banner for mad hippie vs the ordinary

Mad Hippie and The Ordinary are two companies that offer some of the most in-demand skincare products for wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, acne and more. However, as with all popular brands, knowing which one is right for you can be a little confusing. So in this article we’re going to look at Mad Hippie vs The Ordinary, so that you can better understand what each company has to offer.

Now, since there are tons of products between these two companies, we’re not going to look at everything they offer. Instead, we’re going to focus exclusively on their vitamin C serums and retinol products.

Note: this post contains affiliate links and I earn a commission (at no additional cost to you) if you use them to make a purchase.


In general, The Ordinary emphasizes budget-friendly skincare products, while Mad Hippie focuses mainly on natural, plant-based products. As a result, while both companies sometimes offer products with similar ingredients, the overall formulation is usually quite different. So, whether one company is better than the other really boils down to what matters most to you as a consumer (and of course, what actually works for your skin!).

Here’s a very brief look at each company.

Mad Hippie Products and Brand

  • All products use botanicals, i.e. a whole plant or a part of a plant that has therapeutic benefits.
  • Certified cruelty-free and vegan.
  • Free of dyes, PEGs, parabens, SLS, petrochemicals and synthetic fragrance (they do use natural fragrance in the form of essential oils).
  • Mid-range price point.
  • The brand strives to minimize environmental impact by using plastic packaging made from sugarcane, printing with soy ink on FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified paper and donating $1 of every online sale to conservation efforts (source).

The Ordinary Products and Brand

  • Strong emphasis on making budget-friendly skincare products with the best quality skincare ingredients.
  • According to the company, they keep prices low by avoiding unnecessary fillers in their formulations. In addition, they only use ingredients that have stood the test of time (source). This means they don’t have to spend money on fancy marketing campaigns designed to familiarize consumers with the ingredient. Less overhead means more savings for consumers.
  • Formulations incorporate both natural and synthetic ingredients.
  • No animal testing.
  • All products are free of mineral oil, coal tar dyes, parabens, oxybenzone, sulphates, formaldehyde and preservatives such as methylchloroisothiazolinone and methylisothiazolinone.
  • A massive selection of products, which can be a little overwhelming at times.


Active ingredient(s)sodium ascorbyl phosphate (vitamin C derivative)some products use pure ascorbic acid, others use a vitamin C derivative
Strengthequivalent to 15 – 20% ascorbic acid8 – 30% ascorbic acid.
Also a full strength, pure vitamin C powder.

Mad Hippie Vitamin C Serum

Active ingredient : sodium ascorbyl phosphate. This a vitamin C derivative that is more stable than pure ascorbic acid, which means the serum won’t spoil nearly as quickly as a pure ascorbic acid serum. Once absorbed into the skin, this derivative is converted to L-ascorbic acid. Do keep in mind that this derivative is less harsh than ascorbic acid and therefore, takes longer to produce results.

Supporting ingredients: to balance out the effects of vitamin C, this serum also contains other ingredients like ferulic acid, hyaluronic acid, vitamin E, konjac root extract, aloe vera leaf, glycerin, chamomile flower extract. The table below provides a quick summary of how each of these extra ingredients can benefit the skin.

  • ferulic acid: stabilizes vitamin C; considered one of the must-have “supporting” ingredients for a vitamin C serum.
  • hyaluronic acid: hydrates the skin and helps to balance out the dryness that can come with vitamin C serums.
  • vitamin E: emollient and antioxidant that is known for fighting off free-radical damage and balancing skin tone.
  • konjac root extract: contains glucommanan, a starch that hydrates the skin, combats oxidative damage and slows down the spread of acne (source). Also contains vitamins (A, E, C, D and B), minerals and fatty acids.
  • aloe vera leaf: hydrates and moisturizes the skin.
  • glycerin: a humectant that attracts moisture to the skin.
  • chamomile flower extract: soothes and calms the skin.

The Ordinary Vitamin C

The Ordinary has 8 vitamin C products to choose from. Below is a quick overview of each one (source). As you go through the list, just keep in mind that the more vitamin C is in the product, the greater the chances of irritation. If you have sensitive skin, it’s best to stick to products that are in the 5 – 8% range.

1. 100% L-Ascorbic Acid Powder

  • Pure vitamin C powder, which is the most stable form of vitamin C.
  • Should mixed in the palm of hand with another product (such as a moisturizer).
  • Very potent and more likely to cause irritation if used incorrectly.
  • If you have sensitive skin and choose to use this powder make sure to read the instructions closely and dilute it to 5 – 8% of the final mixture.

