Which Anti-Ageing Retinoid’s Best For You? Granactive Retinoid Vs Retinol

In Acne, Anti-Ageing & Protective Skincare by Cheryl Woodman MChemLeave a Comment

Granactive retinoid vs. retinol. You said what!? Huh.

Spoiler alert, both of these active skincare ingredients can have anti-aging and anti-acne benefits.

Which is like saying hey, here’s Channing Tatum with a side helping of double chocolate fudge cake 😉

But which do you choose? Is Granactive retinoid better than retinol? Does Granactive retinoid work as well as retinol? And what even the heck is Granactive retinoid?

I’ve got your back my friend. In the next few minutes you will know;

  1. The 3 key differences between Granactive retinoid vs. retinol
  2. If you should be using Granactive retinoid or retinol (plus when to chuck your bottle away – this bit is important!)
  3. What to do if you’ve been burnt by retinol before

I’m excited, are you excited? Let’s get going eh.

Granactive retinoid vs. retinol. Does Granactive retinoid work as well as retinol? Which is better retinol or retinoid? What even is a Granactive retinoid? Is The Ordinary retinoid or retinol better? This scientist has answers.

Which Is Better Retinol or Retinoid?

There are so many words. Retinol. Retinoid. Yikes right.

Do not worry, I’m your scientist friend next door, here to help. And we’re going to keep this super simple. Because it is, there’s no need for science-gook here.

The dealiO is this, retinol is a first name. It’s like saying hey I’m Cheryl. And retinoid is a surname, it’s like saying hey I’m Cheryl Woodman, there are also other Woodman’s in my family and they go by names like Bryony and Beverly.

Retinol is a single active ingredient.

Retinoid is a family of actives that have retinol like effects.

If you know someone who swears by retinol, a blogger, a YouTuber, or a BFF, then they’re using it because out of retinol vs. retinoids, there’s so much more proof it works.

Retinol has been around since the 60s, it’s the grandad member of the retinoid family. It’s got experience and we have a heck load of published scientific papers to prove it.

Retinoids like Granactive retinoid – remember that retinoid bit is just like a surname – are new.

Like Justin Beiber vs. Tom Jones.

Meaning out of these two, Granactive retinoid is less well-proven. But it doesn’t mean less effective. And there’s actually a heck load of reasons why you would want to choose Granactive retinoid vs. retinol.

1. Granactive Retinoid Can Work Instantly

Now I’m not talking about instantly getting rid of wrinkles or acne overnight. Sorry 🙈. But I am talking about how quickly Granactive retinoid vs. retinol can get to work in your skin.

This bit’s exciting.

Psst – quick science nugget, Granactive retinoid is a brand name, the real chemical name of Granactive retinoid is Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate, some people nickname it HPR.

HPR = Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate = Granactive retinoid – they’re all the same thing. 

Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate is what you’ll find on the ingredients list. 


If you’re using a serum or cream with Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate in it, this active is getting to work in your skin straight away. It’s like eating chocolate fudge cake, as soon as you’re popping a spoonful into your mouth – POW – deliciousness.

But this isn’t the same for retinol. Retinol doesn’t ‘taste’ when you first apply a retinol serum or cream. It needs to be broken down before your skin starts using it. Like eating a chocolate fudge cake without taking the cellophane off.

And that’s because your skin doesn’t recognise retinol. Retinol is like a ghost and your skin can’t see or use it.

Fact – retinol has to break down inside your skin for your skin to be able to use it.

That looks like this > retinol -> retinaldehyde > all-trans retinoic acid (ATRA).


This reaction takes time and just like when you cook cake, bits of ingredients get lost along the way. Batter’s left in the bowl and chocolate chips get eaten 😉 meaning if you’re using a 0.1% retinol serum, your skin’s not getting all 0.1%.

The Granactive retinoid vs. retinol bottom line; Granactive retinoid is directly recognised by your skin cells which means it can work quickly and effectively. Retinol needs to be broken down inside your skin before it can be anti-ageing or anti-acne.

2. Granactive Retinoid Lasts Longer Than Retinol

Way longer. We’re talking the difference between a 2-hour cinema date vs. an episode of Neighbours – do you still watch that? Did you ever watch that? I was a devoted fan girl for 15+ years 😂.

Take a peek at this quote from a 2020 science study and don’t worry if it seems super technical, I’m de-science gooking for you after;

The decline in retinoid contents after 6 months at 25 °C ranged from 0 to 80%… Light degradation was more pronounced than temperature-induced degradation. Among the studied retinoids, the stability of the newer hydroxypinacolone retinoate was the most prominent.Retinoid stability and degradation kinetics in commercial cosmetic products. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology. 2020 Nov

Oooeee eh. So, this study is testing a load of different retinoids against each other. Like a retinoid race. They found that at a temperature slightly above room temp – maybe what your bathroom gets to after a steamy shower – some retinoids only had 20% left in the bottle after 6 months. That means a full 80% of the retinoid had gone off.

Wowser eh.

Here’s the thing about retinoids and retinol – they go off fast. They’re like a bottle of red wine – must be drunk in one night 😉

This study is also telling us that out of all the retinoids they tested, hydroxypinacolone retinoate (do you remember that’s the nickname for Granactive retinoid?) was most stable meaning it lasted longer and will therefore have more ability to anti-age and anti-acne your skin. Wahoo.

