Retinoids versus Retinol

Retinoids versus Retinol

March 12, 2019


In this article we will clear up the confusion between retinol and retinoids as well as discuss some of the skin benefits to these topical ingredients.

So what are retinoids?

They are a class of drug derived from vitamin A, and they exist in multiple different chemical compositions such as Adapalene, Tazarotene and Tretinoin. (the active ingredient in Retin-A) Until recently, they were only available by prescription, but Galderma Laboratories made Differin 0.1% gel (Adapalene) available over the counter (OTC).   

What are the benefits of retinoids?

They stimulate skin cell turnover- which means exfoliation; giving the skin a brighter look while improving texture.  These ingredients are a staple in the treatment of acne because they help unclog pores and prevent future pore clogging, with results typically noticeable between 2-3 months. Tretinoin has even been shown in studies to stimulate collagen growth, so smoothing fine lines and improving texture.  In these studies it took 6-12 months of daily consistent use to achieve these improvements.

Then what is Retinol?

Much like retinoids, retinol (and its cousin retinyl) are derivatives of vitamin A, that act in similar manner, but are purely OTC.  Retinol must first be converted by the skin into its active form retinoic acid, which is why it takes longer to achieve visible results in the skin’s appearance.  On the flip side, it is also what makes retinol more tolerable to use for many sensitive skinned individuals compared to retinoids. Having said that, some degree of irritation early on is normal for both types of ingredients.  Regardless which ingredient you are using, you should know what to expect from a wrinkle cream or serum. 

Managing Retinoids/ Retinol

The skin will typically acclimate to the initial irritation caused by retinoids and retinol containing products within the first several weeks.  So in order to reap the benefits, you may have to be patient and do some adjusting to your skin care regimen. Switch to a gentle cleanser and avoid scrubbing.  Moisturize frequently and wear sunscreen! Retinoid/ Retinol containing products can make your skin more sensitive to the sun.  Also make sure you stop any Retinoid treatment if you are going to get your eyebrows waxed or have a spa treatment like a facial or microdermabrasion.

To find a gentle yet effective anti-aging serum containing retinyl checkout our Fine Line Fix Restorative Serum.    A combination power house of Retinyl, Gotu Kola Extract and DMAE to improve the appearance of texture and tone.

Savy Guthrie is a dermatology PA with 17 years of patient care experience and is the founder of Theoderma Skin Care.

Savy with her dog

Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.