Tretinoin vs. retinol: which is better for your skin?

Tretinoin cream
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Which is better, retinol or tretinoin cream, when adding a retinoid to your beauty routine?

Both come from vitamin A and belong to the retinoid medication class. Both are appiy topically as creams to get rid of wrinkles and fine lines. Both are widely used in skincare regimens for anti-aging. The goods, however, are not the same.

What distinguishes retinol from tretinoin?

Tretinoin, often known as Retin-A (see Important Safety Information), differs from retinol in several ways. For instance, retinol products can be obtained over the counter, while tretinoin is only available with a prescription. Let’s examine what separates the two in more detail.


Tretinoin 0.1 cream, sometimes referred to as retinoic acid, has around 20 times the potency of retinol. Retinoic acid, a type of vitamin A that works directly on the skin to promote cell renewal, turnover, and DNA damage repair, makes it stronger.

According to studies, tretinoin prevents photoaging (sun damage), reduces fine wrinkles, evens out skin tone, and boosts collagen and elastin fibers to give the skin a firmer appearance.

Contrary to retinol, tretinoin is subject to FDA regulation; as a result, the strength is indicate on the packaging. Tretinoin has strengths ranging from 0.01 to 0.04% and is available as a lotion, cream, or gel.


The effects of this less potent retinoid are less pronounced and take longer to manifest on the skin. This is because retinol must first convert into retinoic acid by enzymes before it can be administered to the skin. It takes longer to complete this process, making it slower-acting than tretinoin.

Some products’ retinol concentrations can be more difficult to determine, typically because the precise amount isn’t stated on the packaging. Sometimes less potent retinoids like retinyl palmitate, which requires additional conversion steps to create active retinoic acid, are included in formulations. The dosage of retinol in formulations frequently changes because OTC retinol is not FDA-regulated.

Expectations with tretinoin

If tretinoin is prescribe for you, a medical expert might advise starting with the lowest dose. Starting gradually is done to give your skin time to adjust to the negative effects, which include redness, dryness, and flaking. Also possible is a burning sensation.

The skin’s tolerance normally rises over time. Apply it once a week at first, then increase your usage to every other night. Then, if your skin is sensitive, you can switch to nightly.

Buy Tretinoin cream can improve the texture of the skin and minimize wrinkles by reducing fine lines and hyperpigmentation (dark spots). Results are frequently see within 3-6 months.

Retinol is not as successful at treating acne as drugs like tretinoin, adapalene (Differin), and tazarotene. It’s best to get medical guidance if you have skin disorders like psoriasis because any retinoid can irritate the skin.

Retinol and tretinoin side effects

Because tretinoin is more potent than retinol, adverse effects are more likely to occur. Because of this, it can only obtained with a prescription.

The most typical tretinoin side effects include sun sensitivity, peeling, stinging, dryness, and redness of the skin. Dead skin cells slough off, and skin cell turnover causes peeling.

Retinol has fewer adverse reactions. Although there may be some dryness and redness, significant peeling is typically avoid. This is because, without tretinoin, the rate of skin cell turnover is not as rapid.

pregnancy dangers

Retinoids should avoided by expectant mothers, especially prescription-strength retinoid medications. Birth abnormalities from an excess of vitamin A in the body have associate with the oral form of tretinoin (isotretinoin, brand name Accutane), which is use to treat acne.

There is no evidence that topical formulations, such as tretinoin cream 0.025 and adapalene, have the same negative effects. It is unclear how topical retinoids would affect pregnancy, particularly during the first trimester. It is advise to stay away from some foods during pregnancy or breastfeeding because the levels of vitamin A in them can difficult to determine.

Don’t freak out if you become pregnant while using a topical retinoid. The small amount of vitamin A that is absorb through the skin from facial treatments isn’t regard as dangerous. If you learn you’re pregnant, it’s a good idea to stop using tretinoin. You can talk to your healthcare practitioner in more detail about this.

The risk associated with OTC retinol is typically lower. However, vitamin A dosages might vary, so it’s essential to consult a healthcare professional about safe alternatives when expecting or nursing.

How quickly do retinoids degrade as a product?

Retinoids all degrade in the light. They frequently come in opaque tubes or dark containers and are apply at night for this reason. Each degrades at a different rate depending on the formula.

Keep retinoid products sealed in a cold, dark area to avoid rapid degradation. Some shelf life may added by refrigeration. Retinoids can typically kept at room temperature for about six months before they start to lose their effectiveness.

What to expect with retinol

Retinol can used with moisturizers every night because it isn’t as potent. There is less flaking, dryness, and redness because it is less potent.

Retinol provides benefits for treating acne, such as lowering blackheads and outbreaks, and it lessens the look of skin aging. It doesn’t, however, function as well as tretinoin or adapalene.

There are numerous different retinol formula types, making it challenging to determine which one contains larger amounts. Some do contain more than others; therefore, use plenty of moisturizers to calm sensitive skin and wear sunscreen when outdoors (Temova Rakua, 2021-a).

How to begin using Tretinoin 

Tretinoin may be the way to go if you’re seeking a skin product that provides quicker and more obvious benefits. There are numerous over-the-counter retinoid choices, though.

Most of the time, it’s preferable to start slowly if you have sensitive skin. Working with a dermatologist or other skincare expert will also be beneficial. What skincare routine you choose will depend on your skin type and the outcomes you want.

Retinoids should applied at night after washing your face, according to experts. Choose a skincare regimen that includes a mild skin cleanser to reduce dryness. Applying a moisturizer next, after retinoid application,

Be aware that more sensitive skin is coming to the surface, whether you use retinol or tretinoin. Wear broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30+ during the day. Before using these products or if you encounter any adverse effects, see a healthcare provider for information on what to expect.

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