The Ordinary Retinol and Retinoid Products: A Comprehensive Guide

As someone who has explored the world of skincare, I’ve come to appreciate the power of retinol and retinoids in promoting a more youthful and radiant complexion. One brand that has gained significant recognition in offering these potent anti-aging ingredients is The Ordinary. With a range of retinol and retinoid products, they’ve made advanced skincare accessible and affordable to many.

Initially, The Ordinary captured attention with their Advanced Retinol 2% serum that was praised for its ability to refine and re-texture the skin. Since then, they’ve expanded their lineup and now offer six retinol and retinoid products that cater to various skin concerns and sensitivities. Among them are formulas containing Granactive Retinoid, which is a delivery system for the active ingredient hydroxypinacolone retinoate, an ester of retinoic acid.

As someone who practices a confident, knowledgeable, neutral, and clear approach to skincare, I believe The Ordinary’s retinol and retinoid products are worth exploring for those looking to address signs of aging, such as fine lines, wrinkles, loss of elasticity, and dullness. These products offer an effective yet budget-friendly solution to achieving a more youthful appearance.

Types of Retinol and Retinoid Products

As someone who is knowledgeable in skincare products, I’d like to share some insights into The Ordinary’s retinol and retinoid offerings. These products are commonly used for their anti-aging properties and can be a valuable addition to a skincare routine.

Granactive Retinoid Emulsion 2%

The Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion is a serum that combines two forms of retinoids, providing an overall moderate strength product with little to no irritation. This emulsion is an excellent choice for those new to retinoids or seeking gentler options.

Granactive Retinoid 2% in Squalane

Similar to the emulsion, this product contains a 2% concentration of granactive retinoid. However, it is formulated in squalane instead of an emulsion. Squalane is a lightweight, non-greasy oil that mimics the skin’s natural oils, making this product ideal for dry or sensitive skin.

Granactive Retinoid 5% in Squalane

The Granactive Retinoid 5% in Squalane is essentially a stronger version of the 2% formula. With a higher concentration, this serum may deliver more noticeable results for those who have already tried lower strengths without adverse effects.

Retinol 0.2% in Squalane

For those looking to try retinol, this 0.2% concentration in squalane is the lowest strength offered by The Ordinary. It may cause moderate irritation and is suitable for beginners who want to start slow.

Retinol 0.5% in Squalane

With a 0.5% concentration, this retinol serum has moderate strength and may cause high irritation. It’s ideal for those who have already used 0.2% retinol without issues and want to progress to a stronger option.

Retinol 1% in Squalane

The Ordinary’s highest strength retinol, this serum has a 1% concentration in squalane that may cause very high irritation. It is best suited for experienced retinol users looking for more potent anti-aging effects.

In summary, The Ordinary’s retinol and retinoid line offers a variety of strengths and formulations for people who want to incorporate anti-aging products into their skincare routine. Whether you’re a beginner or experienced user, there’s a suitable option for your needs.

Understanding Retinoids and Retinols

Active Ingredient: Vitamin A

As a skincare enthusiast, I’ve learned that retinoids and retinols are derivatives of vitamin A. These powerful ingredients are essential in various skincare products due to their exceptional ability to promote cell turnover and collagen production. Retinoids are found in prescription-strength formulations, while retinols are available in over-the-counter products.

Role in Cell Turnover

Retinoids and retinols play a crucial role in cell turnover, which is the process of shedding dead skin cells and replacing them with newer, healthier cells. I’ve found that these ingredients help speed up this process, leading to improved skin texture and a more even complexion. This accelerated cell turnover can also aid in unclogging pores and reducing the appearance of acne, creating a smoother, clearer appearance.

Collagen Production Stimulation

Collagen production is vital for maintaining skin elasticity and reducing the signs of aging, such as wrinkles and fine lines. In my research, I’ve discovered that retinoids and retinols are effective in stimulating collagen production. They do this by penetrating the skin and binding to the retinoid receptors, which helps stimulate the production of collagen and elastin.

By incorporating retinoids or retinols into my skincare routine, I’ve noticed significant improvements in skin texture and a reduction in visible signs of aging.

