The Ordinary Retinol Review | The Serum That Changed My Life

by Holly
the ordinary retinol 1 in squalene review before and after

I’m no beauty expert, and you won’t catch me doing a complicated 10-step beauty routine. But as I hit the big 4-0, I felt the need for something with serious anti-aging power. On a whim, I picked up The Ordinary retinol serum with 1% squalane. Fast forward a few weeks, and my face is seriously thanking me – it’s brighter and smoother than ever. My friends have noticed the change and can’t stop complimenting my skin. So, here I am, sharing my thoughts in this no-nonsense The Ordinary retinol review.

Curious if The Ordinary retinol serum is your secret weapon too? We’ll dive into:

  • The perks and potential downsides of using retinol
  • My journey to achieving that coveted “glass-skin” with The Ordinary retinol serum
  • Does the retinol serum in 1% squalane formula really deliver the goods?
  • The ultimate question: Is The Ordinary retinol serum worth the hype?

Let’s find out!

This post may contain affiliate links, which means I’ll receive a commission if you purchase through my link, at no extra cost to you. Please read full disclosure here.

Benefits of using retinol in your skincare regimen

Incorporating retinol into your skincare routine can be a game-changer for achieving radiant and youthful skin. Renowned for its transformative benefits, retinol, a derivative of vitamin A, is celebrated for promoting cell turnover, reducing fine lines, and tackling uneven skin tone.

Trusted authority websites such as the American Academy of Dermatology and WebMD emphasize its efficacy in addressing various skin concerns. The use of retinol enhances collagen production, which contributes to improved elasticity and firmness. Additionally, it aids in unclogging pores and preventing acne, making it a versatile solution for a spectrum of skin types.

best retinol serum for beginners

Retinol side effects

While retinol can work wonders for your skin, it’s crucial to be aware of potential side effects when incorporating it into your skincare routine. Common issues may include redness, dryness, and peeling, especially during the initial stages of use. It’s advised to start with a lower concentration and gradually increase as your skin builds tolerance.

We’ll discuss how I use my retinol serum to avoid these potential side effects below. Also, using retinol can increase your skin’s sensitivity to sunlight so it’s important to use sun protection during the day.

The Ordinary retinol serum 1% in squalane review


The Ordinary’s Retinol serum is conveniently packaged in a dropper, encased in tinted glass for added protection against sunlight, ensuring the stability of the serum. With a yellow hue and an oily texture, this fragrance-free serum goes on clear. Despite its oil-based nature, the application is surprisingly non-greasy, thanks to the small amount needed.

I love it that it is in a dropper so I can control the amount needed.

the ordinary retinol review

The ordinary retinol 1% in squalane ingredients

Ingredients in the Ordinary retinol 1% in squalane are: Squalane, Caprylic/​Capric Triglyceride, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Retinol 1.0%, Solanum Lycopersicum (Tomato) Fruit Extract, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract, Hydroxymethoxyphenyl Decanone, BHT

The inclusion of squalane in this serum serves a dual purpose by preventing skin irritation from the retinol while remaining imperceptible on the skin. So, you get all the benefits without feeling weighed down by any heavy or oily residue.

Jojoba seed oil, tomato, and rosemary leaf extracts collaborate synergistically. They enhance the effectiveness of the retinol, creating a powerful anti-aging serum.

Ingredient name

What it does


Moisturizer that makes your skin nice and smooth, without being heavy or greasy

Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride

A common emollient that makes the skin feel nice and smooth

Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil

Moisturizes the skin, making it soft and supple. Have "skin balancing" properties for oily skin.


Anti-aging ingredient. Makes skin less wrinkled, smoother, firmer, and tighter. Makes the pores produce less sebum for acne-prone skin

Solanum Lycopersicum (Tomato) Fruit Extract

Have soothing and anti-inflammatory properties

Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract

Have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, astringent, and toning properties. 

