There’s this big debate on whether tretinoin is better than retinol and vice versa. Both come from the family of retinoids, but what’s the difference? I’ve personally always been a fan of tretinoin, as I began my journey into the world of retinoids at the tender age of 41. Today, most people start using retinoids as early as their twenties. I, on the other hand come from a different generation where retinoids were used from age 30 upwards (depending on your skin type).
WHAT IS TRETINOIN?
Tretinoin belongs to the family of retinoids, and is a synthetic form of vitamin A commonly used to treat various skin conditions. It is often sold under the brand name Retin-A. It is available in different strengths (0,025%-0,1%) and can found in lotion, cream or gel form.
In most countries, tretinoin is prescribed under doctor’s supervision. But it can also be procured without prescription in a number of places. Either way, I advise that you use this product with caution, follow the instructions and seek counsel from a dermatologist.
Around 2016 I started hearing a lot about tretinoin, its anti-aging benefits, and how it was good for clogged pores. At the time I was experiencing an increase of clogged pores due to slow cell turnover. So I thought it would be a good idea to add it to my skincare routine. I did my research, and was able to secure my first tube of tretinoin gel without a prescription. I started with a low dose of 0,025% (the least potent) to reduce the risk of irritation and minimise peeling. It worked like a charm! My clogged pores had disappeared and the texture of my skin had drastically improved. Who knew that a little tube of tretinoin could deliver such results?
Tretinoin gel has always been my favourite. Although it's getting harder and harder to find these days. Most people prefer the cream. But I personally prefer the gel, as it absorbs quickly and glides easily over serums.
HOW DOES TRETINOIN WORK?
Tretinoin is prescribed for the treatment of various skin conditions. It is primarily known for its effectiveness in treating acne. But is also used in the treatment of hyperpigmention, melasma and for anti-aging concerns.
How do I use it?
As I mentioned before, it’s best to see a dermatologist before jumping into the world of tretinoin. Always start off with the lowest strength available, then slowly and gradually introduce tretinoin into your skincare routine. Start with once a week applications, then onto twice a week and so forth. It’s important to monitor your progress during the beginning stages. Tretinoin is known to cause irritation, redness and peeling. So go slowly. If you experience any of these side effects, stop using it for a couple of nights. Apply soothing and gentle skincare products to help calm irritation and lower the risk of PIH (post inflammatory hyperpigmentation).
Tretinoin should be applied at night after your serum and before your night cream. If you’re using other over the counter retinoids, it’s advisable to stop to reduce the likelihood of irritation. Applying retinoid on top of retinoid makes no sense, and is completely redundant. Also try to steer away from using other actives with tretinoin, as it can irritate the skin and cause PIH (post inflammatory hyperpigmentation). Most importantly, remember to wear sunscreen during daytime hours, as tretinoin increases sun sensitivity.
WHAT IS RETINOL?
Retinol is a form of vitamin A, and is classed as a retinoid. It is less potent than tretinoin and is sold over the counter without a prescription. Retinol is most commonly found in serums and creams. It is used to treat the same skin concerns as tretinoin, but is regarded as a much gentler option.
How does Retinol Work?
Retinol benefits the skin in a number of ways, and works much in the same way as tretinoin. It is used to treat acne, diminish hyperpigmentation, improve skin texture, and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
WHAT'S BETTER TRETINOIN OR RETINOL?
When it comes down to it, no product is better than the other. It all boils down to the severity of your skin concerns and personal choice. Many people prefer retinol because it is gentler, causes less irritation and is easy to purchase. Retinol works much slower, and it takes time to see visible results. Whereas with tretinoin, the results are seen in a shorter period of time. Tretinoin can be highly irritating to the skin, which can also deter novices.
Having used both, I personally prefer tretinoin for its efficacy. It targets my skin concerns almost instantaneously, plus the formulation is simple. I've yet to find a retinol serum that gives me the same results.
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