Product Review: The Ordinary Caffeine Solution 5% + EGCG

Repurchase? No.

The Ordinary Caffeine Solution

The Ordinary is a brand under the Deciem umbrella, and is their cheapest skincare line.  All of the products in the line are under $20, with most well under that mark.  The brand’s Caffeine Solution 5% + EGCG is an eye treatment, packaged in their characteristic brown dropper bottle with the paired down white label.  The product is purported to improve the appearance of puffiness and darkness in the eye area (more on this later).

Company’s claims…

The company, like so many, references independent studies but does not provide links to them.  See for yourself below.


The Ordinary Caffeine Claims


First impressions…

The product is truly a serum consistency–quite liquid, and therefore should be applied prior to any eye creams.  For this same reason it also seems to take a few minutes to sink into the skin.

After my first trial run I found that I needed a very small amount, about a pea sized dot on the palm of my hand.


Below is the official ingredients list from The Ordinary’s website.  We’ll tackle the list one by one.

The Ordinary Caffeine Ingredients

  1. Water: I’ll trust you all know what this is.
  2. Caffeine: Caffeine has a lipolytic effect on fatty cells–this means that it can break down lipids and release fatty acids.  Caffeine also has draining properties.  These two abilities make caffeine ideal for tightening and firming skin.  The draining properties are also purported to aid in the draining of blockages that can contribute to puffiness and darkness.  Unfortunately, research results are mixed at best and have fairly conclusively shown that caffeine has no effect on puffiness in the eye area.  Caffeine may, however, have soothing and antioxidant properties in the face of UV exposure.  There is also some research that caffeine can help improve the look of redness due to its constricting effects.
  3. Propanediol: Propanediol is a glycol which can enhance the absorption of ingredients.  This solvent is often used in cosmetic formulations to increase viscosity.  For those of you interested in natural beauty, this can be naturally derived or synthetically manufactured so its inclusion doesn’t necessarily preclude a product from being all natural.  This ingredient is generally well-tolerated.
  4. Glycerin: Glycerin is present in all natural lipids (AKA fats) and can be derived from natural substances or synthetically manufactured.  Glycerin is a humectant (meaning, it is used to keep things moist) used in moisturizers.  It is especially useful as it is water-binding and can pull water from the air and help the skin to retain moisture.  It should also be noted that glycerin is a substance naturally found in skin.  Glycerin can also improve the spreading qualities of creams and lotions.  Research has shown that glycerin, in combination with other ingredients is excellent for the replenishment of skin.  A note about glycerin: although it has not been shown to cause allergies, it may be comedogenic and irritating to the mucous membrane in concentrated solutions.  I don’t believe that, in the quantity present in this formulation, that this should be an issue.
  5. Maltodextrin: Maltodextrin is a polysaccharide obtained from various plants (corn, potato, rice, etc.)  It is absorbent and skin conditioning.  Some preparations utilize Maltodextrin as a stabilizer or a film former.  This ingredient is very commonly used in cosmetic preparations.
  6. Epigallocatechin Gallate: This ingredient is an active of green tea that acts to soothe skin and provide antioxidant protection.  Some studies have shown that formulations containing this ingredient can help reduce sun damage.
  7. Sodium Hyaluronate: Sodium hyaluronate is used as a humectant to increase moisture in the skin and also as an emulsifier.  Sodium hyaluronate is capable of penetrating the skin.  This compound can bind 1,800 times its own weight in water.  Sodium hyaluronate is the sodium salt of hyaluronic acid and is the most commonly used form of hyaluronic acid.
  8. Glycine Soja (Soybean) Seed Extract: This is a plant-derived ingredient, as the name suggests, and functions to add moisture to preparations.  This compound acts as an emollient (soothes/softens/relaxes).  The soybean is rich in Vitamin E.  Soy extract serves as an antioxidant.  There is some evidence that this ingredient also delivers amino acids, proteins, vitamins, and minerals into the body.  Typical uses of Glycine Soja Seed Extract include as a bulking agent, as a moisturizer, and as an emulsifier.
  9. Urea: Incorporated into cosmetics to moisturize, desquamate (basically, exfoliate or shed the outer layers of skin), and to act as an anti-microbial ingredient and a buffering (buffering is when the natural pH level of an ingredient is altered) ingredient.  It’s buffering properties come from its ability to regulate the hypo lipid mantle.  Urea is naturally found in healthy skin.  Urea is not a humectant, but rather a “true” moisturizer because it attracts and retains moisture in the corneun layer. Urea also facilitates exfoliation of keratinocytes; this is due to its ability to dissolve intercellular cement int he corneum layer.  Urea also enhances the penetration and absorption of other active ingredients.  Urea has been shown to relieve itching.  Urea has anti-inflammatory, anti-septic, and deodorizing properties which also it to protect the skin’s surface against negative changes and help maintain healthy skin.  Studies have shown that urea does not induce photoallergy, phototoxicity, or sensitization.  The safest skincare concentration is between 2 and 8%.  Higher concentrations are unstable in skincare preparations and can cause irritation.  Acidic urea solutions can produce burning or stinging.
  10. Tocophersolan: This is a water-soluble form of Vitamin E that acts as an anti-oxidant.  This can also serve as a skin-conditioning agent.
  11. Hydroxyethylcellulose:  Obtained from wood pulp, hydroxyethylcellulose can be used as a gelling and thickening agent, as a protective colloid, as a binder, or as a stabilizer.
  12. Poloxamer 235: Poloxamers are surfactant polymers.  The higher the number, the more solid the consistency (can be found in liquid, paste, or solid form).
  13. Poloxamer 338: See above.
  14. Xanthan Gum: Also known as corn starch gum, this ingredient serves as a texturized, carrier agent, and gelling agent.  Xantham gum can also be used to stabilize and thicken formulations.  Produced through a process of fermentation of carbohydrate and Xanthomonas campestris.
  15. Lactic Acid: Also known as sodium lactate.  This is a multi-purpose ingredients used as a: preservative, exfoliant, moisturizer, and acidity provider.  Lactic acid is found in the skin as a component of its natural moisturizing factor.  Boasts a better water intake than glycerin.  Studies indicated an ability to increase water-retention capacity of the stratum corneum.  Studies have also shown that the pliability of the stratum corneum layer is closely related to the absorption of lactic acid;;the greater the amount of absorbed lactic acid, the more pliable the stratum corneum.  Continuous use of products containing 5-12% lactic acid provided a mild to moderate improvement in fine wrinkling and promoted softer, smoother skin.  Exfoliating properties can help in the process of removing excess pigment from the surface of the skin, as well as improving skin texture and feel.  Lactic acid is an alpha hydroxy acid occurring in sour milk, beer, pickles, and foods made through a process of bacterial fermentation.  High concentrations are caustic.
  16. Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate:
  17. Butylene Glycol: A solvent with good antimicrobial actions.  Enhances the preservative activity of parabens.  Also serves as a humectant and viscosity controller.  Can also be used to mask odor.
  18. Ethoxydiglycol: This is a solvent for essential oils, fragrance materials, and terpene oils.  Often used in nail enamels but can be incorporated into skincare products as a humectant.  Non-irritating, non-penetrating, and non-comedogenic.
  19. Phenoxyethanol: A preservative with fungicidal, bactericidal, insecticidal, and germicidal properties.  Has a relatively low sensitizing factor in leave-on cosmetics.  Can be used in concentration of .5-2% and in combination with other preservatives.  Can also be used as a solvent.
  20. Chlorophenesin: A preservative with fungistatic and bactericidal properties.

