Is Tretinoin A Retinol?

person pouring plastic tube bottle

Is Tretinoin A Retinol? Well, in today’s article you’ll get a very straight forward answer that will help you distinguish whether or not you should use it.


Is Tretinoin A Retinol?

No. Tretinoin is not a retinol but it is a retinoid. Retinoids are a family of vitamin A derivatives, which work in a similar way but in varying strengths.

Hence, tretinoin is not a retinol but they are both retinoids.

To help you understand this a little bit better, I’ve created this graph which breaks down retinoid strengths:

Tretinoin and Retinol strengths are illustrated on this graph.

As you can see from the graph above, tretinoin is a stronger retinoid compared to retinol.

Tretinoin’s basic facts

  • Tretinoin is the generic name for a medication derivative of Vitamin A.
  • Other names for it include Retin-A and all-trans retinoic acid (ATRA).
  • Tretinoin is one of the strongest retinoids you can use in skincare and can be administered both topically and systemically.
  • It’s commonly used to treat acne, both inflammatory and non-inflammatory.

Tret’s key uses

  • Topical tret treats – fine facial wrinkles, facial skin roughness and facial mottled hyperpigmentation (i.e., ‘liver spots’)
  • Oral tret can treat – Moderate to severe cystic acne. Oral tret is also used in the treatment of acute promyelocytic leukemia patients with refractory disease.

How does tret work?

The exact function of action is not completely understood but current data suggests it binds to retinoic acid and retinoid X receptors by blocking inflammatory messengers.

In doing so, the production of procollagen increases to augment collagen type I and III formations.

Common side effects

  • Photosenstivity (which is why it’s so important to use sunscreen if you’re using tretinoin).
  • Headache.
  • Nausea/vomiting.
  • Bone pain mucositis.
  • Rash.
  • Fever.
  • Pruritus.
  • Skin/mucous membrane dryness

To save all of this information in a simple post on Instagram, click here.


Yoham, A. L., & Casadesus, D. (2020). Tretinoin.

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