A Journey from “New Age” Retinoids to Retinol

This year, I introduced Retinoids back into my life after 2 truly off-putting, not to mention, unsightly attempts.
Admittedly, I had no idea wtf I was doing then and barely stayed on the stuff longer than 2 weeks because I practically burned my face off and endured more days of having a flaking skin beard then I cared to. My first experience was from using Skinceuticals Retinol 1% which the sales associate said was “great for beginners,” 🙄 the second time was with Obagi Tretinoin 0.025%. It’s taken about 5 years for me to cotton on to the thought of getting back on this treatment, something I swore I wouldn’t put near my face ever again. But I’m realizing now, those bad experiences had more to do with the error of my uneducated ways than my being allergic to it.

In this post, I will be recapping my journey so far with Retinoids and Retinol this year and sharing with you my latest skincare routine on my Retinol days. I won’t actually be giving detailed reviews of the different retinoid products but rather giving an overview of where they have fit into my journey. You have seen these in some of my evening skincare routines over the last year.

Why Now?

The recent inundation of ’new age retinoids’ which started with Sunday Riley’s Luna had something to do with my renewed interest. Though I’m not a fan of Luna, this innovative Retinol oil is nonetheless kind of a game changer. It uses Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate (HPR because I’m not gonna spell this out every time) which is the newest star in the retinoid family.

  • Sunday Riley Luna Sleeping Night Oil


The Retinoid Family

Retinoic acid, aka tretinoin is the reigning empress dowager proven to have age-reversing properties. This is an active ingredient that our skin can interpret, while Retinol is a derivative and is not as direct as it needs to go through a metabolic conversion in our skin to retinoic acid in order to become effective. So Retinol will have milder effects but is still the most proven OTC ingredient to reduce signs of aging – I will do a more detailed post about the differences between the members of this family. What makes HPR so conceptually special is that it is not a derivative, it’s an ester of Retinoic acid which means it binds directly to the Retinoid receptors in our skin cells so there is no conversion needed, hence it’s just as active as Retinoic acid BUT, and this is a big-ass but(t), without the harsh side-effects and irritation. I mean, get that on my face now because this sounds too good to be true! Because it’s so new, there haven’t been a whole lot of studies to prove this but that’s fine, I’m always open to innovation. Besides, this actually got me excited about taking my skincare up a level and revisiting retin A.

The Journey

Luna was difficult for me to stick to, the results were nice but the overpowering odor is one that lasts into the morning and literally gives me nightmares. I don’t need skincare disrupting my sleep. I also don’t want blue dye on my face. The justification for the presence of the dye being there to protect the active ingredients from oxidation from within the formula is less impressive to me than it is irritating.

Then the Ordinary burst onto the scene and introduced me to their Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion (née Advanced Retinoid 2% but clearly the retinol category isn’t confusing enough, thanks Monkeys). I started using this at the beginning of 2017 and love the formula which I believe to be even more effective than Luna. This is because it combines HPR with traditional retinol which some studies have shown to be more effective than HPR acting alone. Since the Retinol used in this formulation is encapsulated, it is not as harsh as a regular Retinol and won’t yield the same side-effects. This serum/emulsion is gorgeously light, hydrating and one of my favourite products from the Ordinary. This made my skin feel fabulous but whether or not it’s working in the same way as tretinoin is really difficult to gauge since there are literally zero side-effects to using this. I don’t experience any irritation with this nor any skin turnover either. There’s no peeling so I would still need acids or peeling products to slough off excess build up of skin cells, albeit less than I usually need, without the retinoid. I used this for about 6 months, every other night and love it. I found it to be an effective serum that has subtly helped the overall condition of my skin – from evening out skin tone to bounciness and to seeing a more youthful complexion.

After 2 bottles of the Advanced Retinoid, my wandering eye was seduced by Superstar from Pestle & Mortar. When it comes to oil serums, my desires are wanton and promiscuous. Like Luna, this contains only HPR, however, I far prefer this. Simply put, this is a luxurious oil serum blend that is less offensive in scent and formula. I started using this in the beginning of the Summer every other night and I feel like this was a bit more effective for me than the Advanced Retinoid because I would experience some mild peeling at first and my skin felt smoother than it had in years. I don’t credit Superstar alone for that because my Summer routine line-up was awesome but it certainly helped make a difference.

Coming to the end of this bottle was stressful because I love it and like so many things I love, it’s expensive…Then the Ordinary went ahead and launched all their new retinols. So I decided to step things up and started using their Retinol 0.2% in Squalane. I should mention that I impatiently tried the Granactive Retinoid in Squalane 5% for like a week. As expected, I found the effects of this to be the same as the Granactive Retinoid 2% emulsion except in Squalane. I also prefer this particular formula as an emulsion which is hydrating and the texture beautiful while I find Squalane to be really greasy. BUT, I wanted to move on and up to the traditional Retinols and The Ordinary has a really gentle one in their Retinol 0.2% in Squalane. I had never tried nor seen Retinol in oil, and anything in oil has endless appeal to me, so I was very inspired to try.

The Ordinary Retinoids and Retinol category is straight-up confusing, the percentages, complicated names, not to mention the mixed messages . Even though the Granactive Retinoids are 2% and 5%, they are not to be compared with the strength of a Retinol which at a concentration of 2 or 5% would cause your face to shed off. But just to confuse us all the more, the Monkeys offer Retinols but they are discouraging us from using them and urging us to opt for the Granactive Retinoids instead. Seriously, WTF Monkeys? WTF.

The reason I’ve decided to use the Retinol despite being very happy with the HPR products is because I’m slowly preparing my skin for Tretinoin. As much as I’d like to believe that the new Retinoids are as effective as Retinoic acid, I’m not convinced yet and I’m not even sure how to gauge if and when it is being effective. I can’t stop thinking that if there’s no forced cell-turnover, then how can it have the same effectiveness as Retinoic acid? I’ve been using this for 9 months now and I’m not sure I’m getting the results that I would with Tretinoin after the same amount of time. After all, that is still the gold standard and I’m willing to give it another go but with a lot more awareness and caution this time around. If it’s really awful, I’ll simply just stop and stick with the lower percentages of Retinol which have been nothing short of wonderful.

