Retinol vs Retin A: Which is better for you?

featured image Retinol vs Retin A

Getting confused between retinol and retin A? Here’s literally everything you need to know about them!

When it comes to skincare, there are a lot of choices to make. Do you want to use a serum or an essence? Micellar water or a toner? What about a face mask—should you go for clay or a sheet variety? And among all the different types of products available, which one should you choose for your skincare routine?

And just in case you want to build a skincare routine for acne or anti-aging, you must have heard about two names, Retinol and Retin A. Many people assume that Retinol and Retin A are the same things, but they’re actually quite different.

In this post, we’ll break down the differences between Retinol vs Retin A so that you can make an informed decision about which one is right for you.

Spoiler alert: both have their benefits! But depending on your individual skin type and needs, one may be better than the other. Keep reading to find out more!

what is retinoid?

Retinol vs Retin A: What is retinoid?

Retinoids are a group of compounds that are chemically related to vitamin A. Retinoids, like retinoic acid and retinaldehyde, are used to treat acne, psoriasis, and other skin conditions. The main job of a retinoid in skincare products is to help correct signs of aging such as fine lines and wrinkles, hyperpigmentation. In addition, if used consistently, Retinoids can help make your skin tone firmer, skin texture smoother, and your entire complexion brighter.

Retinoids are one of the most beloved ingredients in the skincare industry because of everything they do for the skin. It basically works by inhibiting the production of sebum (oils) from sebaceous glands, which narrows down pores resulting in fewer acne breakouts. Retinoids also promote cellular turnover, which aids in exfoliating the skin and revealing new, healthy layers of skin underneath.

Yes, I know I’m here to tell you about Retinol and retain A, but you’ll understand why learning about retinoids was necessary in a short second.

Both Retinol and Retin A are different types of Retinoid – derived from Vitamin A. Retinol is a natural form of vitamin A that occurs in fruits, vegetables, dairy products, and other foods. It can also be found as an added component in some skincare items, whereas Retin-A is the brand name for a prescription retinoid (generally known as tretinoin). Adapalene (Differin) and tazarotene (Tazorac) are other prescription retinoids.

Let’s get a little deep into this.

what is retinol?

Retinol vs Retin A: what is retinol?

Retinol is a natural and gentler type of vitamin A. It is commonly used as a topical treatment but can also be taken as a supplement.

Retinol is most typically used to treat acne, reduce pimple formation and inflammation, along with helping pores from getting clogged. It can also be used as a great anti-aging treatment to improve the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines.

Other benefits of Retinol include reduced scarring, enhanced skin texture, stimulating collagen turnover, lesser dark spots caused by sun damage, and hyperpigmentation with regular use over time.

Retinol has no direct effect on the skin. Retinol must first be converted into retinoic acid by enzymes in the skin. It’s only when it is changed to retinoic acid that it becomes effective. However, this isn’t a quick process.

It’s also dependent on various factors, including the amount of Retinol in the product and whether it has been degraded (i.e., how old your product is or how long it’s been opened). Some people convert Retinol into retinoic acid more quickly than others, but overall, it’s a long process. This is why we call Retinol a slow worker. It takes about 6 months to actually see some results.

what is retin a?

Retinol vs Retin A: what is retin A?

Retin A (also known as tretinoin) is a synthetic form of Vitamin A, mainly used topically for anti-aging skin therapy. It is stronger than the retinoids found in many over-the-counter creams since it is a prescription-only medication (unlike Retinol which is readily available in the market).

Retin A can treat acne and other skin conditions by increasing skin cell turnover rate and inhibiting collagen production (which causes wrinkles). It also helps reduce fine lines and gives skin a more youthful appearance. Not only that, you’ll love Retin A for calming down your inflamed acne and helping with dark spots on your face from past pimples.

The best part about Retin A is that it is so powerful and works much faster than Retinol as it is basically a Tretinoin, a form of retinoic acid only. This means that you don’t have to wait for your skin to convert it (to retinoic acid, unlike Retinol). This ensures improvement in your skin within just six to eight weeks.

side effects of retinol and retin a

Both the ingredients can feel harsh on the skin; however, Retinol has less aggravating effects than Retin A.

As for Retinol, your skin may become pink. Mild stinging or dryness can also be seen. But most people are able to use Retinol without difficulty since they are gentle in nature. Although if your skin appears irritated, you should discontinue using the product immediately.

Whereas you’re more likely to notice side effects like dryness, redness, burning, peeling, and flaking, while using Retin A as it is incredibly powerful and robust than Retinol.

retinol vs retin a what’s the difference?

Retinol vs Retin A: What's the difference?

So, you know what qualifies as Retinol and Retin A at long last and what doesn’t. But, what sets them apart?

