The Ordinary Serum Foundation is a very popular product, but is it worth the hype? In my video, I review it on very dry skin and do a wear test. This article is meant to analyse the ingredients and find any potential irritants. I will also explain why I think the name of this product could be misleading.
Form of synthetic silicone. It has emollient and solvent properties.
It is water thin and it evaporates from the skin. It is often combined with non volatile types of silicones, such as dimethicone. This is because together they form a water-resistant, breathable protective barrier on the skin.
|Caprylyl Methicone||Silicone (volatile, it evaporates from the skin). It has occlusive properties, helping to retain water on the surface of the skin.|
|Coconut Alkanes||A light, oily liquid that works as an emollient and makes skin feel smooth.|
|Methyl Methacrylate Crosspolymer||Porous spherical microbeads, used as a film former. They can scatter light and reduce the appearance of fine lines, as well as absorbing the excess oil on the skin. It gives a matte finish.|
Silicone. Occlusive agent. Skin softening.
When combined with dimethicone, it works as a waterproofing material for sunscreen preparations. It can also reduce skin greasiness and whiteness associated with sunscreen formulations.
|PEG-9 Polydimethylsiloxyethyl Dimethicone||Another silicone. Texture enhancer. Emulsifier.|
|Coco Caprylate/Caprat||A cosmetically elegant emollient.|
|Dimethicone/PEG-10/15 Crosspolymer||A mixture of the silicone dimethicone with PEG 10 and PEG 15.|
|Cetyl Diglyceryl Tris(Trimethylsiloxy)silylethyl Dimethicone||Silicone|
It can mask odours and perfume a product. It can also help with the viscosity of a product and serves as a solvent for essential and fragrance oils.
It can also have skin moisturising properties.
Vitamin E which is an antioxidant.
Vitamin E can improve the appearance of dry, rough and damaged skin due to its water binding properties.
It is also believed that it is effective in preventing irritation from sun exposure. It is therefore useful to be used in UV protective products.
|Polyglyceryl-3 Diisostearate||Emollient and emulsifier|
|Polyglyceryl-3 Polyricinoleate||Emulsifier. Helps water to mix with oil.|
|Polyglyceryl-4 Isostearate||Emollient and surfactant|
|Disteardimonium Hectorite||Modified clay compound that acts as an nonsurfactant|
|Hectorite||Principal constituent of the bentonite clay. It can thicken formulations and is a suspending agent in water-based systems in oil-in-water emulsions. It can also be an absorbent and mattifier.|
|Sodium Chloride||Commonly known as table salt. Used as a binding agent, sometimes as an abrasive scrub. It can also thicken the water in non-soap face washes.|
|Hexyl Laurate||A mild emollient and a vehicle for lipid-soluble active ingredients. It can enhance the spreadability of a product on the skin. It is non-irritating and is odourless.|
|Dimethicone/Vinyl Dimethicone Crosspolymer||Silicone and texture enhancer. It also has some oil absorbing properties.|
|PEG-10 Dimethicone||Silicone and emulsifier. It helps water and silicone oils to mix well together.|
|Stearic Acid||Emulsifier and thickening agent. It can cause allergic reactions in people with sensitive skin and is comedogenic.|
Also known as aluminium oxide. A thickening agent with absorbing properties.
Pigment carrier. When combined with triethoxycaprylylsilane it allows pigments to be evenly dispersed in the formula.
|Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate||Helps to neutralise the metal ions in the formula of the product.|
|Phenoxyethanol||Preservative. Can cause contact allergies and contact dermatitis. It is limited to 1% of the finished product if used as a preservative. However, if used according to the regulations it should not cause any harmful effects.|
|Chlorphenesin||Preservative. It has fungistatic and bactericidal properties.|
|Titanium Dioxide (CI 77891)||A colouring agent (white), amongst many other things (sunscreen actives, thickener etc.)|
|Iron Oxides (CI 77491, CI 77492, CI 77499)||Colouring agents (red, yellow and black)|
|Opacifying. Viscosity controller.|
|Aluminum Hydroxide||Opacifying agent with absorbent properties|
|Bismuth Oxychloride (CI 77163)||Colouring agent (white colorant). It is synthetic pearl, having a distinct shimmery, pearlescent look. It adheres well to the skin and it also has absorbent properties. However, Bismuth Oxychloride is manufactured by combining bismuth, a by-product of lead and copper metal refining with chloride and water. It is safe to use in cosmetics, but some people might have a reaction to it (Antczak, 2001, p.293). It is safe to use in cosmetics according to the EU Cosmetics Regulations as long as strict purity controls are being done. (Commission Regulation EU 2009)|
|Mica||Colouring agent (sparkly white). Used to give sparkle and various degrees of opacity to products.|
|Triethoxycaprylylsilane||Silicone that can function as a binding agent and emulsifier. It also stabilises pigments in a formula and allows them to spread evenly on the skin.|
Is The Ordinary Serum Foundation silicone based and is this bad for your skin?
The Ordinary Serum foundation contains a multitude of silicones. In fact, the first ingredient is a silicone, followed by water. By being rich in silicones, one can assume that The Ordinary Serum Foundation spreads really well on the skin, offering a smooth effect.
