How To Layer The Ordinary

The idiot’s guide to layering The Ordinary

You’ve just received all your products, you’re super excited to start your new skincare routine but you have no idea how to layer The Ordinary.

Well, you’re not alone, and I really hope this page makes it a little easier to understand.

How To Layer The Ordinary

Layering skincare products should be applied from the thinnest / clearest to the heaviest / opaque.  I suggest you sort your products into the different solutions (water, emulsion, oil) and mark them 1, 2, 3, 4.  It´s all about layering the products so they are able to penetrate the skin.

The Ordinary Product Solutions

There are 5 different types of solutions (bases)

  • Water
  • Anhydrous
  • Suspension
  • Oil
  • Emulsion

Deciem recommend layering The Ordinary the following way;

  1. Water-based solutions first
  2. Anhydrous or oil formulations
  3. Emulsion / cream
  4. Suspensions, now this is the tricky one!  Some say suspension before emulsion/creams and some say after.  Deciem has mentioned that Vitamin C 23%, 30% and Azelaic Acid should be applied after Natural Moisturising Factors but in some answers, they have said to apply before. See what suits you and your skin.

The Ordinary Products By Solutions

Water = 1

Apply these to cleansed skin.  If you use numerous water-based products, Deciem recommend starting with the one which helps the skin condition you are trying to target the most. You can find more information on The Ordinary Review pages under FAQs that may answer your questions.

Anhydrous Solutions = 2

Apply Anhydrous products after water solutions (if using) and before Oils / Creams.


  • *High-Spreadability Fluid Primer (last step before makeup)

OILS = 3

Oils should be applied after water solutions and before creams/emulsions.  Some people leave this as their last step or you could lock it all in with a cream-like Natural Moisturising Factors. Some people prefer to apply oil after creams. Remember, you can use these on their own.

Emulsions = 4/5

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.

Exceptions to the emulsion rule. These would go after water and before any oils and creams

So as you can see, the rule 1,2,3, then 4 doesn’t always work, so you need to do a bit of free thinking which is why it’s really important you learn a little.  

ask Deciem for a regimen

Suspensions = 4/5

Suspensions cause quite a bit of confusion.  Although on the regimen page they say to apply these after water-based products, Deciem have mentioned to people, including myself, to use the Azelaic Acid before the Natural Moisturising Factors, and the Vitamin C after.  But then in other comments, they have mentioned to use them the other way around. You can always check the Live Chat Deciem or post a question in Facebook Group. Totally confusing!

Deciem now say to apply these after Natural Moisturising Factors.

The Ordinary Regimen Examples

In bold you can see numbers (as above) 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, 1+2+3+4.  You might just do 2+3 or 1+3+4, 1+1 or 1+2.

The Ordinary Skincare Routines

Below are just a couple of examples, but you can find lots more The Ordinary skincare routines including rosacea, signs of ageing and lots of personalised routines here.

Pigmentation Issues

  • Note: Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate Solution can be applied in the PM before Azelaic Acid Suspension 10% for added support.


  • Note: Alternatively, Marula Oil or Moroccan Argan Oil can be used instead of Plant-Derived Squalane in the PM.

The Ordinary Conflicts

Ok, so hopefully you’re a little clearer on how to layer The Ordinary and the different solutions. Now to the really confusing part, the conflicts, the products you should not use in the same routine.

It’s really important that you regularly look at The Ordinary Regimen Guide on the official website because it’s often updated with new information. I have created this page listing all The Ordinary Product Conflicts in a chart or a new page The Ordinary Products You Can & Cannot Mix which you may find easier.

Keep The Ordinary Simple

If a product has too many conflicts, for example, Buffet + Copper Peptides, then you could make life really difficult for yourself by trying to figure out a regimen on your own, especially if you have already bought lots of products.  Ask Deciem for a regimen, so you can be sure 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 right up because the products look so cheap. But seriously, don’t waste money. You will end with lots of products that conflict and not enough time to use them all.

Why 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 we recommend introducing one product at a time.

Patch Testing

Deciem recommend patch testing in case of an allergic reaction. In reality, the majority of people will not bother patch testing, but you have been warned! Read how to patch test The Ordinary here.

Buy Direct At Deciem with free delivery on orders over 25€$ 50$AUD