The Ordinary Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA – Review

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The Ordinary Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA is a hydrating moisturizer that works well for adding moisture to dry skin and for sealing in previous steps of a skincare routine. Natural Moisturizing Factors are a complex of low molecular weight and water-soluble substances present within the skin. They prevent Trans Epidermal Water Loss (TEWL), and play an important structural role within the skin. The HA refers to Hyaluronic acid, a powerful water-binding molecule, that is listed as Sodium Hyaluronate on the list of ingredients.

The Ordinary Claims:

Natural Moisturizing Factors (NMF) are elements that keep the outer layer of the skin protected and well-hydrated. NMF are made up of multiple amino acids, fatty acids, triglycerides, urea, ceramides, phospholipids, glycerin, saccharides, sodium PCA, hyaluronic acid, and many other compounds that are naturally present in the skin.

This formula offers non-greasy hydration that acts as a direct topical supplement of impaired NMF components. It contains 11 amino acids, phospholipids, alpha/beta/gamma fatty acids, triglycerides, sterols and sterol esters, glycerin, ceramide precursors, urea, saccharides, sodium PCA, and hyaluronic acid. It offers immediate hydration and lasting results with continued use.

Appearance and Scent:

This fragrance-free moisturizer is a thick cream that takes a little bit of rubbing into the skin. It goes on thick but quickly absorbs with almost no shine or stickiness. There is no discernable scent.

Packaging, Size, and Expiry:

The Ordinary products all come in simple, uncomplicated packaging, and this opaque squeeze tube is no exception. This gives the advantage of being hygienic and allowing the price point of the product to remain low. The tube contains 30ml of product and expires 12 months after opening.

How to Use:

This product is intended to be used morning and night as the last step in a routine after all active ingredients.

Cost and number of uses:

The Ordinary NMF + HA retails for NZD $10.00 or US $7.00. The smaller size of the tube means it does not last very long, about one month with twice-daily use.

Formulation Analysis:

The symptoms of dry skin can be improved by increasing the hydration levels of the stratum corneum (the outermost layer of skin), through replenishing Natural Moisturizing Factors (NMF’s). These are the water-soluble components like free amino acids, organic acids, urea, and inorganic ions that determine the skin’s water-holding properties. NMF’s are efficient humectants, attracting moisture and playing an essential role in maintaining the stratum corneum’s physical properties, allowing the skin to function optimally. Dry and damaged skin is no longer able to produce NMF’s and an abnormality in this pathway is thought to be responsible for causing atopic dermatitis.

A component of the NMF is Hyaluronic acid, a polysaccharide found in nearly every cell of the body.  It has a skin-supporting function in the dermis, maintains epidermal barrier function, immobilizes water in tissues, influences cell proliferation, and differentiation, and plays an essential role in wound healing and inflammatory responses.  The skin utilizes almost 50% of the body’s hyaluronic acid.  The molecule has a negative charge allowing it to bind with water and form a viscous gel. As a result, it is used for dermal fillers and as a topical skin moisturizing ingredient.   The extraction of hyaluronic acid is either from animal tissues or via large-scale bacterial fermentation using genetically modified bacterial stains. Extracted initially from cow eyes, then more recently roosters combs. The most ethical way to produce hyaluronic acid is by genetically modifying strains of bacteria like E. coli, Bacillus, and Lactococcus species.  Deciem uses the process of bacterial fermentation to source its hyaluronic acid, making it vegan and cruelty-free.

The NMF is composed of:

  • 40% Amino acids
  • 18.5% Minerals (sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium)
  • 12% PCA
  • 12% Lactates
  • 8.5% sucrose, organic acids and peptides
  • 7% Urea
  • 1.5% Uric acid, glucosmine and creatine
  • 0.5% Citrates

This moisturizer contains many of the key components of the NMF. The skin is constantly regenerating and replenishing these components, but this process decreases as we age. By adding NMF components into your skincare routine, the skins protective barrier is strengthened, signs of aging are diminished, the skin is hydrated, less prone to irritation and is healthier.


