All your Retinol/Retinoid questions finally answered!


What are they?

Retinoids, retinol… What are they and what’s the difference? 

Retinoids, in general, are a topical cream (for the face) that is derivative of vitamin-A. They are most often prescribed by your dermatologist to help with various skin concerns. Prescription strengths tend to be 0.3% and are only available in high concentration when doctor issued. Retinoids/retinoic acids, like Tretinoin, are the purest bio form of vitamin-A that our skin is compatible with. 

Retinol is, essentially, the daughter of retinoids. It’s still effective, although a little less intense, and it’s a natural form of vitamin-A that’s found in over-the-counter skincare. Retinol is a more gentle version of retinoids (=0.1%) and can be added into other skincare ingredients, like vitamin-C. 


Why are they useful?

So why are retinoids and retinol notorious in the skincare world? The use of retinoic acids/vitamin-A increases the speed of skin cell turnover, which produces more cells in a given time. This rejuvenates the rate of growth in cells to develop faster while renewing the skin’s nutrients, aka clear skin!

The vitamin-A derivatives have shown through years of studies their lasting positive effects. Due to their active nature, retinoids and retinol have the ability to penetrate further than most skincare that just sits on top of the face. Potency and consistency are key for retinoids/retinol use. 

Acne: A common use of vitamin-A derivative skincare is to clear up mild to severe acne. The increase of cell turnover helps clear stubborn acne (and improves the rate at which it takes to go away)! Continued use, after skin adjustments, will show results in long-term acne treatment. 

Aging: Vitamin-A is a wonderful preventative for aging skin! Retinoids help boost collagen in the skin and reduce radial (sun) damage, which is a leading cause of wrinkles. Harvard Medical School notes that “it takes three to six months of regular use [of retinoic acids] before improvements in wrinkles are apparent—and the best results take six to 12 months”. 

Texture and other skin concerns- Retinoids also help treat dull skin, texture (i.e. small bumps, psoriasis, etc), and skin looking for that extra boost!  

*Pro-Tip: Make sure to wear SPF everyday when, and when not, using retinoids and keep skin moisturized!*


Before and After Retinol use, photo credits to Caitlin M. Covington via Southern Curls and Pearls

Who uses them?

Most retinoid/retinol users begin their journey in their early 20’s-30’s. Some people may start retinoids (like Retin-A/Tretinoin) in their mid-late teens based on prescriptions from dermatologists. 


When should you use them?

Topical retinoids and retinol (whether mixed in another product or stand-alone) should only be worn and used in a night-time skincare routine. Start your routine using a pea-sized amount and go from there! It’s best to ease your way into use to avoid irritation and misuse. Read more about slowly introducing retinoids into your routine with Vogue

Ultimately, everyone could use vitamin-A, and what you choose to do really depends on what your skincare needs are. Check out our blog post about finding out your skin type, and best ways to begin caring for it!


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