The Ordinary Acne

The Ordinary Products For Acne: How To Use Them

Acne is not just for teenagers; many adults have acne. No one wants it and getting rid of it can be an exercise in frustration, experimentation and throwing one serum, cleanser and retinoid after the other down the drain. This can be very annoying as well as expensive.

The Ordinary is one of the most talked-about beauty brands on the internet. Taking what was previously high end, pricy ingredients like retinol and peptides and making them accessible to everyone.

This is one of the great things about The Ordinary because their products are affordable it excludes very few people from having better skin.

Not surprisingly they have lots of great products perfectly suited to treating acne.

The Ordinary is renowned for labelling products with chemical formulas and ingredients rather than marketing hype fluffy names. If you have a degree in cosmetic chemistry and also know what type of skin you have the skin concerns you want to address then its the perfect brand for you.

But for most of us mere mortals, The Ordinary can be overwhelming and confusing. A lot of us don’t even understand our skin and it needs.

Let’s start with skin type. Do you have uneven skin tone? Dark spots? fine lines? Would you describe your skin as dry skin? Oily Skin? Sensitive skin? Acne prone skin? Combination skin? What is your skin texture? Rough? Bumpy? Flakey? Do you have clogged pores? Dark circles? Acne Scars? What are your skins concerns?Hormonal acne? Fine Lines? Enlarged pores.

All of these questions and more will affect how you develop your skincare. Then there is the ingredients and what exactly they do in a skincare product?

If you here reading about skin care then you already know your alpha hydroxy acid from your retinol. But do you know your ascorbyl glucoside from your ascorbic acid?

What is alpha arbutin vs mandelic acid? Do you know how to best support your skin barrier? What is your optimal skincare regimen? What better tretinoin vs niacinamide?

I get it though. Where do you start? What goes where and when? What about that red stuff that looks scary?

I have been paying attention to your requests so here is my guide:

How to Use The Ordinary Products For Acne.

First, let’s take a quick refresher on acne.

What Is Acne?

Acne is a skin condition that affects the pores of your skin. Each pore contains a sebaceous gland which secretes sebum (an oily waxy substance that keeps skin lubricated and flexible) and a hair follicle. When the pore gets blocked with dead skin cells, sebum, dirt and bacteria acne forms.

If the pores get infected then cystic acne occurs.

There are certain things that acne-prone skin needs to recover, and those things are surprisingly simple.

How To Treat Acne.

Acne at it’s most basic is clogged pores. Treating acne means unclogging the pores and removing excess sebum, skin cells and bacteria. Also to prevent them from becoming clogged again.

You also want to treat the inflammation that acne can cause, prevent hyperpigmentation and scarring and keep your skin surrounding the acne as healthy as possible.

It’s a simple skincare routine that only takes 4 steps in your morning and 3 steps in your night routine.

The Importance Of A Good Morning Skincare Acne Routine:

Step 1 Cleanse your skin

While we are sleeping our skin goes through a rebuilding and repair phase and it can sweep out debris in the form of sebum, sweat and dead skin cells onto your skin overnight.

It’s important to remove that build up gently in the morning before moving to the second step of treatments. Cleaning your skin is a great place to start using products designed to specifically treat acne , we’ll get to those in a minute.

Having clean skin also makes it easier for the treatment products that you are going to use in the second step to work better.

If your treatment serums have to get through a layer of grime before they can penetrate your skin and get to work, they are not going to work as effectively if at all. So always start with cleaning your skin.

The Ordinary currently only has one cleanser in its product line and fortunately, it’s good for acne. I recommend using a double cleanse morning and night when you’re treating acne breakouts.

You can use The Ordinary Squalane Cleanser as your first step in the double cleanse. You will then need to use a product containing benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid or both as your second step.

Benzoyl peroxide (BPO) and salicylic acid are both fantastic at fighting acne. BPO breaks down the top layers of your skin called the stratum corneum and clears out your pores. It also kills the bacteria known to cause acne, P. acnes.

Salicylic acid is a BHA and exfoliates the top layer of skin which softens the scale of the stratum corneum and can remove blackheads and whiteheads. It is also soothing to inflamed skin.

Both of these ingredients are great to have in your acne arsenal. You can check out the BPO and Salicyclic acid cleansers I recommend.

If you don’t want to do a second cleanse then you can add these to ingredients into your skincare routine in step 2.

Step 2 Treatments

This is where you apply ingredients to deal directly with acne and it’s symptoms.

If you haven’t used BPO or salicylic acid in your cleansing step then apply them now.

Note: If you have inflamed or cystic acne, dermatitis or rosacea then don’t use a product that contains salicylic acid as it can be too irritating. Also, you see a dermatologist if you have any of these issues.

