THE ORDINARY: AHA 30% + BHA 2% PEELING SOLUTION
There has been so much buzz behind The Ordinary and its Deciem-associated brands. And I’ve been slowly making my way through a few bits and bobs – with a recent purchase of The Ordinary’s AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution. So this review will not only go through the ingredients in The Ordinary’s AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution, but it will also look to see how its ingredients compare relative to Drunk Elephant’s T.L.C. Sukari Babyfacial.
Why, do you ask?
- I am constantly intrigued by this brand’s business model: potent and affordable products
- I tried Drunk Elephant’s T.L.C. Sukari Babyfacial and wanted to find an alternative to this luxuriously priced, yet potently formulated product.
So will this be a “Battle of Wits” circa The Princess Bride?
A fight to the death?
At first physical glance of The Ordinary’s formulation, you’ll certainly see a noticeable blood-red color due to the incorporation of Tasmannia Lanceolata Fruit/Leaf Extract. So visually speaking, if applying a blood-red solution freaks you out — you may want to head over to Drunk Elephant’s T.L.C. Sukari Babyfacial, as its formulation is more of an oatmeal color.
Personally, I generally apply an AHA/BHA treatment usually at-home and can care less as to the color. But these are personal preferences, of course.
The tables below breaks down both products based on AHA/BHA composition, pH, and ingredients (similar & different):
Note: Both product ingredients are not listed in their actual published order.
Ok, the claims as detailed on the website for The Ordinary’s AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution
“Alpha hydroxy acids (AHA) exfoliate the skin’s topmost surface for a brighter and more even appearance. Beta hydroxy acids (BHA) also exfoliate the skin with an extended function to help clear pore congestion. This combined 32% AHA/BHA solution offers deeper exfoliation to help fight visible blemishes and for improved skin radiance. The formula also improves the appearance of skin texture and reduces the look of fine lines with continued use.
This formula contains a studied Tasmanian Pepperberry derivative to help reduce irritation associated with acid use. This derivative is of plant origin and varies in colour seasonally and this colour variation may be apparent in the formula from time to time. This formula is further supported with a crosspolymer form of hyaluronic acid for comfort, Vitamin B5 to assist healing and black carrot as an antioxidant.
This pH of this formula is approximately 3.6. Glycolic Acid, the primary AHA used in the formula, has a pKa of 3.6 and pKa is the most important aspect to consider in formulating with acids. pKa implies acid availability. When pKa is close to pH, there is an ideal balance between salt and acidity, maximizing effectiveness of the acid and reducing irritation. Higher pH numbers in such a case would increase salt which counter-intuitively would make the formula even more irritating than if the formula was more acidic.”
Ok, let’s parse this baby to its bare bones based on its ingredients:
|Substantiated||Claims||What's the Problem?|
AHA exfoliate the skin's topmost surface for a brighter and more even appearance.
BHA also exfoliate the skin with an extended function to help clear pore congestion.
Combined 32% AHA/BHA solution offers deeper exfoliation to help fight visible blemishes and for improved skin radiance: Improves the appearance of skin texture and reduces the look of fine lines with continued use.
|Tasmanian Pepperberry plant derivative to help reduce irritation associated with acid use.|
No correlative publications linking tasmanian pepperberry with these claims.
| Crosspolymer form of hyaluronic acid for comfort.||None|
| Vitamin B5 to assist healing||None|
| Black carrot as an antioxidant||None|
| pH of this formula is approximately 3.6 ||None|
| Glycolic Acid, the primary AHA used in the formula (pKa of 3.6)||None|
| Free of: Alcohol, Silicone, Nut, Gluten ||None|
SKIN TYPE & USE
According to The Ordinary, the AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution should not be used on sensitive, peeling or compromised skin.
Side note: The first few times I used this oxblood-colored solution, it definitely had a mild stinging effect – and my skin is generally accustomed to strong acids/chemicals.
So sensitive skin friends, be forewarned!
THE GOOD & THE BAD
Ok, this was a long one. But hey, when aren’t they long?!
If we look at the second ingredient listed (due to abundance) as being water, we understand that there can be issues of bacterial contamination or growth. Thankfully, there are ingredients that may counter this within the formulation – such as chelating agents: trisodium ethylenediamine disuccinate and citric acid. Luckily, one of the three AHAs (glycolic acid) is prominently listed first!
This is indeed a facial mask chocked full of hefty potent ingredients: AHAs, BHAs, cross-linked hyaluronic acid, vitamin B5, and black carrot – just to name a few.
Still, there was one rough ingredient in this list that I found a little concerning – sodium hydroxide.