Aqua (Water), Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Cetyl Alcohol, Propanediol, Stearyl Alcohol, Glycerin, Sodium Hyaluronate, Arginine, Aspartic Acid, Glycine, Alanine, Serine, Valine, Isoleucine, Proline, Threonine, Histidine, Phenylalanine, Glucose, Maltose, Fructose, Trehalose, Sodium PCA, PCA, Sodium Lactate, Urea, Allantoin, Linoleic Acid, Oleic Acid, Phytosteryl Canola Glycerides, Palmitic Acid, Stearic Acid, Lecithin, Triolein, Tocopherol, Carbomer, Isoceteth-20, Polysorbate 60, Sodium Chloride, Citric Acid, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Pentylene Glycol, Triethanolamine, Sodium Hydroxide, Phenoxyethanol, Chlorphenesin

Ingredient Analysis:

Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride is an emollient, skin softening ingredient that is capable of retaining moisture and repairing the skin due to its high fatty acid content.  It also has the ability to enhance the penetration of active ingredients without leaving an oily residue on the skin. It is produced by combining coconut oil or palm kernel oil with glycerin.

Propanediol is a fatty alcohol used as a penetration enhancing ingredient that is also hydrating and leaves a slightly greasy/oily residue on the skin. It can act as a solvent or an emulsifier and can be added to skincare to reduce the viscosity of the formulation.  It can be produced synthetically or by using a non-pathogenic strain of E. coli to ferment corn-derived glucose.

Hyaluronic acid and its derivatives offer superior moisturization as the skin-identical molecules are capable of penetrating deep into the dermis and absorbing 1000 times their weight in water.  The lower the molecular weight, the deeper the molecule can penetrate the skin. Sodium Hyaluronate is the salt form of hyaluronic acid that exists as a smaller molecular size than hyaluronic acid, is more water-soluble, and is less likely to oxidize. It provides more significant moisturization as the molecule is capable of penetrating deeper into the dermis.  It is ideal for use in skincare due to its biocompatibility, consistency, and hydrophilicity (water-loving nature).

Glycerin is a skin-conditioning agent, skin protectant, and humectant (water binder) that occurs naturally within the skin and assists in the development of immature skin cells. Having adequate amounts of glycerin available within the skin is crucial for those who suffer from psoriasis or non-melanoma skin cancers.

Amino Acids are the building blocks of protein molecules. There are 11 amino acids present in the formulation (as highlighted in green). Amino acids are widely used as a skincare additive and function as skin-conditioning agents. Amino acids are involved in various biochemical pathways for the formation of collagen or the prevention of collagen breakdown within the skin.

Arginine is considered to be one of the most metabolically versatile amino acids and is involved in several metabolic pathways within the human body. When taken orally, it has demonstrated several antiaging benefits. Studies on the topical use of arginine are limited. It is incorporated into skincare for its antioxidant properties, because it is an essential building block of collagen and because it is a component of the Natural Moisturizing Factor NMF) of the skin.

Trehalose is a sugar molecule comprised of two glucose units.  It helps plants and insects survive extreme conditions. It works topically on the skin as a moisturizer, skin protector and antioxidant.  It has the ability to bind to water more strongly than water can bind to itself; because of this property, it is an excellent hydrating agent and can assist the skin in maintaining its structure and prevent transepidermal water loss. As it also forms a film on the surface of the skin, it can protect the skin from itching, burning and irritation.

Urea is a naturally occurring component of the Natural Moisturizing Factor (NMF) of the skin that has a function in retaining moisture and preserving the integrity of the skin.  Urea comprises about 7% of the NMF and is associated with the management of skin disorders including dermatitis and psoriasis. When used topically in concentrations of <10% it functions as a moisturizer and in concentrations >10% it is able to exert keratolytic action by dissolving the horny substance (keratin) that holds the top layer of dead skin cells together. Urea has been used in dermatological therapy for over 20 years and has five main functions; to retain moisture, maintain barrier function, exfoliate, increase impermeability and provide pain and itching relief to the skin.

Linoleic acid is an unsaturated omega-6 fatty acid, it is the most abundant polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) present in the epidermis. The metabolism of PUFA’s is highly active in the skin and has a direct role in the maintenance and integrity of the skins moisture barrier. A diet low in linoleic acid will result in scaly and pruritic (itchy) skin disorders.

