When it comes to skin care, plopping down the big bucks for quality ingredients is just what we expect when we shop. But one company is out to challenge what we think of as normal.
The Ordinary is a line of products crafted by Canadian beauty brand Deciem, a self-described “abnormal beauty company.” What makes The Ordinary anything but, is its no-nonsense approach to skin care. The line features a selection of serums and oils with names that read like the MVP roster of anti-aging ingredients: Advanced Retinoid 2%, Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%, Vitamin C Suspension 23%, and Hyaluronic Acid 2%. Each straightforward product highlights the active ingredient in the serum—if general anti-aging is the main concern, reach for the retinol; if blemishes and congestion are your main pain points, get the niacinamide and zinc mixture; and for brightening and moisture, grab the vitamin C and hyaluronic acid serum. Oh, and every product is less than $15, with many less than $10.
The low price tags may feel surprising—even off-putting for skin care devotees used to splurging for the best, but the company aims to be as transparent about its economics as it is about the ingredients. Speaking to the exorbitant prices we’ve come to expect from most skin care products, The Ordinary’s website says: “Commonplace technologies are referred to as groundbreaking and insensible pricing strategies confuse the audience, disguising commodity technologies as advanced.” To think of it another way, if you’re paying hundreds of dollars for a new “retinol,” is the actual ingredient what you’re really paying for?
That is, however, not to say that more expensive products don’t have their merits. In fact, other lines from Deciem, like Niod, feature products that are priced more in line with what you expect from an upscale brand. “Many factors affect the price of a cosmetic product,” says cosmetic chemist Kelly Dobos, who is not affiliated with Deciem. “Newer, technologically advanced ingredients like synthetic peptides can be expensive to prepare, and others like lactic acid are quite inexpensive.” What may be surprising is that basic skin care ingredients are so cheap to source that despite retail prices like $5 or $10, margins on sales of The Ordinary products are far higher than margins from some of Deciem’s other brands. Brandon Truaxe, creator of Deciem, tells Racked that “very high purity niacinamide costs under $10 per kilogram and so the cost of all materials in Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% is under $1.”
The Ordinary is also bare bones with no extra bells and whistles or fancy packaging. “In addition to research and development costs to create a new product, packaging and marketing are two factors that can drive the cost of the final product,” Dobos explains. “The Ordinary products are simplified formulations with basic packaging and are just one ounce in size. As for quality, any good cosmetic company strives to use the highest quality ingredients and performs safety and stability testing of their products before putting them on the market.” Bottom line: These products are simple and functional, but often, the best products are.