Final verdict…

I am pleased with the formulation from a ingredient list standpoint–it contains all the makings of what you think might be a great eye product.  I also like that caffeine, the star ingredient, is 2nd in the ingredient list.  Unfortunately, as one of my favorite beauty gurus Lisa Eldridge has said, there has been precious little research into topical treatments for the eye area when compared to many other skincare concerns and as I mentioned in the ingredient breakdown there is little reliable evidence that caffeine has a pronounced effect on puffiness or dark circles.  Fortunately, Lisa thinks eye care is the next frontier to be conquered by skin researchers (god I hope she’s right)!

Immediate results were indiscernible and I found that from day 1 this product lacked the moisture my dry skin needs.  After several weeks of use, in concert with another more hydrating cream applied on top, I have seen no changes in my eye area.  I do have dark circles, which have not improved.  I cannot speak personally to the ability of the product to deal with puffiness as I do not suffer from this, but based on the ingredient list and the feeble evidence indicating caffeine can have an effect on puffiness, I would assume this product would be unable to treat puffiness and bags.

I will NOT be repurchasing this.

Due to my nature, I will probably continue to use until the bottle is empty (despite the low price tag), and of course will update you all if I do see any changes!  Would love to be proven wrong.  Have any of you had any experience with this product?  Would love to hear your thoughts.

12 thoughts on “Product Review: The Ordinary Caffeine Solution 5% + EGCG

  1. Great review. This was on my purchase list but I was also skeptical about caffeine. Will be holding onto my pennies this time ! X

    1. A few people have mentioned that the product does have an effect on puffiness, but I do not suffer from them so I can’t speak to that. As for other common eye concerns–specifically dryness, dark circles, creepiness–I did not see any improvement. Thanks for reading!

  2. So happy to have found your review. I bought this last week and I’ll probably receive it tomorrow or so. I hope it helps my Louis Vuitton bags.

    1. The problem I see with much of the current research is that much of it was done using products containing multiple ingredients, not just caffeine or EGCG, so it is difficult to determine causation. Referencing the Kligman Questions, I do believe the first two conditions are met–there is a theoretical possibility that the ingredients work, and the ingredients have been shown to penetrate the skin, but I don’t believe there are enough human trials to demonstrate efficacy. My review was based on my reading of the research and my personal experience, nothing more.

  3. I used it. I have no puffiness but i found my skin was clear and brighter with this solution. It is not magic but I will at least finish current bottle. It is not bad.

    1. I am going back to it to see if a longer period of use and combining it with a cream for my dryness will lead to better results, but unfortunately I think that maybe my dark circles are here to stay. The next step will be fillers!

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