2. Ascorbic Acid 8% + Alpha Arbutin 2%

  • Water-free and oil-free.
  • Contains propanediol, a corn-sugar derived liquid that feels slightly oily upon initial application.
  • Alpha arbutin helps to clear up dark spots and balance skin tone.
  • At 8% AA, this is considered moderate potency.

3. Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate 10%

  • Water-based cream formulation.
  • Magnesium ascorbyl phosphate is a more gentle vitamin C derivative. Slower-acting compared to ascorbic acid.
  • At 10% concentration, this is considered moderate potency.

4. Ascorbyl Glucoside Solution 12%

  • Water-based serum formulation.
  • Ascorbyl glucoside is a vitamin C derivative. Slower-acting compared to ascorbic acid.
  • At 12% concentration, this is considered high potency.

5. Ethylated Ascorbic Acid 15% Solution

  • Water-free and oil-free. Contains propanediol which feels slightly oily upon application.
  • Ethylated ascorbic acid is a stable vitamin C derivative with a molecular weight similar to ascorbic acid. Compared to other derivatives, this derivative is quite potent.
  • At 15% concentration, this is considered high potency.

6. Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate Solution 20% in Vitamin F

  • Oil-based formulation.
  • Ascorbyl tetraisopalmitate is a vitamin C derivative. Therefore, it’s slower acting compared to ascorbic acid.
  • The “vitamin F” is for the essential fatty acids in this formulation, thanks to ingredients like jojoba oil.
  • At 20% concentration, this is considered high potency.

7. Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2%

  • Heavy serum formulation, with a gritty feel upon application.
  • Uses pure ascorbic acid as well as hyaluronic acid.
  • At 23% concentration, this is considered very high potency. The Ordinary points out that this one will cause strong tingling for a week or two.

8. Vitamin C Suspension 30% in Silicone

  • Heavy serum formulation that uses silicone to provide a smooth finish.
  • Uses pure ascorbic acid as well as hyaluronic acid.
  • At 30% concentration, this is considered very high potency. The Ordinary points out that this one will cause strong tingling for a week or two.


Active ingredient(s)HPR (hydroxypinacolone retinoate – a retinol ester)retinol in some products and a special form of HPR for others
Strengthequivalent to 15 – 20% ascorbic acid8 – 30% ascorbic acid, plus a full strength vitamin C powder.

Mad Hippie Vitamin A Serum

Active ingredient: 1 – 2% HPR (hydroxypinacolone retinoate). HPR which is an ester of retinoic acid (the active form retinol). It’s said to be less irritating than retinol. Also, unlike retinol – which the body has to convert to retinoic acid – HPR can be used by the body as is. So, in theory, one could use less HPR and get the same results as a higher amount of retinol (and with little to no irritation).

Supporting ingredients: other ingredients in this serum include aloe leaf juice (nutrient-rich moisturizer), glycerin (humectant), oat beta-glucan (very hydrating and soothing polysaccharide), sodium hyaluronate (moisturizer) and safflower seed oil.

The Ordinary Retinol

The Ordinary has two sets of retinoid product lines to choose from: Retinol In Squalane and Granactive Retinoid™ in Squalane

1. “Retinol In Squalane” Product Line

  • water-free.
  • available in 3 strengths: 0.2%, 0.5% and 1%. Their website indicates that the 0.2% concentration can cause “moderate irritation” while the 1% concentration could cause “very high irritation”.
  • all three products follow the exact same formulation with squalane as the base.

2. “Granactive Retinoid™ in Squalane” Product Line

  • water-free.
  • offered as a gentle, no/low irritation alternative to the Retinol in Squalane product line.
  • uses a trademarked technology that is described as “a solubilized system of Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate” (source). By the way, hydroxypinacolone retinoate is also the active ingredient in Mad Hippie’s Vitamin A serum.
  • available in two strengths: 2% and 5%.


What percentage of vitamin C is mad hippie serum?

According to Mad Hippie’s website, the vitamin C serum is equivalent to using a 15 – 20% ascorbic acid serum (source). In general, a 15 – 20% concentration is considered high. However, do keep in mind that the Mad Hippie serum uses a vitamin C derivative, which converts to ascorbic acid. So, you’re not actually applying 20% ascorbic acid to your skin (but you’re reaping the benefits that are equivalent to 20% ascorbic acid).


For budget-conscious skincare, you can’t beat the value that The Ordinary brings to the table. That said, if you enjoy pampering your skin with botanicals, then Mad Hippie is a great choice.

I hope this article has helped you get a better understanding of the vitamin C and retinol products that each brand offers.

You Might Also Enjoy:

Best Vitamin C Serum For Sensitive Skin: 5 Products to Unlock Your Natural Glow

Pai Rosehip Oil vs Other Brands (Kosmea, Trilogy, The Ordinary, Radha): Which Brand Is Actually Worth It?