Does The Ordinary's cult red peeling solution live up to its claims? We tried it

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The Ordinary’s red peeling solution is a cult product in the beauty industry. Now, selfies of people in red face masks have taken over social media, as popularity around the product continues to grow. But how did it fare when Stylist’s beauty team tried it?

If you’ve scrolled through TikTok recently, you may have noticed the same beauty product cropping up in your feed time and time again.

As well as already having cult status in the beauty industry, The Ordinary’s AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution, £6.30, has blown up on social media and people are posting images of themselves bearing the solution’s now-infamous red mask. But what exactly does it do?

The formula contains both alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta hydroxy acids (BHAs), meaning its full of advanced acids.

AHAs work to exfoliate the topmost layer of the skin, while BHAs work at a deeper level to clear pore congestion. As this peeling solution contains acids, it also contains Tasmanian pepperberry to reduce inflamation.

Of course, we should add that like any skincare acid, irritation can occur, in which case you should cease use immediately. If you’re unsure you should do a patch test first and always follow up with SPF after use.

Eager to see whether it was worth the hype, the Stylist beauty team gave The Ordinary’s cult peeling solution a go. Here’s what we thought…

Shannon Peter, beauty director


Skin type: combination

“I was under the impression that I was an acid exfoliant connoisseur. I use glycolic acid most days, and dabble in salicylic and lactic acid all the time. So did the warning that this peel was suitable only for advanced acid users worry me? Of course not, I’m a pro. But then came the sting. I smothered a vial-full all over my face and within a second or two, my face felt like it had been repeatedly rubbed with stinging nettles.

“Naturally, I soldiered on, and managed to wait out the entire ten minutes. But if it causes you real irritation, you should stop using it straight away. As I washed it off, my face remained bright red and I couldn’t help but worry it had dyed my skin. Obviously it hadn’t and the redness subsided within a minute. And what was left? The smoothest skin my face has ever seen. Honestly, I can’t stop touching it. I can see why it keeps selling out now!”

Hanna Ibraheem, senior beauty writer


Skin type: combination

“If you ever feel pain from a skincare product, you should wash it off immediately. I discovered this a few weeks ago, when I got a bit acid-happy and irritated my skin barrier. It took me a few days to get it back to a point where I could apply gentle skincare products without feeling like my skin was screaming. So, I wasn’t quite so sure how this experiment was going to go for me, considering The Ordinary’s peel is heralded for its potent formula.

“I used the pipette to dispense a puddle of the red peel in my hands and began rubbing it all over my face, steering clear of my eyes. Once it was on, I felt nothing. No stinging, no uncomfortable sensations and the consistency is so thin, it felt like I had nothing on my face. I went about my business as usual and once the 10 minutes was up, I washed it off to a brighter and incredibly soft complexion.

“I’m so impressed that it gave my skin a visible boost in such a short space of time and I’m looking forward to using it more and seeing the results continue. Plus, the deep red shade of the mask makes for a great selfie, doesn’t it?”

Kiran Meeda, beauty assistant


Skin type: oily

“As soon as I locked eyes with The Ordinary’s vampiric red peeling solution, I knew it would be a difficult journey. I just couldn’t get over how scary it looked to slather all over my face. But, I rose to the challenge and with much hesitation, started to gather solution in the pipette. It wasn’t as slippery as I thought it would be and it certainly wasn’t as painful as I had imagined.

“As soon as I applied a few drops the sting started to kick in. A few drops later and my whole face was covered in the stuff - and the sting, much to my dismay didn’t subside - even after the ten minutes you’re supposed to leave it on for had passed. After what had felt like the longest 10 minutes of my life, I rushed to wash the mask off.

“As soon as it had dried and I applied a basic moisturiser and SPF, I did notice a difference. While I didn’t notice a difference in my skin’s texture, my pores looked smaller and my skin looked a lot brighter and less decongested than it had been before.”

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Main image: Stylist team

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