Retinol And Retin-A What Are The Differences?

Jul 23, 2019

POSTED: 14/04/21

Retinol and Retin-A are often used interchangeably, but it’s important to note that they are not the same exact thing. Even though they are both Vitamin A derivatives that become converted into retinoic acid, they work differently.

Retin-A is a brand name for Tretinoin, an acid form of retinoids that requires a prescription. Tretinoin can be obtained in different strengths (.025% .05% and .1%) that are carried at The Look Facial Aesthetics.

Because it is a form of retinoic acid, Retin-A does not need to be broken down by the enzymes in your skin before it can be used.

Retin-A products are approximately 10 times stronger than the average retinol cream you get over the counter. This strength comes with quick results.

Keep in mind there are also side effects. Due to its strength, Retin-A can cause itching, scaling, burning, peeling and extreme redness when you first begin using the medication.

Traditionally, Retin-A has only been prescribed for severe acne; however, now it is being prescribed to patients who wish to reduce lines, improve skin firmness, improve elasticity, and lighten pigment.


If your skin is more sensitive or dry, trying a retinol prior to a Retin-A is ideal.

If you’re just being introduced to the world of retinoids, it’s probably best to start out with retinol to see how your skin reacts to it in the first place. Retinol is a specific form of Vitamin A that is naturally produced in your body. When it’s applied topically, enzymes in your skin convert retinol into retinaldehyde and then into retinoic acid. Because of the two-step conversion that it has to undergo before the skin can use it, retinol is naturally gentler than Retin-A; this means that while its results are slower, it has fewer side effects. The conversion into retinoic acid can take at least a few weeks, which is why you should use retinol products consistently for a few months before expecting to see results.

There is a Vitamin A out there for you depending on your skin concerns, whether it be severe acne, fine lines, or preventative and anti-aging. The main difference is that retinoids are generally more powerful than retinol, but also more likely to cause irritation and sensitivity.

Whether you are new to Retinol or a seasoned user, we have an option for everyone at The Look Facial Aesthetics.

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