The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 5% in Squalane – Sunday Riley Dupe?!

Alright, alright, alright – it’s Leslie here!

One of my favorite things in the world is skincare – with a close second being saving money. So naturally I am heavily drawn to the brand The Ordinary. You may have seen my other reviews on various other items from their line, but today. TODAY. I am bringing you something very exciting.

This, my friends, is my review of the relatively new Granactive Retinoid serum in Squalane. And I am going to show you how you can save $91. BOOM. Let’s go.

The Product

The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 5% in Squalane, 1 oz (or 30 mil as the rest of the world says) for $13.90.


I get all of my The Ordinary straight from the Deciem (their parent/umbrella company) website, but it is also available for purchase at ASOS (for a little more $). OF COURSE this item is currently sold out on Deciem’s website, but it is not limited edition so don’t fret!

This retinoid seemed the most appealing to me from their range of retinoids. I chose it because it is listed as high strength, but with no to low irritation.

I do have Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion (Previously Advanced Retinoid 2%) in my collection – which is a more creamy, hydrating emulsion as opposed to the versions listed above in squalane.

The Claims

The website doesn’t actually scream out the claims of each product that well. The actual packaging bullet points very handily (hey Deciem – put this on the website!) what each product targets.

This product visibly targets textural irregularities and signs of age.

That’s it. Simple and sweet.

The Ingredient Deck

This product contains:

Squalane, C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate, Bisabolol, Dimethyl Isosorbide, Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate, Solanum Lycopersicum (Tomato) Fruit Extract, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil

Let’s talk about this squalane real quick. I have never even really heard of that until this year, and now I feel like its in everything! 2017 – Year of Squalane

**It is very important to note that squalane was originally obtained from shark livers and sometimes it still is. The squalane The Ordinary uses is 100% plant derived. If a cosmetic company does not specifically state that the squalane used is plant derived, you have every right to be wary.

Squalane oil is suitable for ALL skin types, from dry to sensitive to oily and acne-prone. It is the oil that most closely mimics our natural sebum. It meshes well. It sinks in. It plays nice. It is also super hydrating and a powerful antioxidant.

It is also important to note here that the ingredient Bisabolol is extracted from chamomile. This will be important later in the dupe comparison.

Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate is the main bae. The active ingredient. This is a newer part of the retinoid family, and – to get hyper technical – it is a retinoic acid ester, meaning that it’s directly related to retinoic acid. The only type of retinoid that your skin is able to process immediately is retinoic acid.

And guess what else is a retinoic acid?

Say it with me friends!


Not ringing a bell?

Ok how about…


That’s right. The prescription only, miracle worker Retin A / Tretinoin IS retinoic acid. And this product has its ester in it. That’s something right?


Last couple ingredients to touch on: tomato fruit extract is the only ‘meh’ ingredient for me. It can be a powerful antioxidant, but it can also be sensitizing and cause irritation. Jojoba seed oil is a very stable, non greasy oil – although has a slightly higher chance of clogging pores for the acne prone.

First Impresh

To start let me tell you how I’ve been using this. I have been applying this pretty much every night somewhere between cleansing and creamier serums and creams. I go all over, including my eyes and down my neck.

**IMPORTANT – and I will repeat this again later – WEAR SUNSCREEN (everyday, but especially) when you are using a retinol. Retinols are essentially acting as a chemical exfoliant, which basically destroy your uneven, wrinkled, imperfect first layer of skin to reveal pretty new baby soft skin. You know how babies need more sun care than we do? Yeah – now so does your retinol face. I have made the mistake of skimping on SPF and on more than one occasion (before I realized why this was happening) have actually broken out into a very uncomfortable, and NOT cute, raised rash on the side of my face that gets more sun. SO WEAR SUNSCREEN. **

But on to application! This serum…oil? Serum? Whatever it is – feels amazing.


It is so light weight. Sinks in right away. I can let it sit for a while or go right in with other products. My skin feels so soft and hydrated.

There is no added fragrance, but this product definitely has a scent to it and I will try my  best to explain it to you:


But wait. Its ok! It smells good! It reminds me of something. Something weird, something reminiscent of childhood maybe. I don’t know, but I know I like it.

The Results

I LOVE the way my skin is reacting to this. My skin is feeling so plump, smooth, and hydrated. I haven’t used this long enough to see the effect over time on fine line or deep wrinkles, so I can’t speak on its ability to decrease those. BUT. If we could just remind ourselves of the short and sweet claims: This product visibly targets textural irregularities and signs of age. Done and done.

Sunday Riley Though?

So as soon as I saw this was a retinoid in oil, I immediately thought of good ol’ Sunday Riley Luna Sleeping Night Oil. This is one of those cult faves that, in all honesty, is not worth $105 –  for ME. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some Sunday Riley! Good Genes IS worth $105. But Luna didn’t do it for me. So I wanted to do a lil compar-a-roosky.


