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The Ordinary Retinol 1% in Squalane Review

The Ordinary Retinol 1% in Squalane is a lightweight, fast-absorbing anti-aging serum that delivers the power of retinol to help reduce the appearance of wrinkles and improve skin texture and clarity.

Since I tested The Ordinary Retinol 0.2% In Squalane (see my 0.2% review here) and The Ordinary Retinol 0.5% In Squalane (see my 0.5% review here), it was time to put my skin tolerance to the test to see how my skin would respond to this high retinol concentration.

The Ordinary Retinol 1% in Squalane

I’ll discuss my results and thoughts on the serum in this The Ordinary Retinol 1% In Squalane review post.

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The Ordinary Retinol 1% in Squalane

The Ordinary Retinol 1% in Squalane handheld.

The Ordinary Retinol 1% in Squalane is formulated with a potent 1% retinol concentration, the highest retinol concentration of any The Ordinary product.

Retinol is paired with squalane, a nourishing and hydrating oil that helps to protect skin cells from dehydration.

Retinol is the over-the-counter gold standard in anti-aging treatments to reduce the appearance of wrinkles and dynamic lines, improve skin texture and clarity, and even out skin tone.

As we age, we lose collagen and elastin.

Retinol stimulates skin cells to produce more collagen, which improves skin firmness.

Retinol also helps improve skin elasticity, which is that bounce-back effect that makes skin look plump and healthy.

Squalane is a moisturizer found naturally in the skin in the form of squalene (with an e). This nourishing ingredient helps to lock in moisture and protect skin cells from dehydration.

This is an anhydrous solution, which is another way of saying that it’s water free.

Although the serum contains squalane, which has an oily consistency, squalane is non-comedogenic, so it won’t block your pores and cause acne or breakouts.

Squalane has a lightweight, non-greasy feel on the skin and is suitable for all skin types, including those with oily and acne-prone skin.

This retinol serum addresses the following skin concerns:

  • Uneven Skin Tone
  • Textural Irregularities
  • Signs of Aging
  • Dryness
The Ordinary Retinol 1% in Squalane with box flatlay.

The Ordinary Retinol 1% in Squalane Ingredients

Listed in order of concentration from highest to lowest, this retinol serum contains the following:

  • Squalane: A protective and nourishing oil that helps seal in moisture and prevents transepidermal water loss.
  • Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride: Derived from coconut oil and glycerin, this ingredient helps to keep skin soft and smooth and locks in moisture.
  • Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil: A wax ester similar to human sebum that is a lightweight, non-comedogenic moisturizer.
  • Retinol: The star ingredient in this serum, retinol helps to reduce wrinkles, improve skin tone and texture, and increase dead skin cell turnover for a brighter complexion and a reduction in hyperpigmentation and dark spots.
  • Solanum Lycopersicum (Tomato) Fruit Extract: Rich in lycopene, this fruit extract helps to protect skin from environmental damage by providing antioxidant protection.
  • Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract: This antioxidant helps to fight free radical damage and offers antibacterial and antiseptic benefits.
  • Hydroxymethoxyphenyl Decanone: An antioxidant that increases hyaluronic acid in the skin.
  • BHT: A synthetic antioxidant and preservative that stabilizes the serum and helps to protect the product from bacterial contamination.

All The Ordinary’s products, including this 1% retinol serum, are vegan and cruelty-free.

The Ordinary Retinol 1% in Squalane: Drawbacks

A 1% retinol concentration is considered quite strong. A high retinol concentration, like the concentration in this serum, increases the chances of causing skin irritation. It’s important to introduce the serum slowly and build a tolerance over time.

You might wonder if it is even worth it to use this 1% concentration or just stick with a lower concentration, like The Ordinary’s 0.5% concentration.

A 1% retinol concentration does have its benefits.

This clinical study found that a 1% retinol concentration improved photo damage, crow’s feet, skin elasticity, wrinkles, brightness, and hyperpigmentation, while improvements with a 0.5% retinol concentration were more modest.

Also, it’s important to note that in the study, improvements were greater after 60 to 80 days than 30 to 46 days, so don’t expect complete results overnight.

It takes time and some patience to get the best results from retinol.

That being said, if you have sensitive skin, you might want to skip this serum entirely and look at alternate retinoid technologies. Scroll down for some effective options for sensitive skin.

Retinol can also make your skin sensitive to the sun, so it’s essential to always wear sunscreen when using retinol products and for a week after (actually, you should wear sunscreen every day!).

