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The Ordinary Retinal 0.2% Emulsion Ingredients Explained

Emulsion
5.0   (1 ratings)
6
0
13
1

Updated on March 15, 2024 Submitted by rodney

Overview

What it is

Emulsion with 32 ingredients that contains AHA, exfoliants, retinoid, Vitamin C and Vitamin E

Cool Features

It is vegan, cruelty-free, and reef safe

Suited For

It has ingredients that are good for fighting acne, anti aging, dry skin, brightening skin, sensitive skin, oily skin, reducing pores, scar healing, dark spots and better texture

Free From

It doesn't contain any harsh alcohols, common allergens, oils, parabens, silicones or sulfates

Fun facts

The Ordinary is from Canada. This product is used in 48 routines created by our community.

We independently verify ingredients and our claims are backed by peer-reviewed research. Does this product need an update? Let us know.

Emulsion with 32 ingredients that contains AHA, exfoliants, retinoid, Vitamin C and Vitamin E

Quick info

You should know

Notable Ingredients

Benefits

Concerns

Ingredients 32

Water Skin Conditioning, Solvent

Water. It's the most common cosmetic ingredient of all. You'll usually see it at the top of ingredient lists, meaning that it makes up the largest part of the product.

Coco-Caprylate/Caprate Emollient, Skin Conditioning
Not safe for Fungal Acne Icon
Not safe for Fungal AcneNot safe for Fungal Acne Icon

Coco-Caprylate/Caprate is created from fatty coconut alcohol, caprylic acid, and capric acid.

Very Disliked Full details ->
Propanediol Solvent

Propanediol helps absorb ingredients into your skin, boosting their benefits. It can act as an emollient, making your skin softer. Propanediol can help products last longer by boosting the properties of preservatives within the formulation.

Pentylene Glycol Skin Conditioning, Solvent

Pentylene glycol is typically used within a product to thicken it. It also adds a smooth, soft, and moisturizing feel to the product. It is naturally found in plants such as sugar beets.

Hydroxyapatite Abrasive, Skin Conditioning
Exfoliant Icon
ExfoliantExfoliant Icon

Hydroxyapatite is an exfoliant.

Unknown Full details ->
Retinal Skin Conditioning
Retinoid IconGood for Oily Skin IconGood for Skin Texture IconGood for Minimizing Pores IconHelps with Anti-Aging IconGood for Dark Spots IconGood for Scar Healing IconHelps fight Acne IconCan worsen Dry Skin IconMay cause irritation IconMay worsen Rosacea Icon
RetinoidRetinoid Icon 7 Benefits 3 Concerns

Retinal is a form of retinoid. Retinoids are the gold-standard class of anti-aging ingredients.

Cetylhydroxyproline Palmitamide Skin Conditioning

We don't have a description for Cetylhydroxyproline Palmitamide.

Unknown Full details ->
4-T-Butylcyclohexanol Masking, Perfuming
Fragrance Icon
FragranceFragrance Icon

4-T-Butylcyclohexanol is a fragrance.

Hydroxyphenyl Propamidobenzoic Acid Skin Conditioning

We don't have a description for Hydroxyphenyl Propamidobenzoic Acid.

Unknown Full details ->
Ergothioneine Antioxidant
Antioxidant Icon
AntioxidantAntioxidant Icon

Ergothioneine is an antioxidant.

Biosaccharide Gum-1 Skin Conditioning

Biosaccharide Gum-1 is a sugar created from fermented sorbitol. Most sorbitol is made from potato starch.

Bisabolol Masking, Skin Conditioning, Soothing
Helps reduce irritation Icon
Helps reduce irritationHelps reduce irritation Icon

Bisabolol is pimarily used to add fragrance to a product. However, it is also famous for helping soothe skin.

Brassica Campestris Sterols Emollient, Skin Conditioning
Not safe for Fungal Acne Icon
Not safe for Fungal AcneNot safe for Fungal Acne Icon

Brassica Campestris Sterols isn't fungal acne safe.

Disliked Full details ->
Zingiber Officinale Root Extract Masking, Skin Conditioning, Tonic

Zingiber Officinale is more commonly known as ginger.

