Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2% review

Are you thinking of trying The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 25? The Ordinary has rocked the skincare world like a hurricane, winning hearts everywhere thanks to its odd mix of science-backed actives and insanely low prices. Their Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion and Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution have already become cult. If you want to get your mitts on them, you’ll have to join the waiting list!

The only Ordinary product that’s not getting much love? Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2%. Just google its reviews and you’ll find an endless list of complaints. It’s too heavy. It’s gritty. It stings. It slides makeup off… Is this serum really that bad or… may it be that people are just using it wrong? Let’s take a closer look at the serum and find out:

Key Ingredients In The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2%: What Makes It Work?


Ascorbic Acid is the pure form of vitamin C. It’s the most effective but also the most unstable. Let’s start with the pros:

  • It fights free radicals (the molecules that destroy collagen and elastin) to prevent premature wrinkles.
  • It inhibits melanin production, fading dark spots and melasma.
  • It boosts collagen production, keeping skin firm for longer.
  • It brightens skin, giving the complexin a lovely glow,

Now, for the cons:

  • It’s super unstable: It loses effectiveness when exposed to light and air (good thing The Ordinary’s put it in a tube).
  • Irritating: For it to work, you need to use high concentrations that sting skin (only for the first couple of weeks).

To enhance its effectiveness and stability, The Ordinary has suspended very fine L-Ascorbic Acid powder in a water-free formula. And, boy, do you feel that powder on your skin! Applying this serum is like slathering on a scrub that stings!

Used alone, the powder doesn’t dissolve or absorb into your skin. It just stays there, on your surface, for the entire day. No wonder so few people can put up with it!

Related: Types Of Vitamin C In Skincare Products

If you’re worrying about doing The Ordinary wrong, get your button this The Ordinary speed training (affiliate link). It’s by my scientist friend Cheryl Woodman and in it she’s teaching you how to use The Ordinary to get makeupless skin you love.

Extraordinary Skin With The Ordinary---How to Get Makeupless Skin You Love


Sodium Hyaluronate is the name for a derivative of hyaluronic acid, an awesome molecule that attracts water from the environment into your skin. Basically, a godsend for dry skin. The Ordinary uses dehydrated hyaluronic acid spheres. You don’t find these in skincare products all that often because they only work in water-free formulas.

Here’s how it works: when these dry spheres sink into your skin, they start attracting all the water molecules they see, both from the air outside and the deepest layers of the skin inside. This moisture swells them up and plumps up the skin.

Translation: your wrinkles look smaller. Plus, your skin is super hydrated.

Related: The Complete Guide To Hyaluronic Acid In Skincare

Confused about The Ordinary? Click on the image below to subscribe to my newsletter and get “The Ordinary Products Guide” Cheatsheet. It’ll help your choose the right Vitamin C serum, the right retinoid serum, and more from this affordable brand:

The Rest Of The Formula & Ingredients

NOTE: The colours indicate the effectiveness of an ingredient. It is ILLEGAL to put toxic and harmful ingredients in skincare products.

  • Green: It’s effective, proven to work, and helps the product do the best possible job for your skin.
  • Yellow: There’s not much proof it works (at least, yet).
  • Red: What is this doing here?!
  • Squalane: Almost identical to human sebum, it has the same job. It strengthens the skin’s protective barrier against germs and irritants, deeply moisturises skin without clogging pores, and absorbs quickly.
  • Isodecyl Neopentanoate: A silky emollient that gives skin a light, not-greasy feeling. Despite this, the texture is still unpleasant to use.
  • Isononyl Isononanoate: An emollient that makes skin softer and smoother.
  • Coconut Alkanes: Often used as a silicones alternative, it makes skin softer and smoother and has a silky, dry feel on skin.
  • Ethylene/Propylene/Styrene Copolymer: It reduces water loss and helps create pleasant texture (it failed at the second job here).
  • Ethylhexyl Palmitate: It reduces moisture loss so skin stays hydrated, softer, and smoother for longer. It also helps enhance the penetration of other ingredients into your skin.
  • Silica Dimethyl Silylate: A texture enhancer that gives slip to a product. Usually. Not so much here.
  • Glucomannan: A  prebiotic sugar made with sugars mannose and glucose. It feeds the good bacteria in your microbiome, making sure the bad bacteria don’t overtake the good ones and cause acne and other issues. It also has antioxidant properties.
  • Coco-Caprylate/Caprate: A lightweight emollient that makes skin softer and smoother.
  • Butylene/Ethylene/Styrene Copolymer: It reduces water loss and helps create a better texture (it’s kinda failing at its second job here).
  • Acrylates/Ethylhexyl Acrylate Crosspolymer: It helps absorb excess oil from skin, giving it a matte finish.
  • Trihydroxystearin: A mixture x of glycerin and fatty acid hydroxystearic acid, it thickens the texture of skincare products.
  • Bht: A synthetic antioxidant that also helps stabilise delicate ingredients like Vitamin C.