Both of these are types of vitamin A that have the same end effect of increasing cell turnover speed which aids in exfoliating the skin’s outer layer to fight acne as well as reduce signs of aging. However, the differences come down to strength, accessibility, and adverse effects.

Retin A is a stronger prescription form of vitamin A that contains a more potent concentration of the active vitamin A components. Due to this, it works significantly faster than Retinol – which is much gentler and has no direct effect on the skin. But, other than that, one can also witness severer side effects like drying, irritation, inflammation with Retin A compared to Retinol’s mild stinging.

which is better retinol or retin a?

There’s no better answer than ‘it depends’ to this question. But a simple answer would be…

Since Retinol is a gentler form of vitamin A and suits most skin types without any adverse effects, it would be better for beginners who want to treat or take preventive measures for wrinkles, fine lines, hyperpigmentation, and acne scarring.

Whereas Retin A is mostly prescribed by dermatologists to quickly heal moderate to severe acne and decrease the appearance of acne scarring. It also does wonders for fine lines and wrinkles as it focuses on increasing cell turnover.

how to use these products?

how to use retinol and Retin A

A few tips I would like to share are:

  1. Always apply it on a clean DRY face. You don’t want damp skin to help your retinoid go into the deeper layers of your skin which may be irritating.
  2. Use a pea-sized amount for all of your face.
  3. Start using retinoids every other day. Let your skin adapt to cell turnover and mild irritation that is expected.
  4. Moisturize your skin immidiately after applying your retinoid.
  5. Please protect your sensitive areas like underneath the eye, around the lips and nose.
  6. Do not step out in direct sunlight after using a retinoid. You do not want your skin to get hyper-sensitive to the sun.

can i use retinol vs retin a together?

Using Retinol and Retin A together would be a dangerous and poor idea. Firstly, it would not have much effect on the skin as they both work the same way. Secondly, you’ll risk your skin to serious adverse effects like irritation, excessive dryness, redness, and worsening acne or rosacea.

who shouldn’t use these products?

First of all, if you are a sensitive skin type, don’t even try a Retin A by yourself. Although Retinol is safe to use, people with sensitive or irritated skins should use them with caution. If you use a stronger than required or apply Retinol too frequently, you may get more irritation, such as itchiness, dryness, and scaling. Some people have also experienced breakouts or worsening of eczema or rosacea (though rarely).

In short, people with sensitive skin should consult a specialist before trying Retinol. Also, if you are likely to spend a lot of time in sunlight without SPF 30, you must avoid it, as Retinol makes your skin super sensitive to the sun. Moreover, some retinoids are not suggested for pregnant or breastfeeding women.

is retinol stronger than retinoid?

Retinol vs Retin A: Which is better for you?

Retinoids are typically more powerful than Retinol. This is because they have a greater concentration of the product, and the chemical structure of vitamin A in this form allows it to turnover skin cells faster than Retinol.

Retinol has similar effects, except that its concentration is lower, and the molecular structure causes Retinol to take longer to achieve comparable results.

what can’t be used with retinoid?

Now that we know how powerful retinoids can be. Make sure to never use a retinoid with chemical exfoliators like AHA and BHA, benzoyl peroxide, or vitamin C. They’ll either make the skin worse or cancel out each other’s effects and give no results.

Since AHA and BHA are very strong acids used to treat acne or anti-aging purposes, mixing Retinoid with these can make your skin super sensitive, extra drying, irritated, and inflamed.

Benzoyl peroxide and tretinoin also make a poor combination for the skin, as they cancel out each other, making them ineffective.

Vitamin C and retinoids have always been in the news for not getting along. As vitamin C protects and retinoids repair and rebuilds the skin, both work the best at opposite times of the day. Use vitamin C in the daytime and Retinoid in the night.

does retinol or retin a work better for acne?

Both Retinol and Retin A works great for acne. The only difference is that Retin A is always prescribed by a dermatologist and works faster (6-8 weeks) due to its high concentration of vitamin A, whereas, Retinol is over the counter and works considerably slower (5-6 months) due to its gentle formula.

Does retin a clear dark spots?

Retinol vs Retin A: Which is better for you?

Retin A is one of the best things you can use to clear dark spots. It is a potent formula that helps improve cellular turnover and repairs and rebuild damaged skin. You may be able to see a difference within 3-4 weeks of consistently using Retin A.

Final thoughts on retinol vs retin a

So which is better for you, Retinol or Retin A? The answer to that question isn’t as straightforward as you might think. Both retinoids have their own set of benefits and drawbacks, so it ultimately depends on your specific needs and skin type.

If you want the general gist, though, we would say that Retin A is more powerful but also more likely to cause irritation, while retinol is weaker but less harsh on the skin. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide which one is right for you – just be sure to consult with a dermatologist before making any decisions!

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