The Ordinary is an affordable skincare brand with an extensive catalog of products, including retinoids, which are derivatives of Vitamin A. Retinoids are known for treating acne, wrinkles, and hyperpigmentation, so they can be a great addition to any anti-aging skincare routine.
The Ordinary offers 0.2%, 0.5%, and 1% retinol formulations. I will be testing each strength, starting with the 0.2% concentration. So today, I’ll discuss The Ordinary’s lowest concentration retinol product in this The Ordinary Retinol 0.2% In Squalane review.
NOTE: The Ordinary offers multiple retinoids, including retinol and Granactive Retinoids.
For more details on each retinoid and choosing the right one for your skin, be sure to check out my guide to The Ordinary retinols and retinoids.
This post contains affiliate links, and any purchases made through these links will result in a commission for me at no extra cost to you. Please read my Disclosure for additional information.
The Ordinary Retinol 0.2% In Squalane
The Ordinary Retinol 0.2% in Squalane is formulated to reduce the look of uneven skin tone, skin dryness, textural irregularities, and other signs of aging, like fine lines and dullness.
This water-free serum is what The Ordinary considers an entry-level serum, so if you are new to retinol and want to start with a lower concentration, this is the retinol serum from The Ordinary for you.
The serum comes in a squalane base, which is an emollient that helps lock in moisture and keeps the skin hydrated, which is particularly helpful if you have dry skin.
Retinol can be drying for all skin types, so the addition of squalane to this formula helps offset dryness.
Squalane is a type of oil similar to our skin’s natural oils. It’s well known for being non-comedogenic, meaning it won’t clog pores, so those with oily or acne-prone skin can use squalane. Squalane is suitable for all skin types, including sensitive skin.
The Ordinary Retinol 0.2% In Squalane Key Ingredients
The ingredient list is short – there are only eight ingredients. These are the key ingredients:
- Squalane: This saturated hydrocarbon is similar in structure to the natural lipid in our skin called squalene (with an e). It’s an excellent emollient with a very lightweight texture and can help prevent moisture loss and keep skin hydrated.
- Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil: This golden yellow liquid comes from the jojoba plant and is used as an emollient and occlusive agent. It forms a lightweight barrier on the skin to help lock in moisture.
- Retinol: A vitamin A derivative, retinol is a powerful ingredient that improves skin cell turnover and can improve the look of multiple skin concerns, including fine lines, wrinkles, and uneven skin tone.
- Solanum Lycopersicum (Tomato) Fruit Extract: This plant extract comes from tomatoes and is rich in antioxidants, including lycopene. It can help to protect the skin from environmental damage.
- Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract: Rosemary extract acts as a powerful antioxidant, helping to protect the skin from free radical damage. It’s also an anti-inflammatory and has antibacterial and astringent benefits.
- Hydroxymethoxyphenyl Decanone: This antioxidant helps reduce skin irritation and inflammation.
As you can see from the key ingredients, the serum contains anti-inflammatory ingredients which help offset any potential irritation from the retinol.
The Ordinary Retinol 0.2% In Squalane Review
The Ordinary Retinol 0.2% in Squalane comes in a dark glass bottle to protect the retinol in the formula. The bottle comes with a dropper applicator. The serum is a clear pale yellow color and has a thin, oily consistency.
The serum feels slightly greasy when applied to my skin due to the squalane base but absorbs quickly. My skin is left feeling soft, smooth, and super moisturized. Once absorbed, there isn’t any residual greasiness or oiliness, although it does leave a dewy, glowy finish on my skin.
Since I am not a new retinol user, I can use Retinol 0.2% In Squalane without any redness or irritation.
Even though I think my skin could tolerate this serum nightly, I’ve been using it every other night, as I choose to alternate retinoids in the evenings with other actives like exfoliating acids.
If you are new to retinol, you can follow the standard retinol application protocol:
- 1X a week for 1 week, then
- 2X a week for 2 weeks, then
- 3X a week for 3 weeks, then
- Increase usage as tolerated.
I’ve been using this serum for a few weeks now and have noticed that my skin looks smoother and my pores look smaller.
I notice a slight improvement in my skin texture, a benefit of using retinoids that I love.
My skin has also stayed pretty clear, and I haven’t had any breakouts since using it, which I think is partially due to the increase in cell turnover from the retinol.
I think my skin is just about ready to move on to the more potent 0.5% Retinol in Squalane.
If you are just starting out with retinoids or are looking for a lower-strength option, this The Ordinary retinol may be a good fit for you.
Related Post: The Ordinary Retinol 0.5% In Squalane Review
How To Use The Ordinary Retinol 0.2% In Squalane
You should use Retinol 0.2% in Squalane in the evening only, as retinoids can make your skin more sensitive to the sun.
Apply a few drops to your face in your evening skincare routine during the treatment step of your routine after cleansing and toning your face. Follow with a moisturizer for best results.
NOTE: While I like to apply oils as the last step of my skincare routine, squalane has such a lightweight texture that you can use it under your moisturizer.
If you have sensitive skin and would like to buffer the retinol, you can apply this retinol in squalane serum AFTER your moisturizer.
The Ordinary notes that retinol may cause redness, irritation, and peeling, especially on the skin around your eyes and mouth, while your skin builds a tolerance to it. (I always avoid using retinol around my eyes and use a nourishing eye serum/cream instead.)
