The Ordinary 1% Retinol in Squalane Review

Having used Retin-A twice before (the last time being over a year ago), I wanted to try the more gentle retinol and decided on The Ordinary’s 1% Retinol in Squalane. On The Ordinary website, this is labelled as high strength with very high irritation. This product claims to reduce the appearance of fine lines, photo damage (damage caused by UV exposure – hyperpigmentation, fine lines, texture issues) and general skin aging.

Ingredients: Squalane, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Retinol, Solanum Lycopersicum (Tomato) Fruit Extract, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, BHT. 

Directions state to apply a small amount over the face in the evening. Use sun protection.

The first ingredient is squalane. This is naturally found in the skin and decreases as we age. Squalane provides non-greasy hydration. Tomato extract and BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene) are used as antioxidants. This also contains jojoba oil.

I was a little reluctant to purchase this at first, as it contains squalane and I have generally oily skin, but I used this over the winter for 4 months, as my skin gets dehydrated and combination in colder weather.

I have fine lines on my forehead and around my eyes (I didn’t use the retinol around the eyes), hyperpigmentation from sun damage, large pores, blackheads, breakouts, scarring and texture.

I started right in using this every evening, applying 3 or 4 drops. The product took a couple minutes to absorb (though didn’t seem to absorb fully), but didn’t feel heavy or oily. After the first week I had a tight, tingling feeling on the skin, but no more redness than usual. My nose got a bit dry and had a bit of peeling. My skin felt sensitive in the harsh wind and cold and to almost every other product in my routine. To mitigate some of the irritation and sensitivity, I used Balance from Your Best Face Skincare. After one week of use my skin looked brighter and felt smoother and moisturized. The irritation diminished after about 2 weeks.

After one month of use, I had some flaking around my mouth and between my eyebrows. It was also around this time that I felt texture and bumps on my lower cheeks toward my jawline that had been smooth prior. I stopped use for 2 days, and on reapplication after this time, my skin smoothed out again and the bumps disappeared. About 5 days later, they returned. I tried an application of mandelic acid, also from The Ordinary, which took the bumps away. This seemed to be the typical cycle over the remainder of use. I had a thought that perhaps this is due to the squalane preventing exfoliation as cell turnover increases with the retinol (especially as the mandelic acid improved the texture) – oily skin needs exfoliation as dead skin builds up, though squalane is not really an oil- so I’m not certain. There was not really any further peeling that I noticed in the mirror after about 1-1/2 months.

Over the last week the weather has warmed up and my skin has gotten oilier especially on my forehead and I’ve gotten a couple breakouts.

The retinol diminished the fine lines on my forehead, though it looks a bit more congested (perhaps due to my own increased oil on the skin). My nose looks a bit smoother with some diminishing of some surface blackheads. The pores look a bit more noticeable, perhaps due to being cleaner. My skin looks less blotchy and textured and looks smoother.

I do not see any improvement in the freckles and hyperpigmentation, but I do not really expect to after only 4 months.

I quite like the squalane for hydration and moisturization of the skin without feeling heavy and oily; I’m not sure about use in hot summer weather, however, I might look to purchase a couple products from Biossance that uses a base of squalane in their product line.

I generally like this product and would consider repurchase. I am now moving onto Retin-A again soon before the summer months.

Thank you for reading.

4 thoughts on “The Ordinary 1% Retinol in Squalane Review

  1. Hi, I’m a freelance writer for, a smart, funny lifestyle site for women that gets 16,000 visits per month. I’m working on a blog article about squalene. I was wondering if I could feature your before and after photos, with credit and a link. I can be reached at


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