My first and only fake (and hopefully, LAST) The Ordinary product is Azelaic Acid Suspension 10%. I wish I could sound smart and say that the moment I received the item and held it in my hand, I KNEW it was fake. Heck, I wish I could say I KNEW I was buying a fake at the point of purchase.
But I didn't. I only suspected something was off, because the fake was SO GOOD.
Can you tell which is the fake one from this picture?
It was only until I received my order of an authentic The Ordinary Azelaic Acid Suspension 10% that my suspicions were confirmed. My first purchase was indeed a FAKE!
Truth be told, if azelaic acid wasn't banned in Singapore (strange, right?), I would most probably not have suspected anything, would have gone ahead to use the fake stuff, break out terribly from it, and condemn all of The Ordinary. Lol!
And because their products are so cheap, I didn't even consider that there may be fakes out there.
Why is The Ordinary so cheap?
Pre-The Ordinary, consumers could only rely on what companies are willing to tell us what goes into their formulations and fancy packaging to decide whether a product was worth giving a try.
I’m kicking myself over how much money I’ve spent over the years (easily into the thousands) on buzzworthy products that have done very little to resurface my skin or tackle my hormonal acne, or done too much and irritated my sensitive skin.
Then along came The Ordinary and revolutionized the entire skincare industry. They pushed for affordability in their products and transparency in their ingredients. Skin science became a hot topic and suddenly words such as 'niacinamide', 'alpha-arbutin', 'pycnogenol' became common words in skincare conversations.
The late Deceim founder, Brandon Truaxe, believed that quality skincare shouldn't have to cost us a week's wages. Ingredients like vitamin A (retinol), vitamin C, vitamin b3 (niacinamide) have all been researched on and tested for years, they aren't innovative or groundbreaking, yet consumers are still paying exorbitant prices for nicely packaged products and empty promises.
The Ordinary's products are mostly housed in glass bottles and dropper style, and the design of the bottles and tubes is so apothecary-chic you'll feel proud to display them. Before you even test the product, you know exactly the pH levels and percentage of the main ingredients.
The Ordinary doesn't pay for any marketing - no advertisements, no million-dollar celebrity endorsements, no pop-up stores, no campaigns.
With The Ordinary products (and any of Deceim's other cosmetic brands like Hylamide and NIOD), you don't pay for filler ingredients, unnecessary packaging, or evil skin-irritating fragrances. Instead of dumping money into marketing their products, they focus on researching, testing, producing and innovating new skincare. By virtue of simply making effective products, they win over communities of well-educated skincare users and addicts, who in turn share their knowledge with others and propagate this new culture of awareness in skincare ingredients.
The Ordinary simply explain what their products do.
For example, there's no 'acne cream'.
If you are fighting acne like I am, azelaic acid ought to be your new BFF as it kills off acne-causing bactiera. You should also incorporate hyaluronic acid (I love NIOD MMHC2) into your routine to help your skin regain and strengthen its natural hydrating ability, because the more your skin is dehydrated, the more it thinks it needs to increase sebum production. To fight dark spots and marks that often happen with acne, try alpha-arbutin as it reduces melanin production.
If you want a moisturizer, you won't be able to locate it. But you can find in best-seller Natural Moisturizing Factors (NMF) plenty of moisturizing ingredients like 'amino acids, fatty acids, triglycerides, urea, ceramides, phospholipids, glycerin, saccharides, sodium PCA, hyaluronic acid and many other compounds that are naturally present in the skin.'
If you want an eye cream, you won't be able to find one. But you can find in Caffeine Solution 5% + EGCG an extremely high concentration of caffeine, supplemented with highly-purified EGCG Epigallocatechin Gallate (EGCG) from green tea leaves that help to reduce the look of puffiness and dark circles underneath the eyes.
That's why The Ordinary is not so much for the mass market, but for people willing to sit down and understand skincare science, do their due diligence in learning what active ingredients do and how to customize their own skincare routine.
Why are there so many fake The Ordinary products?
