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What Is The Difference Between Retin A and Retinol?

Updated: Sep 8

If you have been searching for acne treatments or anti-aging creams, then you’ve probably come across the terms retinol and Retin A (generic name: tretinoin). The names sound similar, but what are they and what are they not? And which one is best for my skin care routine?


Both retinol and tretinoin are retinoids, a class of chemical compounds that are derived from vitamin A, and are used to aid in cell turnover. The result is smoother skin, reduced hyperpigmentation, and diminished fine lines and wrinkles.


Retinol is a mild retinoid that is available in many over-the-counter anti-aging creams and serums. Since retinol is converted into retinoic acid after it is applied and absorbed by the skin, it is not as powerful and takes longer to see results than with prescription tretinoin. Also, since tretinoin is a prescription it is held to a higher quality standard than over-ther-counter retinol.


Tretinoin, on the other hand, is pure retinoic acid so it doesn’t need to be converted by your skin’s enzymes, resulting in a more potent acne or anti-aging treatment in a shorter period of time. If you wanting to target stubborn acne or deeper lines, then tretinion may be a better treatment option. Tretinoin use can cause more redness and peeling than retinol but can be managed properly with the proper moisturizers and counseling from our licensed healthcare provider.


Retinol creams are certainly a reasonable acne treatment to try first since they are available over the counter, but keep in mind their limitations. Both retinol and tretinoin should not be used in women who are pregnant, may become pregnant, or breastfeeding.

If you’re frustrated with the progress of your acne or anti-aging treatment goals, let us help you out. We can help figure out if tretinoin right for your skin care needs.


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