How much more? So glad you asked 😉

Take a peek at this;

HPR was found very stable in the tested formulation at 25 °C after 6 months (95% of the initial content remained). High chemical stability was also evident at 40 °C (97% of the initial content remained after 3 months).Retinoid stability and degradation kinetics in commercial cosmetic products. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology. 2020 Nov

Now we can say wowser in the other way 🙂 the good way.

This is pretty amazing eh.

Turns out when you stress HPR aka hydroxypinacolone retinoate with heat – nothing much happens. Wahoo – more love for your skin.

But remember ALL retinoids are epically vulnerable to light exposure. They can go off completely within weeks.

Keep this in mind too;

The newest generation retinoid (HPR) was the most stable retinoid… with more than two-fold longer shelf-life compared to the second most stable retinoid (Retinyl Palmitate). Excluding the new retinoid (HPR), which significantly deviates from the others, the average shelf-life at 25 °C was about 2 months; in one-third of the tested cosmetics, it was < 1 month. Although the actual stability in sealed packaging may be better, the obtained shelf-lives are much shorter than the generally declared 6-months or 12-months shelf-lives after opening.Retinoid stability and degradation kinetics in commercial cosmetic products. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology. 2020 Nov

If you’re using retinol, you’ll want to use it up within 3ish months.

The Granactive retinoid vs. retinol bottom line; Granactive retinoid is a heck load more stable than retinol. It’s steady as a rock to heat stress meaning more anti-aging and anti-acne benefits for your skin. Yes, yes, yes. This is vs. retinol which can go off real quick.

Psst – did you know The Ordinary retinoids are only guaranteed for 3 months after opening? And when you keep it in the fridge?

3. Granactive Retinoid Can Have The Same Effects as Retinol But With Less Irritation

This is the most important bit. Does Granactive retinoid work? Is it anti-ageing and anti-acne like retinol?

In one word, yes 🙂 But I don’t just want you to take my word for it. Here’s the science. Psst – I’m coming at you with a de-gooking after;

HPR had greater levels of gene transcription than Rol [retinol]… at the same concentrations, and was less cytotoxic to cells at a 10 times higher concentration… Procollagen ELISA results showed that skins treated with HPR significantly increased procollagen production compared with untreated control skins, and was similar to ATRA [all-trans retinoic acid]. Qualitative assessment of collagen levels from histologic staining of skins corroborated these results, with the highest dose of HPR out-performing ATRA.JAAD, Volume 79, Issue 3, Supplement 1, Ab44, September 01, 2018

Is Granactive retinoid better than retinol?

This recent study seems to prove it.

This 2018 study is showing us that Granactive retinoid doesn’t kill off cells like retinol can. Yup – I know – that sounds scary eh. Retinol can kill off cells like sebocytes i.e. sebum making cells – that’s one of the reasons why it can help to get rid of acne.

But it can sometimes go too far and instead of just turning down sebum production it kills off sebum-making cells.

Turns out there’s a heck load less risk of this with Granactive retinoid. Which is awesomesauce.

Now to that anti-ageing bit.

Psst – if you want to find out my top 5 anti-ageing actives (hint – it includes retinoids), be sure to download my free anti-ageing cheatsheet here.

Collagen is the skin protein that helps resist fine lines and wrinkles. Wahoo. Collagen is a goodie. With experience 😉 our collagen levels decline but if we reboot them with skincare, we can resist fine lines and wrinkles for way, way longer.

And did you see what this study said? Tests show Granactive retinoid significantly increases collagen levels and it does this to a similar level as ATRA aka all-trans retinoic acid.

Do you remember that’s what retinol needs to be broken down into to be recognised and used by your skin?

Quick recap – retinol > retinaldehyde > all-trans retinoid acid (ATRA).

ATRA is also known as tretinoin. The retinoid you need a prescription for because it’s so effective.

A pretty awesome claim for Granactive retinoid.

And it gets better. Granactive retinoid has fewer side effects vs. all-trans retinoic acid or retinol.

Retinol can be epically irritating to skin which is why I don’t ever recommend it for super sensitive skin types – if you’re not sure about which retinol or retinoid or strength of retinoid is for you, I’ll sort this for you on Your Best Skin Yet.

Retinol can be like strutting your stuff in a pair of 6-inch stiletto heels. Looks insane. Hurts like hell.

Vs. Granactive retinoid which is like strutting your stuff in a pair of Converse… but it looks like you’re wearing high heels. #Dreamy

Take a peek at this photo. This is Granactive retinoid vs. retinol in real life on real skin. Photo A is Granactive retinoid and photo B is retinol.

Does Granactive retinoid work as well as retinol? Which is better retinol or retinoid? This photos shows Granactive retinoid vs. retinol in a patch test. Can you see how skin is pink and irritated in photo B?Photo source, accessed 24th May 2021.

Can you see how in photo B skin is pinker? In skin studies, we call this erythema. It’s a sure sign of irritation.

You don’t want erythema to be happening when you use a retinol or retinoid serum because inflammation can cause ageing (inflammageing) and breakouts. The exact two things you’re trying to avoid.

This is why it’s so important to choose the right kind for your special skin type. Remember I’m here to help when you need me. 

The Granactive retinoid vs. retinol bottom line; Granactive retinoid works just as well as retinol and with less irritation.

So my friend, which are you choosing? Or are you coming to get my help with that? Will you let me know which you think is better in the comments below? Retinol or retinoid? Oh and if you have a friend you want to save from skin sins 🙂 will you use that big green sharing button to pop her this blog as a love note? You’re the best 🙂