After 9 months of HPR, I believe it has strengthened my skin for Retinol which so far after a month of use has been a great experience. I was using Retinol 0.2% in Squalene, but since last week upped it to the 0.5%. I’ve never used a retinol in an oil base before and I love it! Unlike HPR, retinol acts more like Tretinoin though it’s gentler. It has to be metabolically converted in our skin to RetinA so it is not as direct or effective, but still, it is effective. The results are there.

My Routine with Retinol 0.2% in Squalene (1 month) :

Week 1 – 2 times

Week 2 & 3 – 3 times

Week 4 – Every other day.

First Cleanse – Heimish All Clean Balm*

Second Cleanse – CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser

Peptide Treatment – Klairs Midnight Blue Youth Activating Drop*

Hydration – Isntree Hyaluronic Acid Toner* OR Hada Labo Gokujyun Premium Hyaluronic Acid Lotion

The Ordinary Retinol 0.2% in Squalane

Since the Squalane is pretty greasy, I don’t use a moisturizer after this and my skin feels fabulous the next day.

Results So Far :

I am thrilled with the results from this Retinol. After a month, I’m already seeing a bigger difference in results than I had with the Granactive Retinoids or HPR Oils. There is a bit of skin pilling everyday but it’s minor, manageable, non-invasive and satisfying quite frankly. It lasts a day or by the next time I use the treatment. Meanwhile, my skin looks glassy and glossy. Products glide on, the blackheads on my nose have disappeared and my face feels comfortably taut! There could be many reasons for that tautness but I’m not questioning it, just enjoying! I did get 2 pimples where I usually never get them, on my cheek which probably has to do with the treatment but those had a fast turnaround period without much inflammation. This has been effortless and could quite possibly be just the right place for me to remain. Except of course, I got restless and started using the 0.5% last week. I will update you further on the progress of this uptick – I am starting slow because this is not as comfortable as the 0.2%. I feel the surface dryness particularly around certain areas like the sides of my nose, and some irritation and stinging though it’s manageable. Will keep you posted!

Tips :

Better to start treatment after the Summer. I waited until Fall when my days of frolicking and spending long hours in the sun are rare. Your skin can become more sensitive to sunlight while using Retinol.

In anticipation, I prepared by building up my skin barrier with peptides and non-sensitizing, skin-strengthening products as its been proven to help with treatment response.

The effects of Retinol don’t show up the next day. It’s easy to get comfortable and impatient and perhaps be more abrasive in our routines the next day only to suffer the consequences the day after. That disastrous first time I used Tretinoin, I felt nothing the following day so applied it again 2 consecutive nights in a row. For the next couple of days after that, I had to keep an ice-pack pressed on my face to calm it down.

Avoid application on sensitive areas like around the lips.

I apply 2 layers of sunscreen the next day if I know I’ll be out in direct sunlight.

Hope you found this helpful! Please feel free to share your own tips and experiences as many of you are seasoned at this!

Wishing you great skin health!

gothamista renee chow youtube

Products marked with an * were gifted to me without obligation to review. This post contains affiliate links.


  1. Mitchell Thomas-Reilly
    October 28, 2017 / 2:31 am

    In regards to the CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser that you are currently using, where did you buy the decant bottle for your cleanser?

    • October 29, 2017 / 1:21 am

      From Muji, the link to the exact bottle is in my budget routine videos!

  2. gk
    October 28, 2017 / 12:15 pm

    Hi Renee! Really love your videos. With regards to retinoids/tretinoin, after I saw how you applied the retinoid oil in your video, I think these will help you:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RMHG3K5x_WE – time stamp 14:48

    These are 2 dermatologists giving advice on how to apply the retinoids in order to tolerate them and importantly, build tolerance. Hope this helps!

    • Renee
      October 28, 2017 / 2:24 pm

      Thank you! I just wish my own dermatologist took the time to explain a few things to me that first time I was prescribed it! What a disaster that was.

      • gk
        October 29, 2017 / 11:07 am

        Thanks for your reply! I also want to tell you about something else that has made a huge difference for me enabling my skin to tolerated retinoids etc. Background: severe cystic acne as teenager, roaccutane about 6 courses. While it didn’t permanently cure my acne (as an adult, used the pill for the skin), it massively shrunk my pores permanently (I used to be able to feel individual pores with my fingertips, that’s how huge the pores were, like reading Braille on your face, kinda 🙁 but on the roaccutane, I was completely poreless like Cate Blanchett) so that proves retinoids do work… The after effects of roaccutane really hit me in my thirties: oily skin in summer (usual) but then in winter, severely dry and dehydrated skin, could feel like my skin was a mask about to crack with any facial movement. That’s where your videos on hydrating essences really helped me. I began to investigate home light therapy, and splashed out on a Korean home LED light mask…and began using it in the autumn leading into winter. My endogenous moisture levels improved so drastically it was unbelievable. I really believe this is what helped me tolerate the tretinoin 0.05% when I started it. I’ve even moved to 0.1% now and have no issue at all…(but I have to get the chemist compounded 0.1% made, as the commercial 0.1% is no longer on the market, so I’m tolerating it either because it’s not 0.1% or because the base cream is super nourishing, I don’t know which 🙂 The best thing about the mask is that I can use the blue light for acne when that flares, or the red light for regeneration/collagen building. And I can do it at home, never need to go to a salon. The LED mask has been so great for me I just had to tell you about it.

        • Sophia
          December 29, 2017 / 8:27 pm

          Hi GK! I’m not sure if you’ll see this, but I’d love to learn more about your daily routine given your background. Mine is very similar and I am *struggling* with greasy / super dry skin + tons of blackheads. When I did roaccutane all my blackheads went away, and it’s never been the same… Please share your wisdom with me!

          Thank you. 🙂

  3. Doro
    October 28, 2017 / 12:15 pm

    great blog post!
    I’ve been on the same path as you with retinoids and unfortunately skipping so far too harsh retinols (1%). I didn’t really see any results after retinoids so same as you i recently purchased ordinaries .2 and .5 retinols and been testing those. That was just one week ago, so i’ve been sticking to the .2 formula and the plan is to do so for the next month building to every day usage. Then slowly introducing .5 in a span of two weeks and and repeating the monthly process to daily usage for the .5 formula. Thats the plan thus far 🙂

    I would really love to hear/read about your updates in some weeks time!

