Ascorbic Acid 8% + Alpha Arbutin 2%
The Ordinary’s Ascorbic Acid 8% + Alpha Arbutin 2% offers a powerhouse skin-brightening blend to help reduce the appearance of aging as claimed, but there are a couple questionable considerations that hold it back from earning our highest rating.
Housed in a UV-protective bottle, the fragrance-free formula has an oil-like consistency that feels slightly tacky at first but quickly dries down. Among its high notes, ascorbic acid (a form of vitamin C) is considered an antioxidant superstar for its proven ability to even out skin tone and fade dark spots + firm skin. Combined with 2% alpha arbutin, the skin-brightening effect is even stronger. Arbutin is a plant-derived ingredient that breaks down into hydroquinone when applied to skin, which is what makes it effective for fading hyperpigmentation.
The tricky thing about the formula is that even though it’s technically nonaqueous (water free), 90% of the formula is made up of propanediol which is a humectant that is able to absorb moisture (i.e. water) from its surroundings. That could potentially hinder the stability of the vitamin C, rendering it less effective, considering that there are no other antioxidants to help stabilize it, nor are there preservatives. (Top-rated vitamin C products have both stabilizing antioxidants and preservatives.)
We must also point out that the formula is lacking soothing agents to help keep skin calm given the potency of its bioactive ingredients.
Our verdict? Ascorbic Acid 8% + Alpha Arbutin 2% really does have the ability to make skin tone look more even, radiant, and overall younger—it’s just not quite on par with the best formulas out there.
- Formulated with ascorbic acid, well-proven for its anti-aging and skin-brightening benefits.
- Contains alpha arbutin, which helps fade dark spots.
- Great price for this powerhouse combo of ingredients.
- Fragrance free.
- Potential stability issues due to the lack of preservatives and stability-enhancing antioxidants.
This formula combines two of the most powerful brightening agents in skincare: pure Vitamin C and Alpha Arbutin, both solubilized in a completely water-free formula for ideal stability. Vitamin C is an effective antioxidant that brightens the skin tone and reduces signs of aging. Alpha Arbutin is a highly-purified biosynthetic active ingredient that reduces the look of dark spots and uneven skin tone.
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.