How CeraVe Became The Budget Skincare Brand Beauty Editors Go Wild For

It’s difficult to articulate exactly what makes a universally beloved beauty product, but whatever it is, skincare brand CeraVe has it. Having launched in 2006 in the US and finally arrived in the UK in 2018, few faces that have tried a CeraVe product have not liked it. Before it crossed the pond, British beauty journalists were known to return from work trips to the US towing suitcases loaded with CeraVe products. Now, it’s the fastest growing brand in health and beauty, with a total estimated retail value of over £31 million.

Over Zoom, one of the founders of the brand, Tom Allison, explains that a big clue to its success is in plain view on the utilitarian packaging. “Under the CeraVe logo, it says ‘developed by dermatologists,’” he says. “In 2004, we brought together a panel of dermatologists who are considered the world experts in ingredient formulation design and asked them what they would create were they to start a skincare brand themselves. They pointed us to ingredients called ceramides.”

At the time, skincare fell into one of two camps: so gentle it wouldn’t disrupt sensitive skin, or so thick and occlusive that skin had no option but to not dry out. Ceramides, which had been extensively researched and scientifically supported by clinical papers, offered a solution to these two extremes, and one that would work for all skin types. “If you imagine the skin is a brick wall, skin cells stack up on top of each other like bricks, and there is mortar that holds the cells together. Half of that mortar substance in skin is comprised of ceramides,” explains Allison. “Put simply, you don’t lose water through the skin cells themselves, but rather through the cracks between them – also known as barrier dysfunction.”

The CeraVe range is built on ceramides, which explains where the “Cera” in its moniker came from. The “Ve”, meanwhile, comes from MultiVesicular Emulsion (MVE), a clever delivery technology in each formula that escorts ingredients to exactly where they need to be within the skin – no mean feat given our skin is a defence machine that doesn’t let any old thing through its walls. “It delivers six times the amount of active ingredient to skin, in comparison to an identical formulation without MVE – and it’s patented and exclusive to us. [Skincare] brands that just have water as an ingredient in their dropper bottle formulations? There’s no thought into the actual delivery of the ingredients into the skin,” Allison says.

Allison and his team understand that today’s customers can see through a poor formulation. In this hyper-connected age, we are more skin-savvy, understand the specific benefits of each and every ingredient, and know what the skin needs. As a result, transparency is king. “Our product development process gives us a leg up, since the dermatologists we partner with are considered subject matter experts when it comes to ingredient and formulation designs,” says Allison. “Transparency drives trust with the consumer.” 

Since a lot of skincare now comes with a lofty price tag – and sometimes for dubious formulas – CeraVe’s affordable, efficacious (and luxurious) formulas are refreshing. All products – even the jumbo sizes – cost less than £20, with the bestselling Hydrating Cleanser a steal at £15 for a large 473ml bottle. “CeraVe delivers performance while still driving accessibility,” adds Allison. “We define accessibility in two ways: easy to find at your local store or e-commerce site, as well as value for formulation design and size of format.” Big tick on both counts. 

Since the brand puts an onus on creating a product that appeals to dermatologists – its “most important customer” – it’s not just the formulas that are important, but how easily their clients can get hold of them. If a dermatologist is to recommend a product to a client to use consistently, they need to know it’s affordable and easy to find – especially since most clients are paying to visit the dermatologist in the first place, and will often be forking out for prescriptions, too. Accessibility also comes from the fact that there is a formula for every skin type, race and age.

The brand can afford to sell its excellent formulations at a great price because it forgoes the big budget celebrity advertising and paid influencer posts that so many brands subscribe to. Instead, it lets the products speak for themselves, and ultimately, word of mouth is the biggest driver of sales. You only have to take a quick glance at TiKTok to see thousands of videos offering organic testimonials and before-and-after photographs featuring the brand’s products. “We are not making as much money as other skincare brands, and L’Oréal [which bought the brand in 2017] knows that, but it’s okay because we perform and that’s really all that matters,” says Allison.

So, what to try first from the brilliant budget brand beauty editors can’t get enough of? Well, if this article hasn’t already communicated just how brilliant the cleansers are, then it’s not done its job correctly. The Hydrating Cleanser is an excellent all-rounder that effectively and gently removes make-up and grime, leaving all skin types happy and hydrated. The recently-launched Hydrating Cream-to-Foam cleanser, meanwhile, is designed for those who like the sensation of a foaming formula, but with the sensibility of the hydrating cleanser – it uses amino acids, rather than surfactants, so won’t strip the skin like most foaming formulas do. Oily skin types will love the SA Smoothing Cleanser thanks to the 0.5 per cent concentration of salicylic acid, which gently exfoliates clogged pores. 