The Ordinary doesn’t just skimp on marketing in order to keep its prices so low. It also skimps on creating beautiful, pleasant-to-use textures. This serum has powder particles inside, which makes the texture gritty and scratchy. For real. Be careful. If you’re too harsh, this alone can irritate your skin.


Like all The Ordinary products, this serum is fragrance-free. If you love skincare that smells like a bouquet of roses or a day at the beach, you may think this is just another way The Ordinary is skimping on quality. In reality, fragrance is one of the most irritating ingredients used in skincare. 23% L-Ascorbic Acid, especially in such a gritty texture, is already potentially irritating enough – but at least, it’ll brighten your skin and prevent wrinkles. Leaving out anything irritating with no extra benefits for your skin is a good idea.

How To Use It

Let’s go back to the gritty texture, now. How the heck can you apply sandpaper on your skin and be comfortable with it? With a little bit of hyaluronic acid. And nope, I don’t mean the Sodium Hyaluronate in the formula. That’s not enough.

I wish I had come up with this trick myself, but it was the lovely Laura from The Ordinary (yes, the brand is well-aware of how much this texture sucks) who shared it with me when I visited their London shop for a little shopping spree.

How to neutralize the gritty texture:

  • Squeeze a tiny bit of The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2% on the palm of your hand.
  • Add a few drops of your fave hyaluronic acid serum (you can check out my fave picks here).
  • Mix them together and apply the mixture on your skin.

The extra moisture from the hyaluronic acid dissolves the powder and enhances its penetration: problem solved!

I know what you’re thinking: do I have to buy another product to make this one work? Yes, you do. I always have an extra hyaluronic acid serum at home, so it was no biggie for me. My friend Paris preps her skin with a hydrating mist first. You can try that, if it’s more your thing. The point is to get your skin hydrated. But, yep, you can’t use this serum alone. Even if you like what it does for your skin, it’s too unpleasant to use on its own.


This serum comes in a white and grey tube that keeps Vitamin C away from the light and air that would make it go bad faster. But, it always dispenses way too much product. Like, 3 times the amount you really need. You use that huge dollop, it will take forever to sink in!

Be very careful when you squeeze it out of the tube. You can’t apply the extra on your skin (too much Vitamin C is irritating) but you don’t want to throw it away either. That’d be a waste!

Performance & Personal Opinion

A common complaint with The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2% is the heaviness of the texture. Lots of people have complained it takes forever to sink in. Others added they can’t use anything on top of it (think makeup) or it’ll slide off. I agree that the serum takes a couple of minutes to sink in. If it takes more than that for you, you either have very oily skin or you’re using too much of it.

I also have a little complaint to add to the list of grievances, too: vitamin C here is all alone. There are no vitamin E and ferulic acid to keep it company. This matter because vitamin C works a lot better when used together with vitamin E and ferulic acid. These three antioxidants boost each other’s effectiveness and the protection of your sunscreen!

The good news is that they don’t necessarily have to be in the same product. If these antioxidants (or even just one of them) is in your moisturizer, they’ll still help vitamin C do its job better. I get it why The Ordinary has kept them out. If you want to keep the prices this low, you have to cut corners somewhere. But this skincare geek would be happy to spend £10 more for this serum if it meant vitamin C got to play with its BFFs.

All in all, this is a pretty demanding serum, isn’t it? It’s ok on its own but it needs prep + friends to work its best. Makes you wonder if’s worth the effort? For me, it was. I can’t say that it has transformed my skin, but that’s because vitamin C serums are always part of my skincare routine. For me, they do more of a maintenance job now. But if I stop using them, I do see a difference!

When I use a vitamin C serum, my skin is brighter and smoother. Plus, there’s plenty of proof the form used here boosts collagen production and fights free radicals. Would I recommend it to you? It depends. Here’s the deal: science says it works. Plus, there are a couple of tricks to combat its gritty texture and the stinging that comes with it. But, it’s up to you to decide if it’s worth the extra effort.

P.S. If you decide against it, The Ordinary has plenty of other Vitamin C serums you can try, instead!

Related: The Complete Guide To The Ordinary Vitamin C Serums: Which One Is Right For You?

How Does The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2% Compare To Other Vitamin C Serums?

I personally don’t recommend any of The Ordinary Vitamin C serums. Science has shown that 15% L-Ascorbic Acid + 1% Vitamin E + 0.5% Ferulic Acid is the most effective combination at fighting wrinkles. None of The Ordinary serums include this combo. They either use L-Ascorbic Acid on its own or a derivative of it that hasn’t been proven to work just as well by anyone else bar the manufacturer yet. But, if you’re on a budget and want to try one, here’s how to pick the best Vitamin C serum from The Ordinary for you:

