The Ordinary offers several retinol and retinoid formulations, so deciding which one is best for your skin can be challenging.
One retinoid formulation that stands out from the rest is The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 5% in Squalane due to its high 5% Granactive Retinoid concentration.
The serum is formulated to be an effective, gentle retinoid treatment thanks to a non-prescription retinoid that addresses the visible signs of aging.
In this The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 5% in Squalane review, I’ll discuss my experience with the serum and whether I think it’s worth it.
Since retinol can irritate my skin depending on the concentration, I was looking forward to testing this retinol-alternative serum. Spoiler: I liked it A LOT!
First, let’s take a look at the ingredients and benefits.
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The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 5% in Squalane
The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 5% in Squalane is a retinol-alternative serum formulated with 5% Granactive Retinoid.
The serum is in a squalane base, so it has a lightweight oil-like consistency.
With continued use, the serum improves the look of fine and dynamic lines resulting from a loss of collagen and reduced skin elasticity. The serum also targets uneven skin tone and texture.
The retinoid serum is formulated to reduce the visible signs of aging with a next-generation retinoid, Granctive Retinoid.
Granactive Retinoid, trademarked by Grant Industries, is a complex of 90% dimethyl isosorbide, a solvent that helps the retinoid penetrate deeper into the skin, and 10% Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate (HPR).
HPR is a retinoic acid ester and vitamin A derivative that binds directly to retinoid receptors without the need to be converted to another retinoid (like retinol does) to be in its active form.
This advanced retinoid improves skin cell turnover and skin cell proliferation, which helps thicken thin skin.
HPR offers many skin benefits, including a reduction in the look of wrinkles, fine lines, dark spots, and rough patches and an improvement in skin tone.
The main benefit of HPR and Granactive Retinoid is that it doesn’t cause the irritation, dryness, peeling, and redness that often come from using retinol and other retinoids.
The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 5% in Squalane Key Ingredients
- Squalane: This saturated hydrocarbon has an oily texture that hydrates and protects the skin from moisture loss. It occurs naturally in our skin as squalene (with an e) and helps balance the skin’s sebum (oil) production.
- Bisabolol: A component of the chamomile plant, this anti-inflammatory ingredient helps soothe and calm the skin.
- Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil: Jojoba oil closely resembles our skin’s natural sebum (oil) and helps keep oil production in check.
- Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate (HPR): A retinoic acid ester that binds directly to retinoid receptors in the skin. It provides results similar to retinol but without the irritation.
- Solanum Lycopersicum (Tomato) Fruit Extract: This extract from tomatoes is rich in antioxidants that help protect the skin from environmental damage.
- Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract: This anti-inflammatory plant extract helps protect the skin from free radicals thanks it its antioxidant benefits. Rosemary leaf extract also contains astringent and antibacterial benefits.
- Hydroxymethoxyphenyl Decanone: A synthetic molecule that mimics the benefits of an active found in grains of paradise, a spice from the ginger family. It helps reduce inflammation in the skin and offers antioxidant benefits.
This anhydrous serum (water-free serum) is vegan and cruelty-free like all The Ordinary products.
The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 5% in Squalane Review
The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 5% in Squalane is a lightweight serum that sinks in quickly and leaves my skin soft, smooth, and very moisturized. While it leaves my skin a bit shiny due to the squalane content, I only use the serum at night, so it doesn’t interfere with makeup during the day.
Even though Granactive Retinoid 5% in Squalane didn’t irritate my skin and cause redness or peeling, I still had to work my way up to nightly usage over the course of a few weeks, though.
When first using the serum, my skin would feel tight and dry in the morning if I used it every night, so I reduced it to every other night for a few weeks until my skin adjusted.
I prefer this serum instead of Granactive Retinol 2% in Squalane since it is more potent, but I still love The Ordinary Granactvie Retinoid 2% Emulsion due to its creamy texture and prefer it over a squalane base.
