The brand, the products, the controversy: The Ordinary

The Ordinary -the brand that hasn’t stopped making headlines since it launched. The Ordinary is a sub-brand of Deciem, a company that houses ten different brands, all launched at the same time in 2013. Its tagline isn’t “The Abnormal Beauty Company” for nothing.

Hylamide products, another Deciem brand, at their store in Covent Garden.

the brand

The Ordinary was launched in 2016 and it experienced major growth at a fulminating speed.

The brand’s popularity stems from the fact its products consist mainly of a high concentration of proven effective ingredientes at a very low price relative to other comparable products in the market. I’m not a chemist or dermatologist, but a reasonable amount of research will prove to you as well that most options of skincare in the market are little more than glorified butter.

Shelves with The Ordinary products, in UV protective tinted glass.

Most products have at least one of three faults:

  • include unnecessary irritant ingredientes for the skin, like alcohol or fragrance, that add nothing to skincare;
  • claim to have “groundbreaking” or “patented” new technology for skincare yet the ingredientes have not been proven to be effective on whatever it is they claim they’re treating, or they actually do contain a good, effective, studied and proven ingredient but in such a low concentration it will be hard to see results;
  • sometimes the concentration is right, but the packaging ruins it all, because there are many ingredientes that deteriorate when exposed to light and air. Jar/tub packaging? Might as well spread it on your toast and eat it – considering the amount of air the product is exposed, it will work as well as putting it on your skin (don’t actually do it, though).

Beside housing its products in a type of packaging that will preserve the actual product, the branding is simple, professional, with no fluff. There is no “glow”, “radiance”, “youth” words in the names of the products – the name is of the active ingredient and it’s concentration. It actually looks like something you can buy at a pharmacy with a prescription, with words that only make sense to your doctor. The brand excludes fillers and untested components from it’s formulas.

The products

Critics will say that The Ordinary’s products are very one note, that you need several of them to have a balanced skincare routine, and the cost of buying the amount of products necessary to achieve this will add up to a not so cheap routine. I refute this theory, with simple math. You may need to layer abut 3 products of the ordinary for a complete skincare treatment (The Ordinary’s website actual has some example regimen guides, here).

Let’s say it’s 15 euros a product (usually it’s way less). Each bottle has 30 mL. Now where do you get a product with 90 mL, with the same concentration of the good ingredientes of the Ordinary, for 45 euros or less, in a packaging that will maintain the integrity of the product? If you can, please tell us. Spread the word.

My The Ordinary haul.

While in London, I went to their store in Covent Garden and entered to buy the Retinol 1%. It was 7,20£. The least expensive retinol product at that concentration that I have ever found. Shout out to the employees, because the store was packed and although they had their hands full, we were very well attended to. I only purchased the retinol product and they gave us as gifts two full size bottles of 100% Squalane, one for me and one for Sir Boyfriend.

Prior to going to London I actually ordered “The Buffet” from It was the first product I was interested to try because it is a more well rounded serum and I’m not one to have too many steps in my routine. This and a moisturising SPF on top, it’s my routine.

The “Buffet” doesn’t come with UV protective packaging because it’s components aren’t sensitive to light.

This won’t be an in depth review of these products. You need to give skincare 12 weeks to see results, and I’m nowhere near that. But I can give a first impression:

  • “Buffet” Multi-Technology Peptide Serum: it has great spread-ability. When it dries down it has a slightly tacky texture. Don’t over apply because it starts to flake off, specially if you’re layering with other products.
  • 100% Plant-Derived Squalane. It’s a hydrating product that’s enjoyable to use. It has a smooth, oil-like consistency. I used it on my legs as an SOS and notice a relief on my winter desert-like skin.
  • Retinol 1% in Squalane: be careful. The lovely sales assistant at the Covent Garden store warned me. And I still thought I knew better. Here’s the thing: my skin is very resilient and it doesn’t react easily to topically applied products. So, thrusting my skin due to its historical tolerance, the first (and only) time I applied this retinol solution I used a generous amount. The next day I was great. Second day fine. Third day I scaled like a snake in shedding season. My skin was sensitive, completely peeling below my eyes, and it took a week to heal itself. This is a known side effect of retinol, and I need to accustom my skin to it in smaller doses, but I’ll admit I’ve been a bit scared. Like someone who’s afraid of a little spice after wrongly thinking they could drink a bottle of sriracha. I just need to stop being a pussy and give it another go.

the controversy

For the major part of the year 2018, unfortunately, it’s wasn’t only good news that kept The Ordinary in everyone’s mouths. The CEO and founder, Brandon Truaxe, took over Deciem’s official instagram and things started going weird, not to say wrong. There are many published articles that will explain in detail what happened, but I’ll give you the gist of things. Truaxe started using this account to conduct business in a less than profissional way, first ending partnerships and terminating collaborations, then firing people, then responding a little more snappy than required to customers who were questioning his mental health state, then a series of seemingly random posts, one of which is a literal cry for help, alarming the fans with warnings that he was in danger,with no other explanation given at the moment or after the fact.

Some reports of former employees also came to surface, stating that the workplace was abusive. The last post was in October, in which Truaxe said all of Deciem’s operations would shut down over a manic fear that almost everyone involved in the company was partaking in financial crimes.

Display in Deciem’s store at Covent Garden, London

Estée Lauder, the huge beauty conglomerate that bought a 28% share of Deciem’s company, adding a stamp of recognition of it’s worth and potential, sued in order to remove Brandon Truaxe from the brand, and succeeded. The handling of the social media platforms by the former CEO was sinking the company with its controversial and downright confusing posts, with personal stances and opinions overstepping the company’s vision and mission.

The randomness and inconsistency of it makes it seem to me that something wasn’t right, health wise more than personality wise.

The Ordinary, and Deciem, did not shut down their operations. But the drama ended in the most tragic way Brandon Truaxe passed away on 21st of February, due to a fall from a building, that police deems non-suspicious and non-criminal. One could speculate about his mental stability at the time of this event, but as a disclaimer, nothing has been confirmed in that regard.

Regardless of the erratic behaviour of the last year, no one denies his vision and genius was admirable and rare in the industry. He left an amazing legacy.

Photos by Sir Boyfriend.

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