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For anyone with an interest in beauty, The Ordinary needs little introduction. The skincare brand (which falls under the DECIEM group) is revolutionising the beauty world by offering hard-working formulations — think high concentrations of potent ingredients — that are frill-free and accessible to all.

The cult brand, available in Hong Kong at Harvey Nichols, was co-founded in 2013 by Nicola Kilner and the late Brandon Truaxe, who tragically passed in 2019.

Today, from her home in Nottingham, England, Nicola speaks to The Style Sheet about her favourite The Ordinary skincare routine, her approach to leadership, being a working mum, and how Brandon’s spirit is kept alive within the DECIEM family.

The Ordinary CEO & co-founder Nicola Kilner

1. DECIEM sells two products every second! Which The Ordinary product is the best-selling?

Our best-seller is our Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% serum, which targets congestion and sebum activity. We sell one every three seconds around the world!

2. Which The Ordinary products do you use every day?

My routine usually involves testing some new products that we’re planning to launch, so my bathroom is always filled with lab samples and changes regularly. I use “Buffet” + Copper Peptides 1% from The Ordinary religiously, and wipe away the day with our Squalane Cleanser.

3. Which is your favourite treatment product?

I love to use The Ordinary Salicylic Acid 2% Masque when I have some down time — it’s great for decongestion.

4. Which two products layer particularly well?

I add a drop of The Ordinary Rosehip Seed Oil into our Coverage Foundation for a glass-skin look. It looks fantastic under studio lighting, as there’s no metallic or frosty finish that you can get with traditional highlighters, and it works a charm on smoothing out pigment on drier skin types. I got that trick from our Education Associate, Minh, and it’s been working well ever since.

The Ordinary’s hard-working skincare arsenal is available at Harvey Nichols Pacific Place

5. Which two are most important to avoid wearing together?

We recommended not combining direct acids (e.g. glycolic, lactic, salicylic) in the same routine as The Ordinary "Buffet" + Copper Peptides 1% because they can compromise the performance of the peptides, and in some cases could cause skin irritation. I get around this by adding them separately, one in my morning routine and then one in my evening routine so I can get the benefits of both.

6. Which product from The Ordinary do you think is sometimes overlooked?

Most recently, our Multi-Peptide Serum for Hair Density experienced unexpected virality on TikTok. While the product has always had a bit of a cult following, this was incredibly exciting for us to see it reach a whole new audience, and I was particularly excited because it has been a staple within my hair regimen for a while.

7. What does beauty mean to you today?

Beauty to me is being human. It’s being yourself and your very best self. It embodies kindness and confidence, and that’s why I think skincare should be readily available to anyone regardless of one's socio-economic situation.

8. What’s your number one beauty tip?

My beauty tip happens to also be the best advice I’ve received. Catch more flies with honey than vinegar, meaning being kind gets you further. And drink water!

9. What does leadership mean to you?

To me, leadership is behaving in a way that brings out the best in those around you — by creating the right environment to allow people to reach their full potential.

10. What would you most like to change about the business of beauty?

We hope to inspire a better world of beauty through the kindness of our people, the innovation of our brands and the honesty of our words and actions. In time, we hope this will be something we see from all industries, but beauty should be one of the leaders in kindness. After all, beauty is supposed to make you feel good.

11. How would you describe yourself as a CEO in three words?

Human, kind and abnormal!

12. What do you try to instil in your team?

To continue to be a force for good in everything we do. Be as creative as you wish, and do everything with kindness at the forefront.

13. You’ve supported your staff with some really commendable support around mental health and counselling. How do you take care of yourself?

It’s important that each human at DECIEM has the support they need to care for their wellbeing. For me, self-care is being with my family. Seeing the world through the eyes of my two young children is something I’ll always cherish.

14. Are there any well-being or self-care rituals that are important to you?

Staying calm and being honest and kind in situations.

15. What do you remind yourself of, or what helps you cope, during dark days?

My family.

16. How do you keep the legacy of Brandon Truaxe alive within the DECIEM family today?

Integrity is at the heart of what Brandon founded DECIEM on. Integrity continues to power everything we do today. When we brainstorm new products, business plans, retail locations, we constantly ask ourselves, ‘What would Brandon do?’ His genius and ability to push the boundaries without fear is what got us here today, and this will be instilled in our values and work for as long as DECIEM is here.

A peek inside the DECIEM lab

17. You’re a mum of young children! How do you balance work and family?

Before the pandemic I travelled regularly with work, and I was lucky enough to have my family join me, especially for long-haul trips. If my husband is working, I travel with my mum, and I’ll always prioritise bath time with the kids. I now have three babies — one being DECIEM — and I want my children to grow up a part of this family. It’s important for them to see the work the team does and meet the DECIEM family.

18. What advice would you give a new working mum?

Live in the now. Create little traditions and don’t rush it.

19. What beauty philosophy do you hope to instil in your little ones?

Kindness and confidence.

20. What’s next for The Ordinary?

I think a lot about the choices we’re making as a company now and how they will impact our future. We’ve been working on our sustainability strategy and looking deeper into our environmental impact. I believe there’s no time to wait, and the progress our incredible team has already made is so inspiring. We have some more work to do, but are progressing towards meaningful change.