Review: The Ordinary Alpha Lipoic Acid 5%

The Alpha Lipoic Acid from The Ordinary has got to be the “strongest” at-home acid I have ever used. And to think, I turned my nose up at 5% but it turns out that it’s actually an “exceptionally high” concentration of the acid.

My skin type

Oily; acne scarring on chin and cheeks. I also have enlarged, damaged pores on my cheeks.

What it’s supposed to do

It’s an antioxidant meant to improve the texture and tone of the skin. I don’t generally have texture issues with my skin as a whole, just on my cheeks where the pores have been damaged in some places by my incessant picking and prodding.


Propanediol, Thioctic Acid (alpha lipoic acid)

How I use it

This is one of the first products I used after cleansing. Other acids I regularly use include glycolic acid, lactic acid, and salicylic acid. I have learned to avoid mixing the alpha lipoic acid with the glycolic acid and salicylic acid. I did this and woke up the next morning to discover I had over-exfoliated for the first time in my life.

I was using this 3-4 times per week at night and had to scale it back after I decided it is too potent for my skin on its own. The brand cautions against using this on a daily basis because of the high concentration of acid. It certainly burns a little on the skin and when you have used other acids, such as the brand’s Glycolic Acid Toner (review forthcoming), the burning is more intense. If you have sensitive skin, this alpha lipoic acid is not for you. I would also say if you are inexperienced with acids or have a very low tolerance level for acids, this alpha lipoic acid isn’t for you either. If you fall into these two categories and you really want to use it, I suggest diluting it with an oil, as I will describe below.

The Ordinary suggests diluting this with an oil to reduce the strength. Since the Alpha Lipoic Acid is water-free, I avoid mixing this directly with products and oils that contain water. When I use this on its own at full-strength, I wait a little while (around 15 min) before following up with a moisturizer and sleeping mask.

I ultimately decided to dilute this with The Ordinary’s Squalane (reviewed here) so that I can incorporate it into my regimen more often, if I wanted to. I repurchased the squalane so I use the old squalane bottle to apply. This concoction serves as a PM moisturizer.

How long I used it

I have been using this for quite some time; the beginning of March to be more exact. It was difficult to find a place for it in my regimen because of its potency and because of the frequency of use.

What I like about it

It’s actually a great product and has so much potential. There’s plenty of scientific research that says alpha lipoic acid has positive benefits to the skin. I think it’s just too early for me. I also like that it’s a thinner oil and absorbs into my skin effortlessly. Also smells like cotton candy to me, although some may beg to differ.

What could be better

Well, it’s just kind of boring. I kind of wish The Ordinary would have included more on their site about making this more exciting, such as which oils to mix it with. While I deeply appreciate the effort of these 100% oils, I think humans have too short an attention span to be perfectly pleased with plain old acids. Perhaps this could have been more exciting as an ingredient in something else. It all comes down to joy factor.

Joy Factor

On a scale of 1-10, the Alpha Lipoic Acid 5% is about a 5. It’s a difficult product to use and commit to. I imagine if I had more issues with the texture of my skin I would be all. over. this.

Where to indulge

The Ordinary | Beautylish | oo35mm | Beauty Bay

UPDATE: I have found a way to get more out of this product. Check out this post on the oil I created mixing Alpha Lipoic Acid with other meh products.


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