    Ps. enjoying your videos! You’re one of the few very informative and ingredient oriented youtubers.

    • Renee
      October 28, 2017 / 2:26 pm

      Thank you so much! Yes, your path sounds familiar. I actually love the 0.2, it made my skin look like glass quite quickly because of the subtle peeling but I will definitely update you with how things go with the 0.5

  4. Aida
    October 28, 2017 / 12:34 pm

    Loved this post, such a great addition to the videos. It’s so helpful to be able to follow the details and reasoning behind your journey.

    • Renee
      October 28, 2017 / 2:29 pm

      I’m so happy to hear this! A lot of times I find I don’t feel like I have the space in video to get into the juicy and sometimes boring details. I feel unlimited here – we can get into a really long conversation!

  5. Jessi
    October 28, 2017 / 12:40 pm

    It took me two years for my skin to adjust to 0.025% tretinoin and I’m preparing to bump up to the next level. When I first started with the tretinoin I used it once every seven nights, then once every six and so on. I knew I could decrease the days in between applications when I was no longer peeling. Sometimes it took me three months to go to the next level-I remember moving from 4 to every 3 nights being troublesome. And of course I waited about 25 minutes after washing to apply, and buffered with different moisturizers or oils (DE’s Maryland oil has reigned as my fave buffer) 1-2 hours after application. My skin has really benefitted from the routine. I never plan on using tretinoin every night, but to work up to every other night so I still have nights to use my other favorite products. I expect the 0.05% will take 3 years to work up to, but I’m ok with that. This has really kept irritation to a minimum. I love your blog and videos and have enjoyed them so much-thank you for your time and sharing!!

    • Jessi
      October 28, 2017 / 12:41 pm

      Marula oil-unfortunate autocorrect!

    • Renee
      October 28, 2017 / 2:32 pm

      Thank you for sharing Jessi! I’m working up to a slow integration of 0.025% tret. I think I will take a similar path as you – low and slow. Marula oil will be my best friend and greatest ally! What I want to know is, have you seen results? Has it been worth it?

      • Jessi
        October 28, 2017 / 5:40 pm

        My skin is vastly improved. Firmer (I’m approaching 41, I have oily, sensitive, fair skin prone to redness), more even in tone, pores appear reduced. I had a few pores on my face (three actually) that were raised bumps for the past 15 years at least, I guess since my first pregnancy. No extraction, serum, topical treatment would flatten them, they are now gone. I also had to undergo a treatment on my forehead with a product called Picato for those slow growing pre-cancerous spots that took care of the problem areas but kind of wrecked the skin around them and that is much improved. I’m obviously very diligent with my sunscreen so that helps as well. I can’t say how it does with wrinkles, my resting face doesn’t have any, I’m hoping it will help keep them from appearing in my resting face. I do also have light Botox done as a preventative measure as well. To summarize a long-winded response, firmness, tone and pore size have all improved!

  6. Anita
    October 28, 2017 / 1:41 pm

    Thank you for this clear and informativ review of such an important subject in skincare. Your are great. Thanx a lot! 🙂 greetings from Anita, Zurich Switzerland

    • Renee
      October 28, 2017 / 2:32 pm

      Thank you Anita! Lots of hugs and air-kisses!

  7. Melissa
    October 28, 2017 / 1:55 pm

    Hi Renee,
    Great blog and video. I know that you mentioned that you had tried curology last year. I am curious of your thoughts? Would you use it again if you ever go to Retin A, or will you go to the straight prescription treteninoin.

    • Renee
      October 28, 2017 / 2:33 pm

      Actually I never tried Curology but am thinking of using them when I bump up to Tret!

      • Kira Miftari
        October 30, 2017 / 8:47 pm

        Hi Renee, its Kira @tink_rituals on IG:-)) I am glad you are finding your way with the Ret again …. I do like the idea of the Ordinary Retinol suspended in Squlalane bcs it can be used over a couple of serums that I would hate to let go – CAIS or MMHC, for example, so the Ret becomes a sealant and a treatment rolled into one… Question: how do you feel about Kalirs Midnight Blue Youth Activating Drop – are you planning to repurchase it once its gone? TIA!

      • Kelly Montgomery
        October 31, 2017 / 6:17 pm

        Thank you for this great post – informative and thoughtful as always! 🙂 I was going to mention Curology as well because they offer such low percentages of tretinoin in their formulas to start, which sounds like it might be great for you! I’ve read that most derms start at .025% tretinoin, but with Curology I was able to start at .009, then .012 and now .018. I still only use it 3-4 times a week after about a year and a half, but it’s been great for my dry, sensitive and acne-prone skin. I can’t imagine having to start off at .025%!

        • November 1, 2017 / 1:28 pm

          Hey Kelly! Yes, I’ve been looking at curology for that exact reason! Thanks for sharing!

  8. Patty S
    October 28, 2017 / 3:50 pm

    Thanks for such an informative post, i’ve just started educating myself on retinoids. The nights that you dont use retinol .2% do you use the glycolic acid toner? I understand that the two shouldnt be used together but i wouldnt know how far to space their use. Thanks! 💕

    • October 29, 2017 / 6:31 pm

      I really haven’t felt the need for any additional exfoliation tbh. Though there have been a few times I’ve wanted to assist the peeling, I’ve used a peeling gel. I don’t want to use anything that might exacerbate irritation or sensitivity

  9. Leticia
    October 28, 2017 / 3:50 pm

    Just wanted to say thanks. This is so helpful, I’ve been really on the fence about retinol because there seems to be such polarizing reactions to it. I really appreciate you taking the time to dedicate a post to this.

    • Leticia
      October 28, 2017 / 3:53 pm

      Oh and also, do you still use vitamin C in the morning now that you use retinoids? (You mentioned not needing to use acids anymore in the nighttime video because of it, but does that extend to the morning as well?)

      • October 29, 2017 / 6:33 pm

        Haha! Thanks for paying attention! It kind of does, I’ve been doing a little bit of experimentation actually between a lower percentage (5%) L-Ascorbic Acid in the morning, and at the moment I’m trying other forms of antioxidants a few times a week, such as the EUK, resveratrol etc.

