Review - The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5
Updated: Jul 13, 2020
I am very late to join The Ordinary's game, especially their brand philosophy seems right up my alley (scientific & no-frill skincare). In my defence, when the brand first came out I was pregnant so I just wanted to curl up in my couch and eat and care about absolutely nothing else. And I did. Half a year ago, I finally got my hands on some products in this range and their hyaluronic acid (HA) was the first one I tried. HA is probably my favourite skincare ingredient in the world. I first used HA about 15 years ago and it was a life-changer.
What is hyaluronic acid
Recently I wrote a fairly detailed article for my makeup team's blog specifically on this ingredient. Some key concepts are extracted here.
Hyaluronic acid works as a "humectant" in skincare products, meaning that it retains water to prevent loss of moisture from skin. When skin is hydrated, the look of fine lines and wrinkles are diminished. Hydrated skin is also better at regulating oil production than dehydrated skin.
Some of the different variations of hyaluronic acids used in skincare are:
hyaluronic acid - it can hold up to 6000 times its weight in water
sodium hyaluronate - this is the salt form of hyaluronic acid. It penetrates skin better but it binds water of up to 1000 times (as opposed to 6000 times) its weight
sodium hyaluronate crosspolymer - this is a modified form of sodium hyaluronate to allow it to work longer on the skin for enhanced hydration
low molecular weight hyaluronic acid - this refers to fragmented hyaluronic acid chains for enhanced penetration
My top tip for using hyaluronic acid is to use it on moist or even slightly wet skin, so to provide the water for the hyaluronic acid to "bind to". Hyaluronic acid itself without water does not provide as much benefit as it can be when used with water. After using hyaluronic acid, "seal" the moisture in with an occlusive (a moisturiser or a facial oil) to slow down the evaporation of water.
About The Ordinary's Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5
First thing to note is that the formulation contains two different forms of HA: sodium hyaluronate and crosspolymer, to offer enhanced penetration and longevity. Second, the concentration is bang on. Even though 2% doesn't sound very high, it actually is about the highest concentration that should be used on skin. Because HA has an extremely high affinity for water, a higher concentration may draw water back out from the skin. Third, the addition of B5 is a bonus. Topical B5 is known to have hydrating function and supports the skin's natural barrier.
This HA is super thick and viscous compared to all the other HA serums I have used (e.g. Dermalogica's Skin Hydrating Booster, Ultraceutical's Ultra B Hydrating Serum). When it is dried, it has a sticky and tacky finish, which puts me off from using it during the day as I want to be able to layer all my other skincare and makeup on top fairly quickly. I also noticed that it pills (balls up) with a lot of my other things - rose hip oil, moisturiser, primer... this being the case even when I use just one drop of The Ordinary HA. I was disappointed as I had some high hopes for this product. Maybe this is just a case of you get what you pay for (The Ordinary HA is $12.90, compared to Dermalogica's Skin Hydrating Booster $91.50 / Ultraceuticals' Ultra B Hydrating Serum $89).
Having now experimented this for a few months I come up with 2 ways to use this product:
1. Apply the next layer of skincare quickly, within seconds. The Ordinary HA only pills when I apply other products once it is completely dried. So to avoid pilling, I need to immediately apply my oil and/or moisturiser before the HA is dried. In that sense, I am not really "layering" my skincare but more like "mixing" in the HA with other things, which is still beneficial.
2. I use it after my other actives. Because The Ordinary HA pills when I layer another product on top, one way to avoid pilling is to use it as one of the last steps in my skincare regimen. When I use actives (e.g. Vitamin C, AHA) in the evening, I like to use them as the first layer for them to work effectively. If I need a boost of hydration, I let the active work for about 30 minutes, followed by a mist before applying a drop of The Ordinary HA. I then very carefully "pat" some moisturiser on top of the HA to seal in the serum before going to bed.
I don't question the effectiveness of this HA serum. Whenever I use it my skin feels very plumped and hydrated. It is a very effective HA when it is used on moist or wet skin. It's just a bit fiddly when I need to apply subsequent layers of skincare. I would highly recommend it for those who have not used HA before and wanted to see if HA works for their skin. For $12.90 there is nothing to lose! However, I prefer to use a product that is better formulated in terms of feel and finish, even if it means I need to spend more.
Overall rating 3/5
Makeup artist and hair stylist based in Sydney. Founder of the well-known award-winning bridal specialist team Faces Makeup and Hair. Beauty junkie with an obsession for skincare.