For more details on The Ordinary retinoids, please see my Complete Guide To The Ordinary Retinol and Retinoids.

The Ordinary Retinol 1% in Squalane Review: My Experience

The Ordinary Retinol 1% in Squalane open with filled dropper applicator.

After easily moving from The Ordinary Retinol 0.2% in Squalane to The Ordinary Retinol 0.5% in Squalane, I didn’t think too much about how my skin would react to this 1% concentration.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t as smooth of a transition as I would have liked.

My mistake was starting out using The Ordinary Retinol 1% in Squalane every other night.

My skin responded to this higher concentration by getting dry, tight, red, and easily irritated.

I should have dialed back and used it once or twice a week to start.

So I dropped down to using it twice a week. As my skin adjusts to this regimen, I am noticing some positive effects.

My skin texture is smoother, and the clarity I get from this The Ordinary retinol serum is noticeable, even after one use.

If my somewhat sensitive skin can’t eventually tolerate every other night usage and I want a strong retinoid, I’ll probably switch back to Retinol 0.5% in Squalane or Granactive Retinoid 5% in Squalane to avoid ongoing sensitivity.

If you don’t have sensitive skin, this serum could be a great choice for you.

It’s more affordable than most other drugstore retinol serums on the market, and it delivers the results that you want in a retinol serum, like a reduction in fine lines and improved skin texture and clarity.

How To Use The Ordinary Retinol 1% in Squalane

The Ordinary Retinol 1% in Squalane flatlay.

Apply a few drops of The Ordinary Retinol 1% in Squalane once a day to your face (and neck if tolerated) in your evening skincare routine.

Apply this serum in the treatment step of your routine after cleansing and toning but before your moisturizer, creams, and/or oils.

Even though squalane has an oily texture, it has such a lightweight consistency, so it can be applied under your moisturizer.

As I previously noted, retinoid treatments, including retinol, can make your skin more sensitive to the sun. Be sure to use a broad-spectrum sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher while using this serum and for a week after.

The serum has a shelf life of 3 months after opening. To learn more about The Ordinary expiration dates and product shelf life, please see The Ordinary Expiration Dates with PDF post.

The Ordinary Retinol 1% in Squalane Conflicts

Avoid using this serum at the same time as potent actives, other retinol and retinoid products, direct acids like AHAs (i.e., glycolic acid, lactic acid, mandelic acid), and BHAs (i.e., salicylic acid), pure vitamin C (ascorbic acid), copper peptides, and benzoyl peroxide.

These other actives can be used in your AM skincare routine, and retinol can be used at night. Or use them on different days.

It’s always a good idea to patch test before using this serum and any other skincare product for the first time to avoid an initial adverse reaction. Use only on unbroken skin.

For best results and shelf life, refrigerate this and all The Ordinary retinol and retinoid serums after opening.

The Ordinary Retinol 1% in Squalane Alternatives

The Ordinary Retinol 0.5% in Squalane

The Ordinary Retinol 0.5% in Squalane

If you experience skin irritation, redness, peeling, or flaking from using The Ordinary Retinol 1% in Squalane after giving your skin a chance to adjust, you might prefer or step back to the more gentle The Ordinary Retinol 0.5% in Squalane.

The Ordinary Retinol 0.5% in Squalane is comprised of 0.5% pure retinol and squalane, with the same ingredients as the 1% concentration, but half the retinol.

This moderate strength serum is The Ordinary’s middle-of-the-road retinol concentration.

The serum shouldn’t cause as much irritation as the higher concentration, but the results won’t be as dramatic.

The Ordinary Retinol 0.2% in Squalane

The Ordinary Retinol 0.2% in Squalane

The Ordinary Retinol 0.2% in Squalane is the perfect introduction to The Ordinary retinol products.

This retinol formulation contains the same ingredients as the 0.5% and 1% concentrations but a lower 0.2% introductory retinol concentration.

This is a great way to get your skin acclimated to retinol and to prepare it for higher concentrations with a lower risk of skin irritation.

The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion

The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion

If you want to bypass most of the side effects of retinol, consider one of The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid formulations. My favorite is The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion.

This serum uses a next-generation retinoid, called Granactive Retinoid, that is both gentle and effective.

A 2% concentration of Granactive Retinoid is a complex of 0.2% Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate and 1.8% dimethyl isosorbide, a solvent.


Retinol must undergo two conversions in your skin into retinoic acid before it can bind to retinoid receptors. Retinol loses potency with each conversion.

