The Ordinary 10% Niacinamide + 1% Zinc Serum Product Review



The Ordinary
10% Niacinamide + 1% Zinc
— Serum

Price:  $9.90

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The Ordinary’s simple 10% Niacinamide + 1% Zinc Serum is one of the best-selling products in The Ordinary’s offering. It’s essentially an anti-blemish formula containing high concentrations of both Niacinamide and Zinc, targeting the effects of congested complexions as well as minimising the appearances and severity of blemishes. It’s designed for oily and acne-prone skin as high-performance treatment to even out textured skin and assist in other targeted treatments to work more effectively. The Ordinary promote these benefits, however also disclaim that this serum is not a treatment for acne.

Serums are formulated to target specific skin concerns, are typically lighter in weight and are to be layered for their effectiveness in treatment. This product particularly needs to be used with caution to ensure you are maximising its benefits. It’s a water-based serum, and should therefore be applied before any heavier oils, moisturisers or balms to draw out the full effects.


Who are The Ordinary?

The Ordinary launched in 2016, and quickly dominated the skin-care industry by providing affordable, effective skincare with the science to prove it. Their minimal lab-esque packaging encouraged absolute beginners to feel comfortable in buying their no BS products, while simultaneously targeting ‘skintellectuals’ to take their obsessions to the next level – providing them with the resources to create their very own at-home lab.  

The brand is one under the umbrella of DECIEM, a company focused on advanced functional beauty. All DECIEM products, including The Ordinary, are free of parabens, sulphates, mineral oil, methylchloroisothiazolinone, methylisothiazolinone, animal oils, coal tar dyes, formaldehyde, mercury, oxybenzone. They have very transperant communication channels with their consumers on the ingredients and formulation they use, despite being a corporate player in the industry. No DECIEM products are tested on animals, therefore none of their brands are sold in mainland China due to China’s requirements.

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First impressions

This serum is completely fragrance-free. As Niacinamide and Zinc both don’t have any scent, the subtle synthetic-chemical smell is perhaps due to some of the other additives – perhaps a result of the process they’ve undergone to be formulated.

This texture is a lightweight clear liquid which is slightly gloopy, which means you’ll probably be using more than you need to get the product to cover your entire face. Once this has been spread across the area, the serum sinks into the skin, leaving it dry to the touch.  


In terms of efficacy for this product, there have been some success stories, and others swear against the product. If you have relatively ‘normal’ skin, and are experiencing some blemishes or redness/flushing, this product could help balance out any oil production. If you have some acne scarring, the Niacinamide component could help even the texture and tone.

Others with more extreme skin conditions may find this to be more irritating or cause further redness and inflammation. For its low price point, many find it accessible enough to just try. However, it’s worth patch testing first to see how your skin responds over a four-week period. Due to the highly active ingredients in this serum, I’d advise to steer clear if you suffer from sensitivities.

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Ingredient watch

read our full Formulation Analysis

The Good

Niacinamide - Vitamin B3 in its topical preparation.
Zinc PCA - Zinc and PCA joined to control sebum production.

The Questionable

Propylene Glycol (PG) - a petroleum by-product that has been classed an irritant by National Library of Medicine.
Phenoxyethanol - a chemical preservative found to be toxic to the nervous system.
Chlorphenesin - a potential dermal irritant found in more recent studies.

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Packaging review

This product uses 1 type of plastic in its packaging and a plastic label.

Bottle: Glass - See more about glass and its impact
Label: OTHER - See more about Plastic Film and its impact

The serum is bottled in a frosted white glass bottle with a built-in dropper.

As there are no botanical ingredients needing to be preserved from light, the glass jar is fine to not be amber-coloured and almost clear.


Formulation full analysis

The Good

Niacinamide the highly coveted ingredient due to its controversy alongside other ingredients. On its own, the ingredient has shown to have a stabilising effect on the skin, reducing what is known as trans-epidermal water loss (TEWL), effectively balancing oils and improving the moisture content in the skin. In ageing skin, topical application of Niacinamide improves surface structure, smoothing out wrinkles and inhibiting the process of photocarcinogenesis. This ingredient is best at a pH of 5 to 7.5. If you suffer from any sensitivities, you need to patch test prior to use as some people have experienced flushing with this ingredient.

Zinc PCA is a combination of zinc and pyrrolidone carboxylic acid (PCA). PCA is the predominant component of NMF (Natural Moisturising Factor), serving as a moisturiser and skin softener. Zinc is the core component in regulating sebum production, and has an anti-inflammatory effect to the skin. The EWG outlines to use restrictions on this ingredient due to the potential organ system toxicity that over-exposure may result in.

The Questionable 

Propylene Glycol (PG) is used primarily as a synthetic humectant, and secondary as a solvent and preservative in formulations due to its water and oil-soluble properties. The National Library of Medicine has classified it as an irritant, and multiple studies have shown this ingredient to cause contact dermatitis. Due to its ability to be a penetration enhancer, it also allows other chemicals in formulations to penetrate the skin easily, causing irritation. This ingredient is also a Petroleum by-product and, due to its emulsifying properties between water and oil, can dissolve the natural fats and oils from your skin leaving it stripped. This is the type of ingredient that kick-starts the vicious cycle of needing more product to keep hydrated.

Phenoxyethanol is one of those ingredients we would see right at the bottom of the list of many products, and probably don’t think twice about it. The truth is, this bad boy has been linked to many allergic reactions and skin conditions such as eczema, and toxicity in the nervous system, particularly in infants. The European Union has classed it as an irritant, and Japan has restricted the ingredient. Juxtaposed to this, The Scientific Committee of Consumer Safety (SCCS) has deemed the chemical safe to use as a preservative if concentration does not exceed 1.0%. However, when taking into consideration reapplying the same product, as well as many other products on the bathroom shelf with this ingredient, we are over-using the ingredient and may be exposing ourselves to the harmful side effects.

Chlorphenesin is a synthetic chemical-made ingredient that serves as a preservative, and muscle relaxant. It’s main use as a preservative prevents products from going through colour changes, pH changes, emulsion breakdown and microorganism growth. It’s allowed up to 0.3 percent in cosmetics across U.S and Europe. It’s an ingredient that has caused the FDA to issue a press release warning mothers against this ingredient due to the toxic effects it may transfer to a baby. Alongside this, the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR), expert panel released a safety assessment stating that this ingredient at 0.3 percent (as it currently exists) was classified as having “negligible dermal irritation potential”.



Do you use The Ordinary 10% Niacinamide + 1% Zinc serum as part of your skincare routine? What effect does it have on your skin?

Were you aware of the other ingredients in their products?

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