I’ve been using topical retinoids / Vitamin A serums (e.g. tretinoin, adapalene, and more recently, retinol) for more than a decade now. This whole category of products is my ride or die.
I decided to permanently switch to retinol from tretinoin because the latter is so fussy to use. A small deviation on the timing of use or quantity applied can result in flakes and dehydrated skin.
You also have to quit at least a week before doing any activity involving a lot of direct sunlight, and when you get back on tretinoin again, back to flake-y skin and skincare routine tweaking.
Currently, I have have two (2) Vitamin A products. Last year I have 4. Here are my thoughts on all of them:
Retin A (Tretinoin)
This is prescription-strength but can be purchased in the Philippines from most pharmacies without prescription. I used tretinoin the longest out of all retinoids and I’m thankful my acne responded to it. Retin A and I have an on-and-off relationship. If you’re looking to start using this, please read this: Before Using Tretinoin, Here are 6 Things to Consider.
I generally don’t feel confident recommending this to people with mild acne or those whose skin looks ok overall. Many people breakout from it in the first few weeks of use which could end up making the skin look worse than before.
Epiduo Forte (0.3% Adapalene + 2.5% Benzoyl Peroxide)
I bought this because Belle Rodolfo swears by it (read: this and this). I only use it as a spot treatment product and it works. I was half-way through the bottle when it went past the expiration date. Sayang, but I’m not complaining. I had a lot less breakouts last year and when I do get a pimple, hydrocolloid patches suffice.
The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion (previously Advanced Retinoid 2%)
This is one of the first products I tried of The Ordinary. I like it. I didn’t experience any negative reaction from it and it made my skin look healthy and supple. I am just not sure if it’s because the product itself or because I’m weaning off tretinoin (the latter being really dehydrating).
This formulation combines two forms of next-generation retinoid actives–From: The Ordinary – Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion
a) A 2%** concentration of Granactive Retinoid which is a complex of solubilized Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate (HPR). HPR is a highly-advanced form of retinoid which is, in fact, a non-prescription ester of all-trans direct retinoic acid that offers a multi-fold better effect against signs of aging than retinol, retinyl palmitate and nearly all other forms of non-prescription retinoid;
b) A sustained-delivery form of pure retinol in a protective capsule system which supports both the delivery and the effect of Granactive Retinoid.
** on the bottle it says 0.2% Ester of All-Trans Retinoic Acid
HPR having better effect against retinol?!?! Promising, but it is one of the newer retinoids and doesn’t have a lot of studies back it up… yet.
The Ordinary Retinol 1% in Squalane Oil
I didn’t like the feel of TO’s Squalane Oil or any face oil that doesn’t have dry finish. So I don’t know what made me think this is going to be ok. I’m sorry I can’t give feedback about this. I can count with one hand the number of times I used this. I am relegating this product to my thighs. Let’s see if it’ll do something for the KP-like bumps I have there.
The Inkey List Retinol Serum
This is similar to The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion (GRE) but much stronger — The Inkey List Retinol Serum has 0.5% HPR and 1% Retinol against The Ordinary GRE‘s 0.2% HPR and an undisclosed concentration of Retinol. It’s still too early to to tell if it’s doing (or not doing) anything to my skin. I just got it last month and have only used it around 6x. I tend to start slow with any retinoid product even when I’m switching to a weaker formula.
Note: If you plan to use retinoids to make your pores look smaller, I don’t recommend it (Google: Orange Peel Skin + Retin A). I’m at peace with my pores even though I think they look deeper — I consider it an acceptable trade-off for acne-free skin for most of the year.