Most of my pieces start on a personal note, but it’s impossible to talk about The Ordinary without first talking about Brandon Truaxe, the late founder of the Toronto skincare company that grew so quickly they reportedly accrued hundreds of millions in sales just five years after launching. Truaxe is the founder and was initially the face of the parent company Deceim, drawing in customers with a personable, open style — and of course that under $10 price point within The Ordinary brand.
Almost every product and serum the company sells comes in at that range, from Squalane and Retinol to Hyaluronic Acid, opening up the skincare market to young and/or less experienced consumers who can take a risk on a new product for $6.80 but not $68. (Love you, Drunk Elephant.) Truaxe’s bizarre, erratic behavior — on Instagram, in particular — began to overshadow the otherwise overwhelmingly positive response the brand was receiving, and eventually he was ousted from his position as CEO before accidentally falling to his death in January of this year.
It’s a strange and tragic story, and certainly not the type of publicity a quickly-rising beauty brand would hope for, but it also hasn’t seemed to slow the company down. Personally, I hope that the people who worked under him (which seemed to be no walk in the park, either), including CEO Nicole Klipner, do keep operating the company despite these heavy circumstances. Because it’s doing a lot of good for a lot of women I know, especially those who thought they’d never have the luxury of taking care of their skin.
Money, or rather lack of it, has always inhibited me from getting hooked on skincare. When a friend finally pointed out this brand’s financial accessibility to me in early 2018, I was immediately shocked and delighted; finally, I was going to try Glycolic Acid and Vitamin C serums like the rest of the adult women on my Twitter timeline. Of course, it only took a few weeks of actually caring for my skin to become hooked. It isn’t just that a bottle of “Buffet” (their cleverly named catchall formula) is the same price as my careless quesadilla and chips late night order at Del Taco, it’s that the products are extremely high quality, too.
Even with celebrity co-signs from the likes of Kim Kardashian, and early PR boosts from product waiting lists numbering in the thousands, the brand ultimately hinges on this essential one idea — skincare doesn’t have to be expensive to work. The overall impact ends up mirroring the experience of something like Rent The Runway — you get the high end cache without the agony of committing an ungodly amount of money. In my raised-cheap-and-still-broke mind, it’s actually more enjoyable to get nice things at a low price point than to cough up lots of dough for something I really love. There’s probably some psychology behind that.
Anyway, The Ordinary’s parent company, Deceim, still operates under Truaxe’s unusual model of creating products in house instead of contracting the work out. They use wholesale prices for the raw, essential ingredients in skincare and no luxury filler ingredients, fancy packaging, intense marketing, or markups. Their partnership with Sephora, which sputtered due to availability issues last year, is currently going strong, and is probably your best bet to get items in person. Since the products are packaged purely by ingredient, there are a million guides on what to use and when, based on your skin. Google one, and go from there if you’re just getting into it.
Everyone’s skin is different, so I’d encourage newbies to personalize for their own concerns, but I’m happy to share what worked wonders for me. There are two products I recommend above all. First and foremost, their Salicylic Acid 2% Solution ($5.30) single handedly keeps my very acne-prone skin under control. Second is “Buffet” — which is one of the more expensive (lol) products at just under $15 — helps my skin stay even and not too oily, which is often a concern for me, especially in sunny California. Spending $20 a month on these two alone has improved my relationship to my own face more than I’d care to admit.
Other recommendations: Sephora’s foray into working with The Ordinary includes a kit called the No-Brainer set that comes with a bottle of Buffet, Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA ($5.80), and Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion ($9.80). You save a couple bucks by buying them together, and get a hydrating cream and an aging serum along with the all-purpose “Buffet,” all wrapped up in a glossy kit. It’s a great gift for someone making their first foray into skincare, or a nice way to care for your skin for under $30. So, I’m sticking to The Ordinary, and hoping they recover from January’s tragedy to come back stronger than ever.