It’s overwhelming to know the difference between retinol vs retinoid when they sound so similar. To add more confusion, you’ve been hearing about Tretinoin and Retin-A. We’re here to break it all down below.

What are Retinoids?

Essentially, a “retinoid” is a fancy medical term for Vitamin A in skincare. A network of over 15 dermatologists we know and trust advocate it as an essential skincare ingredient. In short, it delivers the key benefits most commonly sought after in skincare. Most notably, it treats acne, smoothens texture, and visibly reduces the look of fine lines, enlarged pores, and pigmentation. Whew, now we see why. Science says it’s safe to use as early as your teens to prevent all the above from forming in the first place.

How, exactly, does it deliver on all these multipronged benefits? A retinoid halts the breakdown of collagen, boosts its production, and encourages skin cells to turn over faster. You can consider it a triple threat when it comes to keeping skin healthy. Curious about all the benefits of collagen?

What is Tretinoin and Retin-A?

When you start deep-diving into the world of retinoids, you may stumble upon the term Tretinoin, also known as retinoic acid. As the most effective form of Vitamin A, it directly penetrates your skin and is FDA-approved to treat photoaging. Retin-A is the brand name and has the same exact active ingredient, Tretinoin. It works to stimulate collagen production and increase cell turnover. This, in turn, improves fine lines and wrinkles, pigmentation, enlarged pores, uneven skin tone, and acne. It’s no surprise that tretinoin has astounded dermatologists as a retinoid proven to reverse sun damage! With these powerful benefits, it is classified as medication and requires a visit to the dermatologist for a prescription.

Hey, what about Retinol?

All derm-grade retinoids come packed with the powerhouse ingredient: retinoic acid. But not retinol! Although marketed with similar benefits as derm-grade retinoids, it simply doesn’t live up to the same standard without that key ingredient. Retinol activates your skin to convert the formula into a much, much less potent form of retinoic acid. By that point, your skin absorbs very little Vitamin A. Bummer! However, not using pharmaceutical-grade retinoic acid does have benefits. The FDA allows retinol products to be sold over the counter for limited results. 

Although there are claims that retinol is more “gentle” than retinoic acid, it’s not nearly as potent as dermatologist-grade retinoids like Tretinoin. If irritation from dermatologist-grade retinoids concerns you, you can greatly minimize and prevent it. How? If you use retinoids properly and receive an appropriate strength for your skin type.

Use Tretinoin tailored for you

With the Dear Brightly experience, dermatologists formulate products with retinoic acid that are tailored for your skin type and its needs. Thanks to decades of scientific research and millions of real-life results proving its efficacy as a tried-and-true skin restorative, we’re dedicated to making it an essential part of your skincare routine. Luckily for you and pores everywhere, we’ve already uncomplicated the process to help get your hands on the good stuff. And now, we’re here to simplify the science behind that healthy glow.


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