Butylene Glycol Humectant, Masking, Skin Conditioning
1 / 0

Butylene Glycol (or BG) is used within cosmetic products for a few different reasons:

1 Com. / 0 Irr.
Isohexadecane Emollient, Skin Conditioning, Solvent

Isohexadecane is added to enhance texture, emulsify, and to help cleanse. It is an isoparrafin. It is a component of petrolatum.

Hexyldecanol Emollient, Skin Conditioning

We don't have a description for Hexyldecanol.

Unknown Full details ->
Maltodextrin Absorbent, Emulsion Stabilising, Skin Conditioning

Maltodextrin is a polysaccharide. It is derived from starch such as rice, corn, wheat, or potato starch.

Caesalpinia Spinosa Gum Skin Conditioning

We don't have a description for Caesalpinia Spinosa Gum.

Polyacrylate Crosspolymer-6 Emulsion Stabilising

Polyacrylate Crosspolymer-6 is a texture enhancer and pH adjuster.

Disliked Full details ->
Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer Emulsion Stabilising

This is a synthetic polymer. It helps improve the texture of products by adding thickness and gel-like feel.

Disliked Full details ->
Stearic Acid Cleansing, Emulsifying, Emulsion Stabilising
2-3 / 0 May worsen Oily Skin IconNot safe for Fungal Acne Icon
2 Concerns

Stearic Acid is a fatty acid. It is an emollient, emulsifier, and texture enhancer.

2-3 Com. / 0 Irr.
Very Disliked Full details ->
Isoceteth-20 Emulsifying
May cause irritation Icon
May cause irritationMay cause irritation Icon

Isoceteth-20 comes from Isocetyl Alcohol. It is an emulsifier. Emulsifiers help stabilize a product. It does this by preventing certain ingredients from separating.

Very Disliked Full details ->
Polysorbate 60 Emulsifying
Not safe for Fungal Acne Icon
Not safe for Fungal AcneNot safe for Fungal Acne Icon

Polysorbate 60 is used to help stabilize products. It is a surfactant and emulsifier. These properties help keep ingredients together in a product. Surfactants help reduce surface tension between ingredients with different states, such as liquids and solids. Emulsifiers help prevent oils and waters from separating.

Very Disliked Full details ->
Ascorbyl Palmitate Antioxidant, Masking
2 / 0 Vitamin C IconAntioxidant IconHelps reduce Skin Redness IconGood for Skin Texture IconHelps with Anti-Aging IconGood for Dark Spots IconGood for Scar Healing IconHelps brighten skin IconNot safe for Fungal Acne Icon
Vitamin CVitamin C Icon AntioxidantAntioxidant Icon 6 Benefits Not safe for Fungal AcneNot safe for Fungal Acne Icon

Ascorbyl Palmitate is created by combining pure Vitamin C and palmitic acid. It is an antioxidant and helps reduce hyperpigmentation.

2 Com. / 0 Irr.
Disliked Full details ->
Tocopherol Antioxidant, Masking, Skin Conditioning
0-3 / 0-3 Vitamin E IconAntioxidant IconHelps hydrate Dry Skin IconHelps with Anti-Aging IconGood for Scar Healing IconHelps brighten skin IconMay cause irritation Icon
Vitamin EVitamin E Icon AntioxidantAntioxidant Icon 4 Benefits May cause irritationMay cause irritation Icon

Tocopherol (also known as Vitamin E) is a common antioxidant used to help protect the skin from free-radicals and strengthen the skin barrier. It's also fat soluble - this means our skin is great at absorbing it.

0-3 Com. / 0-3 Irr.
Lactic Acid Buffering, Humectant, Skin Conditioning
AHA IconGood for Skin Texture IconGood for Minimizing Pores IconHelps with Anti-Aging IconGood for Dark Spots IconGood for Scar Healing IconHelps brighten skin IconMay cause irritation IconMay worsen Eczema IconMay worsen Rosacea Icon
AHAAHA Icon 6 Benefits 3 Concerns

Lactic Acid is an AHA that is derived from fermenting lactose, a carbohydrate from milk. It removes the top layer of old and dead skin cells and helps increase cell turnover.

Sodium Lactate Buffering, Humectant

Sodium Lactate is the sodium salt of lactic acid, an AHA. It is a humectant and used to adjust the pH of a product.

