Retinol and Retinoids: Knowing The Difference

  1. Home
  2. SkinCare

Retinol and Retinoids: Knowing The Difference

Retinoids are vitamin A derivatives that undergo a transformation into retinoic acid, which is used in skincare.

Retinol and Retinoids: Knowing The Difference

Image Source: Dinodia

These compounds possess antioxidant properties and are well-known for their effectiveness in combating wrinkles. By stimulating collagen production beneath the skin, retinoids gradually diminish the appearance of wrinkles. However, their benefits extend far beyond wrinkle reduction. They have been proven to lighten dark spots, enhance cell turnover for improved skin texture and tone, clear pores for acne treatment, and regulate skin cell development while reducing inflammation for managing psoriasis.

Retinoids have a deep impact on the dermis layer of the skin by stimulating the production of collagen and elastin. These essential skin proteins naturally decline over time, leading to thinning skin and the appearance of ageing signs. By enhancing the production of collagen and elastin, retinoids provide support for ageing skin, while also combatting sun damage and helping to minimise the visibility of pores.


Retinol is a versatile skincare product that belongs to the retinoid family and is derived from vitamin A. It offers various benefits for the skin and is commonly used in skincare routines. With its anti-aging properties and acne-fighting abilities, retinol is highly sought after. It provides multiple advantages for the skin, such as promoting skin renewal, reducing the appearance of wrinkles, and evening out skin tone by minimising hyperpigmentation.

Retinol is applied topically, directly onto the skin and can be found in various forms, including creams, gels, lotions, ointments, and serums. Many cosmetic products use retinol as a key ingredient due to its effectiveness in skincare.

They are a type of retinoid and they function similarly to prescription retinoids but have lower concentrations of retinoic acid.

Retinols are formulated in an ester form, which necessitates their degradation into retinoic acid when applied to the skin. Consequently, their effectiveness is even milder. However, retinol can still be beneficial in diminishing the visibility of fine wrinkles and treating mild cases of acne and hyperpigmentation. The noticeable effects may take a longer time to appear, though. On the positive side, retinol generally have fewer side effects and can be purchased without a prescription over the counter.

Whether to use retinoid or retinol

When deciding whether to use retinoid or retinol, it is important to take into account your skin type and the severity of the issue you are trying to address. If you have dry skin, it is recommended to use retinol as they are usually less drying and often contain hydrating ingredients.

For those with sensitive skin, it is generally advisable to start with a milder retinol formula. It's important to be patient when using retinol, as it may take several weeks to several months before noticeable results are observed. 

Side effects to consider

  1. Mild irritation

  2. Redness

  3. Sun sensitivity

  4. Dryness

  5. Flaking

  6. Burning

Moreover, the likelihood of experiencing side effects increases with higher doses or concentrations of retinol or retinoids.

It is important to avoid the use of retinoids if you are pregnant, lactating, or attempting to conceive. Additionally, if you have any allergies to the ingredients in a specific product, it is wise to avoid using it.

Retinoid vs. Retinol: Understanding the differences

The choice between retinol and other retinoids depends largely on your skin type and its tolerance. If you have sensitive or dry skin, it is advisable, to begin with over-the-counter retinol or retinal. The strength of the product is directly related to the potential for redness, irritation, and dryness. 

Alternatively, if you have oily skin or are susceptible to acne, you might consider beginning with a prescription-strength retinoid. You can obtain a prescription from your dermatologist, or you can explore over-the-counter options that offer prescription-strength retinoids. These products contain adapalene, a non-retinol retinoid known for its potency. 


Retinoids and retinol offer numerous benefits for the skin, including diminishing wrinkles, alleviating sun damage, and improving breakouts. While it may be tempting to dive right into stronger products to reap these benefits quickly, it is generally advisable to start with milder options for the sake of your skin's well-being. Retinoids are both safe and highly beneficial components that should be incorporated into the skincare regimen. Their advantages increase over time, making them increasingly effective. Starting their use at a younger age can be more proactive in reducing the formation of lines and wrinkles.

Disclaimer: The above content is for informational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for the advice of a qualified physician or doctor. The Company does not vouch for or endorse any of the above content, and disclaims any and all warranties, express or implied, relating to the same.