Tretinoin vs Retinol


photo of woman touching her face

Tretinoin vs Retinol, their difference, similarities and benefits. It’s a question many of you have asked on Instagram, that’s why I created this post.

However, today we’re gonna focus in on this specific comparison.

Retinoids are a confusing topic but many people want clarification because it’s one of the most effective skincare categories around. They provide some of the most noticeable results, of any skincare ingredient.

The first thing you need to understand, is what they are and how they relate to one another. Tretinoin and retinol are apart of the same family, that family being retinoids.

They have a similar function but vary in strength. Tretinoin is stronger than retinol. So, it produces the same effect but more intensely.

This graph will help illustrate this point, if you’re unsure what I mean.

How they are similar

They are both retinoids.

Retinoids are a group of Vitamin A derivatives, which include both prescription and over the counter products.

Tretinoin (also called retinoic acid) is considered a gold standard because there is a lot of research to support its function.

Retinol is the most commonly used retinoid in over the counter anti-aging products and is not as powerful as tretinoin. However, it can still cause irritation.

They both work to increase cellular turnover, smooth fine lines, reduce the appearance of sun damage, increase collagen production and unclog pores.

Both tret and retinol work as anti-aging and acne treatments. This makes them useful for re-texturizing the skin.

How they differ

They differ because of their chemical structure.

Tretinoin differs from retinol because of its chemical structure.

The main difference between these two retinoids is their strength levels. This is determined by their chemical structure.

Their differing strength levels is what will guide you when choosing which one to use. It’s also important to speak to a dermatologist or doctor who can advise you based on your skin type and skin issues.

Which should you use?

For this section of the article I have put together a quiz. Answer a few simple questions and this quiz will give you an idea about what you should be using. Please note it’s still imperative to speak to a dermatologist, who can advise you based on your skin.

For those of you on email, please click here to view the quiz.

Tretinoin vs retinol conclusion

This is an extremely easy comparison because the only thing you need to take into consideration is how well your skin can tolerate a strong active. Also, tretinoin is usually prescribed, so it’s not a decision you need to make.

Most people will do well with a retinol and will see their skin improve with it. If you have moderate to serve acne, tretinoin will be prescribed and will help you a great deal! Please see a doctor and/or dermatologist to advise you further.

My advice for everyone? Start with retinol, or better yet granactive retinol (a gentle version of retinol), see how your skin reacts. If you feel you need something stronger, speak to a dermatologist.

For retinol recommendations, please click here. For an in-depth overview of tretinoin, please click here.

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