Retin-A vs. Retinal vs. Retinol: A closer look at the topical solutions for wrinkles

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News, Articles, Skin Care & Protection

By: Dr. Corey Hartman, Skin Wellness Dermatology

Confused about the differences in retinoids, retinol, retinal, and Retin-A? Well, with the popularity of these ingredients in anti-aging products, you wouldn’t be my first patient to ask what sets them apart. 

Basically, the term “retinoids” describes a range of vitamin-A derivatives, including Retin-A (aka tretinoin), retinoic acid, retinol, and retinal, among others.

Of course, retinoids are great for treating acne due to their amazing ability to unclog pores. But they can also work miracles when it comes to diminishing wrinkles since they’re proven to boost collagen production and increase cell turnover. (This is exactly why I encourage just about everyone to start using one by the time they’re in their 20s.

Retin-A vs. retinal vs. retinol: The simple explanation

With all the incredible benefits they offer, you may be wondering which type of retinoid is right for you. When you look at the differences in Retin-A, retinal, and retinol, it really all comes down to potency.

Retin-A is a prescription-strength retinoic acid that’s indicated for acne and wrinkles. And, trust me, it’s prescription-only for good reason. We want patients to have some guidance in choosing the right formula, the right molecule, and the right strength. 

Retin-A tends to cause irritation, and we don’t want patients experiencing excessive irritation or other problems like an open skin rash.

Retinal is less potent than prescription strength but more potent than retinol; however, it’s really hard to find in a formulation you can use. There are very few products out there containing retinal, so they’re not very popular or widely marketed. 

Retinol is mostly over the counter because it’s simply a less potent form of retinoic acid. Retinol must go through two phases before being converted to retinoic acid in the body, which ultimately makes it less potent. It’s going to take you a bit longer to see results, but at the same time, you aren’t going to experience the irritation that comes with a prescription strength retinoid.

Choosing the right retinoid: Prescription grade vs. over the counter 

If you want to see great results and have come to terms with the fact that you’re going to experience some irritation, the prescription grade is definitely what you want. You’re going to see results faster, but be aware, the irritation does last for about four to six weeks. 

The truth is, it really depends on your tolerability as to whether a prescription grade or over-the-counter retinoid is right for you. Either way, you’re going to get incredible results sooner rather than later!

Learn more about Retin-A vs. retinal vs. retinol and other topical solutions for wrinkles from Skin Wellness Dermatology in Birmingham, AL

At Skin Wellness Dermatology, we offer cutting-edge skin care and dermatology services to our patients in the Greater Birmingham area, including Hoover and Homewood. At our offices in Birmingham & Chelsea, AL, our certified dermatologists are here to listen to your concerns and offer the individualized, high level of patient care you seek. We believe in making care accessible and affordable, and we will go out of our way to accommodate your visit. Give us a call today at 205-871-7332.