Retinol vs Retin A: Difference and Comparison

When it comes to acne treatments, you’ve probably heard of retinol and Retin-A. At first look, they appear nearly identical: they have similarities and can both be used to treat acne.

While they share a lot in common, they also have some significant distinctions. Knowing a little about them can assist you in determining which is the best fit for you.

Key Takeaways

  1. Retinol is an over-the-counter vitamin A derivative, while Retin-A is a prescription-strength retinoid.
  2. Retin-A, known generically as tretinoin, is more potent than retinol and produces faster results.
  3. Retinol is a milder option for sensitive skin, while Retin-A is more suitable for severe acne or pronounced signs of ageing.

Retinol vs Retin A

Retin-A is a more potent form of vitamin A used for severe skin concerns and is only available by prescription. Retinol is a milder form of vitamin A that is available over the counter in various concentrations. Retinol is available over the counter, while Retin-A is only available by prescription.

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Many products that do not require a prescription contain retinol. Retinols are substantially weaker than retinoids prescribed by a doctor.

If vitamin A isn’t listed among the top five ingredients and the product isn’t packaged in an airtight, opaque bottle, it’s unlikely to be effective.

Breastfeeding or pregnant women should avoid using retinoids or retinol.

Retin-A is available as a prescription medication as well as over-the-counter medicines. Tretinoin, Tazarotene, and Adapalene are the three prescription-level retinoids.

All 3 groups work together to keep dead cells out of the skin’s pores and pores while also encouraging the creation of healthy cells.

Dryness, redness, inflammation, and skin peeling are all common symptoms, as well as causing the skin to be more susceptible to the sun

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonRetinolRetin A
Made ofGentler version of Vitamin AA man-made version of Vitamin A
WorkWorks slowGives result faster
Long runRetinol doesn’t go deep in the skin but is good for long use.Retin A penetrates skin deep and gives skin results soon.
After effectGives skin a little raw lookMakes skin look brighter and also helps in removing marks.
Stays in skinRetinol doesn’t stay much longer in the skin so it could be used multiple times.It stays in the skin for more than 2 days

What is Retinol?

Retinol is a weaker form of vitamin A which can also be found in a variety of different skincare products (i.e. moisturizers, eye creams, serums).

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Because Retinol is gentler, our skin’s enzymes must first convert it to retinoic acid. It will become effective after it has been transformed.

This is why, when compared to Retin-A, retinoids take longer to produce effects. A retinol product might take anywhere from eight to twelve weeks to show benefits.

Many who don’t know how to use the medication properly will discuss the proper way of using the medication. After having a shower in the evening, apply retinol.

Apply a moisturiser afterwards to prevent the drug from drying out your skin. Check that the moisturiser is “non-comedogenic,” which indicates it won’t clog your pores.

Otherwise, it may aggravate the acne. Only a pea-sized quantity should be applied to your entire face.

Applying too much might create further skin dryness and will not speed up the process. Applying the medicine to the skin surrounding your eyes is fine, but avoid getting it in your eyes.

Retinol should not be used in conjunction with benzoyl peroxide (a medication found in many over-the-counter acne treatments). Retin-A may not work correctly if you use benzoyl peroxide.

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What is Retin A?

Tretinoin is marketed under the brand name Retin-A. Retin-A is a manmade version of vitamin A which can only be prescribed by doctors and can’t be availed by prescription.

Retinoic acid is a Tretinoin that is used as a main active component.

When we administer Retin-A (Tretinoin) topically, our bodies do not need to change it into retinoic acid, which makes it work faster and more effectively.

Results might be visible in as little as 6-8 weeks. Furthermore, Retin-A is available in a number of strengths, including the lowest, 0.5 per cent, and 1.0 per cent (the strongest).

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You should absolutely start with the lowest dose once or twice a week. Allow your skin to acclimate before gradually increasing its strength.

The three prescription-level retinoids are tretinoin, tazarotene, and adapalene.

All three groups collaborate to keep dead cells out of the skin’s pores and pores while simultaneously supporting the formation of healthy cells.

Dryness, redness, inflammation, and skin peeling are all frequent signs, as well as making skin more vulnerable to the sun.

People might notice some side effects which vary from person to person. Some people face issues like redness, itching and stinging.

With the usage of this medicine, skin becomes sensitive, so extra care is required during the medication.

Main Differences Between Retinol and Retin A

  1. Retinol is a gentler version of Vitamin A, whereas Retin A is a man-made version with required modification for better results.
  2. Retinol gives the result over time, whereas people looking for instant results use Retin A.
  3. Retinol gives the skin a raw look, whereas Retin A makes skin look brighter and heals scars and wrinkles.
  4. Retinol doesn’t go deep into the skin, whereas Retin A penetrates deep into the skin.
  5. Retinol could be used once a day as it doesn’t stay for much longer on the skin, whereas Retin A stays in the skin for 3 days, so people don’t need to use it multiple times.
References
  1. https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/nejmoa021171
  2. https://febs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1432-1033.1976.tb10390.x

Last Updated : 13 July, 2023

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11 thoughts on “Retinol vs Retin A: Difference and Comparison”

  1. I believe this article is misleading because it fails to explicitly indicate that once you use Retinol or Retin A, you can’t stop using it.

    Reply
  2. This article gives a very clear and objective comparison of Retinol and Retin A, but some of the instructions are wrong. If you have sensitive skin and use Retin A, you have to start with the lowest concentration, not with the highest.

    Reply
  3. I didn’t have much knowledge about Retinol and Retin A, and now I have learned a lot of new things about it

    Reply

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