Retinol-A - Is It Safe?

Hi i hope you can answer my question about retino a is that the same as retin a? with same substances? and is it safe to use?

Doctor Answers 4

Retinol is the Alcohol form of Retin A

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Retinol is a very popular ingredient in skin care products. Since it is OTC, many companies that have hopped on the anti-aging bandwagon include it in their formulations. Like Retin A, it is a Vitamin A derivative. Basically Retinol, the alcohol,  undergoes conversion to Retinoic acid( tretinoin), the acid form, popularly known as Retin A. In this transformation, there is some loss of potency. Retinol is only 1/4th the strength of Retin A. However, it is quite a bit less irritating, making it an ideal OTC ingredient.

Is it safe: yes. Is it safe during pregnancy: probably. The stress here is in the word PROBABLY. No physician wants to endanger his patient. So, since we do not know absolutely for sure, whether Retin A is safe during pregnancy, prudence would compel us to advise patients not to use it during this critical time of development. There has not been a single study to my knowledge, that has shown Retin A to cause birth defects. However, there is not a totally acceptable, prospective, double-blinded, age matched ( no need for sex matched here!) study, the kind we physicians like to read, that shows Retin A to be safe either. Nor, will there ever be such a study, unless Fascists come to power. Medical studies are just not performed on pregnant women. One study the Boston University School of Medicine ( great school by the way) Collaborative Drug Surveillance Program cites demonstrated a curious finding that the rate of birth defects on babies born to women who used Retin A during the first trimester was actually less, 1.9% vs, 2,6%. This was obviously a retrospective study completed by the Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound. The numbers were adequate ( 215 exposed and 430 age matched unexposed) and the babies were delivered in the same hospitals. Still, retrospective studies don't have the reliability of prospective studies, so we can not conclude that Retin A use during pregnancy is entirely safe.

The FDA tells pregnant women to keep their Vitamin A intake below 5000 I.U. Applying Retin A to the face, may increase the Vitamin A load slightly, perhaps enough to register but not much beyond that. Consuming vegetables like carrots, sweet potatoes, and spinach or eggs  which are loaded with Vitamin A and its derivatives would certainly drive up your Vitamin A level higher than Retin A. Further, our skin is laden with millions of Retinoid receptors, thankfully, for it is their activation that allows Retin A to do its magical tricks in keeping our skin young.

Now, getting back to Retinol. I do not know whether this has been studied at all as far as a pregnancy risk. Its penetration into the skin is quite a bit less than Retin A, so logically it should pose less of a risk rather than a greater risk than Retin A.  However, alluding to the same problem I mentioned earlier, a lack safety studies, it would be best to avoid Retinol during pregnancy too.

Virginia Beach Dermatologist

Retinol-A is not Retin-A

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Retin- A is the effective prescription cream for wrinkles , tretinoin is the generic. In general any derivation of the name Retin A is an otc knock off and probably not as effective but does carry some similar risks of the more effective Retin A.

Steven Hacker, MD
West Palm Beach Dermatologic Surgeon

Retinol and Retin A are both forms of vitamin A

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Retinol can be converted by the body to retinoic acid.  Retin A is one such retinoic acid, all-trans retinoic acid.

The same precautions that apply to Retin A apply to retinol, although retinol is usually the weaker molecule when used on the skin.  Retinols are available over the counter, whereas Retin A is a prescription medication.

Both can make you sun sensitive, so regular use of sunscreen is a must.  Both are decomposed by ultraviolet light, so it is best to use them at nighttime.  Neither should be used during pregnancy.

On the other hand, the benefits of both are similar.  They both have anti-aging properties, such as increased skin cell turnover and improved collagen synthesis, although again Retin A is more powerful of the two.

Emily Altman, MD
Short Hills Dermatologic Surgeon

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Retin A Safety

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Anything that is a derivation of the Retin A name is generally still retin A in some form or another.  Because of this, they all must be treated like Retin A and precautions must be taken.  Retin A causes serious birth defects in a fetus, so anyone attempting to or currently pregnant should not use it at all.  I would check with a physician before starting it since their are a host of other side effects as well.  A good plastic surgeon or dermatologist can examine you, go over the risks, and decide whether it is right for you or not.  I hope this helps.

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.