The Ordinary Retinol Guide For Beginners

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This post will be sharing The Ordinary Retinol Guide for beginners

For my upcoming 27th birthday, I decided to gift myself two new piercings and The Ordinary Retinol. I’ve been holding off introducing Retinol into my skincare routine because I have enough actives as it is. Typically, I like to start a new product at the beginning of the month. This gives me ample time to prepare my skin for a new product and avoid irritation.

For the month of June, I finally decided that it was time for The Ordinary Retinol and Caffeine Solution. So, I got them in my last batch of products. I’ve been using this for about a week now and I’m ready to share a brief guide for first time retinol users. Please note that this is not a review of the retinol itself but just a guide.

The Ordinary Retinol Guide For Beginners

First Impressions of The Ordinary Retinol 0.2% in Squalane.

First things first, I read the instructions on the packaging. This is because I’m fully aware of the strength of retinol as an ingredient so I didn’t want to take any chances.

You’re directed to;

Apply a small amount to face in the PM as part of your skincare regimen, after water-based serums but heavier treatments.

I read these directions but unfortunately, I did not assimilate it.

Here’s my step by step reaction after three days of using retinol:


My skin has never felt so irritated in such a long time. It started really slowly and then it heightened before it eventually cooled down. In all, it took about 3 – 4 hours because I was watching Netflix. But damn! The irritation was crazy!!! It was almost the same level as the Ordinary AHA/BHA Peel but worse! It felt like my skin was on burning. I did not realise that I had used the retinol wrongly until after the second time which was after two days. I also experienced some peeling which I realised was also one of the side effects but it wasn’t so bad.


The Ordinary Retinol Guide For Beginners

  • Day 2: After the first day, I was a bit hesitant to use it again. But then, I realised that my skin is trying to build tolerance for retinol. So the earlier I get into it, the better for me. This time, I tried to switch up the order of my routine. Note that I still haven’t realised that I used the product wrongly. I just wanted to try something different. So instead of using it at the last step of my routine, I used it at the third step. So it went like Cleanser —> Serum —> Retinol —> Moisturiser


Compared to the last time, the irritation was minimal. The moisturiser helped so much in calming down any potential high irritation I would have had like the previous time. While I still experienced some tingle here and there, it was completely bearable. After a couple of hours, the moisturiser was completely absorbed and the irritation almost non-existent. Phew! Finally, I found a method I could use.

  • Day 3: By the third day, I literally had no irritation. It just felt like I was using a regular active like an AHA or BHA. I stuck to my routine of layering the retinol before the moisturiser and it was perfect. Turns out, that was the ideal way to layer the product according to the instructions. Now, I kept wondering what would have happened if I followed the instructions initially. I think I would still have the irritation but it would have been very minimal.

The Ordinary Retinol Guide For Beginners

Key Retinol Tips for Beginners

  • Don’t jump on retinol if your skin is not familiar with actives. You should have been using actives such as chemical exfoliants, Niacinamide, Vitamin C, etc for a while before introducing it to your routine. This is to avoid causing complications with your skin in any format.
  • Start with the smallest percentage. There is a reason Deciem has a retinol guide on their website. But unfortunately, people don’t read. Naturally, when starting any active, either AHA, BHA, Vitamin C or Retinol, always start with the smallest percentage and move up gradually. Starting small reduces the intensity of irritation you would get.
  • Always read instructions. The instructions are there for a reason. Despite how experienced I am with acids and actives in general, I still made a rookie mistake. Don’t be like me.
  • Avoid combining your actives as much as possible. As a beginner, you need to take things slowly. Yes, The Ordinary is cheap and affordable but it is easy to get overwhelmed. Take things slowly. As much as possible, don’t combine multiple actives together, particularly retinol. Use it alone with just a moisturiser and/or a hydrating serum.

I hope this post has helped someone especially those looking to introduce retinol their your routines.

If you’re currently using retinol, please share your experience with me in the comments.

Where to Buy: The Ordinary

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The Ordinary Retinol Guide For Beginners

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Lifestyle & Travel Blogger obseesed with Korean Skincare, strength training and solo travel.

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