Advanced Retinoid 2%
The Ordinary

Advanced Retinoid 2%

This formulation combines two forms of next-generation retinoid actives in a combined concentration of 2%. Both forms of retinoid used avoid the irritation associated with retinoid (including retinol) use while delivering better visible results against signs of ageing.
Also-called: Aqua | What-it-does: solvent

Good old water, aka H2O. The most common skincare ingredient of all. You can usually find it right in the very first spot of the ingredient list, meaning it’s the biggest thing out of all the stuff that makes up the product. 

It’s mainly a solvent for ingredients that do not like to dissolve in oils but rather in water. 

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Once inside the skin, it hydrates, but not from the outside - putting pure water on the skin (hello long baths!) is drying. 

One more thing: the water used in cosmetics is purified and deionized (it means that almost all of the mineral ions inside it is removed). Like this, the products can stay more stable over time. 

Glycerin - goodie
Also-called: Glycerol | What-it-does: skin-identical ingredient, moisturizer/humectant | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 0
  • A natural moisturizer that’s also in our skin
  • Super common, used for more than 50 years
  • Not only a simple moisturizer but plays an important role in keeping the stuff between our skin cells healthy
  • High-glycerin moisturizers are awesome for treating severely dry skin
Read all the geeky details about Glycerin here >>

Also-called: Vitamin F Ethyl Ester | What-it-does: emollient

A type of oil soluble vitamin F that is used as an emollient. Read more at ethyl oleate.

Also-called: Zemea | What-it-does: solvent, moisturizer/humectant

Propanediol is a natural alternative for the often used and often bad-mouthed propylene glycol. It's produced sustainably from corn sugar and it's Ecocert approved. 

It's quite a multi-tasker: can be used to improve skin moisturization, as a solvent, to boost preservative efficacy or to influence the sensory properties of the end formula. 

What-it-does: emollient

A very common emollient that makes your skin feel nice and smooth. It comes from coconut oil and glycerin, it’s light-textured, clear, odorless and non-greasy. It’s a nice ingredient that just feels good on the skin, and it’s also easy to formulate with. No wonder it’s popular. 

What-it-does: emollient

It's a clear, slightly yellowish oil (comes from coconut or palm kernel oil) that is used as a traditional, medium spreading emollient

Bisabolol - goodie
Also-called: Alpha-Bisabolol | What-it-does: soothing

It's one of the active parts of Chamomile that contains about 30% of bisabolol. It's a clear oily fluid that is used in skincare as a nice anti-inflammatory and soothing ingredient. 

Also-called: Form of Retinoids, HPR | What-it-does: cell-communicating ingredient

Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate (HPR) is the newest member of the "royal family of skincare" (read who is who in the family here), the retinoid family. The queen of the family is the FDA-approved anti-aging superstar, retinoic acid, aka tretinoin and HPR seems to be a gentle but influential sister princess to the queen.

It's a so-called retinoic acid ester, meaning that it's directly related to retinoic acid. If you've already read our description about retinol or retinyl palmitate, you know that the active ingredient our skin cells can interpret is retinoic acid. Other forms of retinoids have to be converted by our metabolic machinery to do something. That's not the case with HPR.  It binds directly to the retinoid receptors of the skin cells to work its skincare magic. 

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The big promise of HPR is that it's similarly active as retinoic acid (no conversion needed, remember) but without the irritation. According to the manufacturer's tests, 24 hours of an occlusive patch with 0.5% HPR resulted in significantly lower irritation than 0.5% retinol.  Also, there was a "dramatic reduction of lines and wrinkles" after applying 0.2% HPR around the eyes twice a day for 14 days.

These results sound sooo promising that we don't blame you if you wanna run out right now and get an HPR formula to slather on your face.  But, before you do, you have to know that the info we have about HPR at the moment is mainly from the manufacturer, whose tests may or may not be accurate or properly designed (such as controlled, double-blind and conducted on an appropriate number of people). 

As HPR is pretty new there isn't that much independent research we could find yet. We found two Italian studies both examining the efficacy of HPR combined with other things (retinol in both cases, and papain in one of them) for the treatment of acne. Both studies found the formulas effective but they contained other things too, so it's hard to judge how well HPR did. We could not find anything about its anti-aging effectiveness, or any studies dealing with HPR on its own. 

Bottom line: We are really happy to see some innovation happening with retinoids, and we think Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate is a super promising rising star, but it’s not fully proven yet. If you are someone who likes to experiment and try out the newest things, grab your running shoes and try some HPR containing serum now. If you like the tried and true however, stick to retinol and tretinoin for now and re-examine the question in a couple of years when (hopefully) more research will be available. 

Retinol - superstar
Also-called: Vitamin A, Form of Retinoids | What-it-does: cell-communicating ingredient
  • Retinol (pure Vitamin A itself) is probably the most proven anti-aging ingredient available OTC
  • Retinol is not itself active, it has to be converted in the skin to retinoic acid to actually do something
  • Once converted it theoretically has the same effect as all-trans-retinoic acid, aka tretinoin
  • A generally accepted ballpark number is that retinol is 10 times less potent than retinoic acid
  • It makes skin less wrinkled, smoother, firmer and tighter
  • It might also be helpful for acne prone skin as it normalizes keratinization and makes the pores produce less sebum
  • Possible side effects and irritation are also much less than with retinoic acid
  • Do not use whilst pregnant
Read all the geeky details about Retinol here >>

Also-called: Tasmanian Pepper Extract | What-it-does: antioxidant, soothing

Tasmanian Pepper is a nice shrub living under hard conditions in the mountains of the Southeastern lands of Australia. It has small, round, purple-black berries that when dried, look like black pepper. Hence the name. 