Tocopherol refers to a group of molecules known as Vitamin E, a fat-soluble antioxidant essential for healthy skin. Higher levels are found in the dermis than in the epidermis. Vitamin E is delivered to the skin through sebum but can be applied topically, especially in cases where the diet is lacking.  Vitamin E absorbs UV energy and reacts with reactive oxygen species (ROS) which protects the skin from UV-induced free radical damage and provides protection from the damaging effects of UV radiation. It is also able to provide anti-inflammatory properties within the skin. These effects are enhanced when combined with vitamin C.  It is added to skincare for its ability to protect collagen from degradation by ROS.

pH Testing:

I got a result of 7.1. The Ordinary website states the pH of the product will be between 6.5-7.0. The first time I tested the pH of this product I got a result of 6.7. I repurchased a new tube to update the photos and got an even higher result this time around.

pH Analysis:

The Ordinary website lists the pH of this product as 6.5 – 7. As the pH of healthy facial skin lies between 4.5-5.5, this product is too alkaline to provide any benefit to the skin and may even be harmful. The slightly alkaline pH could affect the health of the skin long-term, which could potentially have the effect of damaging the skins moisture barrier and causing breakouts with long-term use.

Read about skin pH and why it is so important here.

Overall Impressions:

I have been using The Ordinary Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA for a few weeks now. After initially being frustrated by it, causing my sunscreen to ball up, I decided to switch it to my nighttime routine. After a few more weeks of use, I can confidently say my skin does not like this formulation. After checking the pH of this product, I now know why. A pH of 7.1 is way too alkaline for any formulation of a good skincare product and is likely to affect the efficiency of the expensive actives I use in my routine.

What I Liked:

  • The science behind this product was fascinating to research with lots of research to back up the effectiveness of adding NMF’s topically, especially in the case of dry or damaged skin.  
  • Inexpensive with an impressive list of ingredients. 
  • Simple, hygienic, and lightproof packaging. 
  • Contains no unnecessary or sensitizing ingredients. 
  • The brand is cruelty-free and vegan. 

What I Disliked:

  • The pH is too high and could lead to skin damage and alter the effectiveness of other routine steps.
  • Can feel thick and heavy on the skin.
  • Can ball up under moisturizers and sunscreens
  • packaging makes dispensing hard when nearly empty


  • The Ordinary Website
  • The Effect of Natural Moisturizing Factors on the Interaction Between Water Molecules and Keratin, Treatment of Dry Skin Syndrome, 2012.
  • Considerations in selecting a moisturizer, Wehr RF, Krochmal L, 1987
  • Cosmetic and Dermatologic Problems and Solutions, 2011.
  • Safety Assessment of Alpha Amino Acids as Used in Cosmetics. International Journal of Toxicology, 2013.
  • Cosmecuticals: peptids, proteins and growth factors. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, 2016.
  • Anti-inflammatory and skin barrier repair effect of some topical application of some plant oils. International Jornal of Molecular Sciences, 2017.
  • Topical urea in skincare: a review.  Dermatologic Therapy, 2018.
  • The Derm Review: Urea, 2018.
  • Skincare and Cosmetic Ingredient Dictionary, 4th Edition, 2015.
  • Anti-aging effects of L-arginine.  Journal of Advanced Research, 2010.
  • Bioactive for probiotics for dermal health: function and benefit.  Journal of Applied Microbiology, 2013.
  • Biotechnological production of hyaluronic acid: a mini review.  3 Biotceh, 2016.
  • Vitamin E in dermatology. Indian Dermatological Online Journal, 2016.
  • Vitamin E and skin health. Oregon State University-Micronutrient Information Centre, 2012.
  • Evaluation of the Filming and Protective Properties of a New Trehalose and Ceramides Based Ingredient.  Cosmetics, 2019.


1 Comment

  1. John Kevin San Jose
    June 28, 2020 / 3:20 am

    Hi can I use your photos for my small online shop on Instagram (@skin.sqin)?