there was some “purging”, in other words, several spots started sprouting. This is normal and there’s a good write-up about purging on theklog.co 

After a couple of weeks, my skin became far less spotty and looked more even, which is exactly what I wanted. It also seems less susceptible to hormonal breakouts. I can’t pretend it’s flawless, even with all the help in the world it’s unlikely to look advert-perfect. Photoshop and make-up exists for a reason. Still, the regimen helped a lot. Success! I win! 

I’ll reiterate that I’m obviously not an expert. This is just what worked for me, so here’s a couple of basics you can take away from this blog:

  • The Ordinary products are a good, cost-effective way to try different ingredients for your mug. You just need to get your head around the rules to build yourself a regimen and this does take a little effort.
  • You can be super cheap with other products like face wash, if your skin is ok with them.
  • Keep at it! With most changes to your skincare routine, the results won’t be immediate. I took a break from the regimen for a couple of weeks after honeymoon (ahem, I got lazy) and my skin suffered.

Got any skincare tips you wanna impart? Am I doing something really wrong? Have you tried products by The Ordinary? Share the love! Tweet me @Llia.