The Ordinary product lines only contain a few ‘actives’ per formulation so it makes customising your routine easy.

When it comes to ‘treatment’ they can happen daily, a couple of times a week, or weekly.

I recommend that anything that takes more than a couple of minutes or will make your skin sensitive should be done at night rather than in the morning.

For this reason, you’ll see that the visual guide I have made doesn’t include weekly treatments in the morning routine.

Step 3 Moisturizing

Despite the ‘type’ of skin you have, dry, sensitive, oily etc. You will need to moisturize.

Moisturizing forms a protective barrier to prevent moisture loss as well as hydrating your skin. Your skin needs moisturizer even if it’s oily.

It’s also common to have sensitive or dry skin when you have acne so moisturizing is an important step.

You can use very lightweight watery moisturizers in creams, lotions or gels. The skin surrounding your acne also needs care.

Don’t treat your face like one giant pimple, acne no matter how bad you think it is won’t be covering 100% of your face.

The surrounding skin needs to also be kept healthy.

Step 4 Sunscreen

The final morning step in any skincare routine is sunscreen. I have said it a million times wear sunscreen every day. If your only prepared to do one thing to help protect your skin from ageing wear sunscreen every day – even when you’re not going outside.

Right, so those are the steps and the reasons you need a morning skincare routine. We’ll now look at how to incorporate The Ordinary skincare products which target acne into your morning routine.

Where do the ordinary products for acne fit into your morning skincare routine?

Step One – Cleansing

The Ordinary Squalene Cleanser

When it comes to cleansing, The Ordinary only has one product and it’s their squalene cleanser. The Ordinary have tried to develop this cleanser to be suitable for everyone. In my opinion, it is a good cleanser, but it’s not the greatest cleanser ever invented.

In an attempt to make a cleanser that ‘everyone’ can use they have made a cleanser that I feel doesn’t really clean the skin. it is however a good choice for the first step in a double cleanse.

It goes on like a balm and then turns into a clear oil that you then rinse off. It is gentle and non-drying but you will need to use a foaming or gel cleanser after this product.

What type of Squalane do The Ordinary use in their cleanser?

Squalane has an interesting history. It originally was made from sharks liver. Fortunately the ordinary use plant-derived squalane in all their products!

Your skin makes squalene (with an e) which it uses to moisturize and hydrate your skin. With age your skin ability to make squalene declines.

Because squalene also occurs in some plants and shark livers it can be harvested. It is very unstable once it is extracted so it has to be hydronated to keep it from going rancid. Hydronation changes the squalene from an unsaturated fat to saturated one. Saturated fats are very stable, and nourishing to the skin.

When squalEne is in it’s stabilised form it becomes squalAne.

Squalane is a lighter, stable oil that resists oxidation. Squalene is heavier, thicker and breaks oxidises very easily which can cause inflammation and clogged pores leading to acne breakouts. Our skins sebum production contains 13% squalene and 2.5% squalane.

Adding squalane to cleansers makes them feel super hydrating and gives a melting quality to the cleanser.


Squalane vs Squalene

Step 2 -Treatment

The next step in your routine is treatment. This is when you target your acne specifically and maintain the integrity of the rest of your skin that is not suffering from acne.

Note: When it comes to treatment serums from the ordinary start with the water-based serums and move up to the oil-based ones. Also the lower pH serums go before the higher pH. This does start to get confusing so I have just told you what order to put them on your face!

Salicylic Acid and Acne

Salicyclic Acid exfoliates your skin and soothes inflammation. This is a great product to help treat acne. The ordinary has 2 products with salicylic acid.

The Ordinary Salicylic Acid 2% Solution

Use this serum first after cleansing. Don’t combine this with Retinols, Vitamin C or 100% niacinamide powder.

The Ordinary Salicylic Acid 2% Masque

This is a paste-like mask which you use 1-2 times a week, ideally at night. We’ll get to using this mask when we go into the nighttime skincare routine.

Hyperpigmentation and Acne

Acne can cause hyperpigmentation. Hyperpigmentation is when your skin produces more melanin than normal and this causes dark usually uneven pigmentated patches on your skin.

After salicylic acid the next serum for targeting acne is niacinamide. Niacinamide regulates sebum and works as an anti-inflammatory. Niacinamide also helps fade hyperpigmentation and boosts the benefits of other skincare ingredients.

The Ordinary has 2 products that contain niacinamide specifically. The niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% and a 100% Niacinamide powder. I don’t recommend using the niacinamide powder for treating acne. I do however love the 10% serum.

The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%.