        • Leticia
          October 30, 2017 / 6:55 am

          Thanks for replying! Please keep us updated on your retinol/antioxidant progress. You’re right, while I love the deciem products for being simple, they sure make their categories complicated. I’m so at loss for their new antioxidant section, though thanks to you their retinol section now makes sense to me^^

        • Leticia
          October 30, 2017 / 4:43 pm

          Sorry sorry, one more question. It’s so basic I’m a little embarrassed to ask but, when are you doing this evening routine? I always do it right before sleeping, but I noticed in the video you were talking about using sleeping masks a couple hours after your routine. Are you washing your face etc as soon as you get home from work then?

          • October 31, 2017 / 3:38 pm

            the minute I get home and know I’m staying there, I take EVERYTHING off my face!

  10. Lynda
    October 28, 2017 / 6:38 pm

    question on how to fit in retinoids when a regimen already has actives?

    • October 30, 2017 / 1:33 am

      If you’re starting out, I would remove the actives until after the adjustment period

  11. Sim Yoon
    October 28, 2017 / 6:59 pm

    I needed this blog post on Retinoids as I’m getting ready to visit my dermatologist soon. I, too, had two close encounters with Tretinoin and not the good kind either. I was lulled into a false of security when my skin showed fast improvement. I eased into it like everyone told me to but 4-5 months later, I started peeling and my skin got scarily dry, I dropped this routine like a hot potato. It was so bad, I couldn’t crack a smile without hurting the corners of my mouth. There were days I went to work looking like I’m on a skin “shedding” process. I was horrified to say the least.

    Thank you for sharing your knowledge, as always. I’m going into this realm very soon with both eyes open and hope third time’s the charm.


    • October 30, 2017 / 1:34 am

      Looking to hear how your experience is this time around! So far, it sounds remarkably similar to mine!

  12. October 28, 2017 / 7:39 pm

    I had no idea The Ordinary added to their retinol line! – but I’m afraid I’m still a bit confused. I understand that retinols and retinoids are similar, but retinoids are gentler?
    All I know is that Peter Thomas Roth’s Retinol Fusion PM serum (which has %1.5 retinol suspended in squalane oil) is my favorite of the treatments I’ve tried because it gave me such noticeable results. I now use The Ordinary’s Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion (formerly known as the Advanced Retinoid %2) and can’t say it’s giving me the same glow. I’m not seeing any results, actually. I’m doing my best to stick to it and finish the bottle either way, but I think I’m going to try their Retinol 0.2% in Squalane (or the stronger %0.5 formulation) next! If only PTR lowered their price…

  13. Niki
    October 28, 2017 / 8:29 pm

    Hi Renée,
    I have oily mature skin (I’m nearly 50) that still gets breakouts,. I’m nervous of using something greasy like TO retinol in Squalene. I bought TO advanced retinoid 2% months ago but have only just started using it. Bit stupid when we’re coming in to Summer here in Brisbane! I wonder if any of your other followers with oily skin have any feedback?
    Thanks for all the vids and blogs, top work! Xx

    • October 30, 2017 / 1:35 am

      I prefer the retinoid 2% emulsion, much better for summer!

  14. Psithyrstes
    October 28, 2017 / 8:58 pm

    I’m on the same journey, and I have to mention, the retinols were very irritating until I started treating them like tret– that is, the instructions say to use on a totally dry face, because water interacts with retinol in undesirable, irritating ways. So I wait 30 minutes after cleansing & then 30-60 minutes after application to add any moisturizers to the mix. I’m at 1% retinol and get only dryness, not burning skin!

    • October 30, 2017 / 1:37 am

      Yes, this experience with retinol oil is quite different. I can use this after my toner and without irritation. It’s been interesting.

  15. Natalie Erskine
    October 28, 2017 / 9:35 pm

    I was wondering, is there such a thing as starting retinoids too early? I’m a baby faced 27 year old (genetics, and vampiric tendencies), but I wonder if maybe I should start building my tolerance slowly now, rather than start when I already need them. What do you think? If it helps, I have a similar skin type to you: Normal, but dehydrated skin (with some small dry-ish patches on the sides of my forehead).

    • October 30, 2017 / 1:38 am

      I basically try to avoid dealing with the adjustment period for as long as I can. I’d rather go through it when I must.

  16. Debbie
    October 28, 2017 / 11:57 pm

    Hi Renee, love reading your info here. Very nice to read how your retinol/oid/tren etc. etc. adventure is evolving. I’m back to my Tren (trentinoin cream 0.1%. ). I’m up to several times a week when I can, but find my travel schedule can get in the way with flaking etc. (I’m a Flt Attendant for a major carrier) and have to think ahead when using my Tret. I try to work around those days when I might have skin flaking/shedding to be the days when I’m home which are usually 3 days after my Retin A application. I’m wondering if using the Physicians Formula Organic oil will help with those days along with exfoliating? Since your review of the PF Organic oil I’ve wanted to give it a try. Also, I’m wondering about your Vit C adventures. I thought you mentioned its part of your evening routine now but you didn’t mention it in this latest evening routine. “Inquiring Minds” want to know. Thanks much!

    • October 30, 2017 / 1:40 am

      Ah you’re sharp! yes, I was using the higher percentage vitamin C at night but now that I’ve started retinol, I’m stopping all acid use for the time being especially such concentrated ones. I will bring back lower percentage L-AA for daytime soon!

      • Katie
        October 30, 2017 / 7:20 pm

        Hi Renee,

        I’m on the microsphere 0.04% version since February and I’ve worked to using it every other day (I alternate it with an OTC low percentage retinol). I agree with you and all the other commenters – slow and easy does it. You’ll see effects within a couple of weeks regardless of frequency (they won’t be super pleasant initially ;)). I’m 32 and my skin is the best it’s ever been – bouncy, taut, with decreased pores. The hyper pigmentation is still there but that always takes longest to resolve.
        One sad thing that happened though is that my skin became completely intolerant to vitamin C. Before starting tret i was using Drunk Elephant every day and I loved it. Now no matter how gentle of a vit. C sérum i use I end up with red and peeling skin in 2 days 🙁 I’m hopeful that maybe as time goes by I’ll be able to reintroduce it but I’ll probably wait another 6 months before trying. Good luck!

