If you are looking to try a skincare product to address the signs of aging, including fine lines, wrinkles, loss of elasticity, and dullness, then look no further than The Ordinary retinol and retinoid products.
These products from The Ordinary are effective and affordable. The drawback? Which retinol serum to use! The Ordinary currently offers 6 different retinol and retinoid formulas at a variety of strengths.
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The Ordinary Retinol and Retinoids Guide
|Product||Best For||Main Benefits|
|Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion:||Beginners, combination, and oily skin||Comfortable creamy texture and less irritating than retinol.|
|Granactive Retinoid 2% in Squalane:||Beginners, sensitive skin (if tolerated), dry skin||Lightweight, low irritation, good for first-time users of retinoids. Hydrating squalane base.|
|Granactive Retinoid 5% in Squalane:||Advanced retinoid users, dry skin||The strongest Granactive Retinoid offered by The Ordinary. Hydrating squalane base.|
|Retinol 0.2% in Squalane:||Retinol beginners||Lowest retinol concentration from The Ordinary. An introduction to retinol in a hydrating base.|
|Retinol 0.5% in Squalane:||Mid-level retinol users||Moderate strength and irritation. Targets signs of aging in a hydrating formula.|
|Retinol 1% in Squalane:||Advanced retinol users, Hyperpigmentation||High strength and very high irritation. Effective for hyperpigmentation and uneven skin tone, and hydrating.|
The Ordinary offers hero ingredient cruelty-free skincare products in basic packaging at rock bottom prices.
While this is ground-breaking and very exciting for skincare lovers, since The Ordinary offers over 50 products, it can get overwhelming when trying to determine which products to try, especially their selection of 6 different retinol and retinoid products.
If you’re wondering what the best The Ordinary retinol product is, it will depend on your skin tolerance skin type, and skin concerns. Refer to the table above for more details.
In this guide to The Ordinary retinol and retinoid products, we’ll take a look at all 6 products to help you determine which one will work best for your skin and skin concerns.
For more details on using retinoids in your skincare routine based on skin type and for a The Ordinary anti-aging routine, please see this guide on How to Build A Skincare Routine with The Ordinary Products.
NOTE: The Ordinary instructs that all 6 of the following retinoids should be refrigerated after opening.
The Ordinary Retinol Prices
|The Ordinary Retinol/Retinoid Serum||Price||Size|
|Granactive Retinoid 2% ||$11.70||1 oz.|
|Granactive Retinoid 2% in Squalane||$12.00||1 oz.|
|Granactive Retinoid 5% in Squalane||$16.10||1 oz.|
|Retinol 0.2% in Squalane||$7.80||1 oz.|
|Retinol 0.5% in Squalane||$8.30||1 oz.|
|Retinol 1% in Squalane||$8.90||1 oz.|
The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid Serums
Let’s start with The Ordinary’s newer retinoid technology, Granactive Retinoid:
The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2%
Moderate Strength, Low Irritation
|Granactive Retinoid reduces irritation potential without sacrificing anti-aging benefits||Not as strong as some other The Ordinary retinoid/retinol serums|
|Comfortable creamy texture|
|Good for beginners|
The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion is formulated with two forms of next-generation retinoid actives. It contains 2% Granactive Retinoid, a retinoid complex manufactured by Grant Industries.
Granactive Retinoid is a complex of Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate (HPR), which breaks down to 0.2% HPR and 1.8% solvent.
The Ordinary states that HPR, an ester of all-trans direct retinoic acid, offers a better reduction of the signs of aging than retinol, retinyl palmitate, and most other non-prescription retinoids.
The second form of retinol active in Granactive Retinoid 2%
Although The Ordinary is usually pretty transparent regarding ingredient percentages, they do not disclose the amount of encapsulated retinol in this product.
A big plus for Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion is that it produces little to no irritation.
Again, it is important to note that HPR is not as studied as other forms of retinol, but this may be good for beginners due to the effective and comfortable formula that doesn’t require an adjustment phase.
The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2% in Squalane
Moderate Strength, Low Irritation
|Granactive Retinoid reduces irritation potential without sacrificing anti-aging benefits||Not as strong as other The Ordinary retinoid/retinol serums|
|More lightweight than Granactive Retinoid Emulsion 2%|
|Squalane base improves surface hydration|
|Excellent for beginners and may be suitable for sensitive skin|
The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2% in Squalane contains 2% Granactive Retinoid in a squalane base. This stable waterless formula contains 2% Granactive Retinoid, a retinoid complex that contains 0.2% HPR and 1.8% solvent.
This active aims to address the signs of aging without the irritation that typically comes with retinol and other retinoids.
