How To Layer The Ordinary

Updated January 2023

How To Layer The Ordinary Products – Beginner´s Guide To Layering Skincare Products

  1. Water-Based Solutions
  2. Anhydrous
  3. Oil
  4. Emulsion *
  5. Suspension *

*These 2 can cause confusion!

How to Layer The Ordinary

The complete beginner´s guide to layering The Ordinary

Hello Deciem Addicts! So, you have probably just heard about The Ordinary, ordered a whole load of products and now wondering how to apply them and in which order. You´re not alone, and I hope this page helps you.

The Ordinary Solutions – How To Layer The Ordinary

Here´s a quick chart with all The Ordinary products in their solutions and you would add them in the order from left to right although there are a few exceptions. So make sure you continue to read the rest of the page!

The Ordinary Solutions – How to layer The Ordinary Products

Layering your products in the correct order is important to learn for the products to penetrate the skin and do their job.

This is the general rule for layering your skincare products. On each box, it does say where to apply the product. Emulsion & Suspensions are tricky as there are conflicting answers from The Ordinary. Sometimes The Ordinary say emulsions before suspensions, and sometimes they say suspensions after emulsions.

  1. Water-Based Solutions
  2. Anhydrous
  3. Oil
  4. Emulsion *
  5. Suspension *

* The reason these 2 are starred is that they cause confusion. For example – Azelaic Acid – it has been mentioned by Deciem (in FAQs on Social Media) to use before and after moisturiser and apply whichever suits you.

Here is a longer version of layering skincare products, including cleanser + SPF;

  1. Cleanser
  2. Water-Based Solutions
  3. Eye Serums
  4. Anhydrous Solutions
  5. Oils
  6. Creams *
  7. Suspensions *
  8. SPF

How to layer skincare tips

  • Firstly, do not stress. Relax, learn and enjoy pampering yourself.
  • You can now build your very own personalized The Ordinary Skincare Routine here.
  • 2/3 drops of each serum is all you need. If you feel you need more, use more.
  • A pea-sized amount of creams for the face and neck. If you feel you need more, use more.
  • Massage or pat until each product is absorbed before applying the next.
  • The Ordinary says to use no more than 3 serums in one routine.
  • If using multiple water-based products, use the one for the skin concern you wish to target the most.
  • Always check conflicts and when the product should be used, ie. AM/PM. If you have products that conflict, use them in alternate routines.

The Ordinary Products By Solutions

Water-Based Products = 1

Anhydrous Solutions = 2

Add number 2 to all these products if you have them. These should be applied after water solutions (if used) and before oils/creams.

Oil-Based Products = 3

Oils should be applied after water solutions but before creams/emulsions. Some people use these as their very last step. Deciem recommends oils before heavy creams like Natural Moisturising Factors. See which way works for you. You can always mix a couple of drops of oil into the Natural Moisturizing Factors.

Emulsions = 4

This is where it gets a little more confusing, and you need to do a bit of free-thinking. Emulsions/Creams are supposed to be the last step, but this doesn’t really work except for the Natural Moisturising Factors and the Sun Creams.

Suspensions = 5

These products cause a bit of confusion. The Ordinary originally recommended using these products before a cream like Natural Moisturising Factors. Now The Ordinary recommends using these after, but they have also mentioned to people to use whichever way suits them.


Mix these with the suggested products.

The Ordinary Regimen Examples

You can see numbers (as above) in bold, which hopefully will help you understand how to layer The Ordinary. Remember, thinnest / clearest to heaviest / opaque. This is the order, but it doesn’t mean you have to always use all 4 of them. You might do 2+3 or 1+1 or 1+2.

The Ordinary Skincare Routines – How To Build Your Skincare Routine

Below are some examples of skincare routines. You can find lots more routines here. The Ordinary routines include rosacea, signs of ageing and lots of personalised routines.

Signs of Ageing
Morning: Squalane Cleanser,  Buffet (1), Natural Moisturising Factors (4), SPF
Evening: Squalane Cleanser, Buffet (1), Retinoid
Dehydration Routine
Morning: Hyaluronic Acid & Natural Moisturizing Factors  (1 + 4)
Evening: Hyaluronic Acid,  Plant-Derived Squalane (1 + 3)
Note: Alternatively, Marula Oil or Moroccan Argan Oil can be used instead of Plant-Derived Squalane in the PM.

Deciem – How To Create A Skincare Routine & How To Layer The Products

The Ordinary Conflicts

Hopefully, you are a bit clearer on how to layer The Ordinary and all the different solutions. Now to the really confusing part, the conflicts. The products you should not use in the same routine. There is also a NIOD conflicts chart too.

Keep The Ordinary Simple

The Ordinary recommends only using ONE of the following in any routine.

  • Direct Acids
  • Pure/Direct Vitamin C
  • Retinol/Retinoids
  • Peptides/Copper Peptides (non-copper peptides can be used with Retinol/Retinoid)

Some Tips

If a product has too many conflicts (e.g. Buffet + Copper Peptides), you could find it challenging to use alongside your other products. Think before buying.

Create your own skincare routine online, or use one of the existing routines so you can be sure all the products can be used together.

Don’t buy too many products of the same solution or category and stick to the same routine for a good few weeks for the best results.

I know from experience that when you first hear about The Ordinary you will fill your basket up because the products look so cheap. But please, don’t waste your money. You will end up with lots of products that conflict and not enough time to use them all.

Why you should start slowly?

If you use 3 products all at once for the first time and your skin has a reaction, how will you know which product caused it? That’s why it´s important to introduce one product at a time.

Patch Testing The Ordinary

The Ordinary recommends patch-testing all products before use. In reality, the majority of people will not patch test, but you have been warned! If you decide not to patch test, at least introduce one product at a time. Read how to patch-test The Ordinary here.

The Ordinary Layering Guide – photo from The Ordinary

This is a guide from The Ordinary on how to layer products. The Ordinary recommends no more than 3 serums in a routine, and they are not saying to do all 8 steps here. You may only use cleanser + Water-based Serum + Creams + SPF in a routine or cleanser + Anhydrous + Creams + Suspension + SPF as an example. If you layer too many products, you may experience “pilling”, where you will have lots of bits coming off your face once you apply your SPF or makeup, and it is not a nice feeling.

How to layer The Ordinary
Photo from The Ordinary

Remember – this is the order of how to layer your skincare products, but you DO NOT need to use all these products.