Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate: The New Anti-Aging Retinoid

Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate (HPR) may not be easy to say (I honestly don’t know how to pronounce it) but despite its long name, it’s an exciting new retinoid that’s becoming more common in skincare lines in 2022.

Retinoids are a group of skincare ingredients that are derivatives of Vitamin A. They have tons of benefits for your skin and can help reduce wrinkles, even out skin tone, and give your skin an amazing glow.

In my opinion, the most important benefit of retinoids is that they stimulate the production of collagen. New collagen means fewer wrinkles and more firm, younger-looking skin.

You may have heard of the most common retinoids like retinol, retinyl palmitate, and tretinoin. They are all very effective, but can also be very irritating. And that’s what makes Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate such an interesting new active ingredient. It has almost no negative side effects at all on human skin.

This means that if you have sensitive skin, this could be the retinoid for you. Read on for all you need to know about Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate. Side Note: you may also see HPR called Granactive Retinoid.

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What is Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate?

Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate is of several Vitamin A derivatives that fight the signs of skin aging, such as fine lines, wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, and dull skin tone. It has been shown to be more stable and cause less skin irritation than other forms of retinoids, such as retinol and tretinoin. 

This article in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology details a study that showed HPR was an effective alternative to tretinoin with fewer side effects. 

The key to remember when thinking about retinoids is that once in your skin cells they are all converted to the active form of Vitamin A, retinoic acid (tretinoin). Most retinoids are esters of retinol, meaning the body converts them to retinol and then has to convert them again to retinoic acid. 

The advantage of HPR is that it’s a retinoic acid ester, meaning the body can skip the conversion process to retinol, and instead it’s converted to retinoic acid directly. This means that since it has fewer conversion steps it’s a stronger product yet without the side effects and irritation of a retinol product or retinoic acid (tretinoin).

Benefits of Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate

  • Increased Collagen Production
  • Increased Elastin In The Skin
  • Reduce Fine Lines and Wrinkles
  • Fades Age Spots
  • Improve Skin Tone

Increased Collagen Production

Collagen is one of the most common proteins in the human body. It‘s found in our connective tissue (tendons, etc) as well as hair and nails.

It makes up about 70% of the dermis, the thickest skin layer. Collagen production starts to decrease around the age of 25. It slows each year by about 1% until we hit menopause when it declines even quicker. Sun damage and smoking speed up this process.

You can see in the diagram below that collagen serves as the “scaffolding” that holds our skin smooth and strong. Collagen loss quickens the aging process as our skin starts to lose its structure and begins to sag and wrinkle. 

Depleted collagen and skin elasticity also contribute to large pores as the skin sags and stretches the pore, making it appear bigger. This can happen regardless of skin type, although if you have a lot of natural oils it may be more noticeable.

Diagram of the dermis
Note how the collagen gives structure to the dermis

Increasing collagen production is my number one reason for using retinoids. Check out this study for information on how HPR helped increase collagen levels in participants’ skin.

Increased Elastin In The Skin

The same study I refer to above also showed the HPR increased Elastin in the skin. Elastin fibers give our skin the ability to stretch and snap back into place. As we lose elastin our skin starts to sag and droop. Along with collagen, elastin keeps our skin smooth and supple, which makes for a firm, younger looking appearance.

 Just like with collagen, you can also take steps to keep the elastin you have, and the #1 way to do that is to wear sunscreen every day.

Reduce Fine Lines and Wrinkles

Reducing the appearance of wrinkles is probably the most common reason that women start using retinoids. It normally starts with fine lines around our eyes, and then we begin to notice bigger wrinkles on our forehead, between the eyebrows, and around the mouth. 

Short of injectables like Botox, retinoids like HPR are the top treatment for wrinkles. They are effective at both reducing the appearance of wrinkles and at preventing new ones. This does take time though, expect to wait at least 12 weeks before seeing any improvement in fine lines. It could be 6 months or longer before you see a difference in deeper wrinkles.

Fade Age Spots

Also known as hyperpigmentation, dark spots on our skin can occur at any age but tend to be more common as we get older. I’ve certainly noticed more after I turned 40. They are mostly caused by sun exposure and I find are worse during the summer. 

HPR combined with a derivative of Vitamin C was able to reduce dark spots on participants’ skin by up to 50% in this study (pages 14-15 of the PDF). Now it’s important to keep in mind this study is very small and was done by the manufacturer of HPR. So it’s definitely not as good as the studies I referred to earlier about collagen and elastin.

However, based on what I see in those other studies it’s reasonable to think that HPR would work well on hyperpigmentation since most retinoids do. There’s no reason to expect HPR to be any different. I’ll keep my eyes open for a bigger study on age spots and update this post when I find one.

Improve Skin Tone

Many who try retinoids find that after a few months their skin has this amazing “glow”. It feels firmer, smoother, and even softer to the touch. All of these are components of what makes a great skin tone. 

These characteristics are what are skin is like in our teenage years and 20s. By increasing the speed at which our skin cells turnover, retinoids like HPR actually make our skin feel and look younger. Every 28 to 40 days our skin produces new cells that move from the deepest layers of our skin up to the top, where they eventually flake off.

When we’re young this process is quicker (about 28 days), and our skin appears bright. However, as we age this process takes longer (40 days) and our skin looks rougher, dryer and dull as the old skin cells stay on our outermost skin layers for longer. 

Retinoids like HPR increase the speed of skin cell turnover, creating improved skin tone. In the small study I referred to above, all of the participants responded that they had improved skin texture, which included conditions such as radiance, softness, firmness, and overall skin condition.

You may have heard about how exfoliation removes the top layer of dead skin cells to make your skin look brighter. This is a different process from how retinoids work but they both give great results. To learn more about exfoliation and which Alpha Hydroxy Acid is best for your skin check out my complete guide.

Diagram showing benefits of retinoids

Best Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate Serums

The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid Emulsion

I have many skincare products from The Ordinary. They are inexpensive but contain highly effective ingredients and no dyes or fragrances that can cause irritation. There are two strengths of this serum, 2%, and 5%. Since it causes so little irritation, I think most people would do fine with the stronger one. However, low concentrations of HPR can still make a significant difference. As with most cosmetic products, more is not always best. Particularly with retinoids, starting with higher concentrations can cause redness and flaking of the outermost layer of the skin.

Mad Hippie Vitamin A Serum

Mad Hippie is one of my favorite skincare lines. I love their Vitamin C and their Hydrating Mist Toner (check out my full review here). But the Vitamin A Serum is another great anti aging option. Mad Hippie packs their serums with active ingredients that are effective but gentle. In addition to HPR, this serum also has hyaluronic acid and glycerin for moisture, Alpha Lipoic Acid which is a great antioxidant, and oat bran, which soothes skin. Please note they do have a small amount of citrus oil, but it’s steam distilled so it won’t make you photosensitive or cause irritation.

Final Thoughts on Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate

Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate is the first synthetic retinoid that is seriously making me consider switching from tretinoin, a prescription retinoid, which I’ve been happy using for 3 years now. It’s really exciting for us skincare addicts to see a new form of retinoid come on the market with such promising results and less irritation.

One thing to note is that several retinoids are approved in the US for the treatment of acne. HPR doesn’t have studies yet showing if it will be effective or not for acne, so I’d stick with an approved acne treatment like tretinoin or adapalene if acne is your main concern. However, if you are working to repair skin damage and skin concerns such as the appearance of fine lines then HPR may be a good choice.