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The Ordinary Retinols & Retinoids Beginner’s Guide

The Ordinary Retinol & Retinoids Beginner´s Guide

These are the 6 retinol/retinoid products available from The Ordinary.

What´s the difference between Retinol & Retinoids?

Caroline Hirons explains all about The Ordinary Retinols & Retinoids better than anyone else I can find on the internet, so make sure you watch this before buying retinol or retinoid for the first time.


Caroline Hirons says…

  • If you have sensitive skin or your skin can easily get irritated, then start the Granactive 2% Emulsion.
  • You could also start with The Ordinary Retinoid 2% in Squalane and then build up to The Ordinary Retinoid 5% in Squalane.
  • The Squalane acts as a buffer, so whilst it will work as other Retinoids do without Squalane, it won´t feel as strong on the skin.
  • In The Ordinary Retinols, you have a choice of 3. 0.2%, 0.5% & 1% in Squalane. 
  • Start with the 0.2% then you can move up to 0.5%, and then the 1%.
  • The Ordinary Retinol 1% in Squalane is the strongest, but as mentioned above, with the Squalane acting as a buffer, it won´t feel as strong on the skin as Retinol without Squalane.

The Ordinary Retinol & Retinoid Guide

Everything you need to know about The Ordinary Retinols & Retinoids, the different strengths, the ones you should start with if you’re new to skincare and products you should avoid using in the same routine.

Easy Guide To The Ordinary Retinol & Retinoids

The Ordinary Retinol & Retinoids

Retinol 0.2%, 0.5% & 1%

Polls Featured On Instagram Stories

The Ordinary Retinol Polls

There are 3 retinol products with different strengths. It´s recommended to start with the lowest strength first and build up to the higher strengths.

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The Ordinary Retinoids

Polls Featured On Instagram Stories

There are 3 The Ordinary Retinoids, and as you can see, the original 2% emulsion is the favourite, but there really isn´t much in it.

PAO of Retinol/Retinoid

The period after opening is 3 months.

Should The Ordinary Retinol & Retinoids be kept in the fridge?

Yes! The Ordinary Retinol & Retinoids should be kept in the fridge, and this is something to really think about before buying. If your fridge is really far away from where you normally do your skincare, will you remember to use it? Will you bother to go to the fridge, apply it to your skin and then put it back in the fridge?

Which products should not be used with Retinol & Retinoids?

  • Other retinol & retinoid products
  • Direct Vitamin C
  • Copper Peptides (Buffet + Copper, NIOD CAIS, NIOD CAIL)
  • Direct Acids
  • Always check the official The Ordinary & NIOD pages, as information is regularly updated.

What is the difference between The Ordinary Retinols & Retinoids?

Deciem posted this on Instagram, and they explained the difference between Retinols & Retinoids.

Granactive Retinoid & Retinol are a lot like siblings. ⁣⁣⁣ ⁣ They’re part of the same Vitamin A family, and just like siblings, they appear to be similar but are actually quite different.

Retinol (the “older” sibling) has been around longer than most of us (since the 1930s), and as such, has been studied very extensively. It is often considered one of the most effective skincare ingredients due to its ability to improve the appearance of multiple skincare concerns, including visible signs of ageing and textural irregularities.⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣

Retinol & Retinoids

⁣The Ordinary offers the pure, waterless form of Retinol in 0.2%, 0.5% and 1% concentrations in a base of Squalane. If you’re an inexperienced user, it’s best to start your regimen with our Retinol 0.2% in Squalane and then adjust to higher strengths of 0.5% Retinol in Squalane and 1% Retinol in Squalane once your skin has grown tolerant to each formula.⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣⁣ ⁣

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Granactive Retinoid, the “younger” sibling, is a much newer next-generation advanced retinoid active complex which has been shown to target multiple signs of aging, offering the same long-term benefits as retinol without any of the drawbacks often associated with retinol use. This technology cannot be compared directly with Retinol itself in terms of concentration because they include a different Retinoid molecule, in a similar way that Retinol cannot be compared with Retinoic Acid in terms of concentration. ⁣⁣⁣

⁣Granactive Retinoid of 2% concentration in a creamy emulsion format, as well as 2% and 5% concentrations in a hydrating, light Squalane base. Sun protection is particularly important when using retinoids, and they may increase the skin’s sensitivity to UV radiation.⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣⁣ ⁣ Whether you stick with the tried and true retinol options or go for the next-generation granactive retinoids, both are incredibly effective in the long and short term.

Retinol & Retinoid Q&As

These FAQS have been answered by The Ordinary on Social Media.

  • Do I need to apply moisturizer after The Ordinary Retinol? Aren´t these oil-based and oily formulations should be the last step? We generally recommend applying our oils before creams. Our rule of application for our products is in order from lightest to heaviest formulations. This allows serums and lightweight formulas to be absorbed through the skin without struggling to go through thicker formulations. These Retinols can be used throughout the summer months if desired.
  • What’s the difference between retinol and the granactive retinoid emulsion? Thank you for this question. We are unable to compare the strength of Retinoid vs. Retinol as they are two different technologies. While Retinol has been studied extensively, it is irritating to the skin and newer technologies exist that mimic the visible effects of Retinol without causing skin irritation. For this reason, we generally recommend using Granactive Retinoid instead of Retinol formulations.

