The Ordinary Retinol 0.5 in Squalane Review



The Ordinary is a popular skin care brand under the global beauty brand, Deciem’s, umbrella. Created to offer effective, clinical solutions at an affordable price tag, The Ordinary features a cohesive collection of treatments to meet the most common skin care needs. Since its launch, The Ordinary has gained a loyal customer base of users who not only love The Ordinary skin care products, but also appreciate the brand’s commitment to transparency. In this review, we are going to focus on The Ordinary Retinol 0.5 in Squalane. We’ll discuss what it is, the key ingredients, how to use it, reviews from real customers, and more.

What is The Ordinary Retinol 0.5 in Squalane?

The Ordinary Retinol 0.5 in Squalane is a highly-stable, water-free solution of 0.5% pure retinol, an ingredient that can reduce the appearances of fine lines, photo damage, and general skin aging. This moderate strength formula is recommended to be used once daily in the evening. If you have not used high-strength retinol formulas in the past, the brand strongly recommends that you start your retinol regimen with The Ordinary Retinol 0.2% in Squalane and adjust to higher strengths as your skin builds tolerance.

What Are The Key Ingredients in The Ordinary Retinol 0.5 in Squalane?

The key ingredient in The Ordinary Retinol 0.5 in Squalane is 0.5% pure retinol, which is another name for vitamin A. When applied to the skin, retinol is clinically proven to minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, improve uneven skin tone, restore skin firmness, and shrink the appearance of enlarged pores. Retinol provides all of these benefits by first being converted to retinoic acid (its active form) after being absorbed into the skin. Then, retinoic acid interacts with the retinoic acid (RAR) and retinoid X receptors (RXR) located in the nucleus of the cell. These nuclear receptors increase the production of procollagen and function to block the release of inflammatory mediators. Finally, retinol functions as an antioxidant and helps the skin combat free radicals, the unstable molecules that contribute to the formation of premature wrinkles and fine lines on the skin.

As you can see, retinol can help to improve numerous signs of skin aging. So you may be asking: what’s not to love about this skin care ingredient? Unfortunately, retinol products are notorious for causing skin dryness and irritation. These side effects are largely due to how retinol works: increase in cellular turnover reveals a fresh, smooth layer of new skin, but this can also cause dryness and irritation because of transepidermal water loss. This is why the brand recommends starting with The Ordinary Retinol 0.2% in Squalane and then adjust to higher strengths of Retinol 0.5% in Squalane and Retinol 1% in Squalane as your skin builds tolerance.

As the name implies, the retinol in The Ordinary Retinol 0.5 in Squalane is dissolved in squalane, a type of emollient. The brand has chosen squalane because plant oils in retinol formulations can trigger lipid peroxidation and can impair retinol integrity. Squalane is derived by hydrogenation of squalene (note the e). Squalene is naturally found in the skin lipid barrier of humans and animals. It is produced by the oil glands in the skin, and plays an important role in skin lubrication and protection. However, the amount made and retained in the skin decreases over time. It peaks in our teens and then starts to decline in our 20’s, leaving skin rough, dry, and vulnerable. According to a publication in the journal Advances in Food and Nutrition Research, anticancer, antioxidant, detoxifying, skin hydrating, and emollient activities of both squalene and squalane have been reported both in animal models and in vitro environments.

Since squalene is very unstable, skin care brands use squalane because it is a saturated and stable hydrocarbon that mimics squalene. Squalane helps to replenish the skin’s lipid barrier, which is composed of corneocytes (dead skin cells) held together by mixtures of lipids (ceramides, cholesterol, fatty acids, squalene, etc.), according to a publication in the journal Dermatoendocrinology. A strong, intact barrier is important to keep moisture in and keep things like allergens, bacteria, and irritants out. When the barrier is weakened, these intruders can pass through the top layer of skin, causing damage that ultimately leads to common skin conditions such as acne, rashes, sensitive skin, and even signs of aging. Replenishing the skin’s lipid barrier with products containing squalane — like The Ordinary Retinol 0.5 in Squalane — can help to prevent these problems.

The Ordinary Retinol 0.5 in Squalane also includes jojoba seed oil. Jojoba oil contains mostly long-chain fatty acid esters (97%), but also contains small amounts of vitamins, minerals, triglycerides, phospholipids, and tocopherols. Interestingly, the chemical composition of jojoba oil mimics the skin’s natural sebum more closely than any other oil. Research has shown that jojoba oil improves the skin’s barrier function and helps to prevent transepidermal water loss. It also has proven anti-inflammatory effects and can provide soothing effects upon application. Overall, the use of jojoba oil in The Ordinary Retinol 0.5 in Squalane helps promote softer, healthier, and better hydrated skin.

How to Use The Ordinary Retinol 0.5 in Squalane

Apply a small amount of The Ordinary Retinol 0.5 in Squalane to face in the evening as part of your skin care regimen, after water-based serums but before heavier treatments. Do not use it with other retinoid treatments. Retinol can cause irritation, redness and peeling, especially around the eyes and mouth, in the early stages of treatment while skin builds tolerance. If persistent irritation occurs, cease use and consult a physician. Use only as directed on unbroken skin. Patch testing prior to use is advised. Since retinoids can make the skin more sensitive to UV radiation, sun protection is particularly important when using The Ordinary Retinol 0.5 in Squalane.

Where is The Ordinary Retinol 0.5 in Squalane Sold?

The Ordinary Retinol 0.5 in Squalane and other skin care products by The Ordinary are sold on the brand’s website, as well as third party sellers like Amazon, Ulta, and Sephora. The brand has a store locator and list of authorized retailers on their website.

What is The Ordinary Return Policy?

All Deciem brands, including The Ordinary, offer a 365-day full refund policy.

Is The Ordinary Cruelty Free?

The Ordinary is cruelty free. DECIEM and The Ordinary do not test on animals and do not ask others to do so. For this reason, none of their brands or products are sold in stores or conventional retailers in mainland China, since such sales require animal testing for registration purposes.

Related: Best Retinol Creams



Adv Food Nutr Res 2012;65:223-33.
Dermatoendocrinol. 2009 Mar-Apr; 1(2): 72–76.



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