What Are the Best The Ordinary Products for Acne (And How Can I Use Them In a Routine)?

Since its launch in 2017, The Ordinary (which sits under parent company, Deciem) has become a mainstay beauty brand among celebs, influencers, editors and TikTok’ers alike. Known for their no-frills, science-backed and highly affordable skincare, the biggest challenge for most people is figuring out exactly which products to try and how to effectively use them in a routine.

As you know, there is no “one size fits all” approach when it comes to skincare; we all have different needs at different times. However, we can help you narrow down your choices.

Let’s start with the most common skin condition in the United States that affects up to 50 million people annually: acne. (Another four-letter word comes to mind when we think about the years of breakouts we’ve experienced through our lifetime...)

The good news is there are plenty of affordable products you can try from The Ordinary that can help the sitch, depending on the severity of your acne.

We spoke to a rep from the brand, who wanted to note: “For someone who is experiencing chronic acne, we would recommend seeing a dermatologist, as it is considered to be a medical condition. Your dermatologist can prescribe certain medications like benzoyl peroxide or retinoic acid that can treat your breakouts. Our products cannot be considered a medical treatment for acne. However, we have plenty of options that can help reduce the appearance of spots and blemishes.”

In short: Manage your expectations and if you have widespread, painful or persistent acne that won’t go away with over-the-counter products, it may be time to see a board-certified dermatologist for a thorough evaluation and tailored regimen.

If you have mild to moderate acne or looking to cut back on shine from excess oils on your skin, here are the best The Ordinary products to consider.

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The Best Routine For Occasional Breakouts

For someone who gets the occasional breakout, you may want to explore products that don’t need to be a part of your daily routine, but rather a weekly treatment to keep your skin balanced and troubleshoot the rare breakouts as the pop up.

The Ordinary Salicylic Acid 2% Masque

For occasional breakouts, try this weekly exfoliating masque featuring charcoal, kaolin clay, squalane, and salicylic acid. The ingredients in this formula work together to soak up excess oils and get rid of dead skin cells, so your skin feels more refreshed and looks clearer overall.

The Ordinary Aha 30% + Bha 2% Peeling Solution

A bestseller for the brand, this potent blend of alpha hydroxy and beta hydroxy acids deliver both a surface level exfoliation as well as a deeper exfoliation underneath the skin to clear out congested pores. Soothing ingredients like Tasmanian Pepperberry derivative, vitamin B5 and hyaluronic acid are added to balance things out (but make sure to use as directed on the label, which is no more than twice a week and don’t leave it on longer than ten minutes per application).

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The Best Routine For Oily Skin

For someone with very oily skin, you’re going to need more consistency in your skincare regimen to keep things in check. Ahead, our top three Ordinary products to add to your daily routine that can help balance sebum production so you’re not excessively shiny.

The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%

Niacinamide (also known as vitamin B3) is a superstar ingredient that works well for many skin types, including oily skin. As Manish Shah, M.D., a board-certified plastic surgeon and anti-aging skin expert, shared with us: “Niacinamide works with the natural substances in your skin to help visibly improve enlarged pores, uneven skin tone, fine lines and wrinkles, dullness and a weakened surface. Other benefits are that it helps renew and restore the surface of the skin against moisture loss and dehydration by helping skin improve its natural production of skin-strengthening ceramides.” This lightweight serum combines the power ingredient with zinc PCA to help combat visible shine, enlarged pores and irregular skin texture.

The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5

As counterintuitive as it seems, keeping your skin well hydrated is key for combatting excess shine. (If your skin is dehydrated, it will signal your skin to produce more oil.) For lightweight moisture, try pressing a few drops of this serum to clean skin. The silicone-free formula features three molecular weights of hyaluronic acid to ensure it penetrates every layer of skin. HA is a humectant, meaning it draws water to skin to plump it with hydration. It can hold up to 1,000 times its weight in water without being greasy or heavy, so it’s ideal for all skin types.

The Ordinary 100% Plant-derived Squalane

Top everything off with some squalane, which is a plant derived ingredient that can help to balance the skin and support hydration. Press just a couple drops onto your face and neck in place of a heavier lotion or cream.

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The Best Routine For Sensitive Skin And Breakouts

If you’re someone who has sensitive skin and experiencing breakouts, first off, we feel your pain. Since many of the commonly used ingredients to combat acne can be too aggressive on your skin, you’ll want something that can help unclog pores without causing further irritation.

The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid* 2% Emulsion

Despite its many benefits, retinoid has one major downside: It can be majorly irritating, especially when you first begin using it. This two percent concentration of retinoid features a complex of solubilized hydroxypinacolone retinoate, which has been shown to offer the benefits of the potent ingredient without the common drawbacks (namely irritation and dryness) that are common. Apply a small amount at night, after any other serums but before any oils or moisturizers.

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The Best Routine Post Acne Hyperpigmentation

So, you’ve finally gotten over the humps (and bumps) of acne, but now you’re dealing with those pesky dark spots that linger long after the pimple has flattened. It’s annoying, yes, but the solution pretty much comes down to exfoliation and, of course, vigilant sun protection moving forward.

The Ordinary Alpha Arbutin 2% + Ha

Alpha Arbutin is an increasingly popular ingredient for treating hyperpigmentation because it has the brightening effects of hydroquinone (an effective spot-fading ingredient that has raised concerns for being toxic and has since been banned in Europe and Japan) without the potential safety risks. It works by inhibiting the production of melanin in your skin, which is what causes those stubborn marks to form in the first place. This concentrated serum features both alpha arbutin and hyaluronic acid to gently brighten up spots over time while hydrating your skin.

The Ordinary Azelaic Acid Suspension 10%

Another star ingredient for fading dark spots is azelaic acid. A naturally occurring ingredient found in barley, rye and wheat, it’s an anti-inflammatory and antibacterial agent that can help treat active breakouts, while also gently exfoliating dead skin cells. This lightweight gel cream offers a whopping ten percent concentration of pure azelaic acid to brighten overall skin tone and improve skin texture.

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Sofia Kraushaar for PureWow

A Comprehensive Routine For Acne Prone Skin

And if you’re looking for a full routine to troubleshoot mild to moderate acne, here’s a well-rounded regimen to get you started (that costs less than 50 bucks for the whole thing, including the weekly treatment).


1.) The Ordinary Squalane Cleanser ($8)

2.) The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 ($7)

3.) The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% ($6)

4.) The Ordinary Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA ($6)

5.) Sunscreen


1.) The Ordinary Squalane Cleanser ($8)

2.) The Ordinary Mandelic Acid 10% + HA ($7)

3.) The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 ($7)

4.) The Ordinary Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA ($6)


1x per week, at night on clean dry skin, use The Ordinary Salicylic Acid 2% Masque ($12) for no longer than two minutes. Follow with normal PM routine, but skip The Ordinary Mandelic Acid 10% + HA on these nights.

Jenny Jin Headshot Vertical 2023

Beauty Director

Jenny Jin is PureWow’s Beauty Director and is currently based in Los Angeles. Since beginning her journalism career at Real Simple magazine, she has become a human encyclopedia of...