Retinol, Retin A, retinoic acid, tretinoin... There are so many fancy words thrown around when it comes to anti-aging skincare products. But what's the difference? We're here to dissect that for you so you know exactly what you're putting on your face and what it means for your skin.
First of all: retinol and Retin A are not the same thing. However, they both fall under this umbrella of retinoids - the term used to describe a group of compounds that are derived from vitamin A.
Tons and tons of anti-aging and skin rejuvenation products contain retinol, a natural form of vitamin A. Retinol can help brighten your skin and make it feel softer and smoother. It also helps prevent fine lines and wrinkles. But retinol itself doesn't actually affect the skin directly. Enzymes within the skin first must convert retinol into retinoic acid. It's only when it is converted to retinoic acid that it becomes effective. This process can take some time because retinol is a slow worker, meaning it can be awhile before it actually improves your skin.
RETIN A—AKA TRETINOIN
Retin A on the other hand is just a brand name for the medication tretinoin. Tretinoin is a synthetic form of vitamin A.
Unlike retinol, Retin A is a prescription-only medication. It's typically used to treat acne, but is considered a dermatologist's secret weapon for slowing down and reversing the skin's aging process. Tretinoin used to treat fine lines and wrinkles, brighten the complexion, and fade dark spots left by acne or sun damage. Tretinoin is also known as retinoic acid, so because you don't have to wait for the skin to convert it, it directly affects the skin. Tretinoin works faster and is more powerful than retinol products. In fact, you can see improvement of the skin in six to eight weeks time.
ARE RETINOL AND TRETINOIN INTERCHANGEABLE?
No. Although they work in similar ways, they aren't interchangeable. Tretinoin is much more powerful than retinol. Even the lowest strength tretinoin is stronger than the highest strength retinol product—meaning you'll see more visible results much sooner than you would with retinols.