  • The Ordinary Ascorbic Acid 8% + Alpha Arbutin 2% ($12.20): This is my fave Vitamin C serum from The Ordinary and the only one I recommend to my clients. While it doesn’t have the best antioxidant combo for anti-aging, the addition of skin-lightener Alpha Arbutin makes this a powerful serum for fading away dark spots. Available at Beauty Bay, Boots, Cult Beauty, Sephora, SpaceNK, The Ordinary, and Ulta.
  • The Ordinary Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate Solution 20% in Vitamin F ($19.80): If I ever decided to use a Vitamin C derivative, this would be it. Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate is a form of Vitamin C that deeply penetrate skin to fight wrinkles and lighten discolourations. It comes in an oily, fatty acid base that moisturises skin. Best suitable for dry skin. Available at Beauty Bay, Boots, Cult Beauty, Sephora, The Ordinary, and Ulta.
  • The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 30% In Silicone ($8.30): Instead of suspending Vitamin C powder in the serum, it uses a silicone base that creates a better texture. Silicones also dilute the effectiveness of Vitamin C, hence why it uses a higher dose. But it can be irritating for sensitive skin. Available at Beauty Bay, Boots, Cult Beauty, The Ordinary, and Ulta.
  • The Ordinary Ascorbyl Glucoside Solution 12% ($14.30): This lightweight serum uses a derivative of Vitamin C that can lighten dark spots. But, we don’t know if it’s as effective as the pure form of Vitamin C. Available at Beauty Bay, Boots, Cult Beauty, SpaceNK, The Ordinary, and Ulta.
  • The Ordinary 100% L-Ascorbic Acid Powder (£5.70): I don’t recommend it this powder. If you don’t formulate it properly, Vitamin C becomes useless. Avoid.
  • The Ordinary Ethylated Ascorbic Acid 15% Solution (£18.00): This oil-based serum uses a derivative of Vitamin C the manufacturer claims works as well as the pure form. I’m waiting for independent studies to confirm that. In the meantime, I can tell you that it improves texture and makes skin softer, but that could partly be due to the moisturising base. Available at Beauty Bay, Boots, Cult Beauty, SpaceNK, and The Ordinary.
  • The Ordinary Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate 10%: A light lotion with a Vitamin C derivative that brightens and hydrates skin. It’s currently being upgraded.

What I Like About The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2%

  • Fragrance-free
  • Brightens skin
  • Helps to fade away dark spots
  • Helps prevent wrinkles
  • Affordable

What I DON’T Like About The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2%

  • Gritty, unpleasant and scratchy texture

Who Should Use This?

If you’re on a budget, but want a Vitamin C serum that can really brighten skin and doesn’t go bad within a month, you may like this. If you can’t take the gritty texture, there are better Vitamin C Serums out there.

Related: The Best Vitamin C Serums

Does The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2% Live Up To Its Claims?

Vitamin C is an effective antioxidant that brightens the skin tone and reduces the appearance of signs of aging. True.
A Water-Free, Silicone-Free Stable Suspension. True.
1) A very strong tingling but non-irritating sensation is expected during the first 1-2 weeks of use until the skin’s tolerance to such high exposure is elevated. If the sensation is too strong to tolerate, the formula can be mixed on each application with other creams or serums of your preference. True.
2) The powder exposure to the skin disallows the formula to feel like a serum, lotion or cream and each application requires a few seconds to feel absorbed by the skin. This formula feels gritty for a few seconds after application. True.

Is The Ordinary Cruelty-Free?

Yes, The Ordinary is cruelty-free. The brand doesn’t test on animals. Plus, they don’t sell in countries where animal testing is required by law.

Price & Availability

$7.80 at Beauty Bay, Boots, Cult Beauty, Sephora, SpaceNK, The Ordinary, and Ulta

The Verdict: Should You Buy It?

I’m personally not a fan of this serum. It does brighten skin and helps prevent wrinkles, but it doesn’t contain other antioxidants, it has an unpleasant texture, and is fussy to use. There are better options around, even from The Ordinary.

Dupes & Alternatives

  • Indeed Labs Vitamin C 24 ($24.99): This serum uses 22% Vitamin C to brighten skin and prevent wrinkles and 2% hyaluronic acid to hydrate. The silicones-based texture has a smoother feel too. Available at Boots, Cult Beauty, Look Fantastic, Sephora, and Ulta.
  • Paula’s Choice C15 Booster ($55.00): One of my fave Vitamin C serums, it contains 15% L-Ascorbic Acid, 1% Vitamin E, and 0.5% Ferulic acid – the most effective combo of antioxidants. Available at Cult Beauty, Dermstore, Net-A-Porter, Paula’s Choice, Sephora, and SpaceNK.
  • Skinceuticals CE Ferulic ($182.00): The original 15% L-Ascorbic Acid, 1% Vitamin E, and 0.5% Ferulic acid serum, it has many dupes – but it’s still one of the best on the market for anti-aging. Available at Dermstore and Skinstore


Ascorbic Acid, Squalane, Isodecyl Neopentanoate, Isononyl Isononanoate, Coconut Alkanes, Ethylene/Propylene/Styrene Copolymer, Ethylhexyl Palmitate, Silica Dimethyl Silylate, Sodium Hyaluronate, Glucomannan, Coco-Caprylate/Caprate, Butylene/Ethylene/Styrene Copolymer, Acrylates/Ethylhexyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Trihydroxystearin, Bht.