What is the difference between Retin A, Retinol and Retinoids?

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Vitamin A, Retin A, Retinol. Various names, forms, results and a vast topic in the world of Skin. Retinoids can yield fantastic results on skin when used correctly and do just the opposite when used incorrectly. Below we explore the different options of Vitamin A, how they effect the skin and how to choose the best one for you.

All Vitamin A Products are Retinoids

Different forms of the fat soluble Vitamin A. Retinoids are known and widely used for their 2 main and powerful functions. Desquamation, the sloughing off of dead skin cells, preventing them from binding together and clogging pores while smoothing skin tone, texture and boosting collagen production. Retinoids work by prompting surface skin cells to turn over and die rapidly, making way for new cell growth underneath and preventing the breakdown of collagen. Skin contains retinoic acid receptors, RARs, and retinoids bind to them, which then activate skins cellular responses. Retinoids improve the cellular function of aged, damaged skin at a molecular level, effecting the DNA in your cells. Retinoids communicate with your cells through these RARs and aid your cells in functioning at their highest level possible. The goal of every form of retinoid is to convert to retinoic acid so the above process can occur.

Natural Retinoids vs. Synthetic Synthetic

Retinoids are available in 2 formsNatural retinoids are naturally derived and work by activating all of your skin’s retinoic acid receptors, RARs, together as a whole. Once scientists figured out how retinoic acid worked, they created synthetic retinoids to mimic the effects of natural retinoids. These synthetic retinoids only target certain RARs, depending on desired results, instead of activating all RARs like natural retinoids do.

Natural Retinoids

In over the counter products, such as retinol and retinaldehyde, the conversion process to retinoic acid requires more enzymatic conversion steps, yielding a gradual and more time released form. This takes more time to see results but lessens irritation to the skin, especially sensitive skin types seeking results without the added irritation.


Retinols are a gentle and effective form of Vitamin A that is kinder to skin types than prescription retinoids. A gradual conversion/enzymatic process of retinol to retinoic acid makes this form of Vitamin A less irritating and overwhelming to the skin, which preventing the irritations that can occur with prescriptions.

Recommended . Marie Veronique Gentle Retinol Night Serum


Powerful enough to help combat breakouts without inflaming skin. Retinaldehyde is superior in repairing connective tissue from environmental damage and it is the immediate and closest precursor to retinoic acid.

Synthetic Retinoids

Retn A Prescriptions, Adapalen, Tazaroten, Isotretinoin, Tazorac

All retinoids provide best results over time and deliver cumulative effects. The healthier the skin and tissue is when beginning a Vitamin A regimen, natural or synthetic, the more responsive and less sensitive skin will be during the adaptive process and the easier the conversion to retinoic acid.

Overuse is the number 1 cause of skin irritations while using retinoids. Over exfoliation of skin disrupts your acid mantle, our protective skin barrier, which causes a host of skin irritations in itself including redness, flakiness, dryness, acne and an over production of oil as the skin works to try and protect itself from external elements. Begin retinoid use every other night, or as directed by physician, increasing gradually as skin adapts.

Oil cleansing is a beneficial choice for both AM and PM cleansing rituals. I’ve added a focus on lymphatic movement and awakening the skin tissue in general. 2 things: The body detoxes through the skin while we sleep but since we are obviously stationary while we sleep, it is vital to make movement of the tissue and complexion in the morning a priority to help along the body in the detoxification process and disperse stagnation/puffiness/etc.


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