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All Your Questions About The Ordinary, Answered

The buzzy beauty brand has big plans for 2018.

A group of Deciem products on a purple background.
An assortment of Deciem’s products.
Photo: Deciem

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The Ordinary has been one of the breakout skincare brands of 2017. Its popularity is due to a combination of well-studied, basic skincare ingredients; a ridiculously low price point; and a quirky social media presence that kept many of the 16-month-old brand’s products sold out. Its parent company, Deciem, owns multiple other beauty brands, producing about 300 total products.

The Ordinary makes up roughly 70 percent of the business, according to founder Brandon Truaxe. (You can read more about Deciem’s history here; I’ve been watching it with a lot of interest since I saw it pop up on Reddit over a year ago.) A few months ago, it received an investment from Estée Lauder, enabling some much-needed upgrades to keep up with its explosive growth. I caught up with Truaxe and co-CEO Nicola Kilner recently in New York City to talk about what’s set to happen in the new year. I also asked them the questions that I’m always asked about the company.

The Ordinary bottles on a wire shelf.
The Ordinary products at Deciem’s New York City store.
Photo: Deciem

So why is The Ordinary so cheap?

Most of the products only contain one, or at most a couple, active ingredients, all of which have been around forever and proven effective. Let Truaxe break down the cost of a product that retails for $5.80 for you: “Our Vitamin C Powder is the best example. There are about 20 cents of vitamin C in it, and about 5 to 6 cents of other ingredients, and then the tube is about 20 cents and the box is about 10 cents. I mean, the product costs less than a dollar.”

The rest is the cost of testing, formulating, salaries, and other things, after which the brand takes a small net profit. It doesn’t spend any money on marketing except on its social media channels. There are no flowery claims on the packaging, but you can read very matter-of-fact explanations of what the ingredients do on the website. Beauty products as they’ve been traditionally sold and marketed, according to Truaxe, are “just a bunch of fluff being created, a bunch of fluff being bought, and a bunch of fluff being sold.”

Why is The Ordinary always running out of stock and taking forever to deliver stuff?

Fans of the brand are resigned to waiting for things — it’s almost a joke among loyal customers at this point. Waiting several weeks for products is not unusual.Basically, the company grew too fast and couldn’t meet demand.

Truaxe says it isn’t something it does on purpose to create demand. He tells the story of the brand’s super-popular Glycolic Acid 7% Toner ($8.70), which was sold out before it even hit shelves, despite the fact that 150,000 units were made. “We had made promises to everybody that, ‘It's coming back, don't worry about it,’” he says, “But we actually couldn't fulfill the existing orders so it never came back in stock. And so it just basically became the biggest joke.”

The infusion of cash from Estée Lauder went toward building a larger facility in Toronto, where the company is based (the brand manufactures all its own products), and Truaxe anticipates getting ahead of demand this month and finally catching up. But he laughs and says he already feels like the brand has outgrown the facility they haven’t even moved into yet. It’s a golden problem.

What’s up with all those other brands Deciem has?

Deceim has a total of nine brands, with three more in development. NIOD, another skincare brand, is Deciem’s second-most-popular line. It’s more expensive and a bit more technical, and uses newer ingredients. It’s marketed like the iPhone, with notations that a product is in version 2.0 whenever there’s a formula upgrade.

It also has a line called Hylamide that used to be sold in drugstores, but which is now only found at specialty shops like ASOS and Beautylish. There’s a men’s line (Ab Crew), supplements (Fountain), hair and body anti-aging (Chemistry), and scalp and hair growth (Stemm), in addition to others. New lines are also in the works, including one for babies, a bath and body line called Loopha, and a brand called Abnomaly, which will feature weird products like hyaluronic acid mouthwash, as well as beauty boxes.

White wire racks hold skincare in Deciem’s new store.
Inside Deciem’s Soho NYC store.
Photo: Deciem

Where can I buy the products?

You can buy them all on Deciem’s website, and ASOS also carries The Ordinary. But starting December 20th, you’ll be able to buy most of The Ordinary’s products at Sephora.com, then in stores in March. (Abnomoly will also launch into Sephora at an undisclosed time.)

Additionally, Deciem is going on a store-opening spree. Its first US stores just opened in New York City in the Soho neighborhood, right next to the much-anticipated Everlane store (viral brand synergy!), and in Miami’s design district. Kilner says to expect at least 10 more to open in NYC by spring 2018 (including a teeny 190-square-foot shop devoted only to The Ordinary), as well as in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Truaxe also says a large amount of business comes from the middle of the US, so stores are planned there, too, though he didn’t offer specifics. The Soho store carries all the brands, which you can test out. It’s long and narrow, with exposed brick and a white-tiled section devoted to The Ordinary.

Will Deciem ever create a makeup brand?

The Ordinary released two different foundation formulas: one that’s high pigment ($6.90) and a lighter coverage option ($6.70), which is pretty much sold out everywhere. It’s been exceptionally popular, but Kilner says the company isn’t looking at a full makeup line yet. Since Deciem makes everything in-house, it doesn’t yet have the machinery for things like powders or eye pencils.

But next year, expect to see concealers and blush. Kilner says that while there’s been a lot of experimentation in the industry around cheaper makeup, “what excites us about skincare is the fact that there hasn't been that much innovation, especially at a more accessible price point.” So that’s where Deciem will continue to focus for the moment.

Who the heck writes those wordy Instagram posts?

If you follow Deciem on Instagram, you’ll see its motto “The Abnormal Beauty Company” in action. The captions are a bit rambling, slightly unhinged, off-kilter, and honest to a fault. Example: “Warning: This post was way too much to write, it's way too much to read and some people will call it marketing gibberish.” It’s all Truaxe, who, in real life, talks exactly like those Instagrams. “The main feed content has to come from me; there's no question about it,” he says. The formula seems to be working, because people are sticking with the brand despite its growing pains.

So what should I try if I’m new to Deciem?

You could start with five of its best-sellers:

The Chemistry Brand Hand Chemistry ($20): This hand cream contains skincare ingredients that reportedly decrease dark spots and wrinkle depth.

NIOD CAIS 2 ($60): It stands for “copper amino isolate serum” and it is, fair warning, kind of stinky. In a nutshell, it’s a group of peptides meant to tackle issues with texture, uneven tone, and large pores.

Hylamide SubQ Anti-Age ($38): This serum contains hyaluronic acid and peptides for hydration and skin texture issues.

The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% ($5.90): This is a Racked favorite. It’s for improving the appearance of acne and decreasing oiliness.

STEMM Density Stimuli ($43): Scalp health is all the rage these days, and this head serum claims to help hair look fuller and healthier with long-term use.

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