Benefits of The Ordinary Retinoid and Retinol Products

Addressing Signs of Aging

In my experience, The Ordinary Retinoid and Retinol products have proven to be effective in addressing various signs of aging. These products work by stimulating collagen production and increasing cell turnover, which ultimately helps reduce fine lines and wrinkles.

Treating Acne

As a first-person user, I’ve noticed that The Ordinary Retinoid and Retinol products are also useful in treating acne. They do so by promoting cell turnover and unclogging pores, thereby reducing the risk of acne breakouts and inflammation.

Improving Skin Tone and Texture

One key benefit I noticed in using The Ordinary Retinoid and Retinol products is the improvement in my skin tone and texture. These products help rejuvenate the skin and promote a smoother, more evenly toned complexion. This makes them a great option for those experiencing dull or uneven skin.

Reducing Hyperpigmentation

Lastly, The Ordinary Retinoid and Retinol products have helped me combat hyperpigmentation. They work in reducing the appearance of dark spots and uneven skin color by promoting cell turnover and renewal, leading to a more balanced and even-toned complexion.

How to Use and Incorporate The Ordinary Retinol and Retinoid Products into Your Skincare Regimen

Choosing the Right Product for Your Skin Type

As a skincare enthusiast, I found that choosing the right retinol or retinoid product for my skin type is essential. The Ordinary, a brand by Deciem, offers a range of retinol and retinoid products with different concentrations and formulations. For those with dry and sensitive skin like mine, it’s best to start with a lower-strength retinol, such as up to 0.01-0.03%. For oily skin or more experienced users, a higher concentration may be suitable.

Application Tips and Frequency

Applying retinol and retinoid products correctly and safely has been crucial in my skincare journey. I began by using retinol just twice a week (every three days) in the evenings. I noticed that if there was no redness or flakiness the next day, I could bump up its usage to every other day or even every day if my skin could handle it. It’s essential to use only a pea-sized amount to avoid overwhelming the skin.

When starting with retinol, I had to be patient and consistent. Initially, I incorporated it into my regimen only two nights a week. As my skin adjusted, I gradually increased its usage to three nights, then every other night, and eventually every night if tolerated. During this process, it is crucial not to use retinol on the same nights when exfoliating or using harsh acids.

Layering with Other Skincare Products

Having a multi-step skincare regimen, I learned how to layer The Ordinary retinol and retinoid products with other skincare products properly. Retinol and retinoids should never be mixed with conflicting ingredients like benzoyl peroxide, alpha and beta hydroxy acids, and vitamin C. Instead, it’s best to use calming and hydrating products like hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, and ceramides alongside retinol to soothe and protect the skin from potential irritation.

In summary, I recommend choosing the right retinol or retinoid product for your skin type, applying them with care and consistency, and layering them properly with other skincare products to safely and effectively incorporate The Ordinary’s retinol and retinoid products into your skincare regimen.

Potential Side Effects and Precautions

Irritation, Redness, and Dryness

When using The Ordinary Retinol and Retinoid products, it’s possible that I may experience some common side effects like irritation, redness, and dryness. These effects are typically mild and can be alleviated by gradually incorporating these products into my skincare routine. Additionally, I can minimize the risk of these side effects by ensuring my skin is moisturized and using a lower concentration of retinol initially.

Sensitivity to Sunlight

It’s important for me to be aware that using retinol-based products may increase my skin’s sensitivity to sunlight. To protect my skin, I should always wear sunscreen with a high SPF and limit sun exposure when using The Ordinary Retinol and Retinoid products. This precaution will help prevent further damage and ensure that I am benefiting from the products.

Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

As someone who may be pregnant or breastfeeding, there is potential concern when using retinol or retinoid-containing products like those from The Ordinary. These products may not be suitable for me due to potential risks to the developing fetus or nursing infant. It’s best for me to consult with a healthcare professional before incorporating these products into my skincare routine. They will be able to guide me on the best course of action, ensuring the safety and well-being of both myself and my child.

Importance of Sunscreen

When using The Ordinary Retinol and Retinoid products, it’s essential to protect your skin from the sun. UV radiation can increase skin sensitivity, which varies during retinol treatment. As a result, wearing a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher during the day is important. Not only does this protect your skin from the sun, but it also helps to prevent further damage and potential irritation caused by UV exposure.

