After I published “Sorry, I can’t get it up for the Ordinary” a few days ago, several readers noted that I wrote “The good news is that there are plenty of lines doing the science-backed-but-affordable thing better imo” and asked which ones. Here are the brands I had in mind. With the exception of one (Timeless), I’ve tried at least one product from each. You may know most of these brands already and consider this list quite obvious, but I wanted to put it out there for the people who maybe got into skincare due to the Ordinary and want to try something similar but different.
For the most part, these brands aren’t as ~sciencey~ as the Ordinary. Science, too, can be marketing and noise, and I don’t think that a brand needs to coat everything in science in order to be effective (all brands use science to make products with the exception of some truly batshit natural lines). As far as many of the products are concerned, the Ordinary is, yes, quite ordinary.
My perspectives on the following brands are very much influenced by their acid formulations since 1) I like acids a lot and tend to grab any that interest me and 2) acids tend to be overpriced and under-delivering imo. Acids obviously need to be formulated based on science. But maybe not so much *・゜ﾟ・* ~science~ *・゜ﾟ・*.
7 Skincare Brands Like the Ordinary
My recommendation: Bravura London
Bravura London combines effective formulations with some extra frills and beautiful, colorful packaging.
The good: the products, for me, are pleasant to use, effective, and still totally affordable even when shipping from the UK to the US. You can get some skincaretainment and serious exfoliation at a great price.
The bad: why do all the toners smell like Pixi Glow Tonic cousins? 🙁 The packaging isn’t the most functional (wide-mouth toner jars seem like an accident waiting to happen).
My recommendation: Makeup Artist’s Choice (MUAC)
Makeup Artist’s Choice (MUAC) is the spot for peel-grade acids and other [less peely] acid-containing skincare that’s a step up from the bare-bones brands below.
The good: stated acid percentages, pH levels that make sense, warnings related to sunscreen use and whether products can safely be used by skincare fans with darker skin without loss of melanin. This is science without the show, and the products fucking WORK. Lots of things can be purchased in sample size, there are frequent discounts, and shipping is fair.
The bad: their website is really really not good. The products tend to cost more than those from the Ordinary.
Pretty bare-bones: Silk Naturals
The good: incredibly cheap per ounce.
The bad: there’s not much in the formulations that will soothe your skin or make the experience more pleasant.
Pretty bare-bones: Garden of Wisdom
GoW is mainly known as an ingredient supplier, but they do offer some products that can serve as ready-to-use, finished skincare.
The good: affordable, stripped-down, effective skincare.
The bad: this is probably going to be too stripped down for most people. I tried the 8% lactic acid pads (the ingredients are literally lactic acid and water) and they nearly took my face off due to offering zero skin soothing (I kinda liked it tho heh). You kind of need to know what you’re doing already to sub in these products/ingredients.
Korean beauty fan favorite: COSRX
Kbeauty superstar COSRX started as a brand mainly popular on international skincare fan boards like Reddit, and has since actually become popular in Korea and with makeup and skincare gurus who really don’t know much about Korean beauty at all.
The good: gentler acid formulations that work out to be cheap per ounce. You could basically craft a whole routine using just COSRX products that lots of people love.
The bad: for my skin, the Korea-approved acids are too gentle and really don’t do much. Also the acids smell terrible.
Korean beauty fan favorite: Mizon
Once the spot for affordable, sciencey kbeauty, Mizon has been eclipsed by COSRX, but don’t count the longtime international fan favorite out; their classic formulations still deliver.
The good: essences and serums with science-backed ingredients can be bought on Amazon Prime for the cost of lunch in Midtown Manhattan.
The bad: some of the most famous formulations have disappeared from market temporarily in the past. Stanning Mizon can be nerve-wracking.
I haven’t tried it, but lots of people have: Timeless Skincare
I haven’t tried anything from Timeless Skincare, most famous for their Skinceuticals vitamin c dupe (above), but my friend Fiddy has, and she deemed it worth buying. That’s pretty major considering the trickiness of l-aa formulations.
Any brands that you’ve tried and think fit into the sciencey-and-affordable sweet spot like the Ordinary?
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