Derm DMs: What's the Difference Between Retinoids and Retinol?

May 28, 2019
Derm DMs: What's the Difference Between Retinoids and Retinol?

If you’ve done a lot of skin-care research, chances are you’ve come across the words “retinol” or “retinoids” anywhere from one to one million times. They’re lauded for addressing wrinkles, fine lines and acne, so obviously, the hype surrounding them is real. But before you add a retinol product to your cart, it’s important to know exactly what you’re about to apply to your skin (and why). We reached out to friend and board-certified consulting dermatologist Dr. Joshua Zeichner, MD, to share the biggest difference between retinoids and retinols.

The Response: “Retinoids are a family of vitamin A derivatives that include retinol, retinaldehyde, retinyl esters, and prescription-strength options like Tretinoin,” explains Dr. Zeichner. In short, retinoids are a chemical class that retinol lives in. Retinol, in particular, contains a lower concentration of retinoid, which is why it’s available in so many over-the-counter products.

“I like my patients to start using a retinoid by the time they hit 30. After the age of 30, skin-cell turnover and collagen production slows down,” he says. “The stronger you can keep your skin, the better foundation you have to age from.” Finally, it’s important to note that both retinoids and retinol can make your skin irritated. “To avoid this, use just a pea-sized amount for the entire face, apply a moisturizer, and start using it every other night.” Because retinoids can make the skin extra sensitive to the sun, it’s also important to apply sunscreen daily.

And if you’re looking for product recommendations, SkinCeuticals Retinol 0.3 is ideal for first-time users, while CeraVe Skin Renewing Cream Serum is a drugstore-priced retinol cream, perfect for those looking for numerous skin-care benefits. If you think you need a prescription retinoid, consult with your dermatologist.

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