• Stephanie Drax

Out of The Ordinary: Quality Skincare We Can All Afford

I wish The Ordinary skincare line had been invented by a woman. Then I could wax lyrical about how this Boudicca of the beauty industry had defied a business that has for so, so long suckered women with its ambitious claims at high cost. I include myself in the throng of gullibles; if a bottle promises to melt away my wrinkles, it better be reassuringly expensive. I've stopped short of the "miraculous" Crème de la Mer which, at £340 for a 100ml pot, is a cost - and a cream - I'd feel too guilty to absorb.

Instead, my high-five is to a man called Brandon Truaxe, the founder of Deciem, the brand behind The Ordinary beauty line. “The Ordinary brings to market ingredients that are well known, well proven, but typically overpriced and disguised as "new" innovation,” he has said. “There is nothing "luxurious" or "educated" about overpaying for commodity, no matter how effective that commodity is. Skincare is not like fragrance or fashion - it's functional and it's not about telling stories."

How refreshing.

The result of Truaxe's valiant efforts is a range of beauty products that are cheap but powerful - "Clinical Formulations with Integrity" it says on the very minimalist packaging, which I loved at first sight. The science boffins behind Deciem have chosen familiar and effective clinical ingredients (nothing pioneering for The Ordinary) which are bottled and sold at honourable prices without the huge markup. The "Buffet" Multi-Technology Peptide Serum, for example, will set you back a very reasonable £12.70 for 30ml, and that's the most expensive product in the range.

So I've swept aside my haphazard approach to products - namely whatever potion my last beauty therapist recommends - and for the last month have dedicated myself to being Ordinary. The website does without marketing schmalz, so you really need to know your ingredients and what they do for you. I went to a concession of The Ordinary in House of Fraser on Oxford Street and talked through the best beauty regimen for me. I came out clutching 5 of their creations, and here's the lowdown on what I think of them.

"Buffet" - Multi-Technology Peptide Serum - £12.70 for 30ml. Use AM and PM after cleansing. This anti-ageing formula includes all sorts of peptide complexes in a base of 11 skin-friendly amino acids and multiple hyaluronic acid complexes - meaning firmer, plumper, less wrinkled skin. The pipette delivers a cloudy viscous liquid that feels quite sticky on contact with skin, but then it sinks right in on massaging and gets to work. It gives an instant glow and I really believe its helped soften fine lines around my eyes. It's fragrance-free and very mild, so suitable for everyone.

Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion - £8 for 30ml. Use PM after "Buffet" serum. Everyone's been harping on about retinoids for ages and I even interviewed skincare expert Tina Richards about it previously for Storytellhers. It's a form of vitamin A that promotes faster skin cell turnover and reduces collagen breakdown. This particular one is an advanced retinoid complex that delivers results without irritation. I've used an over-the-counter retinol product once before and was left with horrendously inflamed and flaky skin. This retinoid in a pipette is a milky emulsion that absorbs easily. There's been no irritation at all, and I believe it's a great stepping stone to the next in strength of the 5 other retinoid products that The Ordinary sells (right up to the 'Retinol 1% in Squalene, High Strength, Very High Irritation'). I've been told I need to build up a tolerance before moving onto the next strength, but that retinoids are a sure-fire way to younger looking skin.

100% Organic Cold-Pressed Rose Hip Seed Oil - £9 for 30ml. I love a facial oil in the evening - it makes my skin feel silky smooth and is the perfect slippery base for some facial massage techniques (I've been doing this religiously since my Storytellhers article on the magic of Face Gym). Rosehip Seed Oil is rich in linoleic acid, linolenic acid and pro-vitamin A, all of which degrade when the oil extraction process involves heat. The Ordinary's cold-pressed extraction preserves all of the quality of this important oil which has been shown to reduce signs of photo-ageing. It has a tawny colour and a musky (not unpleasant) natural scent because of its high omega fatty acid content. It glides onto the skin and feels very nourishing overnight.

Natural Moisturising Factors + HA - £6.80 for 100ml. With multiple amino acids, fatty acids, triglycerides, urea, ceramides, phospholipids, glycerin, saccharides, sodium PCA and hyaluronic acid, this is a good mix of hydrating and skin replenishing ingredients. They're all present on our skin anyway as part of its protective barrier, so this cream is good for patching the face up naturally. The product doesn't have antioxidant goodies, but it's perfect for when I just feel like a little extra hydration on top of the regular routine. This formula comes in a squeeze tube and is super light and silky on skin. I know I will particularly cherish it when winter comes.

Mineral UV Filters SPF 30 with Antioxidants - £8.90 for 50ml. No matter the time of year, I haven't gone out without sun protection on my face since I was 25. It's one of two things I've been really pedantic about (the other is always, always cleansing my face before bed, no matter how inebriated I might be). Mineral sunscreens reflect the sun's rays instead of converting them into heat and dispersing them from the skin as chemical sunscreens do (beauty expert Gill Sinclair of Victoria Health picks a few of her favourites for Storytellhers here). I'm always on the hunt for sunscreens that are kind, effective and melt easily into the skin. This formula from The Ordinary avoids the use of nanoparticles and uses a refined dispersion of micronized zinc oxide and titanium dioxide (and not the anatase form of it since it's an aggressive producer of free radicals). As well as having that all important SPF protection, it offers antioxidant, hydration, and anti-irritant support - all in an easy squeezy tube format. So it sounds great on paper, but it does leave a chalky residue in practice. I wouldn't use this as an everyday sunscreen, but I'd take it to the beach for extra protection.