        • October 31, 2017 / 3:38 pm

          Thanks for sharing, Katie! Yes, I’ve gone off L-AA since I started too. It’s too much and I was getting irritation too. For my last 2 skincare routines, everyone was asking me where my vitamin c was, it’s on ice for the time being!

  17. Kim
    October 29, 2017 / 1:11 am

    Thank you for all that you do! I discovered The Ordinary this past summer and before I made my first purchase, I searched for the best educational videos regarding the proper application of The Ordinary products…and discovered YOU! You have transformed me into a K-Beauty junkie and a lover of The Ordinary. You would be very proud of my skincare collection! I’m still experimenting with the best routine for my very confusing skin – used to be very dry, but as I’ve aged, it’s a confusing mix of dryness, oily skin, dry patches and hormonal breakouts on my cheeks, chin and upper lip. I look forward to every video and article that you post! The Ordinary’s glycolic toner is my holy grail! I just purchased Goodal’s moisture barrier eye and skin creams as well as Corsx’s snail mucin complex. Any thoughts? I watched your video for Goodal’s moisture barrier liquid and have high hopes, but cannot find a reputable review of the snail mucin. I’m hoping to fade breakout scars and improve the texture of my skin, without drying it.

    • October 30, 2017 / 1:42 am

      The cosrx 95% snail essence is very VERY hydrating. Its viscous and will help sort out the dry patches. I’m not sure how much it will affect PIE though

  18. Kriss
    October 29, 2017 / 6:53 pm

    Hi Renee. I absolutely love your videos. My problem seems to be that my sensitive skin can not handle the Ordinary products. The niacinamide caused itching that actually would wake me up at night. The original 2% Retinoid caused peeling and redness on my chin. The only retinol that I have been able to tolerate is Cerave’s and not sure what % is in it . My question to you and others is about Paula’s Choice 1% Clinical Retinol. Any opinions on it’s use? Would love to add some type of retinol to my routine. Thanks much!

    • October 30, 2017 / 1:43 am

      I wonder if the Granactive Retinoid 2% in squalane might work differently? Or you could try a formula without retinol like Luna

  19. Liv
    October 29, 2017 / 10:46 pm

    Hi Renee

    Thanks so much for this post it was so helpful! Is this something you would advice people to avoid if they are on medication for acne such as accutane?

  20. Stacey
    October 30, 2017 / 1:26 am

    I’m trying retinaldehyde, which is supposed to have the same results as tretinoin without the irritation. Have you heard of this? There are not many products out there that actually use retinaldehyde so I’m interested to see what my results will be.

    • October 30, 2017 / 1:44 am

      Stacey, I have heard of this but also varying accounts of the effectiveness compared to HPR. I, too, am very interested in your results, please keep me posted!

  21. Tamyyy
    October 30, 2017 / 4:16 am

    Thanks for the post, im from chile!! I would like to know, how you deal with the peeling the day after of the retinol ? How you avoid, when you put your makeup in the morning after, not been peeling during the day ? Y really, really hope you could answer this ! Love from chile !

    • October 31, 2017 / 3:47 pm

      A lot of gentle hydrating toners and oil! Unfortunately the peeling will always be a challenge!

  22. Jenny
    October 30, 2017 / 7:18 am

    Hi reneee
    Love ur blogs.. Can you please review Differin because it is so hard to find The Ordinary in SE Asia.. and do you recommend using Niacinamide while using retinoids? Xoxo

  23. JoyW
    October 30, 2017 / 8:13 am

    Very beautiful and interesting write up Renee!! I tried the skinceuticals 0.3 which didn’t do much then moved to The ordinary’s retinod which created slight peeling before my skin got used to it- I am very happy with the result of the the ordinary compared with skinceuticals. I’ve just ordered Pestle and mortar’s retinol oil and was pleased to hear you prefer this to the Luna because I was caught in between. I will also be getting the new ones with squalene from the ordinary later on. Will you be doing any reviews on copper products anytime soon?? Thanks.❤️❤️

    • October 31, 2017 / 3:46 pm

      Thanks for sharing! Yes, I’d like to do a video on peptides since I’m really into them atm!

  24. October 30, 2017 / 8:29 am

    Hi Renée! I discovered your Youtube channel a month ago and have been a great fan since then! I wish I have found you much earlier than my story with Retinol, though 🙂 Actually, it is not going bad, but there are a few things I want to ask you just to be sure that I am not damaging may skin, instead of healing it.

    On an advice from a friend, who has already been on Ordinary Retinol 1%, I purchased the product and started using it every other day. In the first few times, my face literally shed skin, but after almost 6 weeks now, there is a slight shedding only and I guess it will disappear through time (or I hope). I use Olivarrier Dual Moist Toning Lotion and a Hyaluronic Serum before the Retinol, and 100% Squalene by Olivarrier after Retinol. The same routine applies in the following morning as well (minus the Retinol, plus the sunscreen of course). Actually, I am pretty much following your steps that you talk about in your videos. I have never used Retinols before, so my skin was not used to it; but I guess it adapted well. I am 38 by the way… Still, I wanted to ask wheter the frequency I use it is too often, or shall I switch to the ones you use? Or keep doing what I have been doing as I do not see any horrible side-effects?

    I will really appreciate if you can reply 🙂 Best wishes, Basak

    • October 31, 2017 / 3:45 pm

      sounds like your skin has adjusted fabulously. You have to go by how your skin feels though. If it feels great then carry on.

      • November 7, 2017 / 10:10 am

        Thank you for your reply Renée! I decided to try Retinoid 5% in Squalene this time, we’ll see… Thank you for your inspiring posts, best wishes 🙂

  25. Lindsay
    October 30, 2017 / 10:33 am

    Thank you for this review. Can you do a breakdown of all the retinol products that The Ordinary offers? It’s very confusing.

  26. katekinko
    October 30, 2017 / 12:05 pm

    Hi Renée, lovely blog post as always!! I have been using the Granactive Retinoid 2% in Squalane – I haven’t noticed any miracles, and I’m also a bit suspicious of it’s actual effectiveness… I do quite like having another facial oil in my routine, though, so if nothing else it’s a bit of extra moisture!😊 I think I’ll use up my bottle, and then re-evaluate – as always, skincare is a practice of patience, and I’m in no rush.
    x Kate

    • October 31, 2017 / 3:44 pm

      Hey Kate! You’re so right, it really is a slow steady practice for real results! I may circle back to the granactive retinoids but first, I need to satisfy my own curiosity with the retinols/tret!