Sodium Hydroxide Buffering

Sodium Hydroxide is also known as lye or caustic soda. It is used to adjust the pH of products; many ingredients require a specific pH to be effective.

Ethylhexylglycerin Skin Conditioning

Ethylhexylglycerin (we can't pronounce this either) is commonly used as a preservative and skin softener. It is derived from glyceryl.

Phenoxyethanol Preservative
Preservative Icon
PreservativePreservative Icon

Phenoxyethanol is a preservative that has germicide, antimicrobial, and aromatic properties. Studies show that phenoxyethanol can prevent microbial growth. By itself, it has a scent that is similar to that of a rose.

Very Disliked Full details ->
Chlorphenesin Antimicrobial, Preservative
Preservative Icon
PreservativePreservative Icon

Chlorphenesin is a synthetic preservative. It helps protect a product against bacteria in order to extend shelf life. In most cases, Chlorphenesin is paired with other preservatives such as phenoxyethanol and caprylyl glycol.

Disliked Full details ->

Ingredient Ratings

Based on the number of likes and dislikes each ingredient has received.

12
6
10
4
liked
mixed
disliked
not rated

Ingredients Explained

This product contains 32 ingredients. Click on any ingredient to learn more about it
Skin Conditioning, Solvent
Loved

Water. It's the most common cosmetic ingredient of all. You'll usually see it at the top of ingredient lists, meaning that it makes up the largest part of the product.

So why is it so popular? Water most often acts as a solvent - this means that it helps dissolve other ingredients into the formulation.

You'll also recognize water as that liquid we all need to stay alive. If you see this, drink a glass of water. Stay hydrated!

Learn more about Water
Emollient, Skin Conditioning
Very Disliked

Coco-Caprylate/Caprate is created from fatty coconut alcohol, caprylic acid, and capric acid.

It is a lightweight emollient. Emollients create a thin barrier on the skin to trap moisture in. This helps keep your skin hydrated and soft.

Once applied, Coco-Caprylate/Caprate is absorbed quickly and leaves a silky feel.

Coco-Caprylate/Caprate may not be fungal acne safe.

Learn more about Coco-Caprylate/Caprate
Solvent
Liked

Propanediol helps absorb ingredients into your skin, boosting their benefits. It can act as an emollient, making your skin softer. Propanediol can help products last longer by boosting the properties of preservatives within the formulation.

Propanediol is not likely to cause sensitivity and considered safe to use.

It is derived from corn or petroleum with a clear color and no scent.

Learn more about Propanediol
Skin Conditioning, Solvent
Mixed

Pentylene glycol is typically used within a product to thicken it. It also adds a smooth, soft, and moisturizing feel to the product. It is naturally found in plants such as sugar beets.

The hydrophilic trait of Pentylene Glycol makes it a humectant. As a humectant, Pentylene Glycol helps draw moisture from the air to your skin. This can help keep your skin hydrated.

This property also makes Pentylene Glycol a great texture enhancer. It can help thicken or emulsify a product. Emulsifiers help stabilize a product. It does this by preventing certain ingredients from separating.

Pentylene Glycol also acts as a mild preservative and helps to keep a product microbe-free.

Some people may experience mild eye and skin irritation from Pentylene Glycol. We always recommend speaking with a professional about using this ingredient in your routine.

Pentylene Glycol has a low molecular weight and is part of the 1,2-glycol family.

Learn more about Pentylene Glycol
Abrasive, Skin Conditioning

Hydroxyapatite is an exfoliant.

Skin Conditioning
Liked

Retinal is a form of retinoid. Retinoids are the gold-standard class of anti-aging ingredients.

Retinal has many benefits as other retinoids: improve skin texture, reduce large pores, reduce the effects of aging, reduce the visibility of dark spots, heal scars, and fight acne.

Studies show retinal may work at a faster rate than retinol due to its structure.

All retinoids have to be converted into retinoic acid before starting to work. Some retinoids take several steps of conversion before binding. Retinal is only one step away, making it more potent.

Like other retinoids, retinal may be irritating. It is best to ease into using this ingredient frequently.