Hydroxymethoxyphenyl Decanone

Anti-aging benefits related to its antioxidant properties


Antioxidant that's used as a preservative

How to use The Ordinary retinol serum

The most effective way to use the retinol serum is to incorporate it into your night skincare regimen. This means, cleanse, tone, water-based serum (if using), retinol serum, facial oil (if using), and then face cream.

Here is a list of products I use for my night skincare:

The Ordinary retinol results

How often to use The Ordinary retinol serum

While The Ordinary offers lower retinol concentrations like 0.2% and 0.5% in squalane, I initially chose to begin with the 1% in squalane despite being a beginner. Initially, I incorporated it into my skincare routine every other night, but my skin experienced burning and peeling. Recognizing my mistake, I allowed my skin to heal for about a week before reintroducing the 1% retinol serum in squalane.

This time, I applied it just once a week. After two weeks, I started noticing a brighter complexion, giving my face a noticeable glow. Currently, I’ve adjusted my usage to every 3-4 days with positive results.

For beginners, start with a 1% retinol in squalane once a week. Apply a drop onto your fingertips and gently spread it across your face. It’s suitable for use under the eyes as well. Stick to using the retinol serum once a week for approximately 4 weeks before gradually increasing the frequency to every 3 days.

The Ordinary retinol in 1% squalane review before and after

the ordinary retinol results

I’ve been using The Ordinary retinol serum 1% in squalane for about a year now, and I must say, I’m thrilled with the results. The serum has done wonders for my skin – it’s brighter, and smoother, and those pesky dark spots on my face have noticeably lightened. The value, moisturizing properties, and overall quality have impressed me.

However, it’s worth noting that some users have expressed concerns about the thickness of the product. Personally, I haven’t found it to be a major issue, but individual preferences may vary. It is not oily at all compared to most facial oils out there.

Some reviewers have mixed feelings about its effect on the skin and the potential for irritation. It seems like The Ordinary retinol serum has its pros and cons, but for me, the positive results outweigh any minor drawbacks.

Frequently asked questions

Is it good to use retinol serum every day?

Using retinol serum every day can be effective for some people, but it’s important to approach it with caution. Retinol is a potent ingredient that may cause irritation, dryness, or peeling, especially when you first start using it. It’s often recommended to begin with a lower frequency, such as one to two times a week, and gradually increase as your skin builds tolerance. It’s crucial to listen to your skin and adjust the frequency based on how it reacts. Additionally, always use sunscreen during the day when using retinol, as it can increase sensitivity to sunlight.

At what age should you use retinol?

Many dermatologists suggest introducing retinol in your skincare routine in your late 20s to early 30s as a preventive measure against signs of aging. However, it’s essential to consider your specific skin concerns and goals. If you’re dealing with acne, fine lines, or uneven skin tone, you might start earlier. Always begin with a lower concentration and gradually increase, and it’s advisable to consult with a dermatologist for personalized advice based on your skin type and conditions.

Is The Ordinary retinol serum worth the hype?

Determining if The Ordinary Retinol 1% in Squalane serum is worth the hype depends on various factors including your skin type, concerns, and expectations. The Ordinary is known for its affordable yet effective skincare solutions, and their retinol serum is no exception. Retinol, a derivative of Vitamin A, is praised for its ability to improve skin texture, reduce fine lines, and promote cell turnover.

However, the effectiveness of retinol products can vary from person to person, and some may experience sensitivity or irritation, especially with higher concentrations like 1%. It’s essential to start with a lower concentration if you’re new to retinol and gradually build up tolerance.

Looking at the photos, it’s evident that my skin has undergone a remarkable transformation – it’s now brighter, tighter, and incredibly well-hydrated. Even my husband noticed the difference! The best part? This serum, priced at under $12 per bottle, lasts a year for me. Without a doubt, it’s one of the most worthwhile beauty investments I’ve made!

the ordinary retinol 1% in squalane review

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