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Retinol and Retinoid Are Not The Same: Which One Is Suitable for Your Skin Type?

Retinol and retinoids have been used interchangeably in skincare conversations and although they are similar, they are quite different. Yes, it can be confusing, which is why many of us are guilty of using both products, thinking that they are the same thing.

Similarities and Differences

Retinoid is a catchall term for products with vitamin A derivatives, dermatologist Shari Marchbein explained. Another expert, Edidiong Kaminska, touts this as the ‘gold star’ among all the skincare items made for anti-aging.

As such, retinol, along with retinoic acid, retinyl propionate, and retinol palmitate, falls under retinoid. Both retinoid and retinol have the same goal, which is to address pigmentation and signs of aging among many others.

However, that doesn’t mean the two have no differences. While they do sound the same, they aren’t created equal – and we’re talking about the strength of these products.

Thoughtsofjoyce/Shutterstock Retinol and retinoid are said to be effective in reducing fine lines

Retinoid usually pertains to prescription-strength products like tazarotene and tretinoin, which have the most active form of vitamin A called retinoic acid. This ingredient is the most potent among its kind, which means it is quite strong – hence, the need for a prescription.

On one hand, retinol is the gentler one and thus, wouldn’t need a prescription to buy. This means that it is less potent than retinoid.

Basically, the weaker retinoids are easier to tolerate – in other words, the less potent the solution, the gentler it is on the skin.

Based on Skin Type

If it remains unclear which one will suit you, fret not. First thing that you need to remember when choosing a product is your skin type.

New Africa/Shutterstock For acne-prone skin, a retinoid may suit you

For sensitive or dry skin, you wouldn’t want a strong product since it can easily irritate the skin. Start with an over-the-counter retinol, dermatologist Charlotte Birnbaum advised. It may not be that potent but at least you are less likely to experience inflammation and redness.

However, if you have acne-prone or oily skin, you may try the prescription-strength retinoid. Ask about it from your derma.

Seeing Results

Bear in mind that when choosing retinol, it will take some time before you see results primarily because it’s not as potent as a retinoid. Dr. Shari explained that it will be around 12 weeks to see results because retinol needs to go through conversions first to become retinoic acid.

If you’re trying retinoids, you should observe changes in around four to six weeks. Again, it gives faster results because it is stronger than retinol because of its retinoic acid content.

PH888/Shutterstock Never use a retinol or retinoids if you’re pregnant

Just a reminder: if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, do not use retinol or retinoid at all. Acne during the journey to motherhood may not make you feel comfortable but there are other products that are safer to use.

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