At first I couldn't wrap my head around this market of fake The Ordinary products. People print counterfeit money of higher denominations, not the one or five dollars, right? Same as why back alley shops make grade A counterfeit luxury bags, and not the $5.99 tote bags.
So, why do people make fakes of such cheap The Ordinary products?
Easy to duplicate, easy money, and products are always OOS everywhere.
The Ordinary products basically sell themselves and fly themselves off shelves. If you were a beauty retailer, wouldn't you want to have them in your store? Stockists around the world are dying to add The Ordinary to their shelves, but it's not easy importing a brand into a country with a large company, forget about small retailers.
That's why it's so much easier to sell imitations. There is no need to pay to send your imported goods to the health authority for checks, you can import them in small batches to evade taxes, no licence fees, no brokerage fees, etc.
As supply from the real deal struggles to keep up, worldwide demand is what's fanning the flames of caldrons churning out these fakes. People are lapping up fakes either because they are none the wiser, or sellers brazenly disguise counterfeits and promote authenticity even though their products are far from real. If companies can add rickets to baby formula, what is stopping them from subbing AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution with perfume and soap?
Counterfeits are getting better and unless you have both fake and real for a side-by-side comparison, it's going to be hard to spot the difference.
Because of the hype around The Ordinary products, people are getting more interested and in their excitement, may overlook certain elements like font weight, misspelling and missing minute details that can differentiate fakes disguised as authentic ones.
I think the most compelling reason for people to turn to the 'black market' is because Deciem charges a crazy amount for shipping. In order to get free shipping to Singapore, I would have to spend a minimum of USD 250. Better to buy from Deceim's authorized resellers, which I list below.
How to tell if your The Ordinary product is fake or authentic?
AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution
This seems to be one of the top imitated products or the one that people can actually suspect forgery because the differences between fake and real AHA + BHA peeling solution are more obvious. This product with both actives should present a slight tingling sensation even on the most well-adjusted skin and should have a vinegary, sour prunes smell. Many people have reported fake on theirs as they feel nothing on their sensitive skin, and their version smells like roses and perfume.
Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%
This should look slightly thick and cloudy, and foam a little when applied. If yours is a clear, runny solution, toss it. Just for comparison, Paula's Choice niacinamide 10% is slightly runnier than The Ordinary's niacinamide 10% + zinc 1%.
Azelaic acid Suspension 10%
The fact that azelaic acid is banned in Singapore and that it was not easy finding one on the Shopee platform should have been enough reasons to raise alarm bells. But I was having a bad acne patch and despite everyone saying that azelaic acid is the gold standard for acne, I was not able to purchase the Paula's Choice 10% Azelaic Acid Booster due to local restrictions.
So when I found a store selling The Ordinary Azelaic Acid Suspension 10%, I thought I totally lucked out! I was desperate enough to purchase it without even questioning or verifying the authenticity of the item. Back then, fake The Ordinary products wasn't a consideration. I didn't know fakes were a thing!
Both looked pretty similar straight out of the tube, but the distinction was apparent when blended. The fake one had a thinner consistency and didn't blend into the skin while the real one had a thicker, silicone-y consistency that melted into my skin almost immediately.
I'm so glad I listened to my gut feel that I had received a fake azelaic acid and didn't use it. It was my very first The Ordinary product and I had no way to compare it with anything else from the brand.
So far, I've been loving the results from the REAL The Ordinary azelaic acid! I can see some improvement in evening out of skin tone and it's been amazing to see how smooth my skin can get with this. Best thing is, my sensitive skin tolerates azelaic acid and doesn't react like it does with niacinamide and vitamin C. I mix a pea sized amount in with moisturizer and spread it all over my face and neck.
Checklist for signs of imitation
These are the things you should look out for when you're taking a risk and not buying from an authorized reseller.
Barcode on sticker label - Even if the barcode is verified, it can be easily repeated and copied.