Silicones are the preferred ingredients for oilier skin types. This is because silicones smooth the skin surface, allowing the product to spread more seamlessly on the skin, even if there is acne or texture present. Furthermore, it is believed that silicones also have the capacity to absorb oil, helping with excess sebum. Silicones also have occlusive properties, meaning they can prevent water loss from the skin.
Silicones are one of those ingredients that received a bad reputation. Their bad reputation is further enhanced by cosmetic brands manipulating consumers and doing marketing with their ‘silicone-free’ claims. Silicones are not dangerous, are approved to be used in cosmetics, have been proven to be non comedogenic, meaning they do not cause acne (Barton, p. 298).
Does it have beneficial ingredients that would act as skincare?
Serum foundations are a hybrid in between a foundation and a serum. Serum foundations are usually infused with skincare, doing a double job – acting as skincare and offering coverage. Most common attribute of serum foundations is long lasting hydration.
The Ordinary Serum Foundation has a multitude of silicones which have the ability to keep the moisture in the skin for longer. There are also other emollients in the foundation, such as Coconut Alkanes, Coco Caprylate/Caprate, Polyglyceryl-3 Diisostearate amongst others. These would form a film on the skin and prevent moisture loss from the skin.
There is Vitamin E in the product, which is a powerful antioxidant that can help improve skin and prevent oxidative damage.
A matte serum foundation?!
Most serum foundations offer a luminous finish. They are mostly recommended to dry, mature skin types. However, The Ordinary claims the Serum Foundation has a semi-matte finish. This is given by the multiple ingredients in it with absorption qualities, that would absorb oil and sebum. While silicones can be used on dry skin because they smooth the skin and allow a seamless spreadability, the oil absorbing ingredients are generally not welcomed for a dry skin type. This foundation contains multiple oil absorbing ingredients.
Therefore, the name of this foundation can be misleading. I purchased it to try on my very dry skin thinking it would mostly be aimed at dryer skin. However, the finish was semi-matte to matte. To see me applying the product and talking about how it wears throughout the day, please watch my video.
Are its claims true? Does it settle in the fine lines? Does it have evenly spread pigments?
The Alumina and silicones allow the pigments to be evenly dispersed in the formula. This would achieve the brand’s claim that the pigments in this foundation spread really well while being in a very lightweight formula.
The Methyl Methacrylate Crosspolymer is claimed to be able to reduce the appearance of fine wrinkles on the skin. This would also achieve the claim that this foundation does not settle in fine lines. Unfortunately, when used on very dry skin, this product did collect in my fine lines, but perhaps it had more to do with the lack of moisture and hydration that this foundation caused (see video here).
Are there any red flag ingredients?
In terms of red flag ingredients, the Serum Foundation does not contain fragrance, which is brilliant. Fragrance can be highly irritating to the skin and it does not improve the formula of a foundation.
However, this foundation does contain Stearic Acid, which can cause allergies and irritation for some people.
Overall, the list of ingredients confirms the claims of the brand – that this foundation is very lightweight, filled with pigments that spread easily and that it is semi-matte. However, I do believe there is a chance that other people, just like me, will assume that a serum foundation will be more suitable to dry skin types and that it will have a natural or radiant finish. When analysing the ingredients one can tell that this is more suitable for normal or combination skin types, including oily skin types rather than dry. This would make The Ordinary Serum Foundation unique on the market, as not many serum foundations are intended for oily skin types.
To see me testing the foundation and giving it a full review based on application and wear, please watch my video.
Antczak, S. and Antczak, G., 2001. Cosmetics Unmasked. London: Thorsons.
Barton S., Eastham A., Isom A., McLaverty D, Ling Soong Y, 2021, Discovering Cosmetic Science. Croydon: Royal Society of Chemistry.
Burke, I., 2016. The Nature Of Beauty. London: Ebury Press.
Cosmetics Info, various articles. Available here. [Accessed 15 April 2021]
Deciem, The Ordinary Serum Foundation. Available here. [Accessed 20 April 2021]
Dr Dray, Are Silicones Bad? Dimethicone? Skin & Hair. Available here. [Accessed 8 May 2021]
INCI Decoder, various articles. Available here. [Acessed 20 April 2021]
Michalun, M. and Dinardo, J., 2020, Milady Skin Care and Cosmetic Ingredients Dictionary, Fourth Edition. Mexico: Cengage Learning.
Paula’s Choice, Ingredient Dictionary. Available here. [Accessed 20 April 2021]
The Derm Review, Tocopherol, Available here. [Accessed June 2020]
The European Parliament and the Council of European Union, 2009. REGULATION (EC) No 1223/2009 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 30 November 2009 on cosmetic products. Official Journal of the European Union, L 342/59. Available here [Accessed 20 March 2021].
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This article is not sponsored and it does not contain any affiliate links.
The author of this article is not a chemist. This article is for informational purposes only. The description and analysis of ingredients is by no means exhaustive, and it serves more of a basic outline. Always do your own research regarding ingredients in skincare and patch test the product before using. To read full Disclaimers click here.