Skincare Active Ingredients

Retinoic acid esters – is it better than Retinol?

Retinoic acid esters are also known as Hydroxypinacolone retinoate, Retinyl retinoate, and Granactive retinoids.

Granactive retinoid or Hydroxypinacolone retinoate is an ester of retinoic acid (tretinoin). There is a suggestion that HPR is as powerful as prescribed retinoids, without any side effects such as skin irritation, redness, and flaking. In some countries, HPR is regulated like a prescription retinoid.

No conversion is needed and HPR directly binds to the retinoic acid receptor.

Retinoids bind to the retinoic acid receptor and retinoid x receptor, in turn leading to biological actions that include an increase in cell turnover, collagen synthesis, pigmentation, and oil reduction.

There are limited papers on HPR vs retinol. Most papers say that HPR is better than retinol in terms of redness, irritation, and flakiness.

There are some papers showing a formulation of HPR in combination with retinol has helped with acne.

Granactive is the trade name for HPR. Granactive consists of 90% solvent (dimethyl isosorbide) with only 10% active ingredient (granactive or HPR). So, if labeled as 1% granactive, the actual concentration of hydroxypinacolone retinoate or HPR is 0.1%.

Who all can use Granactive retinoid or Hydroxypinacolone retinoate?

It is suitable for all skin types, but it’s mainly best for sensitive, acne-prone skin, and skin of colour that can’t tolerate other forms of retinoids.

Retinyl retinoate:

Retinyl retinoate breaks down to retinoic acid + retinol.

Two clinical studies were conducted with a total of 46 Korean women with periorbital wrinkles. The result was that retinyl retinoate applied twice daily was more effective than a placebo or retinol in treating periorbital wrinkles and no side effects were observed.

Another study showed that retinyl retinoate increases Hyaluronic acid production more than other retinoids without any side effects.

Who all can use Retinyl retinoate?

Retinyl retinoate is suitable for all skin types, especially sensitive skin and skin of colour.

How to use granactive retinoid and retinyl retinoate?

Granactive retinoid and retinyl retinoate like any other retinoid should be used at night. Make sure to moisturize afterwards to avoid any irritation.


Retinoic acid esters are great, but there are limited papers on these esters. Retinoic acid esters can be a great option for those with sensitive skin and skin of colour, and there are studies showing that they can fight signs of aging.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Is granactive retinoid or retinol stronger?

Retinol is a more powerful and unstable retinoid. It can cause irritation, redness, and flakiness, whereas granactive retinoids are more stable and don’t show any side effects. Granactive retinoids are more suitable for people who can’t tolerate retinol and other forms of retinoids.

Is granactive retinoid safe in pregnancy?

Granactive retinoids just like any other retinoid is not safe to use for pregnancy. It’s better to go another active like niacinamide or azelaic acid.

Is granactive retinoid effective?

There are many studies showing that granactive retinoid is more effective than retinol, but there is more research on retinol than granacttive retinoid.