What is the difference between retinol and Retin A?

what-is-the-difference-between-retinol-and-retin-aPeople often confuse retinol A and Retin A. In fact, there was a recent popular New York Times article that incorrectly used the terms interchangeably  and as a result, had to issue a correction. So, what is the difference between Retin A and retinol?

Well, for starters, Retin A is a trademarked brand name of a product. It is sold under the brand names Retin-A and Retin-A Micro by Ortho Dermatologics. These are products that have been out for years and originally they were developed to treat acne, but researchers accidentally discovered the astonishing anti-wrinkle properties of these products and quickly began using it for that purpose, too.

Meanwhile, Retinol is vitamin A in the natural animal form. It is not a specific brand name or product. As a component of food, it is an important nutrient that helps support your skeletal system and your vision. This nutrient is abundant in a number of foods; eggs and liver for the animal form, and the plant form is found in many vegetables, such as carrots. But skin care products use it in a different way – topically and in extremely high concentrations.

So what is the difference? There’s not much of one. You see the active ingredient in Retin-A is the acid form of Retinol, called tretinoin. So for the most part, Retin A Micro is just the brand name.



Today there are a number of over-the-counter products which use retinol as the active ingredient. Over the counter formulations are often very effective. While Retin-A and Renova are both essentially the same, Renova is reportedly the only one that went through clinical trials and tests specifically to fight the signs of photoaging and get FDA approval for such. So unlike many other wrinkle cream scam products on the market, that type of retinol A is actually proven and verified to work. But today there are many powerful formulations which have been developed that are OTC, which I think are better.

The first few weeks of using retinol products, you may have intense irritation and peeling.  Keep in mind that this will usually subside after a few weeks after your facial skin has adjusted to the product and began increasing its cell turnover rate. This is why it’s often recommended to start with the lowest strength first. The stronger strength of 0.10% is normally only used after someone has been on the lower strength for several months or more first. Because all tretinoin products increase the treated skin’s sensitivity to the sun, it’s extremely important to use a sunscreen regularly on your face and only use the RX formulations under the direction of a doctor.