Using the 'ramp up' method, start by using retinol once a week. This gives your skin time to adjust and decrease irritation. Once you feel ready, you can slowly increase the frequency of retinol use.

Using retinoids will increase sun-sensitivity in the first few weeks of use. Though studies show retinoids increase your skin's natural SPF with continuous use, it is best to always wear sunscreen and sun-protection.

Learn more about Retinal

We don't have a description for Cetylhydroxyproline Palmitamide.

Masking, Perfuming
Mixed

4-T-Butylcyclohexanol is a fragrance.

We don't have a description for Hydroxyphenyl Propamidobenzoic Acid.

Antioxidant
Loved

Ergothioneine is an antioxidant.

Skin Conditioning
Liked

Biosaccharide Gum-1 is a sugar created from fermented sorbitol. Most sorbitol is made from potato starch.

This ingredient is a a skin conditioning ingredient and helps moisturize the skin.

It is also naturally found in fruits such as apples and pears.

Learn more about Biosaccharide Gum-1
Masking, Skin Conditioning, Soothing
Loved

Bisabolol is pimarily used to add fragrance to a product. However, it is also famous for helping soothe skin.

Bisabolol comes from German chamomile essential oil. Synthetic Bisabolol has been shown to be less effective.

Bisabolol helps soothe skin. It does this by blocking the inflammatory signals, helping to reduce your body's reaction to irritation.

Bisabolol also interferes with the process of hyperpigmentation. This can help with reducing dark spots and uneven tone.

Bisabolol is an antioxidant. Antioxidants help fight free-radicals. Free-radicals are molecules that may damage your skin cells. By fighting these free-radicals, Bisabolol may slow down signs of aging.

Studies have shown Bisabolol to have antimicrobial properties and may be a fungicide. These properties help preserve a product's shelf life.

Bisabolol also helps the absorption of other ingredients.

Learn more about Bisabolol
Emollient, Skin Conditioning
Disliked

Brassica Campestris Sterols isn't fungal acne safe.

Masking, Skin Conditioning, Tonic
Liked

Zingiber Officinale is more commonly known as ginger.

Ginger root has antioxidant, anti-inflammation, and antimicrobial properties.

The antioxidant properties help protect your body from free-radicals. Free-radicals are molecules that may damage your skin cells. As a result, ginger may help slow down signs of aging such as hyperpigmentation and wrinkles.

Studies show ginger inhibits the enzyme that breaks down collagen. It also helps with:

Ginger has no negative side-effects and is safe to use for all skin types. (Be sure to patch test just in case you have a ginger allergy!)

Ginger originates from Southeast Asia but has spread throughout the world. It is now a common spice used in many cultures.

Learn more about Zingiber Officinale Root Extract
Humectant, Masking, Skin Conditioning
Mixed

Butylene Glycol (or BG) is used within cosmetic products for a few different reasons:

  • It is a solvent, meaning that it helps to dissolve other ingredients. This also enhances the absorption of the product into one's skin.
  • It is a humectant, which means that it helps attract moisture into the skin.
  • It helps improve product application.

Overall, Butylene Glycol is a safe and well-rounded ingredient. It is unlikely to irritate skin, and works well with pretty much all other ingredients.

Emollient, Skin Conditioning, Solvent
Mixed

Isohexadecane is added to enhance texture, emulsify, and to help cleanse. It is an isoparrafin. It is a component of petrolatum.

Due to its large size, Isohexadecane is not absorbed by the skin. Instead, it sits on top and acts as an emollient. Emollients help keep your skin soft and smooth by trapping moisture within.

Isohexadecane is often used in products designed to help oily skin. It is lightweight and non-greasy while helping to moisturize. When mixed with silicones, it gives a product a silky feel.

Learn more about Isohexadecane
Emollient, Skin Conditioning

We don't have a description for Hexyldecanol.

Absorbent, Emulsion Stabilising, Skin Conditioning
Liked

Maltodextrin is a polysaccharide. It is derived from starch such as rice, corn, wheat, or potato starch.

In food, Maltodextrin is used to improve the texture and thicken a product. Due to its structure, it can help create a gel texture. As an emulsion stabilizer, it helps keep the ingredients in a product together.