As for skincare, the berries contain a couple of great actives. The primary one is called polygodial that has potent anti-inflammatory, anti-allergic and antimicrobial activity. According to the manufacturers in-vivo (made on real people) tests, Tasmanian Pepper Extract can relieve itching and burning sensation to a great extent (79% and 58% decrease) almost instantly (after only 5 mins).

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It also contains anthocyanins, that are well-known antioxidants. The berries are claimed to have an antioxidant power 3x greater than blueberries. A third active in the berries is called rutin, an anti-inflammatory agent that can strengthen capillaries. Thanks to this, Tasmanian Pepper might be able to help reduce dark undereye circles

All in all, an interesting plant extract with soothing and antioxidant activity.

A little helper ingredient that can boost the performance and enhance the delivery of active ingredients in a formula. It can penetrate deep layers of the skin helping actives to do the same.

It's especially useful to help active ingredients for self-tanning (DHA), anti-acne or skin-whitening to penetrate deeper and work better.

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: emollient, emulsifying

A super common, waxy, white, solid stuff that helps water and oil to mix together and leaves the skin feeling soft and smooth.

It can be produced from most vegetable oils in a pretty simple, "green" process that is similar to soap making. It's readily biodegradable.

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It also occurs naturally in our body and is used as a food additive. As cosmetic chemist Colins writes it, "its safety really is beyond any doubt".

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

A common functional ingredient that helps to keep the other ingredients together, stabilizes and thickens the products. It also helps water to mix with oils and dirt - a useful thing for cleaning the skin and hair.

If you are a chemist geek you might want to know that it’s made from the mixture of Cetearyl alcohol (a fatty alcohol - the nice type of alcohols) and ethylene oxide. The numerical value at the end of the ingredient name marks the average number of ethylene oxide molecules added. 20 seems to be a common choice.

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It’s normally used at 1-3% concentration.

What-it-does: emollient, emulsifying, viscosity controlling, surfactant/cleansing | Irritancy: 1 | Comedogenicity: 2

A super common multitasker ingredient that gives your skin a nice soft feel (emollient). It also helps water and oil to blend (emulsifier) and to thicken up products

It’s a so-called fatty alcohol (a mix of cetyl and stearyl alcohol - other two emollient fatty alcohols).  Though alcohol is in its name, its properties are totally different from the properties of “normal” alcohol, or denat. alcohol. It’s not drying and not irritating and totally ok for the skin.

What-it-does: viscosity controlling

A natural polymer (big molecules from repeated subunits) coming from red edible seaweeds. They are used as helper ingredients for their gelling, thickening and stabilizing properties.  

It's one of the most commonly used thickeners. If the product is too runny, a little of xanthan gum will help make it more gel-like. The slight problem with it though is that too much xanthan gum tends to make the product sticky. 

BTW, it’s natural stuff produced from some sugars called glucose and sucrose. It’s approved by Ecocert and also used in foods (E415). 

A natural polymer (big molecules from repeated subunits) that is harvested from the Acacia tree in the sub-Saharan region in Africa. It's a great thickening and binding agent. Often coupled with xanthan gum, as it helps to reduce its unpleasant stickiness.

What-it-does: emollient

A white, waxy emollient that gives "body" to skincare formulas. Comes from coconut or palm kernel oil. 

A sugar ester (sucrose + lauric acid) that works as an emulsifier and oil thickener. It's a great ingredient to make oily gel cleansers that turn to milk on contact with water. 

It's also 100% natural and combined with glycerin and oils (trade name Sucragel), it gives the basis for a gentle, yet effective, moisturizing oily gel cleansers. According to the manufacturer's 20 person study, skin is twice as hydrated 2 hours after using a Sucragel based cleanser compared to using a moisturising Sodium Laureth Sulfate cleanser.

It's a common little helper ingredient that helps water and oil to mix together. Also, it can help to increase the solubility of some other ingredients in the formula. 

What-it-does: preservative

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: buffering, chelating

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: chelating

A helper ingredient that helps to neutralize the metal ions in the formula (they usually come from water) so it stays nice longer. The special property of this particular ingredient is that it's more effective against more problematic ions, like Cu (copper) and Fe (iron) compared to less problematic ones like Ca (calcium)  and Mg (magnesium).

Super common little helper ingredient that helps products to remain nice and stable for a longer time. It does so by neutralizing the metal ions in the formula (that usually get into there from water) that would otherwise cause some not so nice changes.

What-it-does: preservative

We don't have description for this ingredient yet.

What-it-does: preservative

An Ecocert-approved, natural preservative that counts as gentle and non-irritating to the skin. Usually, it comes to the formula as part of a preservative blend as it's not enough on its own.

If you have spotted ethylhexylglycerin on the ingredient list, most probably you will see there also the current IT-preservative, phenoxyethanol. They are good friends because ethylhexylglycerin can boost the effectiveness of phenoxyethanol (and other preservatives) and as an added bonus it feels nice on the skin too.

Also, it's an effective deodorant and a medium spreading emollient

What-it-does: preservative

It’s pretty much the current IT-preservative. It’s safe and gentle, but even more importantly, it’s not a feared-by-everyone-mostly-without-scientific-reason paraben.

It’s not something new: it was introduced around 1950 and today it can be used up to 1% worldwide. It can be found in nature - in green tea - but the version used in cosmetics is synthetic. 

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Other than having a good safety profile and being quite gentle to the skin it has some other advantages too. It can be used in many types of formulations as it has great thermal stability (can be heated up to 85°C) and works on a wide range of pH levels (ph 3-10). 

It’s often used together with ethylhexylglycerin as it nicely improves the preservative activity of phenoxyethanol.

A little helper ingredient that works as a preservative. It works against bacteria and some species of fungi and yeast. It's often combined with IT-preservative, phenoxyethanol.

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