The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% serum is a very affordable skincare product that I have been using nearly every day this year. The 30 mL size costs $5.90 and the 60 mL size costs $10.60. These are quite reasonable prices for a serum. I really like that it makes my pores look smaller and helps with acne scarring. When looking into the Ordinary and its parent company DECIEM, I was surprised by the amount of transparency provided about their efforts to improve sustainability but I was not impressed by the lack of information provided about where/how the materials used in their formulas are sourced. Such information is essential for a holistic assessment of their sustainability. Additionally, all of the sustainable methods mentioned on their website seem to be outsourced to other companies, leading me to believe that the Ordinary has not made enough significant progress themselves. Hopefully, they will continue their efforts as promised. I would like to see them release a comprehensive plan to improve sustainability so that they could better be held accountable.
I noticed on their website that they posted an in depth video explaining how their chemicals work and which chemicals to avoid using at the same time. To improve transparency, they could easily add a segment to these videos addressing where the main ingredients are sourced and their environmental impacts. They could also improve their sustainability by providing refill stations in their stores where costumers could reuse their skincare product bottles instead of having to go through the process of recycling them. If this method works in their stores based in Canada, the Ordinary could expand this program to other stores where their products are sold such as Sephora or Ulta.
This serum has two main ingredients: Niacinamide (Vitamin B3) and Zinc PCA. Other ingredients include water, Pentylene Glycol, Dimethyl Isosorbide, Tamarindus Indica Seed Gum, Xanthan gum, Isoceteth-20, Ethoxydiglycol, Phenoxyethanol, Chlorphenesin. Though this may seem like a long list, it is actually quite short compared to the ingredients used in the majority of popular skincare products. When referencing EWG’s Skin Deep guide, I noticed that the overall formulation receives a score of 1 for hazard on a scale of 1-10, with 1 being the least hazardous. Though this score is based on limited data, it is important since it provides at least some knowledge about the impact of the ingredients used. To my disappointment, the Ordinary does not provide information about where their ingredients are sourced. This makes me question the sustainability of the resources that they use for their formulations and negatively contributes to their score.
Despite the ambiguity regarding material sourcing, DECIEM does clarify some steps that they are making to improve their sustainability. They offset outstanding carbon emissions from the manufacturing process by having their distributor purchase carbon offsets from a company called Carbon Zero. These offsets fund the planting of new trees by the Ontario Biodiversity Afforestation Project and the Southern Quebec Afforestation Project. In regards to packaging, DECIEM says they are “moving away from” virgin plastic and increasing use of biodegradable, recycled, and recyclable materials. They also use carbon neutral card stock which they purchase from a low-emissions paper producer. Their packaging for online orders is made of all recycled or recyclable materials. DECIEM also offers in-store recycling programs for beauty products of any brand. The Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% serum comes in a small glass dropper bottle that can only be used once. I am glad that it is possible to recycle this item, though I am not sure how one can go about doing so if not close to a DECIEM store. I recommend buying the larger size to reduce waste from the packaging if you enjoy this product.
I like that this company exhibits quite a bit of transparency about their efforts to achieve sustainability though I think that they should provide more details about their long term plans. More transparency is needed surrounding materials sourcing and more progress can be made to develop fully sustainable packaging. Therefore, this product receives a 1.5
All of the Ordinary products are manufactured or bottled in Canadian GMP-compliant facilities. The GMP certification is an international certification that, according to WHO, stands for good manufacturing practices and ensures that products are manufactured according to quality standards. This certification does not consider sustainability. All organic waste from DECIEM’s headquarters in Toronto is converted into fertilizer for agriculture by a third-party organization. I am glad to hear about this process, but I do wonder what is done with any inorganic waste if there is any. DECIEM states that their other locations “follow recycling practices according to their respective jurisdiction,” which sounds pretty vague. In general, I find it notable that the Ordinary provides this information about where their products are created and what is done with at least some of the waste. To improve their score, more information would have to be provided about production and its environmental impacts.
The Ordinary is a skincare brand owned by the larger brand DECIEM, which also owns the skincare brands Hylamide, Niod, Chemistry Brand, and Hif. According to their website, all the Ordinary formulations are made by their own team of biochemists and material chemists in their own labs which are located in Canada. This transparency is important and contributes positively to their score in this section. When it comes to their stance on sustainability, the Ordinary says they are “not yet a sustainable beauty company, but we have made a commitment to continuously improve all areas of our operations.” I am glad that the Ordinary’s need to make progress in order to achieve a higher level of sustainability is acknowledged here. Obviously, they have made the first step when it comes to pursuing sustainable practices. Hopefully, we will see the Ordinary follow through on their promises in the future.