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The Ordinary

Alpha Lipoic Acid 5%

1.00 fl. oz. for $ 6.80
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Alpha lipoic acid is a very good antioxidant, whether taken internally or applied to skin, and antioxidant action is what you get with this inexpensive, fragrance-free product for all skin types.

Alpha Lipoic Acid 5% contains only two ingredients: The alpha lipoic acid and propanediol, a synthetic penetration-enhancing ingredient that also provides hydration. Even though alpha lipoic acid is a notable antioxidant, it isn't the best or the only one skin needs. Research is clear that skin does best with an array of antioxidants because each works in its own way to defend and help renew skin.

The concern with this product isn't as much its bare-bones formula as it is the fact that concentrations of 5% or greater of alpha lipoic acid can cause a burning or stinging sensation when applied to skin (The British Journal of Dermatology, October 2003). It's a bit of push-pull because a 5% concentration has anti-wrinkle benefits, too—but so do lots of other antioxidants that don't have the potential side effects that 5% alpha lipoic acid presents.

The Ordinary seems to be aware of the sensitivity issues around alpha lipoic acid, as they caution against using this product more than two or three times per week, and only at night (alpha lipoic acid is highly susceptible to breaking down when exposed to daylight).

One other curiosity: Given alpha lipoic acid's distinct smell of sulfur, we wonder how a 5% concentration of this ingredient in a product doesn't offend your olfactory senses. In fact, when you take alpha lipoic acid in supplement form, it gives your urine a distinct sulfur smell. Another formulary mystery.

Pros:
  • Alpha lipoic acid is a good antioxidant.
  • Inexpensive and fragrance free.
Cons:
  • The amount of alpha lipoic acid is potentially irritating.
  • A one-note product that leaves skin wanting and needing more.
Jar Packaging: No
Tested on animals: No
Alpha Lipoic Acid is a highly potent antioxidant and can restore a renewed skin appearance, improving visible skin texture and tone when applied topically. This formulation uses an exceptionally high 5% concentration of high-purity Alpha Lipoic Acid.
Propanediol, Thioctic Acid.

It's not an overstatement to say that Canadian brand The Ordinary has taken the global beauty world by storm. In fact, no skincare line in recent memory has generated as much buzz as this brand!

Why all the commotion? Its because of The Ordinary's combination of clinical-looking products that contain high amounts of proven skincare ingredients and their unusually low prices (near rock-bottom prices). The curiosity to try these latte-priced products is intense; after all, you can assemble an impressive collection of anti-aging products for around the cost of one anti-aging product from a pricey department store brand!

The Ordinary is one of several brands that are part of a larger company, named DECIEM, whose tag line is The Abnormal Beauty Company, and with that we agree 100%. According to company founder Brandon Truaxe, DECIEM exists to create beauty brands with one mission common amongst them: to marry function, design and authenticity. Were not sure about the function, design, and authenticity part, but The Ordinary is certainly not ordinary at all in the world of beauty!

Frankly, we don't see how DECIEM can rationalize the low prices of The Ordinary products when the products from the other DECIEM skincare brands are so expensive. The difference is so glaringly strange it seems to border on a bait and switch - more about that in a moment.

Some of the ingredients in The Ordinary products are indeed inexpensive, but some of them absolutely qualify as expensive. These expensive ingredients are part of the reason why well-formulated anti-aging products, like serums and retinol treatments, typically cost much more than what The Ordinary charges.

The owner has been quoted as saying that the fill (fill is actual product inside the package) for his products costs less than $1 (less than $1 for how much? ). Depending on the formula, that can be true, but a skincare products retail price isn't just about whats inside the packaging, but also about how whats inside got there. There are costs for packaging, global regulatory testing, development, stability and safety testing, distribution, and on and on. Surely, The Ordinary didn't avoid some of these steps, but it does make us wonder.

We generally don't comment on a company's marketing strategy, but in this case its hard not to. We suspect The Ordinary is possibly a loss leader for the pricier DECIEM brands; that is, it gets DECIEM a ton of media and viral attention. Consumers, drawn by the low prices of The Ordinary, check out the site aiming to try the cheap stuff, but then, in sometimes not-so-subtle ways, they're lured into considering the expensive stuff from their other lines. Again, were just guessing here because its just so intriguing. Is The Ordinary a crusader for consumers or something else?

In terms of the quality of The Ordinary's products, the majority are one-note formulas. That is, rather than containing a robust mix of ingredients proven to help skin, most of their products focus on providing an efficacious amount of a single key ingredient, but to the exclusion of others. To give your skin an essential mix of antioxidants, skin-replenishing ingredients, and skin-restoring ingredients, you'd have to purchase several products from this line, and, since most of them have similar fluid-like serum textures, layering them, and knowing which product to apply first becomes a confusing guessing game. Plus, the Ordinary brand doesn't include sunscreens or cleansers, so it isn't one-stop shopping.

The Ordinary does one more unusual thing that reinforces their slogan of being The Abnormal Beauty Company: They routinely point out what they believe are the negative aspects of the very ingredients they use! For example, The Ordinary states clearly that it does not recommend exfoliating with AHA or BHA ingredients, but they sell AHA and BHA products. They also state they don't like silicones because of how they interact with certain ingredients, but they sell products that contain silicones.

They downplay retinol (vitamin A) as being inferior to other forms of vitamin A, but they still sell retinol products. Aside from the fact that these statements about retinol, AHAs, BHA, and silicones are wrong, its just bizarre to sell products you dont really want people to use, but then there's an allegedly superior, more expensive option from one of DECIEMs other brands, just waiting for you.

As you'll see from our reviews, there's a handful of The Ordinary's products worth checking out, but there are also several products that simply don't supply enough of what all skin types need to look and act younger, healthier, and more radiant. Low prices are great, but not when the trade-off is getting less than your skin deserves.

For more information about The Ordinary, call (800) 513-6088 or visit www.theordinary.com.

About the Experts

The Beautypedia team consists of skin care and makeup experts personally trained by the original Cosmetics Cop and best-selling beauty author, Paula Begoun. We’re fascinated by skin care and makeup products and thrilled when they meet or exceed our expectations, but we’re also disappointed when they fail to perform as claimed, are wildly overpriced, or contain ingredients scientific research has proven can hurt skin.

Our mission has always been to help you find the best products for your skin, no matter your budget or preferences. Beautypedia’s thorough and insightful reviews cut through the hype and provide reliable recommendations for all ages, skin types, and skin tones.