  27. Barb
    October 30, 2017 / 12:12 pm

    Hi, I’ve been following you for years, but never yet commented.. So i thought I just give my two cents about retinoids. I’ve used Accutane and saw great results with it, and after that my derm gave me a Tretinoin 0,5 cream, which did absolutely nothing for me. No results, no side effects, literally nothing. I used it for six months and zero effect. After that I decided to try the Granactive retinoid in Squalane 0,5, and saw so much better and bigger results in a matter of 2 months than ever with the Tretinoin.. So, Tretinoin is not always more effective I guess.

    • October 31, 2017 / 3:41 pm

      Hey Barb! Thank you so much for commenting and sharing your experience! It never ceases to amaze me how differently everyone reacts to products. Do you mean the Retinol 0.5% or Granactive Retinoid 5%?

  28. Shannon Graham
    October 30, 2017 / 8:45 pm

    Hey Renee! I started Tretinoin .05% this past April. I worked my way up to it slowly just as you’re doing using Retinol products. In January, I started Differin to slowly work my way toward the Tretinoin. When I started the Tretinoin in early April, I started very slowly. Once for the first week, twice for the second, etc. I’m now at every other night. I followed the tips Dr. Dray suggested for Differin in that I do my entire face routine first, minus any other actives. Then apply the Tretinoin 30 min to an hour after. That really helps to buffer the side effects. It’s been 6 months now and I’m starting to see real results. I’m 47 and the fine lines around my eyes are nearly gone. The looser skin near my jaw line has tightened back up so I don’t look as if I have jowls. I have many expression lines on my forehead, I think inherited. They are not gone but have softened dramatically. Tretinoin is really worth it in the long run. Adding a few extra thinner, watery layers such as your homemade facial spritz followed by Pyunkang Yul Essence Toner have really helped with the dehydration. Those two have been game changers for me.

    • October 31, 2017 / 3:36 pm

      Hey Shannon! Yes, the reason I made a mist was because I was battling a reaction and every one I owned had fragrance, alcohol, essential oils etc and made my face sting something awful. Thank you for these tips, when I start tret, I will use it after moisturizer like you because I’ve heard it’s just as effective but makes a big difference in the side effect dept. I love hearing about the results!

  29. Irma
    October 30, 2017 / 8:57 pm

    Thanks Renee!! I’m so glad you did a post on Retinol/Retinoids. I’m late to the game. I’m 44 and just now started on retinol with TO’s advanced 2%. I started it Friday night for the first time. The next morning my skin was kinda red and irritated a little but it looks firmer!! The plan was to start slow…once a week to start, but I got fidgety and impatient so I went ahead and used it again last night. No redness nor tingly this time 🙂 I was so worry, but couldn’t wait.

    • October 31, 2017 / 3:31 pm

      I don’t think it’s too late!

  30. Elizabeth
    October 30, 2017 / 9:35 pm

    Luna having blue dye it is is probably down to blue tansy being most efficacious at 5% or less of a formula and the 1 to 1.5 milliliters of blue tansy added to the one ounce of other oils that are naturally a rather golden color…does not make a pretty final product. It doesn’t come out blue; it comes out a rather icky swamp green. Blue dye would cover that and fend off the inevitable “but if there’s blue tansy why is it green?” Few people are okay with the eye appeal of smearing something booger-colored on their face.

    • October 31, 2017 / 3:30 pm

      Yes, booger colour is really not appealing. The salesperson at Sunday Riley told me that the dye is purposeful because it prevents oxidation from within the formula…If he had just said what you did, I’d be more ok with it!

  31. Kira Miftari
    October 31, 2017 / 2:00 pm

    Hi Renee, its Kira @tink_rituals on IG:-)) I am glad you are finding your way with the Ret again …. I do like the idea of the Ordinary Retinol suspended in Squlalane bcs it can be used over a couple of serums that I would hate to let go – CAIS or MMHC, for example, so the Ret becomes a sealant and a treatment rolled into one… Question: how do you feel about Kalirs Midnight Blue Youth Activating Drop – are you planning to repurchase it once its gone? TIA!

    • October 31, 2017 / 3:28 pm

      Hey Kira! I am actually seriously loving the Klairs blue drops a lot more than expected. I feel like it’s made a big difference in my skin’s reaction to retinols. I will speak a lot more about this very soon! I’m really getting into the EGF serums now!

  32. Ayana
    October 31, 2017 / 7:16 pm

    Hi Renee. I didn’t know where I could ask advice as the email is for business purposes only so I’ll ask it here. I just started using both Missha’s FTE and NIOD’s SDSM. But which do I apply first or the order doesn’t matter in this case? They both say use directly after cleansing. LOL! Thanks much!

    • November 1, 2017 / 1:28 pm

      Hey! I don’t think it matters! I use my SDSM whichever step, whenever to add hydration!

  33. Mikirlav
    November 1, 2017 / 4:35 pm

    Strangely enough, my skin tolerates tretinoin quite well. I used it in my teens for acne but stopped since it didn’t really bring me that great results. I now started using it again for the same thing and asked my doctor immediately for a prescription for the 0,05 % cream since I remembered that I didn’t get any significant side effects back then. I started using it right away every night (against the doctor’s advice, shame on me) – and have been using it for over a week now and there are still barely any side effects. I used benzoyl peroxide before this and THAT is something my skin has never liked. The irritation it caused has actually calmed down now that I switched to tretinoin.

    I don’t know, maybe I’m diluting it since I’m using it as a part of my normal skin care routine: I spread it on my face when my skin is still moist and follow with a serum, rosehip oil and a moisturiser right after. This works for me though – I feel like the congestion in my skin is slowly getting clearer and I’m not suffering from any noticeable flakiness or irritation so I’m certainly not going to change my routine.

    • November 3, 2017 / 4:30 pm

      Thanks for sharing!

  34. Paola
    November 2, 2017 / 9:24 am

    Hi Renee,
    I already use 3x a week the retinA 0.5, and I was wondering if I should use these peptides you´re using before your retinol as well. What are they for and if yes, how long before aplying the retinA should I apply the peptides?
    Thank You and LOVE you and your videos!Huge fan!

