Retinol, Retin-A & Retinoids: What's The Difference?

Retinol, Retin-A & Retinoids: What's The Difference?

A skincare regime can be confusing if you are a newbie and even more when it comes to similar-sounding ingredients. Even though ingredients may sound similar and belong to the same family, they do not necessarily have the same benefits. 
Retinol, Retin-A and retinoids tend to leave people confused with plenty assuming the three to be the same. 

In This Article

    What is a Retinoid?

    Retinoids, often termed the darlings of the skincare world, are compounds derived from vitamin A. As the human body cannot synthesise vitamin A, the vitamin is required to be supplied from other sources. The most common topical source of vitamin A is retinoid which is popular in several skincare products, especially in anti-aging creams. 

    These elements improve epidermal cell growth, regulate sebum production that helps reduce the formation of blackheads and acne, fade acne spots and hyperpigmentation with regular use. 
    A favourite of dermatologists for anti-aging, retinoids improve skin ageing and sun-induced ageing, fade wrinkles and fine lines, protect skin from harmful UV rays, promote collagen and elastin production, exhibits anti-inflammatory properties and prevents oxidative stress and transepidermal water loss keeping it hydrated. 

    What is Retinol?

    Retinol is a weaker type of retinoid derived from vitamin A. It is considered one of the best over-the-counter products for anti-aging and acne. The element helps fight acne by keeping the pores clear of skin cell buildups. It is also known for its anti-inflammation properties and for expediting the skin cell turnover process to give a brighter, smoother skin tone. The accelerated skin cell turnover additionally helps fight signs of sun damage, hyperpigmentation, fine lines, wrinkles and oxidative stress.

    What is Retin-A?

    Tretinoin, also referred to by its brand name Retin-A, is a synthetic form of vitamin A. Due to its stronger properties, it is a prescription-only medication and is commonly used for treating inflammatory acne and comedonal breakout, hyperpigmentation, fine lines and wrinkles and for improving the skin tone. Because Retin-A contains retinoic acid, it is more stronger and powerful than retinol and its effects can be noticed within a period of six to eight weeks. 

    Choosing between Retinoid, Retinol and Retin-A
    Choosing between retinoid, retinol and Retin-A is easier than it looks. Retinol is the most gentle form of vitamin A available in the market and is the most suitable retinoid for you if you have dry or sensitive skin or are a beginner. Keep in mind that its gentle form also signifies slow results. 

    In the case of retinoids, since they are usually available as over-the-counter products and are generally found in skincare products, they are considered safe to use if your skin is already habitual to retinoids. But you may still want to introduce it to your skin at a slow pace. 

    Retin-A is available as a prescription-only. If you are suffering from stubborn acne, hyperpigmentation or other skin conditions and looking for quick fixes, you get a prescription from your dermatologist after skin analysis.

    Introducing Retinoids in Your Skincare Regime

    When introducing retinoid in any of its forms, it is necessary to do it slowly and with low potency products. One of the most common concerns noticed after the application of retinoids is irritation of skin, red and dry patches, so it is wise to let your skin adjust to the product. 

    SkinQ Spotlight

    Keeping your skin well-moisturised when using retinol, retinoid or Retin-A is a must to reduce skin irritation, dryness and to prevent transepidermal water loss. 

    SkinQ suggests using our Moisture Balm to nourish and repair your skin. It has proven to nourish skin, reduce skin sensitivity and repair the skin barrier which results in well moisturised and healthy skin. 
    For light skin complexion, experts suggest beginning with an application of retinoid once every third night and if your skin adjusts well with the product, it is possible to increase the application to every other night. 

    For medium to darker skin complexion, it is preferred to apply the products once a week as a frequent application can lead to post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. 
    A word of caution, it is best to steer clear of retinoids in any form if you are pregnant, lactating or trying to conceive. 

    The ‘How and When’ of Using Retinoids
    • Retinoids, retinol and Retin-A should be applied at after cleansing your face
    • To avoid irritation, apply a pea-size of the product on dry face
    • Follow it with a good moisturiser
    • Avoid using acne treatment and other acidic products with retinoids
    • Always apply sunscreen with an SPF 40+ both, indoors or outdoors.
    • Retinoids also lead to dryness, burning, irritation, flaking and burning of your skin, therefore, it is advised to avoid astringents like ethyl alcohol or witch hazel as they can further encourage these side effects. 
    • Using two or more retinoid products at a single time should also be avoided as it can prompt skin dryness and irritation. 
    Who is it for?
    Though it is one of the most recommended products in the skincare industry, it is certainly not for everyone. Retinol is not suitable for you in case, 
    • You’re not a teenager or an adult
    • You suffer from skin conditions like rosacea which makes your skin sensitive to some products
    • A lot of your time requires you to be out in the sun 
    • You are an expecting mother or are breastfeeding

    SkinQ Retinol Liposomes Spotlight:

    Retinol liposomes in Acne Control Elixir Serum exfoliate dead skin cells and unclog pores to reduce the appearance of acne. 

    Things to Remember When Using Retinoids
    Retinoids make your skin more sensitive to sun damage, hyperpigmentation and wrinkles as new skin cells come in direct exposure to the harsh UV rays. If you’re using retinoid in any of its forms, sunscreen is a necessity for your skin. To protect your skin from UV rays, apply sunscreen with SPF 40+ and avoid direct exposure to sunlight whenever possible. 

    SkinQ Spotlight
    Sunscreen is non-negotiable, especially when using retinoid products as skin becomes more sensitive to UV rays. 

    SkinQ suggests using our Sun Protect Gel with SPF40 as it provides advanced photoprotection, reduces sun damage and helps repair the skin barrier without making your skin greasy. 

    On an EndNote

    Owing to their several skin benefits, it's no wonder retinoids are considered the holy grail of the skincare world, but they also come with a few side effects. It is always best to introduce retinoids in your skincare regime slowly and be patient to see results.
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