This formula is extremely lightweight and does not irritate the skin. You should apply it after water-based serums and treatments but under heavier products.
If you have dry skin and are looking for a gentle starter retinoid that offers minimal irritation but provides the moisturizing benefits of squalane (see more below), Granactive Retinoid 2% in Squalane might be worth a try.
Want a The Ordinary skincare routine that is tailored to your unique skin type and concerns? Take my exclusive The Ordinary Skincare Quiz now!
The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2% in Squalane vs The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2%
When comparing Granactive Retinoid 2% in Squalane with Granactive Retinoid 2%
Thus, it will be slightly less potent/effective than Granactive Retinoid 2%
Related Post: The Ordinary Niacinamide Review
The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 5% in Squalane
High Strength, Low Irritation
|Granactive Retinoid reduces irritation potential without sacrificing anti-aging benefits||Strong concentration may cause irritation if your skin tolerance has not adjusted|
|Strongest Granactive Retinoid The Ordinary offers|
|Squalane base improves surface hydration|
The final and most potent Granactive Retinoid in The Ordinary catalog of retinoids is The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 5% in Squalane.
This retinoid contains Granactive Retinoid at 5%, which equates to 0.5% HPR and 4.5% solvent.
The serum comes in a squalane base that is very lightweight on the skin. It is hydrating and moisturizing, which is helpful even when using low irritation retinoids.
This retinoid is a nice step up from Granactive Retinoid 2% in Squalane if you’re looking for great results with minimal irritation. See this post for my experience with this retinoid serum.
The Ordinary Retinol Serums
All of The Ordinary retinol serums are in water-free squalane bases.
As we’ve already discussed, retinol offers extensive benefits for the skin regarding the signs of aging.
It helps to reduce the look of fine lines, wrinkles, photodamage, uneven texture, and hyperpigmentation. Plus, it’s been extensively studied, unlike Granactive Retinoids.
It is important to note that The Ordinary clearly states that retinol can cause irritation, and for that reason, newer technologies (like Granactive Retinoids) offer visible benefits without the irritation.
The Ordinary generally recommends using their Granactive Retinoid 2% or Granactive Retinoid 5% instead of the following retinol serums.
The Ordinary notes that water can affect the stability of retinol, and plant oils in retinol products may trigger lipid peroxidation, compromising retinol integrity.
These formulas do not contain water, silicones, plant oils, or alcohol.
The Ordinary Retinol 0.2% in Squalane
Low Strength, Moderate Irritation
|Great for beginners||Not as potent as other The Ordinary retinol/retinoid serums|
|Squalane improves surface hydration||May cause irritation|
The Ordinary Retinol 0.2% in Squalane is a water-free solution formulated with 0.2% pure retinol to reduce the look of fine lines, photodamage, and other signs of aging.
The Ordinary cautions that retinol can cause irritation, redness, and peeling on your face and around the sensitive skin of your eyes and mouth until your skin builds up a tolerance.
If you choose to use one of The Ordinary’s retinol over their Granactive Retinoids, they recommend that you start with this 0.2% retinol formula.
This The Ordinary retinol serum has the same light formula as The Ordinary Granactive Retinoids in squalane.
If you choose to go with The Ordinary retinol products, this is a great starter retinol at a relatively low retinol concentration of 0.2%. See my The Ordinary Retinol 0.2% in Squalane review here.
The Ordinary Retinol 0.5% in Squalane
Moderate Strength, High Irritation
|Moderate strength for targeting visible signs of aging||Not for beginners|
|Squalane improves skin surface hydration||May cause irritation|
The Ordinary Retinol 0.5% in Squalane is the middle-of-the-road concentration of retinol from The Ordinary in a squalane base.
Like the other retinol products from The Ordinary, this formula may cause redness, irritation, and peeling until your skin has built a tolerance to retinol usage.
If you want to use The Ordinary retinol products instead of The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid products, you might want to consider starting with Retinol 0.2%. if you are new to retinoids.
After your skin has built a tolerance, consider moving up to the 0.5% concentration. For more on this 0.5% concentration, see my review here.
The Ordinary Retinol 1% in Squalane
High Strength, Very High Irritation
|The Ordinary’s strongest retinol serum||High irritation potential|
|Great for hyperpigmentation and sun damage||Not for beginners and those with sensitive skin|
|Squalane improves skin surface hydration|
The Ordinary Retinol 1% in Squalane is the strongest retinol serum from The Ordinary. While it’s one of the strongest retinoids from The Ordinary, you may see the most irritation, redness, and peeling from this serum.