More FAQs The Ordinary Retinol & Retinoids

  • I still have half a bottle of Retinoid left after opening it over 3 months ago, and I forgot to put it back in the fridge. Can I still use it? We’ve changed the period-after-opening (PAO) and included “refrigerate after opening” in the directions alongside the formulation change in an effort to further delay the inevitable oxidation of Retinol and Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate (HPR). We suggest storing the Granactive Retinoid and Retinol products in the fridge after opening to ensure the longevity of the product. However, we understand that you may not have finished your product within the 3-month PAO. We would recommend discontinuing the use of that particular bottle and using a fresh product if possible. You may also wish to explore our 365-day return policy.
  • Is it ok to use The Ordinary Buffet + Copper Peptides with Retinol 2%? Copper Peptides have the capacity to support the skin’s natural exfoliating mechanism. If you are already using NIOD’s NAAP, a Retinoid, Retinol, Direct Acid formula, incorporating a copper peptide formula may increase the skin’s sensitivity. We would recommend using them in separate AM/PM regimens.
  • Can I use The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 5% with Ascorbic acid 8% + Alpha Arbutin 2%? If you wish to incorporate multiple Retinoids, and/or Direct Acids into your skincare regimen, we suggest using them on alternate evenings and waiting until your skin has adjusted to one before introducing another. 
  • Should The Ordinary Retinol be kept in the fridge after opening? Is a dark cupboard ok? We suggest storing the Granactive Retinoid and Retinol products in the fridge after opening. Upon opening, please consult the period after opening (PAO) symbol for the product shelf life.

More FAQS about The Ordinary Retinol & Retinoids

  • Should I use moisturizer straight after using the Retinol or let the Retinol soak into the skin for a little bit before using moisturizer? You’re welcome to moisturize as your last step. Please note there is no need to wait a certain amount of time in between the application of products.
  • Can I use The Ordinary Retinol and Buffet around my eyes together? Our retinoid products should be avoided around the eyes. You are welcome to apply “Buffet” around the eyes.
  • I use The Ordinary Buffet, Squalane, Vitamin C & Glycolic Acid together. Would you please suggest how to add Retinoid to my day and night skincare regime? For best results, we suggest alternating between “Buffet” and Glycolic Acid. We recommend adding Retinoid to the PM, alternating with Glycolic Acid to begin.
  • Is it ok to use The Ordinary Buffet & Retinoid in the same routine? The Ordinary Buffet (Multi-Peptide Serum + HA) can be used with Retinoid.
  • I use Retinoid & Pure Vitamin C together. Is that ok? We suggest alternating between Retinoid and Pure Vitamin C to begin. 
  • How often should I start with The Ordinary 0.5% Retinol? We recommend slowly incorporating Retinol 0.5% into your routine. You may wish to begin by using it 1-3 times per week.
  • Which Retinol or Retinoid is best for a beginner? We suggest starting with Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion/Squalane.

More FAQS about The Ordinary Retinol & Retinoids

  • I have pilling with 5% Granactive Retinoid in Squalane when using Hyaluronic Acid. How do you layer these? Granactive Retinoid should will be applied after Hyaluronic Acid.
  • Can I use Granactive Retinoid 2% and The Ordinary Ascorbyl Glucoside 12% in the same routine and how do I layer them? Yes, they may be used together! Ascorbyl Glucoside Solution should be applied before Granactive Retinoid.
  • How often should I use retinol? We strongly advise building your skin’s tolerance to Retinol due to its potency. We recommend starting your regimen with our 0.2% in Squalane and then adjusting to higher strengths of 0.5% in Squalane and our 1% in Squalane. That way, you will achieve the same end results and reduce the chances of experiencing any signs of skin irritation. 
  • Would I use Retinoid before or after The Ordinary? Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate 10%? We suggest using MAP as the final step.
  • I´m using The Ordinary Retinol 1% in Squalane, and the irritation and redness have worsened. It’s important to note that with an active ingredient that affects skin behaviour, there can be an initial purging period during which breakouts are normal. When introducing new products and sciences into your regimen, your skin may require up to a month to adjust. At this time, we would recommend taking a break from the products until your skin has calmed. Then you may wish to try diluting with most oils per application to reduce strength. 

More Faqs about Ordinary Retinol & Retinoids

  • What else can I use besides Buffet with The Ordinary Retinols & Retinoids? You may also wish to explore The Ordinary 100% Organic Cold-Pressed Rose Hip Seed Oil, a daily support oil for healthy, hydrated skin. Rose Hip Seed Oil is rich in linoleic (omega 6) and linolenic (omega 3) acids and pro-vitamin A, which enables it to target signs of photo-ageing and several other skin conditions. 
  • Can I use The Ordinary Salicylic Acid or Lactic Acid in the same routine as Granactive Retinoid or Retinol in Squalane? If you wish to incorporate multiple Vitamin C’s, Retinoids, and/or Direct Acids into your skincare regimen, we suggest using them on alternate evenings and waiting until your skin has adjusted to one before introducing another. 
  • Is it ok to use Granactive Retinoids with Ferulic Acid? You may indeed! 
  • So what is the difference between the Granactive 2% Emulsion and the 2% Granactive in Squalane? The difference between both the products is simply the consistency and formula. The potency of retinoid complexes are the same. The Granactive Retinoid 2% in Squalane is a lightweight solution and absorbs into the skin efficiently, allowing for multiple serums to be applied in your regimen. Squalane also has the added benefit of being an exceptional hydrator. The Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion is milky/creamy in consistency and is also hydrating. It is a great option for anyone who is not comfortable with oil-like consistencies. 

More Faqs Retinol & Retinoids

  • Can I use Granactive Retinoid 2% emulsion and NIOD NAAP in the same routine? We recommend using one of the products per regimen, as it is not necessary to use them together. 
  • Is it possible to use Retinol after Glycolic Acid 7%? We would suggest using them on separate evenings to begin. If you wish to incorporate multiple Vitamin C’s, Retinoids, and/or Direct Acids into your skincare regimen, we suggest using them on alternate evenings and waiting until your skin has adjusted to one before introducing another.
  • Can I use The Ordinary Retinoid and Niacinamide + zinc in the same routine? Yes, you may.

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