Retin-A vs. Retinol

marybeth February 8, 2021 0 comments 0

Any new patient consultation includes a discussion about their current skin care routine. Aside from SPF, I tell patients the two most important steps in a skin care program are use of a Vitamin A (retinoic acid) product and exfoliation. Then I typically hear: “I was on Retin-A once an I got really red and peeled.” I proceed to explain that comparing Retin-A to retinol is apples to oranges.

Retin-A is a prescription topical cream that is very strong, concentrated Vitamin A and often causes annoying and uncomfortable reactions. Over the counter retinol is a milder version of Vitamin A. It can’t, by law, penetrate deeper than the epidermis (top layers of skin) so results take longer and won’t be as dramatic. There is a middle of the road. Medical grade retinols or Vitamin A topical products are allowed to penetrate into the dermis (the layers below the epidermis where all the action is)! Vitamin A builds collagen, thickens skin, and is also a chemical exfoliant…an added bonus.

Today, Retin-A is rarely prescribed as an anti-wrinkle treatment. There are so many products that are effective and gentle, often containing anti-inflammatories. Getting the product to work in the “sweet spot” of the skin will yield the best results.

So, using anything with retinol at night is much better than doing nothing. Anyone (over 30) interested in preserving a youthful appearance should be applying a retinol.