The rest of the range is brilliant, too. Everyone should have a Facial Moisturising Lotion in their repertoire, whether their skin is acneic, and even the Salicylic Acid Foot Cream is a must-buy.

CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser

CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser was developed with dermatologists to cleanse and refresh the skin without over-stripping it or leaving it feeling tight and dry. CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser is a gentle face wash with ingredients like three essential ceramides and hyaluronic acid, to help restore the skin’s barrier and retain hydration. It also includes the patented time-release MVE Delivery Technology for all-day hydration. This non-comedogenic face wash is an effective yet non-irritating way to start off any skincare regimen for normal to dry skin.

Buy on Amazon $23

CeraVe Smoothing Cream

A salicylic acid cream is an effective way to improve skin texture by exfoliating, softening and smoothing very dry skin. From scaly skin on the legs to bumps on the backs of the arms, smooth skin starts with eliminating dead cells. The ideal cream for rough skin contains salicylic acid, lactic acid, hyaluronic acid, niacinamide and ceramides. We recommend a hypoallergenic, non-irritating moisturizer like CeraVe SA Cream for Rough & Bumpy Skin to help improve skin texture.

Buy on Well.ca $20

CeraVe Moisturising Cream

CeraVe Moisturizing Cream acts as both by effectively hydrating as it helps restore the skin’s protective barrier. Developed with dermatologists and ideal for dry and very dry skin on the face and body, this rich, non-greasy, fast-absorbing moisturizing cream features three essential ceramides, hyaluronic acid and the patented time-release MVE Delivery Technology for all-day hydration. Suitable for sensitive skin, this oil-free and fragrance-free ceramide cream also helps the skin hold on to moisture while improving its look and feel.

Buy on Amazon $8

Hydrating Cream-to-Foam Cleanser

Developed with dermatologists, CeraVe Hydrating Cream-to-Foam Cleanser begins as a cream before transforming to a soft foam when you begin to lather it on the skin with water, and effectively removes dirt and makeup without stripping the skin’s natural moisture or leaving it feeling tight and dry. This gentle, fragrance-free formula features three essential ceramides, amino acids and hyaluronic acid, which work together to help maintain the skin barrier and lock in moisture.

Buy on Amazon $18

CeraVe Smoothing Cleanser

A gentle salicylic acid cleanser can help exfoliate and smooth your skin while also effectively removing oil and dirt, sweeping away dead cells, and softening rough skin—without leaving skin feeling dry. Cleansing with CeraVe Renewing SA Cleanser, a salicylic acid cleanser enhanced with barrier-restoring ingredients like ceramides, can help keep moisture in while keeping irritants out.

Buy on Amazon $19

VOGUE article

In Largest Deal Yet, Estée Lauder To Acquire Deciem At $2.2B Valuation

The future looks even brighter for cult skincare beauty brands The Ordinary and NIOD, part of Deciem Inc.—following Estée Lauder’s $1 billion purchase for majority stake in the Canadian-based, multi-brand company. 

Estée Lauder Companies Inc. announced that it will increase its investment in Deciem Beauty Group Inc., from 29% to 76%. 

ELC, which owns a portfolio of leading beauty brands including MAC, La Mer and Bobbi Brown, made its initial investment in June 2017, and will purchase the remaining interest after a three-year period. Net sales at Deciem for the 12 months ended Jan. 31 were approximately $460 million. 

“Over the last four years, we have built a truly special long-term partnership with the incredible Deciem team, and we are excited for what the future holds,” said Fabrizio Freda, president and chief executive officer at Estée Lauder Companies, in a prepared release.

“The company’s hero products, desirable innovation, and digital- and consumer-first high-touch approach have been instrumental to its success.”

In 2013, Brandon Truaxe founded Deciem, known as “the abnormal beauty company,” with the goal of raising transparency in the beauty industry. The company’s portfolio includes six brands; The Ordinary is its largest brand followed by NIOD.

The Ordinary, whose celebrity fans include Kim Kardashian, retails from $3.95 to $28.90, while the vast majority of products retail under $10. The brand’s top-selling product is the Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%, a skin blemish serum, for $5.90. According to the company, one product sells every second globally. If The Ordinary offers broad appeal with its budget-friendly prices, NIOD, whose slogan is “skincare for the hyper-educated,” is the higher-end crown jewel in terms of marrying science with skincare. For instance, the smaller-size 15 ml. Copper Amino Isolate Serum retails for $60. All of the Deciem products are created in house in the lab. 

