Is The Ordinary’s New Retinal Emulsion the Best Retinoid of 2024?

Did you know retinoids are called liquid gold in dermatology? So, of course, The Ordinary has just launched a retinoid with the highest percentage available without a prescription! The Ordinary now has the retinal 0.2% emulsion, and we’ll talk about how Cassandra put it to the test on her face and chest. We’ll also answer a few questions people commonly have about the product.


The Ordinary Retinal 0.2% Emulsion Serum - $14.90

Does it give quick results for fine lines and wrinkles?

Retinoids are proven by science to help with fine lines and wrinkles. And since this is “the most potent retinoid you can get over the counter,” she wanted to see if it truly worked. The Ordinary also claims that it’s gentle, and with only two uses, it can help with graceful aging. So, is this true?  

Well, in many ways, Cassandra was amazed by this product, but in others, she was underwhelmed. For under $15, you do get a soothing, sensitive skin-friendly retinoid that helps with texture, fine lines, and wrinkles. 

But, does it really only take two uses?


Although many people have described seeing an increase in firmness after two uses, Cassandra didn’t see those immediate results. On day 11 of using this, she did start to notice some differences. However, most of the changes had to do with lifting scars and pigmentation. 

This is not to say that the product didn’t help with fine lines. Yes, it did, especially on Cassandra’s chest. It just took a little longer to see those noticeable results.  

Is it irritating?

To Cassandra, no. While retinoids can cause retinization (redness, irritation, flaking, and itchiness), this particular product has encapsulated retinal, meaning the retinoid is surrounded by a shell of lipids (fatty substance). Likewise, the retinol is released into the skin at a slower rate. 

Moreover, this also includes a calming, oat-based component. The product contains avenanthramide, an ingredient that provides soothing barrier support. It soothes, refines texture, and even boosts luminosity. Overall, Cassandra truly liked this product, and she didn’t feel any irritation.

However, it’s worth noting that Cassandra applies this over wet skin and has a very high tolerance to retinoids. 

Furthermore, this did not break Cassandra out although her skin did feel a little more dry after the first application. But with her normal skincare routine, she was good to go. She didn’t experience any damage, and she thinks it’s fantastic for super-sensitive skin. Cassandra thinks this is a wonderful option for anyone who wants a more advanced retinoid without a prescription.

Does this help with dark spots?

Retinoids bind to the RnR and RxR receptors in the skin, and this process stimulates epidermal growth factors. More simply, retinoids tell your skin cells to make more skin cells, and they actually thicken the deeper levels of your skin, and they push older skin cells off. 

So, even though this is not a scar treatment product, it will definitely help with acne scars over time. And by the end of the bottle, it visibly reduced her dark spots.

It It’s very difficult to treat acne scars. Sometimes, it feels nearly impossible! Nevertheless, this got rid of her acne scars and dark spots. In fact, it seemed to completely improve her skin tone. After using it, her skin seemed brighter and healthier. 


Does the yellow color blend in?

Even after using this twice, Cassandra noticed that the color didn’t blend in as well as she thought it would. Cassandra does find the bright, yellow color difficult to rub in or use during the day. So, she’ll normally put the excess on her shoulders, back, and hands.

Does it help with acne?

Around day 38, Cassandra did feel a little less texture. It definitely helped with the texture on her face, but after day 38, she still had blackheads on her chest. Cassandra hoped this would help resurface the skin and make them go away, but it did not. However, all of her sebaceous filaments were nearly gone. Even though sebaceous filaments are not acne, this still got rid of them.

Plus, there were less wrinkles. She noticed less fine lines on her face, but the most significant results happened on her chest. The creases between her bust almost completely disappeared.

How do you use this?  

Remember, a little bit goes a long way, and you can use this during the morning or night. It’s better to use it at night because it won’t break down in the sun, and because of the yellowness, you won’t want to use this during the day. To see results, it should be used for about a week. 

Overall, this product is extremely good, but Cassandra still feels like they are comparable retinoids. For instance, the Medik8 retinal serum is fantastic too. At the same time though, this is definitely more gentle.