What you'll learn
Retinol vs Retin-A: how are they different?
Retinoids for anti-aging work by preventing collagen degradation and thickening the skin.
The active compound that gives the anti-aging benefits is retinoic acid, or tretinoin.
For this reason retinol MUST be converted into retinoic acid to be effective.
This transformation occurs in the skin as long as retinol gets there meaning it is not degraded before that (retinol is very unstable and can be affected by light and air).
Tretinoin, aka retinoic acid, is ready in its active form- it doesn’t need to be converted. This means that retin A has higher chances of being effective for wrinkles and photoaging (dark spots caused by sunlight).
Retinol vs Retin A: which is better for your skin
Looking at the facts, Retin-A or tretinoin is about 20 times more effective than retinol. Now that we have seen how much stronger is Retin-A compared to retinol, let’s see which one is actually better for you.
Is Retin-A better than retinol (since it’s more effective)?
Tretinoin, while being more effective, is also much more irritating than retinol.
If your skin is on the sensitive side, you should use retinol.
Another thing you should keep into consideration is your age.
I don’t recommend you start using Retin-A unless you’re approaching or past your 40s.
Drawbacks Of Using Retin A And Why You Shouldn't Use It
While Retin A is effective at reducing signs of aging, it comes with some serious side effects. These include dryness, irritation, redness, peeling, and flaking.
Retin-A also requires a prescription so it’s not easily accessible as retinol.
Can you use retinol and Retin A together?
While theoretically you can use Retin A and retinol together, there’s no point in doing that as both retinoids work the same way.
If you want to pair retinol (or retin-A) with another anti-aging product, try peptides, vitamin C, hyaluronic acid or niacinamide.
How often should you use Retin A?
Because Retin-A can be irritationg, you should start SLOWLY following this plan.
WEEK 1: Monday and Thursday night:
WEEK 2: Monday, Thursday, and Saturday night.
WEEK 3: Monday, Wednesday, and Friday night.
WEEK 4: Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday.
Your goal is to use Retin-A at least 5 times a week.
During the treatment, especially at the beginning, It’s possible to experience redness, flakiness and dry skin.
This is where your common sense steps in: suspend use if any of the side effects are causing you too much pain or discomfort.
Keep going if tolerable. Everything will go back to normal once your skin gets used to it.
If your dermatologist prescribed you Retin-A follow his advice on how to use it.
As with other skincare products remember that consistency is important. If you feel like you can’t be consistent (personality trait, too busy, etc) reduce the number of products you use to only 2 or 3 and stick to those.
Download and print the template below to keep track of your retin-A schedule.
Can you use Retin-A or retinol under the eye?
It’s impossible to give an answer that holds true for everyone and it’s definitive.
I know people who have been using Retin-A for decades in the eye area and never experienced any side effect.
I also know people who absolutely can’t tolerate any retinoid in that area.
Some eye doctors suggest to stay away from retinoids altogether as they MIGHT cause dry eye disease by affecting the Meibomian Glands.
The truth is that there’s no enough evidence to suggest that (topical) retinoids do that. The direct correlation between the two is also difficult to prove.
More common dry eye disease risk factors are aging, contact lenses, eye drops with certain preservatives, laser surgery and rosacea.
Nevertheless I still don’t recommend you use Retin-A in the eye area; excessive skin dryness from Retin-A can actually accentuate wrinkles – something you definitely don’t want!
How about retinol?
Retinol is different. It’s not as drying as Retin-A and I do use it in the eye area.
So what should you do? Here are some useful tips that have worked on most people.
- never apply retinoids too close to the eye lids margin.
- Eventually protect the skin with a layer of vaseline before applying the retinoids.
- If you have other risk factors for dry eye syndrome, don’t use retinoids.
Where to buy Retin-A
Retin-A is considered a drug and needs a medical prescription. Also depending on what kind of insurance you have, it can be expensive.
CosmeticRX, one of the largest telemedicine companies in the US, offers Retin-A and other tretinoin brands like Altreno and Renova at the cheapest price with free shipping.
CosmeticsRX works with a team of dermatologist and provides you with a prescription in less than 24 hours.
What percentage of retin-A and retinol do you need?
Both retinol and tretinoin are effective at low percentages (as low as 0.1%). However, because retinol is not stable and consumers have no idea of knowing how it was made, I recommend you purchase a product that has at least 0.5% retinol (like the serum I sell).
Different scenario for Retin-A. Being more potent and more stable, you should use the lowest % that ‘s effective.
If 0.025% is effective for you, getting the 0.5% won’t make a difference in reducing wrinkles- it will only make your skin drier so don’t do it!
Start with 0.025% for a few weeks and see how your skin and wrinkles respond. Then adjust.
The best retinol serum
If you’re ready to start your journey with retinol, the serum I make has 0.5% retinol. It’s stabilized and highly effective.
After hundreds of (failed) attempts, I was able to mix retinol with other skin soothing ingredients in the right amounts to make it effective yet gentle.
Plus with our money back guarantee you have nothing to lose.
Retinol vs Retin-A: conclusions
Retinoids, whether as retinol or tretinoin should be in every nightly anti-aging regimen.
Retinoids work by stimulating collagen production within the skin- this shows up as improved skin texture and wrinkles reduction.
Although tretinoin is more potent than retinol, it might not be for you as it comes with more side effects.
Leave a comment below and let me know what you use!
6 thoughts on “Retinol vs Retin A: Which Is BETTER?”
What about mixing Retin-A with a moisturizing cream to reduce the irritation vs retinol?
Yes, you can do that!
I was about to buy this product but when I saw the list of ingredients, it put me back. Why do you still use BHT and EDTA in your formulas?!
Why not, Alessandra?
Luisa, I am 64, I smoked in the past, have a few sun spots. Would I be better using using prescription Retin-A?
Yes, give it a try. I’m an ex smoker too!