Box - It's hard to tell the difference unless you have a real and fake to touch them together at the same time. The fake one that I have feels like a regular paper box, while the real ones have a consistent velvety touch to all of them. Again, the difference is extremely subtle and only possible to tell if you have both to compare at the same time. The Ordinary does change their packaging from time to time, so differences in font size, letter spacing, color of stamp on the bottle (black or blue), layout on the sticker label, may or may not be tell tale signs of imitation. Some boxes might carry Korean words since there is a store in South Korea and some sellers import from there.
Batch stamp - If the batch stamp is on the label and not the bottle, it is a clear sign that it is a fake. You can check the batch authenticity from checkcosmetic.net, but batch code, like bar code, can be easily duped. For tubes, the batch code is at the top.
Tube color - The difference in hues of the azelaic acid tubes was a clear sign one is a fake, but I wouldn't have known if I didn't have the REAL one in my hand to compare.
Product height - The fake ones - both tubes and bottles - are usually slightly taller.
Wonky cap - All my white dropper style bottles have wonky caps, as in they all don't sit perfectly straight when screwed tight. The Caffeine Solution 5% + EGCG is black and it doesn't have this problem. All my NIOD dropper style products like MMCH2, MG and S0 are fine too.
Color - As mentioned above, some products are more easily to identify as fake. The AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution should look darker than blood, not purple, not bright red.
Consistency - Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% should be slightly cloudy and viscous, not clear and runny.
Smell - The fake AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution smells like roses while the authentic one smells more like a chemical blend, unmasked by any fragrance
Seller reputation - Try as much as possible to purchase from authorized Deceim resellers, but if that is somehow difficult in your country, read the reviews and look at the other products listed in store. Some will blatantly lie that their products are authentic when they are not and you'll have no way to verify it until you receive the item. When delivery is complete, it will be an uphill battle to get a refund. I know this from personal experience.
Price - This could be a consideration, but since The Ordinary products are already so affordable, competitors don't really undercut the original prices too much. In fact, due to scarcity of sellers selling azelaic acid, I bought my fake at a higher price than my real one from lookfantastic.com.
If you're losing sleep over whether your The Ordinary item is a fake, you can post pictures of your item on reddit and ask people for their opinions, or just hang around to see if other people are asking the same questions. Hop on over to Deciem Facebook group for help, or simply reach out to Deciem.
Where can I buy authentic ordinary products?
With more users, bloggers, and youtubers going online to write about how to spot fake The Ordinary products, counterfeiters are perfecting their craft to avoid getting easily detected as well. It's so difficult not to be scammed when you shop online, especially when the sellers blatantly lie and are out to make a quick, unethical buck.
Instead of struggling to tell if the version you bought is fake or not, asking people online and spamming them with pictures of all sides of said product, and worry about whether you're putting some unidentified potion on your skin, I would recommend buying only from authorized retailers. It's really not worth the headache, hassle, and worry. You might even end up pay a lower price for the real stuff than the fake ones as independent resellers charge a premium for selling you just one item, excluding shipping.
Buy from these authorized resellers and get a peace of mind, knowing the niacinamide you bought is really niacinamide.
(I always buy from Look Fantastic. Min amount for free shipping is reasonable and customer service is 10/10)
You can also purchase directly from Deciem.
Shopee sellers selling fake The Ordinary
This is for my fellow Singaporeans. A brief introduction for those who are not from Southeast Asia, Shopee is an online marketplace that people use to buy anything from anti-slip toilet mats to baby diapers to Korean ramyeon to beauty products - fake and real. Basically, there is no gatekeeper to prevent unethical sellers from sell fake stuff on this platform.
Note that it is not uncommon for sellers of beauty products to place a strong guarantee that should their products be verified as fake, they are willing to refund TEN TIMES the amount paid. Most regular people find comfort and assurance in such claims.
If you got a fake, you can report the seller to Shopee, but like most people who can't be bothered with the hassle of contacting customer service, I didn't. I just stopped buying The Ordinary from Shopee sellers, easy as that.
Here's a list of sellers selling fake The Ordinary products, so make sure you check against this list before parting with your precious money!
- jcrose.sg - I got my fake azelaic acid from this store. They have since delisted it. Maybe I bought their last fake one LOL