    • November 3, 2017 / 4:33 pm

      I’m using the peptides before hand at the beginning only to help strengthen and repair my skin. Since you’re already used to the retinA then you could use a peptide serum in the morning. With retinA, I think it’s important you apply it on completely dry skin.

  35. Robin Rowe
    November 3, 2017 / 1:07 am

    Hey Renee! Great blog post. I am a little curious about the order of your routine. I thought retin stuff had to be used right after cleansing. It seems your using it at the end of your routine, and with good results. Does this mean there really is no rule about this?

    • November 3, 2017 / 4:29 pm

      Hey Robin, I think if your skin has adjusted to Retin A/Retinol, then it’s good to use right after cleansing, then it’s most effective. But during adjustment period, or when starting out, many people have applied it even after moisturizer to buffer the side effects but it still works. Some even dilute it with oil or cream. At the beginning I use it after my serum and toner to temper the effects and ease into it.

  36. sassy
    November 3, 2017 / 8:05 am

    Hi Renee! Do you use any of these products arround your eyes? If not could you recommend something (I have few smile lines arround my eyes (I’m only one who sees them 😂🙈🙈)which I want to treat but I never used retinol/retionides before

    • November 3, 2017 / 4:26 pm

      I’m not using the Retinol around my eyes yet but will eventually. I think the Retinoids would be fine around the eyes.

  37. Hillary
    November 6, 2017 / 5:42 pm

    Thanks for this Renee! I’m really interested in which peptide serums you would recommend like the klairs and really love the brand in general. I’m on the fence about retinol and tret and am really learning a lot from your experience! Do you think one can get away without using retinol and use peptides instead?

    • November 8, 2017 / 2:56 am

      Hi Hillary! I wish peptides alone could do what retinol does! They are actally a perfect pair to use alongside one another because the peptides help build the skin back up from all the peeling and sensitivity the retinol is causing. I’ve been trying out a few EGF serums and am loving the Klairs at the moment. The CAIS from NIOD is also wonderful!

  38. Nicole
    November 8, 2017 / 1:59 am

    Hi Renee,

    Thanks for sharing your incredible knowledge, wisdom and personal experiences with skincare with us on your blog and youtube. Its very helpful. Its clear that everything you are doing is beneficial as you have great skin.

    Im 36 years old and have stared using mad hippie vitamin A Serum with HPR and cacay oil asit has 3 times more retinol than rosehip oil and more vitamin e than rosehip oil and aragan oil .(argan and rosehip oil were my two favourites) im half way through both bottles of mad hippie vitamin A serum and cacay oil. Forehead line is decreasing. And ive had no irrtation.

    What are your thoughts on mad hippie vitamin a serum and cacay oil based on what youve heard or researched. Or are you going to do a trial and review of these products in the future?

    • November 15, 2017 / 2:34 am

      Thank you Nicole! I haven’t tried the Mad Hippie serum but it sounds like it’s really working well for you! I may try some of the products in the future because I get a lot of requests for their vitamin C!

  39. Natalie
    November 8, 2017 / 2:24 pm

    Hi Renee,
    Fan from Australia.
    Love your work and I’m obsessed with your YouTube videos.
    I’m on day 5 using The Ordinary Retinol 1% in the squeezy tube. (The one even the creators at The Ordinary tell you not to use! Ha) it’s killing me. I have the peeling and flaking going on but my goodness the skin that’s being revealed underneath is amazing. I can already see where this is going. I’ve had to adjust everything else skincare around using it. No fragrance at all in my cleanser as it stings and a fragrance free soothing oatmeal moisturiser is the only other thing I can tolerate. I also buffer the retinol by applying after moisturiser so I can target specific areas and ensure I’m not dragging it around my eyes. This certainly hasn’t prevented the effectiveness. I’m pushing through and hanging in there. I think the results will be phenomenal.

  40. Pam
    November 13, 2017 / 2:28 am

    Hi Renee,
    I love your YouTube videos so I’m happy to see your blog up and running!

    I’ve been using Tretinoin 0.05% for about a month and a half twice a week, successfully with some peeling. I was curious if The Ordinary Retinol would be good to have on hand, on nights when I don’t have time to wait for an hour between cleansing my face and applying the Tretinoin. If so, what is the equivalent retinol percentage to my 0.05% Tretinoin? And do you recommend the retinol in squalene over the Advanced Retinoid 2%?
    Any insight you might have regarding alternating between Tretinoin and a Retinol would be appreciated.

    Also, the instructions for Tretinoin are to eventually work up to every night or every other night. I do like using other serums, face oils, etc. but have a pretty simple routine when I use the Tretinoin: cleansing, essence, tretinoin, moisturizer. Do you have any recommendations regarding re-introducing serums and oils to this routine or is it better to keep the Tretinoin use down to 2 or 3 nights a week so I can use my serums and face oils on the other nights?

    • November 15, 2017 / 2:39 am

      Hi Pam!

      Hmm, it’s hard for me to choose whether you should use the Retinol or granactive retinoid on your off nights. It depends on your preference. If you want something that’s more like tret but gentler, then go with retinol in squalane in 0.5% or 1% then see how that works for you. If you want to try something new that won’t cause any side effects whatsoever, then use the granactive retinoid. I think how you build up your tretinoin regimen really depends on your preference and your skin. That usually takes some experimentation to see what you prefer. I like to use my serums and oils after the retinol and tret sometimes.

  41. Madalena
    November 16, 2017 / 10:10 am

    Hi Renee,

    Which are the products that you used to get your skin a bit more ready to use Retinol? You referred to “building up my skin barrier with peptides and non-sensitizing, skin-strengthening products” and I was wondering if you could share which ones you did use! 🙂

    Thank you!


  42. Tanya
    November 26, 2017 / 3:05 am

    Hi Renee ,

    Thanks for the excellent post , I am using Ordinary advanced retinoid 2%, 3/4 times / week , I started in winters and I have gradually build up , I never experienced any peeling with the ordinary. My blackheads are still very prominent but the wrinkles have reduced slightly . Do you recommend continuing with this product in Australian summer ?

    • November 26, 2017 / 1:47 pm

      Yes Tanya! This product works very differently from regular retinol and retinA.

  43. Sarah
    November 26, 2017 / 7:51 am

    Hi Renee!