Do I think Granactive Retinoid 5% is worth its current price of $16.10? Absolutely.
After a few weeks, my skin looks smoother with improved clarity. The minimal irritation is a bonus. I’m happy with the results and would repurchase.
The only drawback for me is the texture, as I would prefer a creamier consistency.
I only wish that The Ordinary would create a 5% Granactive Retinoid in an emulsion form. That would be my go-to retinoid!
I think The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 5% in Squalane is a great option for those who prefer a lightweight but moisturizing anti-aging serum.
It’s an excellent retinol alternative for those who want to target signs of aging while avoiding the irritation that can come with retinol.
What Skin Type Is Granactive Retinoid 5% in Squalane Best For?
The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 5% in Squalane is an excellent choice for those with mature, dry skin.
The squalane base helps lock in moisture, while the 5% concentration of Granactive Retinoid helps improve skin texture and tone and reduces wrinkles and fine lines.
While the serum is best suited for dry skin, don’t count this serum out if you have combination or oily skin. Squalane has such a lightweight texture and is non-comedogenic, so it won’t clog your pores.
How To Use The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 5% in Squalane
After cleansing and toning, apply a few drops of this retinoid serum to your face (and neck if tolerated) once a day in your evening skincare routine.
Use before oils/creams/lotions. Even though this serum has an oily texture, you can apply it under your moisturizer since the serum is quite lightweight.
Since the serum increases cell turnover, be sure to apply sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher in your morning skincare routine.
The Ordinary suggests patch testing before using it for the first time to avoid an adverse initial reaction. Use only on unbroken skin.
For best results, refrigerate this serum and all The Ordinary retinoids after opening. The serum has a shelf life of 3 months after opening.
To learn more about The Ordinary expiration dates, please see The Ordinary Expiration Dates with PDF post.
For more usage details and sample retinol routines, please see How To Use The Ordinary Retinol.
Granactive Retinoid 5 in Squalane and Niacinamide
Paired with niacinamide, The Ordinary Granacitve Retinoid 5% in Squalane offers even more skin benefits and can be used to target several signs of aging.
Niacinamide is a multi-benefit ingredient that helps reduce the appearance of wrinkles, even out skin tone and texture, fade dark spots and discoloration, and keep oil production in check.
If you use Granactive Retinoid 5% in Squalane with The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 2%, apply the niacinamide serum first since it is water-based.
The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 5% in Squalane Conflicts
Even though you shouldn’t experience the same irritation that retinol often causes, Granative Retinoid at 5% is a powerful active that increases cell turnover, so avoid using this serum with other retinoids to avoid overdoing it.
You should also avoid using Granactive Retinoid 5% in Squalane with copper peptides, direct acids (i,e., exfoliating acids like glycolic acid, lactic acid, or mandelic acid), direct/pure vitamin C (ascorbic acid and ethylated ascorbic acid).
Alternatives to The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 5% in Squalane
The Ordinary offers a total of six retinoid and retinol formulas, so if Granactive Retinoid 5% in Squalane isn’t for you, you have other options. (For a deep dive into the serums, see my Guide To The Ordinary retinoid and retinol serums.)
The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid Serums
In addition to Granactive Retinoid 5% in Squalane, The Ordinary offers two additional Granactive Retinoid serums with different concentrations and ingredients:
The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion
If you don’t like squalane or prefer a creamier texture, The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion addresses the same issues as Granactive Retinoid 5% in Squalane.
Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion contains 2% Granactive Retinoid plus retinol (the concentration is not disclosed) to help reduce the signs of aging, textural irregularities, and uneven skin tone.
Formulated for all skin types, it’s less likely to cause irritation than retinol products.
The serum also contains Tasmannia lanceolata fruit/leaf extract, a plant extract and antioxidant with anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties.
Bisabolol and rosemary leaf extract are two additional ingredients known for their calming and soothing effects.
For more details on this serum, please see my The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion review.
