Retinoids are a family of vitamin A derivatives that help improve your skin’s appearance and prevent damage. You can find these ingredients in a variety of skincare products, but you may need to consult a dermatologist for a prescription and proper application.
The main difference between tretinoin and retinol is that tretinoin requires a prescription while retinol is available over the counter. The body also has to convert retinol into tretinoic acid, which means that it will take longer for your anti-aging results to appear.
1. Tretinoin is stronger
Tretinoin is a powerful prescription-only topical medication that works to reduce acne, speed up skin healing and fade hyperpigmentation. It is also used to treat melasma and psoriasis. It works in the deep layer of the skin and can cause redness, swelling and irritation. For this reason, it’s best to start with retinol before moving on to stronger prescription retinoids. Isotretinoin (Accutane) is the strongest form of retinol and works by reducing oil gland size to prevent excess sebum production leading to acne.
Retinol is a vitamin A derivative that works to reduce fine lines and wrinkles caused by sun damage and ageing, clears clogged pores, evens out skin tone, increases skin tightness and boosts collagen. It is available over the counter as a serum or gel and in some skincare products where it is combined with other non-medicinal ingredients to address other skin concerns. It’s important to note that retinol is not as strong as tretinoin, and does need to be converted to retinoic acid in the skin before it can work.
2. Tretinoin is more expensive
Tretinoin is a prescription-strength topical cream that helps improve the appearance of acne, sun-damaged skin & fine wrinkles. It works by promoting cell turnover, increasing collagen production & fading discolorations. Like retinol, it can’t erase deep wrinkles but can smooth out surface lines & make skin look firmer.
It’s more potent than over-the-counter retinol & can produce visible results more quickly. It can also cause sensitivity to sunlight so you’ll need to use sunscreen every day when using it.
Because of the increased risk of side effects, tretinoin should only be used under doctor supervision. Your doctor will ask you about your medical history, especially any conditions that could make it unsafe to use it. They’ll also want to know if you’re pregnant, breastfeeding or taking any other medications. They may recommend starting with retinol & working your way up to tretinoin before prescribing it. This gives your skin time to get used to it & allows you to see if the product is right for you.
3. Tretinoin is more drying
Both tretinoin and retinol increase collagen in your skin, which helps reduce wrinkles and even out skin tone. They also stimulate cell turnover, which can clear up acne and clogged pores. Both can make your skin more sensitive to sunlight, so you should always wear sunscreen when using them.
Retinol is more gentle than tretinoin, and can be found in over-the-counter products that don’t require a prescription. It’s fat-soluble, meaning that it can stay in your body for a long time. Your liver then converts it to tretinoin, which is what actually does the work in your skin.
Retinol may also cause dryness, especially right after you start using it. But this is usually short-lived and should resolve itself as your skin acclimates to the product. It’s important to use a good moisturizer to help hydrate your skin. Also, be sure to apply your retinol at night and not in the morning, as it will break down more quickly in sunlight.
4. Tretinoin is more harsh for sensitive skin
Tretinoin stimulates the production of new skin cells and promotes the shedding of old, dead skin. This helps prevent the buildup of oil and dirt, which is a cause of acne. It also promotes collagen growth for smoother skin. However, these benefits come with a few side effects.
Those with sensitive skin may have trouble tolerating the high concentrations of tretinoin. It can also cause redness, swelling, and crusting of the skin. Patients are encouraged to use moisturizers and sunscreens as part of their daily routine when using tretinoin. It’s important to wear sunscreen especially when it’s sunny because tretinoin makes the skin more sensitive to sunlight.
Tretinoin can be a great option for those looking to treat acne, wrinkles, or discoloration of the skin. However, it’s important to discuss the contraindications with a doctor or dermatologist. They can help you decide if tretinoin is the best treatment for your skin concerns and prescribe the right strength for you. tretinoin vs retinol