a dupe for mad hippie vitamin A serum

So, you want to use retinol but every time you put it on your skin, it stings and flakes like crazy?

Switch to granactive retinoid. It’s the nickname for hydroxypinacolone retinoate, a new form of retinoid that promises to kick your wrinkles in the butt like retinol – but without the side effects.

The Ordinary made it famous. You can find it in both Granactive Retinoid 2% In Squalane and Granactive Retinoid 5% In Squalane.

If you don’t mind splurging a little more, Mad Hippie Vitamin A Serum‘s got what it takes to give it a good run for its money.

Are they dupes and which one should you choose?

What Ingredients Do They Have In Common?


Hydroxyopinacolone retinoate is a retinoid. Retinoids do awesome things for your skin, like:

  • Fight the free radicals that give you wrinkles
  • Boost the production of collagen, the protein that keeps your skin firm
  • Speed up cellular turnover (i.e., the skin’s exfoliating process), fading away dark spots and fine lines
  • Help treat acne

To be precise, retinoic acid does all that. That’s why retinoids must usually be converted into retinoic acid to work. The conversion for retinol, the most famous retinoid out there, takes two steps. It looks like this:

Retinol ⇒ Retinaldehyde ⇒ Retinoic Acid

Hydroxypinacolone retinoate is different. It’s an ester of all-trans direct retinoic acid, a fancy way of saying it doesn’t need to be converted into retinoic acid to work.

That’s what got it its reputation for working as well as retinol but without the side effects. But is it true?

Here’s where it gets tricky: hydroxypinacolone retinoate is so new, studies on it are done mostly by the company that makes them. They say it fights wrinkles, dark spots and acne.

The anti-acne claim is true. I’m inclined to believe it helps treat wrinkles and dark spots simply because all forms of vitamin A do – to some extent. We just don’t know if it’s as effective as retinol yet.

But, hydroxypinacolone retinoate is gentler than retinol, indeed. So if you have sensitive skin or are new to retinoids, it makes sense to go with this. You can always switch to retinol once your skin has built tolerance to it.

Related: What’s The Best Form Of Retinoid For You?

Want more dupes? Download your FREE “Dupes Cheatsheet”. It has 10+ affordable dupes of expensive-but-effective skincare products:

What Else Is In These Serums?


Squalane makes up the base for The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2% In Squalane (duh!).

This makes it the better option for oily, acne-prone skin. Squalane is one of the three oil that doesn’t aggravate acne – it works even for people with fungal acne. That’s why The Ordinary chose it.

Plus, it moisturises skin so it helps counteract some of the potentially drying effects of hydroxypinacolone retinoate. I say potential because it’s so gentle, it shouldn’t cause problems. But if you have sensitive skin, you can never tell how it’ll react. *sighs*

Mad Hippie instead uses safflower oil plus a few drops of coconut oil. They make the formula a little moisturising but are more suitable for dry skin.

Related: How To Treat Fungal Acne


Sodium hyaluronate is a form of hyaluronic acid, a moisture magnet that attracts water from the air into the skin.

It works so well, it can bind up to 1000 times its weight in water. All this hydration plumps up skin, making fine lines and wrinkles look smaller. It makes your skin softer too. And gives it a lovely glow.

Mad Hippie Vitamin A Serum has sodium hyaluronate. And glycerin too. It’s another moisture magnet that does the same thing but on a smaller scale.

The Ordinary has left this one out. That’s not a bad thing. It just shows that Mad Hippie is better for dry skin, that’s all.

Related: Why You Should Add Hyaluronic Acid To Your Skincare Routine

What’s The Texture Like?

Mad Hippie Vitamin A Serum has a lightweight, milky texture.

The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2% In Squalane feels oilier and takes a little longer to absorb.

What’s The Packaging Like?

They both come in dark bottles with a dropper applicator for ease of use.

How To Use Them

Every other night, as close to clean skin as possible.

the ordinary granactive retinoid 5% in squalane 02%

Which Of The Two Should You Go For?

This one’s easy: if you have fungal acne, bacterial acne or oily skin, go with The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2% In Squalane. No risks of breakouts with it.

If you have dry skin, your skin will likely appreciate Mad Hippie more.

All other skin types, it’s up to you. Go with The Ordinary if you’re ok with basic formulas and want to save a few bucks. Choose Mad Hippie if you want a more refined formulation.

Price & Availability

Mad Hippie Vitamin A Serum: £19.88/$34.00 at iHerb and Ulta

The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2% In Squalane: £7.80 at Beauty Bay, Cult Beauty and Feel Unique

The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 5% In Squalane: £11.90 at Beauty Bay, Cult Beauty and Feel Unique

Is The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2% In Squalane A Dupe For Mad Hippie Vitamin A Serum?

Nope. The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2% In Squalane is a more basic version of Mad Hippie Vitamin A Serum. But the squalane base makes it more suitable for oily and acne-prone skin types.

Mad Hippie Vitamin A Serum Ingredients

Deionized Water, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Potassium Cetyl Phosphate, Glycerin, Carthamus Tinctorius (Safflower) Seed Oil, Dimethyl Isosorbide, Vitamin A (HPR:Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate), Phenethyl Alcohol, Caprylyl Glycol, Ethylhexyl Glycerin, Coconut Oil (Cocos Nucifera Oil), Xanthan Gum, Sodium Hyaluronate (Hyaluronic Acid), Citric Acid, Steam Distilled Citrus Aurantium Dulcis Peel Oil, Oat Beta-Glucan, Phytoceramide (Soybean Palmitate), Acetyl Glucosamine

The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2% In Squalane Ingredients

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