The Ordinary Alpha Lipoic Acid 5%, Granactive Retinoid 2% in Squalane, Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%, and Resveratrol 3% + Ferulic Acid 3%

February 24, 2018
The Ordinary Alpha Lipoic Acid 5% ($6.80), Granactive Retinoid 2% in Squalane ($9.60), Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% ($5.90), and Resveratrol 3% + Ferulic Acid 3% ($7.90)

I have thoroughly tried four more serums from The Ordinary, and these are all under the $10 mark. Two are definite favorites from The Ordinary line, and two were somewhat disappointing. I love the low price point, which allows me to try lots of new active ingredients for the first time and see how they work for my skin, and I also really enjoy that the Ordinary’s products often have very no-nonsense ingredients. This time around I will be reviewing the Alpha Lipoic Acid 5%, Granactive Retinoid 2% in Squalane, Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%, and Resveratrol 3% + Ferulic Acid 3%.

Alpha Lipoic Acid 5% ($6.80)

I didn’t entirely know what to expect from the alpha lipoic acid serum, as The Ordinary simply says it will improve skin tone and texture. A lot of the description focuses on the physical properties of the serum, and includes a warning that it can cause skin sensitivity if used too often since it’s a high concentration of ALA. The serum is listed in both the Direct Acids and Antioxidants categories.

The ALA, or thioctic acid, is carried in a base of propanediol, which can feel a bit oily when first applied on the skin but sinks in to just be lightly hydrating and I find it layers really well under moisturizer. This serum is only appropriate for use in the evening because the ALA is light sensitive, and suggested frequency of use is twice per week.

It’s true that after a few times of using it I’d feel a small sting when applying it to my skin, but it only lasts a minute or so. I will also say that once it has sat on my skin for about 60 seconds, it starts to smell a bit funny on my face. Nothing terrible, but that combined with the sensitivity makes it feel like a very active serum, formulated for efficacy more than an aesthetic experience. That being said, I still think the propanediol is a good texture that doesn’t cause any problems when combined with other skincare.

In terms of results, I think this makes a very noticeable difference in both the brightness and texture of my skin that I notice in the morning after using it. It brightens uneven tone faster than a vitamin C serum would, and goes above and beyond by also making my skin feel smoother. This is simply one of my very favorite products that I’ve tried from The Ordinary. I think the twice weekly application is the right fit for me, personally, and I’ve been consistent with it. Because I’m using so little of it week by week, the bottle is lasting much longer than a daily or twice daily serum would.

Granactive Retinoid 2% in Squalane ($9.60)

The Granactive Retinoids in a squalane base, available in 2% and 5% concentrations, are among The Ordinary’s pretty extensive line of retinol and retinoid serums. The retinoid complex that they call Granactive Retinoid is supposed to ease the side effects that are normally caused by these actives including irritation and peeling, and I love that it’s in a soothing and hydrating base of plant-derived squalane. It is intended to be applied in the evenings, and please note that it is particularly important to use sun protection when using retinoids to prevent damage to the skin.

This is my first retinoid and so I can’t compare it to others, but I’ve had great luck with this and haven’t experienced any irritation whatsoever. I think this has been key in easing my hormonal acne, which typically takes the form of small, stubborn bumps around my chin and jawline. I use this every night, and because of the oil texture it’s the last step in my skincare treatment routine before adding any eye and face creams on top. I only occasionally skip using it when I want to use a sleeping mask or something like that.

Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% ($5.90)

The niacinamide (vitamin B3) serum is described as a blemish treatment, and I’m familiar with other skincare products using B3 to help ease active acne, target the pigmentation of healing acne, and help even out and brighten the overall skin tone. I picked this serum out after having had good experiences with Korean products including the Too Cool For School Fresh Gore sleeping mask, YADAH Brightening Ampoule, and Innisfree Whitening Skin Solution masks, all of which feature niacinamide as a key ingredient.

I used this prior to starting the retinoid and ALA serum, and assumed it would help ease my hormonal acne the way that I found the YADAH serum did, but unfortunately after using the full bottle I really don’t think this did much for my skin at all. I really don’t know why that would be the case, but I would skip this in the future and have found other options from The Ordinary that work better for me. Aside from those results, I will say that the actual texture of the serum is all good and easy to work with, and it’s certainly affordable so the flop doesn’t feel like a big loss.

Resveratrol 3% + Ferulic Acid 3% ($7.90)

The resveratrol and ferulic acid serum is described as a formula that combines high concentrations of “two of the most powerful and important antioxidants in skincare.” I think resveratrol must be one of the most famous antioxidants, and ferulic acid is one that I hadn’t heard of until more recently when I began learning more about anti-aging skincare. Because of that, I was really more curious about the ferulic acid thinking it could help smooth my very minor fine lines under my eyes.

It’s a very simple blend of the two ingredients in a base of propanediol, much like the alpha lipoic acid serum, and so I think the texture is quite nice and easy to work with. The Ordinary also says it can be mixed in with other serums, particularly their vitamin C suspensions, though I have not tried doing this. Unfortunately, I got really bored of this while working my way through the bottle because I saw no difference in my skin, apart from the lightly moisturizing effect of the propanediol. Again, the low price tag means it wasn’t a big loss, but it ended up feeling like a waste of effort and I had to muster the motivation to use the last bits of the bottle up. Perhaps my expectations were out of line.

Have you tried these? Do you have any favorites from The Ordinary, or any products you can’t wait to try? I’d love to hear!

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