Granactive Retinoid binds directly to retinoid receptors in your skin, so it works similarly to retinoic acid (tretinoin) but without the irritation and peeling that usually comes along with it.

The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion sampled with dropper

Granactive Retinoid targets the same concerns of aging skin and offers similar benefits as retinol but without the irritation of retinol.

The serum also contains an undisclosed amount of retinol, pairing powerful skin rejuvenation technologies in one serum. Tasmanian Pepper Extract is included to offer soothing and anti-inflammatory benefits.

I love the creamy, silky feel of this serum on my skin and ALWAYS wake to brighter, smoother skin after using this product.

This serum is much less irritating than traditional retinol serums, but if you prefer a serum without any retinol at all in it, consider one of The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid serums in squalane below.

The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2% in Squalane

The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2% in Squalane

The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2% in Squalane is The Ordinary’s least irritating retinoid product. It contains 2% Granactive Retinoid in a moisturizing squalane base.

This low-irritation retinoid serum is ideal for those beginner retinol users and with easily irritated, sensitive skin who don’t want to risk the irritation that can come along with retinol.

It’s a great way to get the skin rejuvenation benefits of retinoids without any unnecessary irritation or dryness.

The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 5% in Squalane

The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 5% in Squalane

The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 5% in Squalane is The Ordinary’s strongest Granactive Retinoid serum.

This 5% concentration of Granactive Retinoid targets fine lines, wrinkles, uneven skin tone, and other visible signs of aging.

This stronger retinoid has a squalane base that offers added moisture and helps support a healthy skin barrier while smoothing your skin and evening out skin texture and tone.

For more details on this serum, please see my The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 5% in Squalane review post.

Paula’s Choice 1% Retinol Treatment

Paula’s Choice Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment, handheld.

If you prefer a strong retinol treatment, but don’t love the squalane base of The Ordinary’s products, Paula’s Choice 1% Retinol Treatment delivers a high-strength 1% dosage of retinol in a lightweight lotion texture.

This retinol treatment reduces the look of wrinkles and fine lines while hydrating and soothing your skin.

The lotion also contains Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate⁠, a vitamin C derivative that helps brighten the skin and even out skin tone.

Peptides, including the popular duo Matrixyl 3000, work to stimulate natural collagen production, smooth skin roughness, and help firm the skin.

Sodium hyaluronate, the sodium salt of hyaluronic acid, is included to hydrate the skin and prevent moisture loss.

The serum also contains anti-irritants like licorice extract, oat extract, and other plant extracts to soothe the skin and calm redness.

The Inkey List SuperSolutions 1% Retinol Serum

The Inkey List 1% Retinol Serum: Scar, Mark, and Wrinkle Solution, handheld.

The Inkey List SuperSolutions 1% Retinol Serum is another super affordable high potency retinol serum, just like The Ordinary.

The yellow serum targets post-acne scars, discoloration, and wrinkles with its quick-absorbing formula.

It also contains 2% squalane, 5% apricot kernel oil, and avocado oil to prevent moisture loss and strengthen the skin barrier.

The Inkey List suggests applying their Hyaluronic Acid Serum, one of my holy grail HA serums, before this treatment for added hydration.

The Bottom Line

The Ordinary Retinol 1% in Squalane is an excellent choice if you want to incorporate a potent retinol serum into your skincare routine.

It provides noticeable results as long as your skin can tolerate the high concentration and possible side effects.

If you find it too strong for your skin, lower concentrations are available from The Ordinary, as well as alternatives from other affordable brands.

With its low price point, The Ordinary Retinol 1% in Squalane is definitely worth trying if you’re interested in the anti-aging benefits of a high concentration retinol serum!

Thanks for reading!

Read Next: Olay Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Cream vs Olay Retinol 24 Max Night Moisturizer


Monday 6th of March 2023

how long will you stop using retinol?i mean can i use it daily as maintenace? i appreciate so much for the reply. TIA


Friday 10th of March 2023

How often you use retinol will depend on your skin type and skin tolerance. Before starting to use higher concentrations of retinol daily, most people will have to build up a tolerance to avoid redness, irritation, and flaky skin. It's best to start at a low dose and gradually increase retinol strength. The Ordinary suggests starting with Retinol 0.2% in Squalane and slowly working your way up to Retinol 0.5% in Squalane and eventually Retinol 1% in Squalane. And don't forget to wear sunscreen daily. Thanks!


Sunday 12th of February 2023

Hey Sarah, you nailed it 🥰


Monday 20th of February 2023

Thank you!