The Ordinary Lactic Acid | Chemical Exfoliators > Physical Exfoliators?

Hey everyone! Did you miss me last weekend? For those of you that hadn’t noticed, I did end up skipping last week’s post: I had my first exam on Wednesday, so focusing on revision felt like the right thing to do. One down, five more to go!

Now, who else loves affordable skincare? Keeping your skin looking beautiful can be tough when you’re also trying to pay your rent! I mentioned in my Garnier Skinactive review that I wanted to keep the cost of my routine down, so I decided to finally try out last year’s superstar budget brand, The Ordinary.


I picked up their Lactic Acid 5% + HA for just £5.50 from Asos back in February, to replace my Bioderma Hydrabio Exfoliating Cream (around £11/12, depending on sources). Other than the price difference, I had a couple of extra reasons to try switching to a chemical exfoliator:

  1. Physical exfoliators tend to be quite abrasive, and frequent use can damage your skin. There are lots of articles out there that will tell you that using them daily could create micro tears in your skin and do it more bad than good.
  2. Micro beads. I haven’t checked if this particular product contains them, but these are now banned in the UK as of January this year, and I’ve had this exfoliator since last year. The tiny pieces of plastic in your skincare are too small to be filtered out by our water system, so they end up in the rivers and oceans and are ingested by fish. Best to stop using this one altogether!


Chemical peels, which contain AHAs, are extremely popular at the moment (no idea what I’m taking about? Stephanie Nicole’s video on them is super informative). The most popular one currently is Glycolic Acid, which is found in toners such as the Pixi Glow Tonic. I wanted to go for one of these, but reading the product description I was worried it would leave my skin sensitive and red. After some research on the topic, I decided to try lactic acid, as most sources said it would be good for dry skin. My main concerns at the time were flakes of dry skin around my spots, and texture on the apples of my cheeks.

The product comes in a glass bottle with a dropper, and you get 30 ml of product. The Ordinary’s aim is to keep products affordable by reducing costs in other areas of the business, such as marketing and advertising. This is also reflected in the packaging: it comes in a simple cardboard box, with no frilly exciting details. Apparently, this also means scrimping on the printing of the instructions. Here’s what they tell you:

Apply once per day, ideally in the PM. Can be diluted with other treatments to reduce strength until skin develops tolerance. Avoid contact with eyes.


So no information on how to actually apply the product. I thought it might be used like a toner, on a piece of cotton, but after asking in a Facebook group, I found out it’s used more like a serum. Personally, I would probably prefer paying a pound or two more if it meant having proper instructions.

I started by applying it a couple of times a week so that my skin could get used to it. As I couldn’t feel any sort of tingling or reaction, I increased it almost every night, avoiding it when my spots look particularly nasty. In comparison, I was only using the Bioderma product twice a week.

There is definitely a visible difference in my skin by the morning. Most of the flakey, dry skin patches are gone, except the ones that are on spots earlier in their healing. This effect lasts into most of the day, whereas with a physical exfoliator, my skin can look dry a few hours later. I took a photo this morning before applying any sort of skincare, and while I have some bad spots thanks to stress and hormones, there is no flakey dry skin in sight!


I’ve been using this solidly for over a month now, and I am noticing some long term improvements too. The texture I had on the top of my cheeks is gone! I still get the odd blackhead/spot there, but nothing that seems to stay permanently like before. The biggest difference is in the application of my skincare, both before bed and the morning after using it: everything seems to glide on smoothly, and my skin does feel a little more plump. I also mentioned in my review of the Fast Base foundation a few weeks ago that on days where I didn’t use the acid, the foundation wore very badly and didn’t last. I just always seem to really like the way my makeup looks whenever I’ve used the acid, and I haven’t felt the need to reach for my Bioderma exfoliator.

One important note about using an AHA is that it does increase your skin’s sensitivity to the sun. As a result, I mentioned in my Second Hand Outfits Haul that I have now added the Vichy Ideal Soleil Velvety Face Sun Cream SPF50+ to my routine. It’s an extra step, yes, but you really should be using one daily to keep your skin looking good anyway!


While I do really enjoy this Lactic Acid, the issue with it is unfortunately the company behind it, Deciem, and in particular its CEO. Recently there have been a lot of issues on their social media, which as I understand is now run by the CEO in question. I personally don’t follow them, however it seems there have been some unsavory responses to customers, a more recent example including anti-semitic comments. There have also been reports of poor treatment of employees. While their products remain very popular, a lot of people are starting to look for alternatives, and if the situation has not improved by the time I run out of this Lactic Acid, I think I’ll be one of them.

You can purchase the Ordinary from Cult Beauty, Beauty Bay and Asos.

What’s your opinion on the The Ordinary? Leave me a comment below to let me know!