The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2 Emulsion

The Ordinary

Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion

1.00 fl. oz. for $ 9.80
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Brand Overview

The Ordinary’s Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion’s had a bit of an ingredient makeover since we first reviewed it, and we’re glad to say that it’s an upgrade.

In addition to the different arrangement of ingredients, there’s also been a name change; this used to be called Advanced Retinoid 2%, but is now called Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion to distinguish it among The Ordinary’s growing lineup of retinol and retinol-like products.

That aside, this comes in packaging that adequately protect its ingredients – a dark brown, UV-protected bottle with a dropper dispenser. That’s great, but given retinol’s delicate stability, an opaque pump bottle would be even better.

The fragrance free emulsion inside is a pale yellow color (common of high-strength retinol products) and has a lotion-liquid texture. It’s non-greasy, sinks into skin quickly, and works well both over and under other skin care products.

On to the ingredients – you might be wondering what The Ordinary is referring to with “granactive retinoid.” In this case, it’s a retinoid known as hydryoxypinacolone retinoate (or HPR). This is part of an emerging group of next-generation retinoids, or vitamin A derivatives, that are an ester of retinoic acid, which is what retinol breaks down to in the skin.

There’s research showing that it might be able to bind directly to skin’s retinoid receptors instead of being metabolized into retinoic acid, thus saving a step in the conversion process. There are also claims that this process makes it easier for skin to tolerate than retinol (which some people can find sensitizing).

In short, yes, this can help treat visible signs of aging like fine lines and wrinkles as claimed, though it’s certainly not superior to retinol as The Ordinary says (and in fact, this contains regular retinol, too!). Retinol has over 40 years of research backing up its ability to transform skin, so while HPR is an interesting alternative, it’s not necessarily an upgrade, just an alternate, like choosing an iPhone over an Android phone, when both let you do all the basic things smart phones permit.

That aside, the formula also contains moisturizing glycerin, calming bisabolol, and antioxidant Tasmannia lanceolate extract so it’s not among The Ordinary’s “one-note” products.

  • Lotion-liquid texture is non-greasy and sinks into skin.
  • Works well with other skin care products.
  • Very likely to visibly improve the look of fine lines and wrinkles.
  • Contains moisturizing, soothing, and antioxidant ingredients.
  • Fragrance free.
  • None.
Jar Packaging: No
Tested on animals: No

A stable serum emulsion of a next-generation retinoid active that achieves better reduction in visible signs of aging than retinol—without irritation.

Water, Glycerin, Ethyl Linoleate, Propanediol, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Dimethyl Isosorbide, Cetearyl Isononanoate, Bisabolol, Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate, Retinol, Tasmannia Lanceolata Fruit/Leaf Extract, Inulin Lauryl Carbamate, Glyceryl Stearate, Ceteareth-12, Ceteareth-20, Cetearyl Alcohol, Carrageenan, Xanthan Gum, Acacia Senegal Gum, Cetyl Palmitate, Sucrose Laurate, Polysorbate 20, Isoceteth-20, Behentrimonium Chloride, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Disodium EDTA, Dehydroacetic Acid, Benzoic Acid, Ethylhexylglycerin, Phenoxyethanol, Chlorphenesin.

It's not an overstatement to say that Canadian brand The Ordinary has taken the global beauty world by storm. In fact, no skincare line in recent memory has generated as much buzz as this brand!

Why all the commotion? Its because of The Ordinary's combination of clinical-looking products that contain high amounts of proven skincare ingredients and their unusually low prices (near rock-bottom prices). The curiosity to try these latte-priced products is intense; after all, you can assemble an impressive collection of anti-aging products for around the cost of one anti-aging product from a pricey department store brand!

The Ordinary is one of several brands that are part of a larger company, named DECIEM, whose tag line is The Abnormal Beauty Company, and with that we agree 100%. According to company founder Brandon Truaxe, DECIEM exists to create beauty brands with one mission common amongst them: to marry function, design and authenticity. Were not sure about the function, design, and authenticity part, but The Ordinary is certainly not ordinary at all in the world of beauty!

Frankly, we don't see how DECIEM can rationalize the low prices of The Ordinary products when the products from the other DECIEM skincare brands are so expensive. The difference is so glaringly strange it seems to border on a bait and switch - more about that in a moment.

Some of the ingredients in The Ordinary products are indeed inexpensive, but some of them absolutely qualify as expensive. These expensive ingredients are part of the reason why well-formulated anti-aging products, like serums and retinol treatments, typically cost much more than what The Ordinary charges.

The owner has been quoted as saying that the fill (fill is actual product inside the package) for his products costs less than $1 (less than $1 for how much? ). Depending on the formula, that can be true, but a skincare products retail price isn't just about whats inside the packaging, but also about how whats inside got there. There are costs for packaging, global regulatory testing, development, stability and safety testing, distribution, and on and on. Surely, The Ordinary didn't avoid some of these steps, but it does make us wonder.

We generally don't comment on a company's marketing strategy, but in this case its hard not to. We suspect The Ordinary is possibly a loss leader for the pricier DECIEM brands; that is, it gets DECIEM a ton of media and viral attention. Consumers, drawn by the low prices of The Ordinary, check out the site aiming to try the cheap stuff, but then, in sometimes not-so-subtle ways, they're lured into considering the expensive stuff from their other lines. Again, were just guessing here because its just so intriguing. Is The Ordinary a crusader for consumers or something else?

In terms of the quality of The Ordinary's products, the majority are one-note formulas. That is, rather than containing a robust mix of ingredients proven to help skin, most of their products focus on providing an efficacious amount of a single key ingredient, but to the exclusion of others. To give your skin an essential mix of antioxidants, skin-replenishing ingredients, and skin-restoring ingredients, you'd have to purchase several products from this line, and, since most of them have similar fluid-like serum textures, layering them, and knowing which product to apply first becomes a confusing guessing game. Plus, the Ordinary brand doesn't include sunscreens or cleansers, so it isn't one-stop shopping.

The Ordinary does one more unusual thing that reinforces their slogan of being The Abnormal Beauty Company: They routinely point out what they believe are the negative aspects of the very ingredients they use! For example, The Ordinary states clearly that it does not recommend exfoliating with AHA or BHA ingredients, but they sell AHA and BHA products. They also state they don't like silicones because of how they interact with certain ingredients, but they sell products that contain silicones.

They downplay retinol (vitamin A) as being inferior to other forms of vitamin A, but they still sell retinol products. Aside from the fact that these statements about retinol, AHAs, BHA, and silicones are wrong, its just bizarre to sell products you dont really want people to use, but then there's an allegedly superior, more expensive option from one of DECIEMs other brands, just waiting for you.

As you'll see from our reviews, there's a handful of The Ordinary's products worth checking out, but there are also several products that simply don't supply enough of what all skin types need to look and act younger, healthier, and more radiant. Low prices are great, but not when the trade-off is getting less than your skin deserves.

For more information about The Ordinary, call (800) 513-6088 or visit

About the Experts

The Beautypedia team consists of skin care and makeup experts personally trained by the original Cosmetics Cop and best-selling beauty author, Paula Begoun. We’re fascinated by skin care and makeup products and thrilled when they meet or exceed our expectations, but we’re also disappointed when they fail to perform as claimed, are wildly overpriced, or contain ingredients scientific research has proven can hurt skin.

Our mission has always been to help you find the best products for your skin, no matter your budget or preferences. Beautypedia’s thorough and insightful reviews cut through the hype and provide reliable recommendations for all ages, skin types, and skin tones.

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