“One of the biggest marketing drivers is word of mouth and this can only be achieved by creating formulations that are loved,” said Nicola Kilner, cofounder and chief executive officer of Deciem. “Our products have high levels of trusted ingredients, clear percentages of actives, and most importantly they work.” 

Part of the beauty products’ appeal is their simple, almost scientific-looking design. 

“The bottles create a lab-like visual in a bathroom cabinet,” Kilner said. “The design has led to a larger conversation about ingredients, we have resonated with a newly coined consumer, the ‘skintellectual,’ who knows exactly what to put on their skin, what the formulas do and in which products to find these ingredients.” 

Being a part of the Estée Lauder family will open up a whole new world for Deciem, the executive noted. 

“You look at the ELC portfolio of brands and now The Ordinary can mix right next to La Mer,” Kilner said. “We always tried to push that price point does not define luxury.”

The acquisition will allow Deciem to have access to Estée Lauder’s vast resources to grow their brands, particularly global distribution and supply chain.

“We will continue scaling The Ordinary,” Kilner said. “Then we want to get back to the heart of Deciem, which is to be an incubator of brands. Our research and development chemists are working on formulations for new brands as we speak.” 

The company’s journey and rise to cult beauty status was not without challenges and growing pains. 

“Estée Lauder supported us at our lowest, continue to trust our decisions and most importantly they have loved us throughout,” Kilner said. 

The $1 billion paid by Estée Lauder reflects a market value of $2.2 billion. Excluding this gain, Deciem’s net sales and earnings are expected to have a negligible impact on Estée Lauder’s fiscal year 2021 consolidated results, according to the release. The acquisition is expected to close in the quarter ending June 30.

Deciem’s founder Truaxe recognized the synergy between the brands and said Estée Lauder was the only “forever home” for the innovative beauty company. 

“They put brand ahead of business and are family-orientated throughout—two values we ferociously hold dear,” Kilner noted.

WWD article
FORBES article

The Best The Ordinary Products Worth Your Money

Few brands have revolutionized the way we shop for skin care the way The Ordinary has. Before the Canadian brand burst onto the scene, accessibility to cheap high-quality products had mostly been restricted to makeup. Even with so much innovation among drugstore skin-care brands, few affordable options really rival what luxury serums and moisturizers have to offer.

That’s why buzz for the best The Ordinary products refuses to die down. The brand takes a clinical, science-based approach to skin care and specializes in single-ingredient-driven products that deliver targeted results. The best part? Nothing costs more than $20. In fact, the majority of it clocks in for less than $10. This is largely in part thanks to The Ordinary’s dedication to transparency, resulting in prices that aren’t significantly marked up.

But despite its low price point, the brand can be intimidating. Because the names of the products refer to skin-care ingredients–not results—they all sound like something out of an advanced medical textbook. Meaning you’re left trying to decipher what the hell ascorbyl tetraisopalmitate (a vitamin C derivative) or epigallocatechin gallatyl glucoside (an anti-inflammatory compound in green tea) does.

GLAMOUR editors went through hundreds of dollars of The Ordinary skin-care products to help explain the cryptic descriptions of each and narrow down what’s actually worth adding to our medicine cabinets. 

The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5

For true, deep moisture, you’re supposed to use a serum or acid that can penetrate deeper than your standard emollient. Enter hyaluronic acid. It provides a healthy glow, leaves the skin dewy but not oily.

$7 at Sephora

The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution

Yes, part of this product’s appeal is that it looks like you’re doing an at-home blood facial, but the results are just as Instagrammable. The mix of AHAs and BHAs deeply exfoliates to clear up congestion, dead skin, and hyperpigmentation. The skin looks brighter and smoother after one use—with no irritation to sensitive skin.

$7.50 at SkinStore

The Ordinary Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA

Apply a pea-size dollop once every day for a week after washing the face. The moisturizer comes out with a sunscreen-like consistency, but it blends in with the skin in seconds. After a week of using it, the cheeks would be plump and flake-free, probably because it has hyaluronic acid, which helps skin cells retain moisture. With such noticeable results for a low-maintenance moisturizer, we can count on this for the winter months.

