The Ordinary Serum Foundation: Review & Swatches

I have been wanting to try The Ordinary Serum Foundation since it launched. I originally spaced it out and didn’t grab any, then it was sold out for some time. Back in stock now so I grabbed all the light medium and medium shades. For $6.70 I couldn’t go wrong grabbing a few extra shades that may not work. I was after all in the name of science for this blog right? Details per The Ordinary:

Serum Foundations are lightweight medium-coverage formulations available in a comprehensive shade range across 21 shades. These foundations offer moderate coverage that looks natural with a very lightweight serum feel. They are very low in viscosity and are dispensed with the supplied pump or with the optional glass dropper available for purchase separately if preferred.

The pigments used in this format are treated for a rich, highly-saturated effect. These pigments are suspended in our proprietary spreadability system that allows pigments to look natural on the skin, resist collecting within fine lines and stay on for longer. The foundations offer a semi-matte finish and are compatible with most primers and are designed to work exceptionally well with the primers offering from The Ordinary.

The unique suspension system used in the formulations allows shades to look so natural on skin that three shades or more will suit most skin tones. The shades can also be mixed at the time of application if desired. As with most liquid forms of foundation, it’s ideal to shake the container lightly before use. 

Directions Shake before use. Dispense a small amount into the palm or the back of your hand. Smooth on and blend throughout the face, ideally outward from the midpoint of the face.

The shades are divided into three categories: 1 for fair to lighter tones, 2 for medium tones; and 3 for darker tones. Each category is then classified further by a second digit from 0 to 3 to indicate depth within each category. Finally, a letter is added to the shade code to identify the undertone: P (Pink) and R (Red) indicate cool undertones for lighter and darker shades respectively; N indicates a Neutral tone; Y indicates a Yellow undertone. Each shade code has a descriptive name as well. For example, 1.2P is Light with Pink Undertones while 3.0Y is Medium Dark with Yellow Undertones. For a complete shade guide, please click here.

Three of the shades have an additional letter at the end: S indicates Silver highlights and G indicates Gold highlights; these shades use natural-looking and exceptionally fine dispersions of metallic effect pigments for added highlight. The Ordinary will introduce individual enhancers and highlighters in the near future to customize all shades.

This foundation comes packaged in a matte plastic lightweight plastic bottle with a pump. Yay! Finally The Ordinary does a pump. If only I could get this pump on their other products. This foundation is extremely affordable at $6.70 a bottle. The lightweight fluid texture sets to a dewy satin finish and offers a light to light medium coverage. It is buildable to a degree. This will not fully cover the redness in my cheeks, but it mostly covers it. This is lightweight so it should suit all skin types even oily. The longevity is maybe 6-8 hours before fading some. It’s comfortable to wear and never drying, heavy or oily. If you like lightweight foundations this is worth a try, for less than $7 you can’t go wrong.

On to the shades. I grabbed all the medium shades. There’s three light medium shades and two medium shades. While this brand and line doesn’t have the most extensive shade range for options, the light coverage of this foundation allows you some leeway. The 2.0 range is very similar to the MAC 20-25 range. It’s a light medium complexion range.

2.0YG is the palest shade. Very NC20-25. It might be too dark for NC20, too light for NC25. Again with the light coverage you have lots of wiggle room. I didn’t even notice that this has golden shimmer to be honest. It must be really fine. I only swatched the shade as it was to light for me.

2.0P is very orange for being “pink” based. It’s not cool at all. It feels very SUQQU or Japanese in their take on pink versus yellow bases in their foundations.

2.0N is my best match. It has more depth than 2.0YG but less orange than the 2.0P. It’s very close to a NC25. It’s still a touch too pale for me. I need more of a NC27-30. I have to mix this with one of the darker shades to get a better match for me. This feels the most Ochre in the base tint. So if you like the Japanese term Ochre in Cle de Peau this ‘N’ version is for you. This shade is probably closest to Cle de Peau O20. I wear O30 normally.

2.1P is medium in tone and very orange. Maybe somewhere around the NC30-35 range. I mix 1/3 this shade to 2/3 2.0N to get close to my needs. However, this is still a bit orange for me.

2.1Y is a deeper medium golden shade. Maybe around a NC35+. I don’t normally check out the NC30+ range in person so it’s hard for me to say for sure.

I love the lightweight texture and feel. It feels like skin with no heavy or greasy feel. I never broke out or felt greasy while wearing this. The shade selection is not that great. However, that’s not hugely important with this lightweight coverage since there’s a lot of room for not being perfect. The shade range feels very Japanese in it’s terms of pink and yellow bases. It’s a very warm overall feeling foundation line at least in the light medium and medium range. It’s definitely lacking in the neutral range at least in any shade darker than the 2.0 range. They really do need a 2.1N. I hope to see The Ordinary expand the shade range a bit. If you like affordable, lightweight, fluid like textured foundations and have a warmer skin tone you’ll probably love these. If your skin tone is cooler you might find this range a bit too warm for you.

Top to Bottom–2.0N, 2.0P, 2.0YG, 2.1P, 2.1Y:

Of Note on the SPF

Serum Foundations sold in the European Union offer an SPF 15 claim. This protection is achieved without the use of chemical sunscreens and only through physical protection from Titanium Dioxide. Additionally, no nano-particles are used to achieve this sun protection. These attributes are unique in foundations because it is exceptionally difficult to create a natural, lightweight look and consistent shades when using only non-nano forms of Titanium Dioxide for sun protection without any chemical sunscreen agents.

Please note that the formulations are and will be the same in all markets but the packaging will claim SPF 15 only in the European Union while regulatory processes for claiming SPF in other markets are carried out individually.


Cyclopentasiloxane, Aqua (Water), Caprylyl Methicone, Coconut Alkanes, Methyl Methacrylate Crosspolymer, Trimethylsiloxysilicate, PEG-9 Polydimethylsiloxyethyl Dimethicone, Coco Caprylate/Caprate, Dimethicone/PEG-10/15 Crosspolymer, Cetyl Diglyceryl Tris(Trimethylsiloxy)silylethyl Dimethicone, Dipropylene Glycol, Tocopherol, Polyglyceryl-3 Diisostearate, Polyglyceryl-3 Polyricinoleate, Polyglyceryl-4 Isostearate, Disteardimonium Hectorite, Hectorite, Sodium Chloride, Hexyl Laurate, Dimethicone/Vinyl Dimethicone Crosspolymer, PEG-10 Dimethicone, Stearic Acid, Alumina, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Phenoxyethanol, Chlorphenesin. May Contain [+/-]: Titanium Dioxide (CI 77891), Iron Oxides (CI 77491, CI 77492, CI 77499), Tin Oxide, Aluminum Hydroxide, Bismuth Oxychloride (CI 77163), Mica, Triethoxycaprylylsilane.

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