Retinol vs. tretinon as an alternative?

I've used a retinol 1 % facial cream for several years. I'm considering using tretinon as an alternative from my demotologist. I'm curious, what is the difference and is one more effective than the other? Thanks!

Doctor Answers 2


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These products are known as Retinoids, both Retinol and Tretinoin are derivatives of vitamin A.

Retinol/Tretinoin: Expedite cell turn over. The rapid cell turn over reduces the number of layers of cells on the skin bringing new healthy skin to the surface, improving tone, texture,acne, and the appearance of wrinkles.

Tretinoin is only available as a prescription so it is stronger than Retinol which is available over the counter.

Retinol is more tolerable to the skin but is also less potent.

In the past Tretinoin could be very harsh and irritating to the skin, the newer formulations have a better delivery system lessening these side effects. There are also several different strengths of Tretinoin, it is best to start with a low strength and gradually increase as your skin becomes accustomed to it. You can also alternate days and apply a moisturizer on top of the Tretinoin so that it is more tolerable.

If you want something stronger than your current Retinol, then try Tretinoin. If you find that you do not use it regularly then go back to the Retinol. Compliance is key with product application, if you don’t use it it won’t benefit you.

Consult with a Board Certified Dermatologist to see what would be best for your skin.

Irvine Dermatologic Surgeon
4.6 out of 5 stars 23 reviews

Retinol vs tretinoin.

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Tretinoin comes in different strengths and is dispensed by prescription. Retinol is present in several over the counter skin products. Both are vitamin A derivative and when used topically can reduce the appearance of fine wrinkles, 

Suzanne Kim Doud Galli, MD, PhD, FACS
Washington Facial Plastic Surgeon

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.