There are many different products available for treating fine lines and wrinkles that are caused by aging, and two of the most popular are Retinol and Tretinoin; however, many people do not understand that there are a number of differences when it comes to Retinol vs. Retin-A. Even though these two anti-aging products are somewhat similar, understanding the differences between them can help you make the best choice when it comes to purchasing anti-aging products that contain them. Before you shop for skin care products and try to figure out the Retinol and Retin-A dilemma, you should work closely with our plastic surgeons, Drs. Hendrick and Velargo, in order to make an informed decision about how these two ingredients are formulated and how they work to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

The primary difference in Retinol and Tretinoin is how they are formulated. Retinol is natural derivative of vitamin A and can be found naturally in the body. It is usually either added to other ingredients such as emollients and humectants in order to create creams and serums that can be applied directly to facial wrinkles, particularly crow’s feet that appear around the eyes.

Tretinoin, however, is not a natural form of vitamin A and is created synthetically by ingredient developers in labs where skin care products are created. Tretinoin is not available for purchase over the counter, whereas products that contain Retinol are widely available for purchase without a prescription.

Retinol vs. Tretinoin: Which is More Effective?

Both Retinol and Tretinoin work in the same way; by speeding up cell turnover, which means that they both encourage dead and dying skin cells to slough away from the surface more quickly, causing new growth underneath to be revealed at a faster rate.

Both Retinol and Tretinoin are used for acne treatment as well as for the treatment of fine lines and wrinkles because when dead and dying cells are shed from the surface of the skin more quickly, clogged pores are cleared away as well. Tretinoin also keeps dead skin cells from sticking together and clogging pores, which means that existing acne is cleared away more quickly and new breakouts are prevented because of Tretinoin’s, ability to consistently exfoliate the skin. Acne products that contain Tretinoin are only available by prescription.

While Retinol is used to treat acne, it has not performed as well in clinical trials when compared with Tretinoin. While Retinol does help the skin shed dead cells to boost cell turnover, it does not do so as effectively as Tretinoin, and as a result, non-prescription retinoid products tend to perform more slowly. However, acne products that include Retinol as their active ingredients may be a viable option for those who want to treat their acne with a retinoid product but find that their skin does not react favorable to Tretinoin.

For patients that are intolerant of Tretinoin or are just starting their anti-aging regimen at a young age, Retinol is a great product to start using.

Retinol vs. Tretinoin: Side Effects

Both Tretinoin and Retinol have similar side effects that include stinging and redness at the point of application, peeling, burning, itching, and flaking. With both ingredients, you may see a temporary increase in acne breakouts if you are using either one to treat this skin problem; however, these symptoms should resolve in a few weeks and most users then start to see an improvement.

If Retinol and Tretinoin are used to treat fine lines and wrinkles, both ingredients may make your skin more sensitive to the sun. In order to protect your skin while using these ingredients, you must use a sunblock daily.  At the New Orleans Center for Aesthetics and Plastic Surgery, we recommend our mineral zinc oxide sunscreens because we believe they give the best sun protection. Our personal favorites are FaceMD and EltaMD lines of sunblock.

If you are uncertain whether Retinol vs. Tretinoin is a better choice for treating wrinkles and/ or acne, consult with one of our physicians, Drs. Hendrick or Velargo.

Products we offer containing Retinol:

Our Retinol cream is available for purchase without a prescription or consultation.  Please feel free to call for pricing information.

  • Micro-encapsulated Retinol