COVID-19 Update: The Cosmetic Surgery Center for Women values the health and safety of our patients. Read more about how we are addressing the current situation. Read More

What’s the Difference between Retinol & Retin-A

Published on April 24, 2020

So …. Here the Deal!

The difference is that Retin-A is a prescription medication that has been FDA-approved to treat acne. Retin-A is a brand name for the generic drug called Tretinoin. Please don’t think that generic medications are of lower quality or that they won’t work as well. All Tretinoin products work in the same way, by speeding cell turnover and keep the pores free from blockages of black heads to help minimizing the pore size. Retin-A/Tretinoin medications also help soften fine lines, fade some dark spots/discolorations, and leave your complexion looking brighter and smoother.
Retinol is derived from vitamin A and AHA . Retinol helps soften fine lines and brighten the skin. It doesn’t work as quickly, nor does it work on the deeper layers of the skin like prescription retinoids. Retinol is found in numerous over-the-counter (OTC) skin care products.

The difference between them is depth and speed! Retin-A penetrates immediately and into deeper layers of your skin to repair instantly. Retinol takes a while to penetrate and repair. They are both good quality anti-aging skin care products. They are both safe to use by FDA recommendation. At Cosmetic Surgery Center, I usually recommend using Retinol first then transfer to Retina-A/Tretinoin.

Which one do I choose?

That depends on what you’re looking for. Most of my patients want it their areas of concern gone now. Although, I try to help them understand that it takes 7 times longer to eliminate the damage you created in just one summer of fun. My advice is to take into consideration your skin condition before choosing!

How to use these products

I recommend to start slow! If you choose an over the counter (OTC) option, it says apply daily, however, if it is a prescription option, it says apply as directed. I always tell my patients to apply every other day to every third day when starting these products. Retin-A stays in your systems for at least 72 hours, so there is no need to reapply if it’s still working. With Retinol, you can apply daily due to the ingredients which is Vitamin A. The application is one of the most important things to consider because when your skin starts getting a little raw, most of the time we tend to stop using the product or we think we are allergic to it. The truth is that skin will never acclimate to such stimulation but we mentally can acclimate to the storm before the calm. Typically, it takes about 6 weeks for your skin to settle down and start generating new cell turn-over for a new, healthy skin appearance. VERY IMPORTANT NOTE: Using any anti-aging products requires sun protection.

Hopefully, this clarifies the difference and it will help you to determine which one you would prefer using. Set up a skin care consultation with me at the Cosmetic Surgery Center so that we may discuss how to incorporate this product it into your daily skin care routine. I look forward to seeing you soon!