Hydrating and Soothing Products

Another essential aspect of aftercare when using retinol and retinoid products is hydration. I recommend using a moisturizer or hydrating serum to help replenish moisture and soothe any potential dryness or irritation. Look for products containing ingredients like niacinamide to further calm the skin and strengthen its barrier.

In addition to hydration, it’s important to maintain a gentle cleansing routine. Make sure to cleanse your face at least once a day, preferably in the evening. Opt for a gentle and non-irritating cleanser that will not strip away your skin’s natural oils. This will help maintain overall skin health and prevent potential irritation from using retinol and retinoid products.

Comparing The Ordinary Retinoids and Retinols to Other Forms


Tretinoin, also known as retinoic acid, is the active form of vitamin A and a potent prescription retinoid. This powerful ingredient binds directly to skin cells’ retinoid receptors and provides effective acne treatment and anti-aging benefits. The Ordinary’s Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate (HPR), a type of granactive retinoid, is similar to tretinoin in its activity but is gentler on the skin with a milder mechanism.


Retinaldehyde is another form of vitamin A, which is less potent than tretinoin but more potent than retinol. It can be converted to retinoic acid by the skin, but this process takes longer than with retinol. Although The Ordinary doesn’t offer a specific retinaldehyde product, their retinol and retinoid offerings provide similar benefits with varying strengths and levels of irritation.


Adapalene is a third-generation retinoid and a potent acne treatment. Studies have shown that adapalene 0.1% gel is as effective as tretinoin 0.025% gel but comes with less irritation. While The Ordinary doesn’t directly offer an adapalene product, their retinoid and retinol products provide benefits such as combating acne and the signs of aging.


Differin is a brand name for adapalene and the only prescription-strength retinoid sold over the counter. This powerful and well-tolerated acne treatment is generally used in prescription drugs rather than over-the-counter products. Like adapalene, The Ordinary’s retinol and retinoid products can be a suitable and affordable alternative for users who seek the benefits of retinoids without a prescription.

To recap, The Ordinary’s retinol and retinoid products are a good option for those seeking alternative forms of vitamin A derivatives. They provide benefits that are similar to tretinoin, retinaldehyde, adapalene, and Differin while being gentler on the skin and without requiring a prescription for use.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the main differences between retinol and retinoid products?

Retinol and retinoid are terms often used interchangeably, but they are different. Retinoids are a family of vitamin A derivatives, while retinol is a specific type of retinoid. Retinol is typically found in over-the-counter products, whereas stronger retinoids like tretinoin are available only through prescription.

Which product is more effective for acne treatment?

Tretinoin, a prescription retinoid, is considered to be more effective for acne treatment than over-the-counter retinol products. However, for mild acne cases or as a starter product, you might consider using a retinol product by The Ordinary before moving on to stronger prescription options if needed.

What is the strongest retinol product offered by The Ordinary?

The Ordinary offers a range of retinol and retinoid products with varying concentrations. The strongest retinol product they offer is their Retinol 1% in Squalane.

Which product is suitable for beginners?

For beginners, I recommend starting with a lower concentration like The Ordinary’s Granactive Retinoid 2% in Squalane. This product combines a gentler form of retinoid, hydroxypinacolone retinoate, with a lower concentration that is more suitable for those new to skincare.

How do the different retinol concentrations affect their usage?

Different concentrations of retinol can affect the potency and potential side effects of a product. Lower concentrations are typically gentler on the skin and suitable for first-time users, whereas higher concentrations might produce faster results but may also cause increased irritation. It’s important to start with a lower concentration and then gradually increase the strength if needed.

What is the key difference between granactive retinoid and retinol in squalane?

Granactive retinoid (hydroxypinacolone retinoate) is a less potent form of retinoid compared to retinol but is still effective in addressing acne and signs of aging. Squalane is a stable oil often used as the base for these products. The main difference between granactive retinoid and retinol in squalane is the type of retinoid used and their potencies, with granactive retinoid being a gentler option.

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