The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2 in Squalane

The Ordinary

Granactive Retinoid 2% in Squalane

1.00 fl. oz. for $ 9.60
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The Ordinary’s Granactive Retinoid 2% in Squalane is an interesting product for those looking for an alternative to standard retinol, with some additional benefits as well.

As with many of The Ordinary’s products, this comes in a dark-colored, UV-protectant coated bottle with a dropper dispenser. Although this type of packaging is no slouch, it’s not as ideal for retinoid ingredients as an opaque, airless pump container. In fact, according to the datasheet supplier (Grant Industries) of this formula’s retinoid, “It is recommended to formulate this product in a manner that avoids infusing air/oxygen into the final cosmetic product. Like all retinoids, the highly specific set of conjugated double bonds are susceptible to oxidation.”

Moving on, because this contains a high amount of squalane, it has the texture of a lightweight oil (squalane isn’t an oil, but it physically resembles one). It’s not greasy though, and sinks completely into skin within a couple of minutes.

One note about squalane: it’s a great skin care ingredient because it’s a rich source of fatty acids which are good for maintaining skin’s health, in addition to having antioxidant benefits as well.

But the real star of the show here is the granactive retinoid, listed in the ingredients as hydryoxypinacolone retinoate (or HPR). Here’s where things get technical: this isn’t retinol in the traditional sense.

Rather, HPR is a next-generation retinoid that’s actually an ester of retinoic acid, or tretinoin. There’s developing research indicating that HPR can bind directly to skin’s retinol receptors, instead of being metabolized into retinoic acid, as with traditional retinol. What does this mean for your skin?

Essentially, you’ll see anti-aging benefits (like a reduction in wrinkles and fine lines, as well as uneven skin tone) if you use a product containing HPR. There’s even some emerging evidence that it can be tolerated by skin a bit more than retinol, but there’s no definitive proof of that just yet.

While it does have similar benefits to traditional retinol, it is not superior to retinol, as The Ordinary claims. Rather, it’s an interesting alternative, but one that at this time doesn’t have the depth or breadth of research backing its potency, as is the case with retinol.

Moving on, in addition to the HPR and squalane, there’s also calming bisabolol, plus antioxidant tomato extract and jojoba oil. Though this doesn’t have a laundry list of beneficial ingredients, there’s enough here to make a real difference in skin’s look and feel, and the price is pretty hard to beat.

  • Contains a high amount of squalane, which is rich in fatty acids and antioxidants.
  • Very likely to visibly improve the look of fine lines and wrinkles.
  • Includes skin-soothing bisabolol + antioxidant tomato extract and jojoba oil.
  • Fragrance free.
  • The packaging isn’t terrible, but it’s not as ideal for retinoids as airless containers.
Jar Packaging: No
Tested on animals: No

This water-free solution contains a 2% concentration of an advanced retinoid active complex called Granactive Retinoid that has been shown to offer better results against multiple signs of aging than retinol without any of the irritation and drawbacks common with retinol.

Squalane, C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate, Bisabolol, Dimethyl Isosorbide, Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate, Solanum Lycopersicum (Tomato) Fruit Extract, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil.

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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