As with all new skincare products, a patch test is suggested before using it for the first time to avoid an unwanted initial reaction. Per The Ordinary, if you have a reaction/irritation, rinse your skin, stop using the serum and consult your physician.
For best results, refrigerate after opening. This retinol serum’s shelf life is 3 months after opening.
Please please see my The Ordinary Expiration Dates post to learn more about the shelf life of The Ordinary products.
As with all retinoids, it is important that you apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher during the day while you are using retinoids and for a week after.
Actually, you should use sunscreen every day no matter what products you are using, especially if you are concerned about the signs of aging since we have the sun to thank for so many of them!
The Ordinary Retinol 0.2% In Squalane Conflicts
You should avoid using Retinol 0.2% in Squalane with other potent actives like direct acids (exfoliating acids like glycolic acid, lactic acid, or salicylic acid), vitamin C (ascorbic acid), copper peptides, and other retinoids.
If you want to use direct acids, pure/ethylated vitamin C, and other retinoids in your skincare routine, use them on different days or in the mornings since retinol is used at night.
Alternatives To The Ordinary Retinol 0.2% In Squalane
The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion
If you are just starting out with retinoids or are looking for an alternative to retinol, consider The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion (one of my favorite retinoids from The Ordinary).
Granactive retinoids contain hydroxypinacolone retinoate (HPR). This newer type of retinoid binds directly to retinoic acid receptors without needing to be converted to retinoic acid first.
Granactive retinoids are said to be as effective as retinol while causing less irritation and other side effects.
The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion contains 0.2% HPR (the other 1.8% that makes it a 2% complex is dimethyl isosorbide, a solvent), plus retinol for smoother, firmer, more even-toned skin without the irritation.
You can read my complete review of The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion in this post.
The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2% in Squalane
Similar to Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion, The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2% in Squalane contains 0.2% HPR without added retinol and is in a moisturizing squalane base.
If you find retinol at any concentration irritating, this Granactive Retinoid serum could be a great alternative without the irritation.
It targets loss of collagen and elastin, fine and dynamic lines, and uneven skin texture and tone.
The Ordinary Retinol 0.5% in Squalane
If you find that your skin is already acclimated to the 0.2% retinol concentration, The Ordinary Retinol 0.5% in Squalane is the next step up in strength in The Ordinary’s line of retinol serums.
It contains the same ingredients as Retinol 0.2% In Squalane but has a 0.5% concentration of retinol, so it is a more intermediate retinol concentration.
The Inkey List Retinol Serum
The Inkey List Retinol Serum (newly reformulated in 2022) contains 1% retinyl acetate, a retinol ester.
Retinyl acetate is a weaker retinoid than retinol but is also less irritating. It also contains 0.5% Granactive Retinoid plus squalane for added lightweight hydration.
The serum helps improve skin clarity and uneven skin tone. Like The Ordinary, The Inkey List products are very low priced.
Good Molecules Gentle Retinol Cream
If you found that The Ordinary Retinol 0.2% In Squalane was too strong for your skin or would rather start with a gentle retinol cream, Good Molecules Gentle Retinol Cream contains 0.1% retinol.
This affordable cream helps smooth fine lines and loss of skin elasticity with its gentle formula.
Grape seed oil moisturizes, and allantoin soothes the skin. Ideal for all skin types, this retinol cream also contains bakuchiol, an antioxidant and plant extract that provides similar benefits to retinol without the irritation.
Related Post: Good Molecules Skincare Review
The Benefits Of Retinol
Retinol takes two conversions in your skin to be available in its active form. Once absorbed into your skin, retinol converts to retinaldehyde (retinal) and then to retinoic acid.
Retinol -> Retinaldehyde -> Retinoic Acid
Retinoic acid is the strongest retinoid and the active form of retinol that delivers benefits to your skin. Retinoic acid is the active ingredient in prescription-strength retinoids like tretinoin.
Retinol is a powerful anti-aging ingredient that can improve the look of the signs of aging:
- Stimulates collagen production for firmer skin
- Decreases fine lines and wrinkles
- Fades dark spots and acne scarring
- Improves skin texture
- Evens out skin tone
- Helps control oil by regulating sebum production
The Drawbacks Of Retinol
While retinol can be very effective, it is also one of the more irritating skincare actives.
You may experience some redness, peeling, flaky skin, and dryness when you first start using retinol. This is normal and should subside as your skin adjusts.
If it’s too irritating, try using a product with a lower concentration of retinol or using it less often.
Another downside of retinol is that it can make your skin more sensitive to the sun. So it’s important to use sunscreen during the day when using retinol products at night.
For more on The Ordinary, check out these posts:
- Best The Ordinary Products For Wrinkles and Mature Skin
- How To Build A Skincare Routine With The Ordinary (by skin type)
- The Ordinary Skincare Routine For Beginners
- The Ordinary Glucoside Foaming Cleanser Review
- The Ordinary Argireline Solution 10% Review
- The Ordinary 100% Plant-Derived Squalane Review
The Bottom Line
The Ordinary has such effective products at incredibly affordable prices, including their retinoids.
The Ordinary Retinol 0.2% In Squalane is an excellent starter retinol serum with the added bonus of squalane to help minimize dryness.
If you’re looking to add retinol to your skincare routine, this is a great retinol product to try. Just remember to start slowly and increase as tolerated to avoid any irritation.
And don’t forget the sunscreen!
Thanks for reading!
Read Next: The Ordinary Retinol 1% in Squalane Review