$7.70 at Sephora

The Ordinary Lactic Acid 10% + HA 2%

The mornings after use (preferably three times a week), the skin is brighter, glowier, and a smidge bouncier.

$6.80 at ULTA

The Ordinary High-Adherence Silicone Primer 

The first noticeable thing about The Ordinary’s High-Adherence Silicone Primer is its texture, which feels just like a creamy moisturizing lotion. Once applied, it makes the skin feel so soft that you almost don’t want to put on makeup for fear of losing the silkiness. The makeup goes on smooth and stays matte throughout the day.

$4.90 at Sephora

The Ordinary Pycnogenol 5%

Pycnogenol is an extract derived from pine trees that has the ability to boost collagen and elastin production in your skin. Plus, it’s a great hydrator. The skin looks and feels healthier after using it.

$11.90 at LookFantastic

The Ordinary 100% Organic Cold-Pressed Rose Hip Seed Oil 

It’s great for moisturizing and nourishing the skin, yet it still feels lightweight. Using it in tandem with a retinol can significantly fade post-acne hyperpigmentation, and it definitely makes a difference in the glow factor. It has a slightly earthy smell.

$9.80 at Sephora

The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution 

In reality, chemical exfoliants are much gentler and better than physical exfoliants, like face scrubs or loofas. This glycolic acid visibly resurfaces the skin, and it’s pretty gentle—though you shouldn’t use it more than every other night. Plus it’s affordable and lasts forever.

$8.70 at Sephora

The Ordinary Azelaic Acid Suspension 

I’ve always been curious about azelaic acid, since I’ve heard it can treat both acne and dark spots while being safe enough to use even during pregnancy. The texture is super luxe and absorbs nicely, can provide an improvement on a stubborn breakout, and make post-acne dark spots look less opaque.

 $8.20 at LookFantastic

The Ordinary Caffeine Solution 5% + EGCG

While it doesn’t help with dark circles (sadly, not much will), the lightweight serum instantly de-puffs and smooths out any baggage. It brightens the eyes in seconds, and makes it look like you got a full eight hours of sleep.

$6.70 at Sephora

The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid* 2% Emulsion

This is an incredibly gentle retinol option. The serum is an almost milky consistency, and after a month of using it, users report that they’ve started to see a few lines on their foreheads fade. It’s also a wonder for smoothing out the texture of the skin.

$9.80 at Sephora

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

Perfect for a pre-bedtime ritual, it’s is only $5; plus, it can be mixed with your other favourite serums to reduce its somewhat gritty texture. If you’re looking to fight wrinkles and even out your skin tone, this one is a great bet.

$5.80 at Sephora

The Ordinary 100% Plant-Derived Squalane

Squalane is a fantastic hydrator—it’s nonsticky, fast-absorbing, and has humectant (meaning, moisture-drawing) properties that work in tandem to make your skin look crazy plump. The downside is that it’s traditionally derived from animals. But that’s not the case with this serum. Instead, it’s powered by plants, so you feel even better about using it when you see dewy, bouncy skin.

$8.20 at LookFantastic

The Ordinary Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate Solution 20% in Vitamin F

The name of this sounds insane (and impossible to pronounce), and I’ll admit that, going in, I had no idea what it did. After a little research and a test-drive, though, I’m sold. It’s basically a form of vitamin C (which helps brighten and even out your skin tone), while vitamin F is a fatty acid rich in omega-6 that helps maintain your skin barrier (when it’s disrupted, all kinds of things like acne and redness occur). You notice a major difference in the condition of the skin after just one use—it is noticeably smoother, firmer, and overall much brighter and more radiant.

$17.80 at Sephora

The Ordinary Retinol 0.5% in Squalane

It’s lower-strength and delivered with squalane, so it’s a bit less irritating than other ones out there. Start by using it one to three times per week, use it only at night, and know that if you don’t wear sunscreen after using it, it will damage your skin.

$5.80 at ULTA

The Ordinary Mandelic Acid 10% + HA

Mandelic acid is really slept on—and hard to find—so it’s exciting to see this hyperpigmentation-fighting superstar available at a lower price point. It’s super gentle yet has helped reduce some of the acne as well as the scars it leaves behind.

$6.80 at ULTA

The Ordinary Salicylic Acid 2% Masque

This pocket-sized, super-affordable charcoal-colored mask is the only thing that’s been helping with my quarantine breakouts. I rate it highly for both skintertainment and effectiveness. It gives me a bright, exfoliated glow without irritating my skin. There is simply nothing more I want from a product.

$12 at ULTA

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