I managed to find this precious lil $20 mini (at the time of writing this it is still currently available) of the Luna Sleeping Oil during the Black Friday weekend to snag up. So let’s take a look at some possible dupe action!

First let’s look at Sunday Riley’s ingredient deck:

Persea Gratissima (Extra Virgin, Cold Pressed Avocado) Oil, Vitis Vinifera (Organic, Cold Pressed Concord Grape) Seed Oil, Rubus Fruticosus (Cold Pressed Blackberry) Seed Oil, Salvia Hispanica (Cold Pressed Chia) Oil, Dimethyl Isosorbide (and) Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Oil, Tanecetum annuum (Blue Tansy) oil, Anthemis nobilis (English Chamomile) oil, Eriocephalus punctulatus (Cape Chamomile) oil, Citrus Aurantium Amara (Neroli) Oil, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Blood Orange) oil, Cananga Odorata Flower (Ylang Ylang) Oil, Vetivera zizanoides (Vetiver) oil, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil (and) Rosmarinus officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract, CI 61565 (Green 6), CI 60725 (Violet 2).

That’s a lot of extra, cold pressed, organic verbiage to take in. But let’s try to break it down here. The “active ingredient” in this oil is the SAME as The Ordinary. HOWEVER – it is slightly lower down on the ingredient list (less concentration) AND the actual percentage of the “active” ingredient is not listed or known. So we don’t really know if there is more of less in the SR oil.

There are also a TON of oils in this…oil. Makes sense I guess. But there are a total of 12 different oils in this lil cocktail, and a quarter of them are some type of chamomile. Taking a look back at The Ordinary ingredients – remember earlier when I pointed out that the ingredient Bisabolol is extracted from chamomile? Innnnteresting…

Other notable oils in the SR: grape seed oil, blackberry seed oil, and chia seed oil are all powerful antioxdants. I also have come to love rosemary extract, so I like the inclusion here. But it is so far down the ingredient list I have to wonder if there is really any benefit from it.

But while there are some very potent antioxidants sprinkled throughout these oils in Luna, there are also some potentially sensitizing oils that are more for fragrance than anything else (although not technically considered a fragrance, therefore SR can claim this to be fragrance free). Neroli, Blood Orange, Ylang Ylang, and Vetiver serve no purpose in skin care and are really just there for scent. Which by the way – I DO like the scent of this stuff. It smells very earthy and natural. And I don’t hate it. But I definitely don’t need potentially sensitizing oils added just to make this oil smell like more like an Etsy shop.

One thing the Sunday Riley is for sure NOT free of is dye. DYE. In a freaking “natural” face oil. What in the hell? ALLEGEDLY it is in marginal amounts and the main color does actually come from the Blue Tansy in the product. But why even add it?

The blue is neat I guess, but completely unnecessary. I am a grown woman and I know when a product has absorbed into my face. I don’t need a $105 blue dye to disappear to let me know.

So once we get past the ingredient similarities and differences, it comes down to application, feel, and results. (because we alREADY know The Ordinary won it in the cost column.)

The Sunday Riley oil feels much thicker and stickier than the Ordinary. I think if I wasn’t comparing the Luna to anything, I would think it was fine. But because the Ordinary is SO lightweight and amazing feeling – anything else feels heavy. Even the Luna oil.


The two oils beside each other – you can even see how thinner The Ordinary one is, already runnin’ down my hand!

But the biggest difference for me in the two products was the way my skin looked and felt after applying. A few hours after applying the Luna oil my skin was already feeling really dry (I have VERY oily skin typically), and the next day my skin was not only drier – which is fine – but it was alligator like in texture. There was no suppleness like I experienced from The Ordinary, no plumping, no texture smoothing. My face felt like  leather bag.

And – I don’t how related this is – but a whitehead formed almost IMMEDIATELY on my chin after the first night of using. And I don’t really get those any more. Maybe coincidence… but leather-face-white-heads is what I feel like.

The Verdict


Short answer – The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 5% in Squalane is one of my favorite discoveries of 2017. It has replaced other oils in my collection, and I can’t wait to see how it continues to change my skin with continued use. I absolutely think you could purchase this INSTEAD of the $105 Sunday Riley Luna Oil and be even happier with the outcome.

Recommended – yes. Dupe – yes.




3 thoughts on “The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 5% in Squalane – Sunday Riley Dupe?!

  1. Kristina says:

    Hi Leslie!! Do you use moisturizer on top or before applying The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid? I have highly sensitive skin and really wary of putting stuff on my face. Even the lowest dose of Differin irritates the heck out of it.


    • not before- I find that the oils in this really help to sooth everything! I have pretty sensitive skin as well and have never felt any adverse reactions to this. they do have a step down at 2% if you want to try that first!


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