As a polysaccharide, Maltodextrin has moisturizing properties. Polysaccharides are a type of carbohydrate. The top layer of skin uses polysaccharides to retain water, keeping the skin hydrated.

Maltodextrin is water soluble and has a sweet taste.

Learn more about Maltodextrin
Skin Conditioning
Liked

We don't have a description for Caesalpinia Spinosa Gum.

Emulsion Stabilising
Disliked

Polyacrylate Crosspolymer-6 is a texture enhancer and pH adjuster.

It is be used to thicken water-based products and create a gel-texture with a velvet feel.

One manufacturer claims this ingredient to have a pH range of 2-8 and to be biodegradable.

Learn more about Polyacrylate Crosspolymer-6

This is a synthetic polymer. It helps improve the texture of products by adding thickness and gel-like feel.

It is also an emulsifer, meaning it prevents ingredients such as oil and water from separating. It also helps evenly disperse other ingredients.

Cleansing, Emulsifying, Emulsion Stabilising
Very Disliked

Stearic Acid is a fatty acid. It is an emollient, emulsifier, and texture enhancer.

As an emollient, stearic acid helps soften skin. It aids the skin's protective barrier by preventing water loss. It also provides a gentle cleansing effect without stripping away natural oils.

Stearic acid may also be used to enhance the texture of products. It can add volume and stabilize ingredients such as water and oil. This can help water and oil ingredients from separating.

Sources of stearic acid include animal or vegetable fats/oils such as coconut or shea. It can be naturally found in butter, cocoa butter, shea butter, vegetable fats, and animal tallow.

This ingredient may not be Malassezia folliculitis, or fungal-acne safe.

Learn more about Stearic Acid
Emulsifying
Very Disliked

Isoceteth-20 comes from Isocetyl Alcohol. It is an emulsifier. Emulsifiers help stabilize a product. It does this by preventing certain ingredients from separating.

Emulsifying
Very Disliked

Polysorbate 60 is used to help stabilize products. It is a surfactant and emulsifier. These properties help keep ingredients together in a product. Surfactants help reduce surface tension between ingredients with different states, such as liquids and solids. Emulsifiers help prevent oils and waters from separating.

Polysorbate 60 is sorbitol-based and created from the ethoxylation of sorbitan. Ethoxylation is a chemical reaction used to add ethylene oxide. Sorbitan is a the dehydrated version of sorbitol, a sugar found in fruits.

In this case, the 60 comes from reacting 60 units of ethylene oxide with sorbitan.

Polysorbates are commonly used in medicine and foods.

Learn more about Polysorbate 60
Antioxidant, Masking
Disliked

Ascorbyl Palmitate is created by combining pure Vitamin C and palmitic acid. It is an antioxidant and helps reduce hyperpigmentation.

Antioxidants help fight free-radical molecules, or molecules that may break down skin cells. Antioxdants help reduce signs of aging.

Ascorbyl Palmitate is a stable version of Vitamin C, meaning it does not disintegrate when exposed to sunlight. However, studies show it does not penetrate skin as well as pure Vitamin C.

Read more about other types of Vitamin C:

Learn more about Ascorbyl Palmitate
Antioxidant, Masking, Skin Conditioning
Liked

Tocopherol (also known as Vitamin E) is a common antioxidant used to help protect the skin from free-radicals and strengthen the skin barrier. It's also fat soluble - this means our skin is great at absorbing it.

Vitamin E also helps keep your natural skin lipids healthy. Your lipid skin barrier naturally consists of lipids, ceramides, and fatty acids. Vitamin E offers extra protection for your skin’s lipid barrier, keeping your skin healthy and nourished.

Another benefit is a bit of UV protection. Vitamin E helps reduce the damage caused by UVB rays. (It should not replace your sunscreen). Combining it with Vitamin C can decrease sunburned cells and hyperpigmentation after UV exposure.

You might have noticed Vitamin E + C often paired together. This is because it is great at stabilizing Vitamin C. Using the two together helps increase the effectiveness of both ingredients.

There are often claims that Vitamin E can reduce/prevent scarring, but these claims haven't been confirmed by scientific research.

Learn more about Tocopherol
Buffering, Humectant, Skin Conditioning
Loved

Lactic Acid is an AHA that is derived from fermenting lactose, a carbohydrate from milk. It removes the top layer of old and dead skin cells and helps increase cell turnover.

