When it comes to retinol and retinoid, many of us can get confused when trying to differentiate the two. Are retinol and retinoid the same? Both of these anti-ageing ingredients are very similar—in fact, retinol is a type of retinoid.
Retinoid tends to describe more powerful prescription products, whilst retinol generally refers to over-the-counter (OTC) skincare formulas. These formulas are gentler and formulated for everyday use.
This guide will answer your questions to help you understand the differences between retinol VS retinoid, how to introduce retinol to your skin and which retinol products to add to your daily skincare routine.
Retinol or retinoid?
Retinol is a vitamin A derivative and type of retinoid used mainly in skincare products due to its lower concentration of retinoic acid. Retinol products differ from prescription retinoids on a molecular level, as they are less intense and gentler on the skin.
Retinols tend to be included in ingredient lists under names like retinyl palmitate, retinyl linoleate or retinyl acetate. It takes more steps for these forms to be converted to retinoic acid, meaning the product is gentler on the skin than prescription retinoids. Retinol is often combined with other ingredients to hydrate and brighten the skin.
Retinoids, however, refer to other vitamin-A derivatives that are converted into retinoic acid—the most potent form of vitamin A. These ingredients can also help to increase cell division on the surface of your skin, which helps thicken its top layer.
Are retinol and vitamin A the same?
Wondering if retinol is vitamin A? Retinol comes from retinoids, which form part of the vitamin A family. For retinol to be absorbed into the skin, it needs to be broken down into retinoic acid.
This conversion process is moved along by naturally occurring proteins in our body called enzymes. Once converted to retinoic acid, the retinol can begin working to help stimulate collagen, increase cell renewal and improve skin texture.
Are retinol and tretinoin the same?
Retinol and tretinoin are similar ingredients but have a few key differences. Tretinoin, like retinol, is a retinoid. However, tretinoin is a concentration of pure retinoic acid, which requires a prescription. This means tretinoin can be more easily absorbed by skin to have more immediate results.
Tretinoin can lead to redness and peeling for sensitive skin types if not managed, whilst retinol can have fewer side effects.
How to introduce retinol to skin?
When you feel it’s time to introduce retinol to your skin and reap its benefits, the key is to start slowly and gradually. Start with a lower-concentration product and build up the potency and frequency gradually over time.
Retinol should always be applied at night as it can increase your skin’s sensitivity to sunlight. Your skin will need to adjust to the retinol, so begin with using it twice a week in the evenings. Gradually move from every second night to every night day as your skin tolerance adjusts.
A little goes a long way with retinol, so use a pea-sized amount to cover your entire face. Dryness and flakiness may occur in the first few days, and if this bothers you, space out your applications. As your skin adjusts to retinol, these effects will decrease.
Retinol skincare routine
As mentioned, retinol is not an overnight solution to your skin concerns. It typically takes up to 12 weeks to see visible results, meaning you’ll want to introduce retinol into your daily skincare routine over time.
When applying products, always start in the order of lightest to heaviest. Retinols are best applied to dry skin after cleansing in the evening. Always use it in conjunction with a high SPF the following morning for UV protection.
Using a night-time retinol serum is a suitable first step for those with oily, sensitive, ageing or breakout-prone skin.
Our Retinol B3 Serum is an anti-ageing serum formulated with retinol and vitamin B3 to help visibly improve the look of fine lines, wrinkles and dark spots. This serum helps to keep skin soft and supple by supporting the skin’s moisture barrier, allowing for improved hydration.
To apply, fill the dropper with serum and apply 3-4 drops in the evening on the face and neck. Follow with a moisturiser or night cream.
Applying retinol in gel form can help minimise the potential for clogged pores. Applying a retinol gel at night allows the formula to be fully absorbed by your skin for maximum efficacy.
Our Redermic Retinol Anti-Ageing Cream Gel is an ultra-fluid gel cream formulated for sensitive skin. It helps to visibly reduce wrinkles, and smooth skin, address irregular skin tone and help to minimise premature age spots. Apply to the face and neck after cleansing, avoiding the eye contour.
Retinol moisturisers and creams can be applied to cleansed dry skin or after using a serum. Using a cream can assist with minimising dryness and other possible side effects of adding retinol into your routine.
Our Redermic R Anti-Wrinkle Eye Cream is an anti-ageing eye cream that contains pure and slow-release retinol to visibly smooth skin around the eye area. It’s formulated to help improve signs of photo-ageing, fatigue, wrinkles and dark circles. Apply in the evening to clean dry skin. Gently pat the eye cream into the skin, beginning from the inner corner of the eye and working outwards. Avoid the eyelids.
Understanding the difference between retinol VS retinoid is key to choosing the right products for your skin. To learn more about retinol and its benefits, read our article on Retinol: A User's Guide.