Two surfactants have been identified:
- Cocamidopropyl Dimethylamine
- Polysorbate 20
Much like Drunk Elephant’s T.L.C. Sukari Babyfacial, the usual myriad of preservatives have been thrown in the gauntlet. Although there seems to be more listed in this formulation:
- Pentylene Glycol
- Potassium Sorbate
- Sodium Benzoate
- Caprylyl Glycol
Few things to note with respect to The Ordinary’s AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution:
- Higher % AHA (at 30%) compared to Drunk Elephant’s T.L.C. Sukari Babyfacial (at 25%).
- Does not include botanical oils compared to Drunk Elephant’s T.L.C. Sukari Babyfacial to counter strong acids.
- Does not include niacinamide compared to Drunk Elephant’s T.L.C. Sukari Babyfacial.
- Contains more preservatives in its formulation (at 6) compared to Drunk Elephant’s T.L.C. Sukari Babyfacial (at 4).
- Includes tasmannia lanceolata which The Ordinary folks claim helps to “reduce irritation associated with acid use”. The jury is still out on this one.
So these may be some points that dissuade you from purchasing or provide you with the ammunition necessary to make proper decisions to try it.
The choice is yours.
THE UGLY (PRICE)
The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution ($7.20)
Not so ugly, but downright glorious!
DO I NEED THIS?
One of the best things about The Ordinary brand is its low cost to the consumer. Therefore, the price point is of little issue. As a result, any curiosity you might have regarding some or all of the products may be easily entertained.
From my calculation, you can literally purchase the current product line (minus hydrators and oils) for approximately $300 (roughly 34 products) – that’s insanity!
One thing is clear, as I’ve always said, consistency is key. Though these ingredients have considerable immediate effects — prolonged and constant use is critical to the success of seeing significant improvements.
Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Sukari Babyfacial (Reviewed here)
Herbivore Botanicals Blue Tansy Resurfacing Clarity Mask (Reviewed here)
Peter Thomas Roth Max Complexion Pads
Pai Copaiba Deep Cleanse AHA Mask
Ursa Major Bright & Easy 3-Minute Flash Mask
ARE THE CLAIMS BACKED BY SCIENCE?
Aside from tasmanian lanceolata (pepperberry) helping to “reduce irritation associated with acid use” – a good percentage of the claims may be substantiated.
Most of the claims were not overly specific and therefore may be drawn from multiple ingredients. As a result, most of the ingredients had multiple benefits that could be applied to each individual claims.
In the end, The Ordinary’s popularity originates from its ability to blend potent actives at low cost to consumers. Don’t get me wrong, as in any brand, there are hit and misses. I’ve tried some products from The Ordinary that have failed to result in any improvements to my skin and some that successfully impacted skin quality.
Again, consistency is key! Until my next review!
Dear Satori Chemist, thank you very much for a detailed review of this peeling solution. However, as someone who obviously has zero experience and knowledge in chemistry other than from a school-time course, I would like to ask you if you can further clarify the combination of acids and sodium hydroxide in one product. Doesn’t it mean that in the end we get… just red-coloured aloe water in the bottle since the acids were completely neutralised by sodium hydroxide? This peeling solution does not burn or even tingle on my skin, yet this is not the case of a professional 10 per cent salicylic/glycolic acid peel from another brand. And, I mean, The Ordinary product has three times as much acid as compared to that professional peeling I’ve mentioned. So, these are my concerns about efficacy of The Ordinary product, whether it is solely marketing or a real deal. Many thanks in advance and greetings from Switzerland.
Since I’m not privy to the specific formulation of this product, I can’t really speak to their (The Ordinary) authenticity or transparency as a brand. What I can say is that both The Ordinary and Drunk Elephant use a similar mix of acids (AHAS/BHAS) balanced by bases (sodium hydroxide) with a host of humectants, preservatives, and surfactants. And we can only speculate that the max % of sodium hydroxide within the formulation would be at 0.5% based on previous studies. So not sure that it can be said that the product is neutralized per se. In fact, with a pH of 3.5-3.7, I’d say its still very acidic. In fact, I felt quite a bit of tingling when using this product. And my skin is used to high concentration of acids and peels.
It could be that the tingling you are feeling with a professional 10% peel could be due to what its formulated in. A lot of professional grade chemical peels often contain alcohol (or a derivative). Also, they generally don’t include botanicals or moisturizing humectants within the formulation which you see in both The Ordinary and Drunk Elephant peels.
Whether this product is the real deal and marketed appropriately? I think it is. Although truth be told, I’m not really a fan of the red hue that this product leaves on the skin. More so because I could not determine a real cause or benefit for the tasmannia lanceolata.
I hope that helps! Thanks for the love all the way from Switzerland!