Benefits of Lactic Acid are that it can help to reduce large pores and reduce the effects of aging. Some potential downsides are that it can be bad for dry skin, cause irritation, worsen eczema, and worsen rosacea.

Not only does it help exfoliate the skin, it helps strengthen the skin's barrier. When applied, lactic acid helps the skin create ceramides.

Lactic acid is an over-the-counter chemical exfoliant that comes from the fermentation of lactose β€” a carbohydrate found in milk.

Legend has it that Cleopatra used to bathe in sour milk to help reduce wrinkles.

Read more about some other popular AHA's here:

Learn more about Lactic Acid
Buffering, Humectant
Liked

Sodium Lactate is the sodium salt of lactic acid, an AHA. It is a humectant and used to adjust the pH of a product.

Sodium Lactate is part of our skin's NMF, or natural moisturizing factor. Our NMF is essential for the hydration of our top skin layers and plasticity of skin.

It also influences our skin's natural acid mantle and pH, which protects our skin from harmful bacteria.

Our NMF is formed from amino acids, lactic acid, sugars, minerals, peptides, and electrolytes. As we age, our NMF naturally depletes. Other sources of NMF depletion include harsh and drying ingredients such as denatured alcohol. Sodium lactate can help replenish our NMF, leading to more hydrated and plump skin.

High percentages of Sodium Lactate can have an exfoliating effect.

Sodium Lactate is produced from fermented sugar.

Learn more about Sodium Lactate
Buffering
Mixed

Sodium Hydroxide is also known as lye or caustic soda. It is used to adjust the pH of products; many ingredients require a specific pH to be effective.

In small amounts, sodium hydroxide is considered safe to use. However, large amounts may cause chemical burns due to its high alkaline.

Your skin has a natural pH and acid mantle. This acid mantle helps prevent harmful bacteria from breaking through. The acid mantle also helps keep your skin hydrated.

"Alkaline" refers to a high pH level. A low pH level would be considered acidic.

Learn more about Sodium Hydroxide
Skin Conditioning
Mixed

Ethylhexylglycerin (we can't pronounce this either) is commonly used as a preservative and skin softener. It is derived from glyceryl.

You might see Ethylhexylglycerin often paired with other preservatives such as phenoxyethanol. Ethylhexylglycerin has been found to increase the effectiveness of these other preservatives.

Preservative
Very Disliked

Phenoxyethanol is a preservative that has germicide, antimicrobial, and aromatic properties. Studies show that phenoxyethanol can prevent microbial growth. By itself, it has a scent that is similar to that of a rose.

It's often used in formulations along with Caprylyl Glycol to preserve the shelf life of products.

Antimicrobial, Preservative
Disliked

Chlorphenesin is a synthetic preservative. It helps protect a product against bacteria in order to extend shelf life. In most cases, Chlorphenesin is paired with other preservatives such as phenoxyethanol and caprylyl glycol.

Chlorphenesin is a biocide. This means it is able to help fight the microorganisms on our skin. It is also able to fight odor-releasing bacteria.

Chlorphenesin is soluble in both water and glycerin.

Studies show Chlorphenesin is easily absorbed by our skin. You should speak with a skincare professional if you have concerns about using Chlorphenesin.

Learn more about Chlorphenesin

Reviews

5.0
from 1 rating
Absorbs Well (1) Great Value (1) Light (1)
GemKelly's avatar

GemKelly

2 months ago Β· Sensitive Skin
Review

This is a very effective product at an incredible price point. It has a bright lemon yellow colour that will stain your skin for the night, as well...

This is a very effective product at an incredible price point. It has a bright lemon yellow colour that will stain your skin for the night, as well as your pillowcases, but washes out. I use it every second night and have seen significant improvement in the fine lines on my face since I started using it about 4 weeks ago. One and a half pumps does my whole face. I've experienced no retinization symptoms from either retinoid emulsions that I've used from The Ordinary, and prior to the using them I had never used a retinoid, and I believe that the emulsion is an effective yet gentle delivery method.
I really like the pump that the Retinal 0.2% is sold in. The product is light safe and doesn't need to be kept in the fridge.

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