If your skin is adjusted to higher strengths of retinol, this may be a good option for you. The squalane base is lightweight and comfortable to wear.
Be sure to follow this The Ordinary retinol serum with a hydrating moisturizer, such as a cream with vitamins or hyaluronic acid, to minimize dryness that can occur with retinol usage.
The Ordinary Retinol Guide
The Benefits of Retinol and Retinoids
Retinoids (retinol is a type of retinoid) are a form of vitamin A and a favorite active ingredient for anti-aging skin care products.
Retinoids have been studied extensively, and the results are in: they work to reduce the signs of aging, including fine lines and wrinkles, thanks to their ability to stimulate collagen production and increase cell turnover.
Retinoids also help to reduce the look of hyperpigmentation, dark spots, uneven skin tone/texture, and dullness. Retinoids also offer antioxidant benefits for the skin.
While strong retinoids are available via prescription, several retinoid varieties are available over the counter that produce excellent results, although they take longer to work than their prescription counterparts.
A good way to compare the strength of retinoids is to review the number of steps needed to convert a retinoid into its active form that the skin can use. In order from strongest to weakest:
- Retinoic acid is the strongest type of retinoid and the active form that our skin cells can interpret. Retinoic acid products such as tretinoin (Retin-A) are available only through prescriptions.
- Retinaldehyde must be converted to retinoic acid before our skin can use it. This conversion dilutes the strength of the retinoid active.
- Retinol needs to be converted to retinaldehyde and then retinoic acid before our skin can use it, so this retinoid is not as strong as retinaldehyde.
- Retinol esters such as retinol palmitate require three conversions to be available in the skin.
Adapalene, a third-generation retinoid and approved to sell over the counter as Differin to treat acne, has also been shown to improve the signs of aging.
This study demonstrated that adapalene 0.1% gel is as effective as tretinoin 0.025% gel with less irritation.
NOTE: Since retinol and retinoids can make your skin sensitive to the sun, be sure to wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher when using retinol and other retinoids and for 7 days after.
Related Post: A Guide to Drugstore Retinol
Retinol vs Granactive Retinoids
Granative retinoids can provide similar results as retinol but without any or with minimal side effects.
As previously noted, it takes two conversions for retinol to become available to the skin. While it is not the most potent retinoid available, retinol is still quite effective.
Unfortunately, retinol may come with some side effects.
If you are just starting out with retinol, you may experience irritation, redness, dryness, and/or peeling until your skin becomes acclimated. Enter Granactive Retinoids.
So what exactly are Granactive Retinoids?
Hydroxypinacolone retinoate (HPR), also known as Granactive Retinoid, binds to retinoid receptors of skin cells without needing to be converted to retinoic acid.
Granactive Retinoid vs Retinol
Granactive Retinoid is a retinoic acid ester and gentler on the skin than typical over-the-counter retinol or retinaldehyde products.
Estee Lauder did a study on HPR and found that HPR (Granactive Retinoid) had higher gene transcription levels than retinol, retinaldehyde, and retinyl palmitate when tested at the same concentrations, but not as high as tretinoin.
While testing has shown a reduction in fine lines and wrinkles without the irritation associated with typical retinol, most of the research that has been done on Granactive Retinoids comes from the manufacturer, Grant Industries.
Since independent research is limited on this newer retinoid, you can decide if this retinoid is worth your investment.
How to Interpret The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid Ingredient Lists
It is important to understand that you cannot directly compare active percentages of Granactive Retinoids to retinol. It’s not like comparing apples to apples since the active ingredients are different.
A 2% Granactive Retinoid complex from The Ordinary actually contains 10% active ingredient and 90% dimethyl isosorbide (a solvent to help the product work better).
So in actuality, this 2% Granactive Retinoid from The Ordinary is made up of 0.2% Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate (HPR) and 1.8% dimethyl isosorbide.
The Ordinary Retinol and Retinoids
The Ordinary offers a variety of retinoid and retinol concentrations at ridiculously low prices to target the signs of aging, including wrinkles, fine lines, dullness, and more.
If you want to try a retinoid from The Ordinary, your first decision will be whether you want to go with the tried and true retinol or go with the new, potentially less irritating Granactive Retinoid technology.
Whatever retinol product you choose from The Ordinary, you will be adding an effective, low-cost anti-aging serum to your skincare routine.
Just don’t forget the sunscreen!
If you have mature skin and want a skincare routine using The Ordinary retinoids, be sure to see my post on The Ordinary Skincare Routine for Over 50 skin.
For more usage details and sample retinol routines, please see my newest post on The Ordinary retinol and retinoids: How To Use The Ordinary Retinol.
Thanks for reading!