Retinols and Retinoids: What’s the Difference?

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Retinols and retinoids are some of the most widely researched agents in skincare. They are used for a variety of conditions. These  including acne, wrinkles, fine lines, discoloration and sagging skin. Here we have a brief “all you need to know.”

What are Retinoids?


Retinols and retinoids are both derived from Vitamin A- one of the body’s key nutrients for boosting cell turnover. They both are added to topical skincare products to promote skin renewal. They brighten skin tone, reduce acne, boost collagen production and address free radical damage that results in visible signs of aging.

Both of these convert to retinoic acid. While retinols undergo many steps during the chemical change, retinoids do so directly. Therefore, retinoids act faster and are more potent. Because of the potency, retinoids are prescriptions only, and retinols can be bought over the counter.


How do Retinols and Retinoids Work?


Retinols and retinoids send signals between skin cells- to increase collagen growth and cell turnover. In patients with acne, new cells replace the cells of existing pimples. The turnover unclogs the pores. As a result, these products prevent new pimples from forming. In addition, the turnover of cells improves skin discoloration and scarring.

Benefits of Retinols and Retinoids


Well known benefits include:

  • Clear acne
  • Reduce scars
  • Minimize wrinkles and fine lines
  • Increase skin thickness and elasticity
  • Lighten age spots
  • Heal sun damaged


When using a retinol, you should notice a difference in three to six months. Retinoids take six to eight weeks.


Potential Side Effects of Retinols and Retinoids

  • Dryness and irritation
  • Redness, swelling or peeling
  • Blistering, burning or stinging
  • Skin discoloration
  • Sensitivity to sunlight

These side effects are worse when using retinoids. Over time, the skin usually gets used to the products. As a result, the side effects improve.  If you are pregnant, contact your doctor before starting either of these.


How to Use Retinols and Retinoids for Best Results


To get the benefits, you should first learn how to use them correctly. Here are some useful tips:


  • Let your skin adapt. Begin by applying once every three days for a couple weeks.  Then increase to every other day, then every day.
  • Don’t apply just a pea sized amount for your entire face.
  • Do not use multiple products that contain retinoids. Also, do not apply products that contain salicylic acid, glycolic acid and benzoyl peroxide at the same time as the retinoid. Not only can they interfere with the effectiveness, but they worsen the dryness and irritation.


At Eternal Dermatology, our #1 priority is to  help you achieve your skincare goals. For a clear complexion, call 301-679-5772 or book an appointment online. We are conveniently located in Fulton MD, and serve Columbia MD, Clarksville, Ellicott City, Laurel, Bowie, Silver Spring and surrounding areas in PG and Howard County, Maryland.




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