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The difference between retinoids, retinol, retinal and retin-A
Retinol, retinal, same-same... right? Not so much.
There's a few differences between retinoids, retinol, retinal and retinoic acid (retin-A), and because we know how easy it is to get overwhelmed with skin care jargon and 'magic' ingredients, we've looked to an expert to help us make sense of it all.
Below, Dr. Ginni Mansberg, founder of ESK – Evidence Skincare, helps decode the difference between these forms of vitamin A, so you can know exactly what it is you're looking at on the label.
Think of retinoids as the head of the vitamin A family. According to Mansberg, "Retinoids are a class of chemical compounds that are vitamers of vitamin A – an ingredient strongly linked to a myriad of skin repairing benefits, including anti-ageing."
This includes the strongest, prescription only form, Retin-A or over-the-counter varieties which are your retinol or retinyl palmitate’s, the weaker forms.
Other types of retinoids you may have heard of could include retinaldehyde and tretinoin.
Under the retinoid umbrella, sits retinol. Retinol is the most scientifically proven anti-ageing ingredient and easily the most popular form. As Mansberg says, "[it's] widely accessible to consumers in a range of over the counter creams, serums and lotions".
This specific type of retinoid is on the recommended list of almost every skin expert, and with decades of research behind it, there's no question to why. It converts into an active vitamin A in two steps, while significantly reducing fine lines and wrinkles, fading pigmentation and improving skin elasticity.
Sometimes sensitive or reactive skin can become irritated by the retinol. Or if you're new to retinoids, you may want to start out on a more gentle form. This is where we look to Retinol esters, a slightly weaker form of retinoids, as they convert to an active vitamin A in three steps.
These can include:
The most effective retinol ester, in high doses can be beneficial in reducing wrinkles and pigmentation
bh recommends: Olay Retinol 24 Night Moisturiser Cream Fragrance Free
A weak retinol ester, which has shown benefits in sun damage.
Also known as retinal. Just to confuse you.
This form converts into an active vitamin A in just one step, which makes it one of the more potent varieties. In fact, according to Mansberg, 20 times more potent than retinol.
This particular form works faster than retinol, and can be more effective in clearing acne, treating sun damage, and reducing wrinkles.
bh recommends: E.S.K's Ultimate A+, $115 at eskcare.com
These are your prescription only forms of retinoids as they can hold some serious side effects.
As they are pure retinoic acid and there is no conversion process required, they are the strongest form of retinoids.
These forms are commonly prescribed for severe acne treatment. Tretinoin (the most widely prescribed retinoid), tazarotene (the strongest topical retinoid), and isotretinoin (which is the active ingredient in common acne medication Roaccutane).
Main image credit: @advancedskintechnology
Have you been confused by all the different vitamin A related products? Which form do you use? Have you tried different types?