This is one of The Ordinary’s hero products and it should be placed on your skin after salicylic acid.

These are the only treatment serums you need in your morning routine. You can use one more serum in the moisturising step.

Step 3 Moisturizing

The best serum for acne is one that contains hyaluronic acid. Hyaluronic acid forms a barrier on the skin drawing water to it and keeping it there. Remember even if you have acne your skin needs moisture. Hyaluronic acid also has many other skin benefits so it’s a great product to include in your routine.

The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5

This is a super hydrating lightweight serum. It leaves your skin feeling plump and soothed. You can use this serum both morning and night.

The last step in your morning routine is sunscreen.

The Ordinary Sunscreens

The ordinary currently has two sunscreens they are both made up of the same ingredients and are mineral sunscreens. The only difference is that one has SPF15 and one has SPF 30. I recommend the higher SPF 30.

Note: The Ordinary sunscreens are not available in Australia. This is because Australia has strict requirements from sunscreens and requires proof that a suncare product meets its standards.

If you are in Australia you will have to use an alternative sunscreen. As I live in Australia I haven’t used The Ordinary sunscreen, but the ingredients are good and online reviews are generally positive.

So that is the morning skincare routine with The Ordinary For Acne Products.

Morning Routine

Step One: Cleanse with Squalane cleanser either on its own or as the first step in a double cleanse.
Step Two: Apply salicylic acid 25 and then niacinamide 10%.
Step Three: Apply Hyaluronic acid 2% + B5.
Step Four: Apply sunscreen.

The Ordinary Routine For Acne

The Ordinary Skincare Products For Acne Nighttime Routine

Your night time skincare routine can be as simple or as lavish as you like. Nighttime is often the best time to do more intensive treatments such as masks and peels.

Step One Cleanse

The night time cleanse needs to be a double cleanse . You have to remove makeup, sunscreen, pollution, and sebum build-up. You can use the squalane cleanser as your first step of the double cleanse and then use a foaming or gel cleanser for your second step.

It would be a good idea to use a cleanser with benzoyl peroxide if your skin, in general, is oily.

Step Two Treatments

The treatment step provides you with an opportunity to really get your acne under control. Here is where you can address clogged and congested pores. You can treat hyperpigmentation and reduce scarring.

Reducing inflammation and improving the texture of your skin overall can all be done in the treatment phase.

Again let’s keep this as simple as possible.

Glycolic Acid and Acne

Glycolic acid is an AHA and its primary function is exfoliating the top layer of skin. This is great if you have acne as it removes the trapped sebum and environmental debris from your pores.

The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution

This product delivers not only glycolic acid but the added benefits of soothing and radiance-boosting ingredients; ginseng root and aloe vera. Glycolic acid can be irritating to the skin so you use this product with caution.

If your skin can tolerate this, and again you may need to build up to it, use this nightly after cleansing. Apply it with your fingers or a reuseable cotton round.

If this product irritates your skin initially then try using it every second night.

If you still can’t tolerate it then try the gentler Lactic Acid 10% + HA.

The Ordinary Lactic Acid 10% + HA

This is also an AHA that exfoliates the skin. The formula also contains Tasmanian pepper berry which reduces inflammation and sensitivity. It also has hyaluronic acid which not only makes it gentle on the skin but provides moisture.

There is also a Lactic Acid 5%+ HA, this is a very mild and even more gentle exfoliator and suitable for the most sensitive and acne-prone skin.

Use Lactic Acid nightly after cleansing. you can apply with a reusable cotton round or with your fingers. Avoiding the eye area with this product and do not rinse it off.

Why is Azelaic Acid good for Acne?

This grain derived dicarboxylic acid is also produced by the yeast that lives on our skin. It works to gently exfoliate and clear away dead skin cells and dirt to unclog pores. Its antioxidant and antibacterial properties help to eliminate acne-causing bacteria. With azelaic acid’s ability to block the work of the enzyme tyrosinase, it helps to prevent pigmentation and to reduce acne scars, discolouration, and hyperpigmentation.

The Ordinary Azelaic Acid Suspension 10%

To improve skin texture and brightness, apply to the face at night after glycolic or lactic acid and before retinol. If you’re not using retinol then apply azelaic acid before moisturizing.

The Ordinary Retinol

The last step before applying moisturizer is retinol. The ordinary has 6 retinol products in their current line up. I have written an extensive guide about The Ordinary Retinol so you can find a retinol to suit your skin.

The Ordinary Night time treatment for acne

Weekly treatments

When treating acne there are products that are used once or twice a week. These products are too potent and possibly irritating to be applied to your face every day so it’s important you only use them as directed. Rinse them off immediately of they become itchy or you feel like they are burning your skin.