The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2% in Squalane
The Ordinary also offers another Granactive Retinoid in squalane at a lower 2% concentration, The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2% in Squalane.
Like Granactive Retinoid 5% in Squalane, the serum also contains bisabolol, jojoba oil, tomato fruit extract, and rosemary leaf extract.
It offers similar benefits to the 5% concentration but is less potent and less expensive.
Granactive Retinoid 2% in Squalane is currently priced at $12.00 compared to the 5% concentration’s price of $16.10.
The Ordinary Retinol Serums
Retinol, a form of vitamin A, is a well-researched and proven ingredient for skin rejuvenation.
It reduces the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines, promotes collagen production, and evens out discoloration caused by sun damage.
Retinol might even help with acne as it reduces the build-up of sebum and dead skin cells that can lead to clogged pores.
If you don’t have sensitive skin or simply prefer the original anti-aging superstar retinol, The Ordinary has three pure retinol options for you:
Formulated for all skin types, this low concentration of retinol is in a moisturizing squalane base. The serum also contains jojoba oil for additional moisture and a lightweight, non-greasy feel.
Like Granactive Retinol 5% in Squalane, the serum also contains tomato fruit extract and rosemary leaf extract, which are skin protective antioxidants.
The Ordinary recommends starting with this concentration of retinol and slowly working your way up to their 0.5% and 1% formulas.
The Ordinary Retinol 0.5% in Squalane
The Ordinary Retinol 0.5% in Squalane is The Ordinary’s moderate-strength retinol serum that addresses wrinkles, fine lines, loss of firmness, and uneven skin tone and texture.
Active ingredients include 0.5% retinol, squalane, jojoba oil, tomato fruit extract, and rosemary leaf extract.
This is the retinol serum from The Ordinary that I reach for most often since it isn’t as irritating as the 1% concentration but is more potent than the 0.2% concentration. See my complete review here.
The Ordinary Retinol 1% in Squalane
While The Ordinary Retinol 1% in Squalane is The Ordinary’s strongest retinol serum, it is also high irritation.
The Ordinary Retinol 1% in Squalane contains the same ingredients as The Ordinary’s other retinol serums: squalane, jojoba oil, tomato fruit extract, and rosemary leaf extract, but contains a potent 1% concentration of retinol.
Please see my review for more on my experience with this retinol serum.
More Retinol Alternatives
If you have sensitive skin and retinoids don’t work for your skin, consider a bakuchiol treatment, like The Inkey List Bakuchiol Moisturizer.
This bakuchiol lotion contains 1% bakuchiol plus moisturizing squalane and sacha inchi oil.
Bakuchiol is a plant-based retinol alternative. Like Granactive Retinoid, bakuchiol has similar positive effects on the skin compared to retinol but is much gentler.
Unlike retinol or retinoids, this serum can be used twice a day.
The Bottom Line
The more I use Granactive Retinoids, the more I love them!
The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 5% in Squalane is an affordable, effective retinoid that can be used in your anti-aging skincare routine without the unwanted side effects.
If you’re looking for a product with a strong concentration of a gentle retinoid, the Granactive Retinoid 5% in Squalane is an excellent option.
I think for sensitive skin, Granactive Retinoid 5% in Squalane’s benefits far outweigh most of the benefits of retinol because if your skin can’t tolerate the product, it will just gather dust on your shelf.
Whichever retinoid you choose, don’t forget sun protection!
Read More about The Ordinary skincare products:
- How To Layer The Ordinary Products
- Best The Ordinary Products for Wrinkles
- The Ordinary Vitamin C Guide
- Best The Ordinary Products For Dry Skin
- The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 Review
- The Ordinary Natural Moisturizing Factors + PhytoCeramides Review
- The Ordinary Aloe 2% + NAG 2% Solution Review
- The Ordinary Sunscreen Review
- The Ordinary 100% Plant-Derived Squalane Review
Thanks for reading!