    Really love your YouTube videos. And I‘m so happy when I found your blog!

    Recently, I am using the Clearly Corrective™ Dark Spot Solution from the Kiehl’s which is full of the Activated C. And I also purchased the luna oil. I tried to mix both together to apply to my skin. Nothing bad happened for now. But I started to be worried about the combination.
    There are some reports say that Retinol shouldn’t be mixed with Vitamin C. And also some say it is okay to mix the Vitamin A and C.
    I really hope to get some suggestions from Renee!

    Thank you!

    • November 26, 2017 / 1:49 pm

      Hi Sarah, I think the concern is only with mixing Ascorbic Acid with Retinol. Other forms of vitamin C or A are better because they’re not as harsh on the skin. That’s the main concern. I don’t think clearly corrective usese AA and Luna is not a traditional form of Retinol so should be ok.

      • Sarah
        November 27, 2017 / 6:46 am

        I am excited to hear back from you! Thanks for your helpful suggestion, Renee!

  44. Son
    November 27, 2017 / 11:32 pm

    Hi Renee, I’m currently using the Skinceuticals retinol 1.0…I use it every other night and then the other nights, I use TO’s Alpha Lipoic Acid 5%. I purchased TO’s Retinol 1% in Squalane to use after I’m done with the Skinceuticals retinol….but after reading all the comments, should I start with something lower like .2 or .5%?? Maybe i have extra tough skin….I’ve also been doing the AHA 30% + BHA 2% peeling solution once a week (when I don’t use the retinol or alpha lipoic acid) and have no problems at all….a slight stinging but very tolerable. My skin is definitely looking better but I started this “journey” trying to treat some hyperpigmentation and I’m not sure if it’s working….at least not as fast as i’d like!

  45. Pamela
    November 30, 2017 / 8:56 pm

    You should write books. I love reading your posts here & on insta, and watching your youtube feeds the geek in me. So so SO well informed & eloquent. Now that the ordinary is bringing some of the goods to sephora…I’m thinking I need to give them a go 🙂

  46. Linda Zhong
    December 19, 2017 / 9:40 am

    Hi Renee, Thankyou so much for always sharing good skin care with us! We all love reading your youtube and blog and insta… haha~ May I ask a question, I just used the ordinary niacinamide 10 % + zinc for 2 weeks, and feels good but a little bit dry in my skin, and after reading this article, I really want to try retinol 0.2 % in squalane, May I know is it good to use them together? which one should i use first? Thank you so much before, Lots of love from Indonesia .

  47. Linda Zhong
    December 19, 2017 / 9:40 am

    Hi Renee, Thankyou so much for always sharing good skin care with us! We all love reading your youtube and blog and insta… haha~ May I ask a question, I just used the ordinary niacinamide 10 % + zinc for 2 weeks, and feels good but a little bit dry in my skin, and after reading this article, I really want to try retinol 0.2 % in squalane, May I know is it good to use them together? which one should i use first? Thank you so much before, Lots of love from Indonesia .

  48. Ines
    January 5, 2018 / 11:05 am

    Hi Renee, I read all this but I am curious now after reading the Biologique Recherche post too.
    I have “migrated” finally to retin-A at 0.05 and use it every 2 days, no shedding or redness normally, sometimes skin gets a rough patch, and I will just do 3 days instead. Everything else I would say my routine is very similar to yours, although I do tend to use a mild oil after just to make it more comfortable.

    I use a mild glycolic acid toner once a week, non retinol day. Would you say its safe to upgrade to P50?

    Thanks so much 🙂 looking forward to reading more from you on this topic!!

  49. Tessa
    January 11, 2018 / 2:14 am

    Hi Renee! I’m such a big fan! Thank you for all your tips, these have really helped me pick out products for my skin 🙂

    I’m in my early 30s and I have oily, sensitive, acne prone skin and at night I currently use products from the Pyunkang Yul line (Mist Toner, Moisture Serum, and Moisture Ampoule). I want to know if its OK to include the Klairs Midnight Blue Youth Activating Drops in my night routine. Hope you can help me! 🙂

  50. Eg
    January 16, 2018 / 1:48 am

    Hi Renee! I have been following your videos for almost a year now and have been so curious on your retinoids/retinol journey. I started using the Differin gel because I’ve read that adapelene is a “gentler” version of retinoids (retinols?). It’s not a product where you’d expect no side effects, in fact my face did peel several times at different points in time. I’ve been using this gel for 3 and a half months, I’m liking the result, my skin is smoother, very little breakouts although I haven’t combatted my blackheads unfortunately. I still have some atrophic scarring from acne and I’m thinking I’m going to upgrade to Tretinoin again to help with cell turnover and scarring.
    Your blog posts and YouTube videos are so educational, thank you!

  51. Cleo
    February 1, 2018 / 9:38 am

    Dear Renee

    Love what you have shared and like yours, my skin didnt like tretinoin and i had more breakouts after using that years back. However I have stopped as I am trying for a baby. After watching your video, i am tempted to give Retinol a try again. Although my dermatologist said it is ok to use and stop only when i am pregnant, i am concern. Hope to have your opinion on this.

    Cleo SG

  52. Yessy
    February 8, 2018 / 8:19 am

    Hi which one would you recommend the ordinary granactive retinoid 2% emulsion or retinol .2? I haven’t been exposed to retinols/oid other than using rosehip oil. I have acne prone combination skin and I just turned 30. Thanks I love your videos which have been so informative and helpful in coming up with a skin regimen!

  53. Lala
    February 13, 2018 / 2:38 am

    Hellooo… i have been watching your youtube videos for long and i began to understand what i need for my skin thanks to you. And i have been wanting to try retinoid for long but because i m still in my twenties i dont think i need it that much. But then couple days before my 24 birthday, i noticed that i have quite a lot of fine lines on my laugh lines, i m not sure why i didnt notice it before, but it really is very noticeable especially if there is a lot of light. So i ordered my first retinol, the ordinary retinol 0.2 % in squalane but the cap is not straight, it is slightly tilted to the right, and because i live in the middle of no where, the shipping cost is quite expensive. So before i try it i want to make sure if this thing is genuine or fake because i just finished my battle with fungal acne and i dont want to repeat it again. Can anyone please help me out ? Thank you.

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