The Ordinary Salicylic Acid Masque

This mask works to treat current acne and protect against future breakouts. Because you leave this mask on for 10 minutes it has more time to target issues on both the surface level and deeper down in your skin.

It also allows other products to work more effectively by removing the top layer of dead skin cells so that they can penetrate the skin quickly.

How to use The Ordinary Salicylic Acid 2% Masque

This mask is applied after cleansing and on dry skin. Water reduces the effectiveness of this mask so make sure you pat your face dry and wait an additional 10 minutes before applying.

Apply a thin layer to your face avoiding the eye area. Leave it on for no longer than 10 minutes and then rinse it off with lukewarm water.

Follow up with Hyaluronic acid 2% + B5.

The Ordinary AHA 30% + 2% BHA Peeling Solution

This is one of The Ordinary’s cult status products. It combines AHA’s and BHA’s. This gooey, red product uses alpha hydroxy acids (AHA) to exfoliate the skin at surface level and beta hydroxy acids (BHA) which help clear congestion in the pores as well as help to exfoliate the skin.

Note : This formula is potent and contains very high levels of concentrated acids. You should only use this product if you have used other acidic masks before and your skin is not sensitive.

How To Use The Ordinary AHA 30% + 2% BHA Peeling Solution

Start with a clean, thoroughly dried face. Apply the product evenly across the face and neck with your fingertips avoiding the eye area. Even if you have conditioned your skin with glycolic acids, still use this product with caution.

Leave on for no more than ten minutes and then rinse thoroughly. It may tingle, but shouldn’t burn if it does rinse it off immediately. Avoid your eye area when rinsing this mask off, you do not want it in your eyes. Use weekly for the best results.

This product will increase your skin’s sensitivity to the sun, so make sure you are using sunscreen daily.

Note: When doing a weekly treatment miss out the nightly glycolic, lactic and/or azelaic acid step. Just go straight to the weekly treatment after cleansing.

Summary of an every night nighttime routine for acne using The Ordinary products :

Step One : Double cleanse using Squalane Cleanser as the first step of the double cleanse. Then use a foaming cleanser that contains Benzoyl Peroxide or a foaming cleanser of your choice.

Step Two: Apply glycolic Acid Solution 7% or Lactic Acid 5 or 10%. Then apply Azelaic Acid Suspension 10%.

Step Three: Moisturize with Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5.

Here is a summary of you are going to do a weekly treatment .

Step One: Double cleanse using Squalane Cleanser as the first step of the double cleanse. Then use a foaming cleanser that contains Benzoyl Peroxide or a foaming cleanser of your choice.

Step Two : Make sure your skin is complelty dry and then apply either Salicylic Acid 2% Masque or AHA 30% BHA 2% Peeling Solution. Leave on for 10 minutes and then thoroughly rinse off with lukewarm water.

The Bottom Line Of Using The Ordinary Products For Treating Acne

The Ordinary is one of my favourite skincare brands and when it comes to treating acne they have some great formulations.

Do I think that you can treat acne better with other products?

Possibly. I would always recommend the Glycolic Acid Toning Solution every time and also the AHA 30% + BHA 2% peeling solution. There are definitely better cleansers and lactic acids on the market than these from The Ordinary.

As always the price point of The Ordianry products makes it my first choice when recommending a well-formulated simple to use products.

Whatever skincare range, brand or product you use it comes to the right ingredients.

To treat acne you need ingredients that are able to:

  • Be able to clean out the pores from sebum, build up and bacteria that cause acne
  • Soothe inflammation and redness
  • Prevent and heal hyperpigmentation and scaring
  • Protect the skins moisture barrier
  • Keep the skin surrounding the acne healthy

Why I Like The Ordinary Products

The Ordinary products contain the right ingredients to achieve all of these goals. Their formulations are well designed and because they contain a small number of active ingredients it makes targeting certain issues easier.

This is also great for working out if an ingredient irritates your skin in an unhelpful way. When products contain many ingredients mixed together it’s hard to work out what is causing the irritation. With fewer ingredients, you can pinpoint the problem quickly.

My approach to skincare is always to go with the simplest approach possible. The least number of ingredients, no added fragrance, and that are backed by at some kind of ‘real’ science and to be as free from marketing hype as possible.

Again The Ordinary meets all of these criteria. Also as I mentioned before the price point of such quality ingredients is unmatched, except perhaps by The INKEY list.

Treating acne or any skin issue takes time and it is a matter of trial and error. Patience and the right active ingredients are key.

If you are on the fence about The Ordinary products or just didn’t know where to start with treating your acne I hope this guide was useful and good luck!

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