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Tretinoin Verses Retinol For Anti-Aging

Updated on September 10, 2019
EvieSparkes profile image

Evie Sparkes is a published novelist, content writer and company director from the UK.

Tretinoin or Retinol?

There are differences between tretinoin and retinol. tretinoin is a naturally occurring derivative of vitamin A.

The most important thing to note is that it's way stronger than retinol which can be purchased in most drug stores. tretinoin is only available with prescription in the UK and the United States. That said, many people manage to purchase it online without prescription.

Retinol is in lots of skin care products and also sold as a standalone anti-aging skin care product. It may work over time to reduce the appearance of fine lines and skin texture but is not as effective as tretinoin.

What Are Your Skin Care Expectations?

What do you want from an anti-aging skin care cream and are you being realistic in that desire?

Retinol won't do anything radical to improve your skin, even over time. However, if you are starting in your thirties it might well hold off the ageing process a while for you. What a retinol won't do, is change what is already there.

Tretinoin on The Other Hand...

Tretinoin actually does what most people tell you. It reduces fine lines and improves skin texture to the point of making it behave as if it were more youthful. Your cells will turn over faster and your skin will produce fresh collagen as if you were in your thirties.

I have been using tretinoin for over two years and I have seen some significant changes to my skin texture which in turn has firmed it up and made my wrinkles and lines less defined.

It isn't a miracle or anything so dramatic. It takes time to see results and you may well feel like giving up during the first few months as your skin will become super dry and it will peel. You may not be able to cope with the side effects.

More Side Effects of Tretinoin Use

  • Peeling Skin
  • Dry Skin
  • Irritated Skin
  • Soreness
  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Large acne type spots

I put up with all of the above. The dryness lasted around six months and I was contemplating giving it up in favour of glycolic acid. I decided to persevere however, as I hate to give up on anything!

My 47 Year Old Skin

Retinol as an Alternative

You might definitely see retinol as an alternative to tretinoin and it will be useful in the fight against ageing, but it will NOT do the same things for your skin that tretinoin does. It simply is not strong enough.

My very good friend and beautician cannot tolerate retinol let alone tretinoin. So a word of warning; if you are struggling to get on with retinol then under NO circumstances should you move on to tretinoin. Your skin will be furious and it will show you just how annoyed it is. It won't be pretty.

Start With Retinol

I'd advise you to start by using a retinol serum or cream. Do this for six months and if you don't experience any real issues then consider moving on to tretinoin. You might also hear it described as Retin-A.

You shouldn't really expect to see your skin become particularly dry on retinol although you may well get some slight irritation and pimples. However, it's a very good test to see if you might tolerate tretinoin.

Tretinoin for Acne

Yes it is widely used to combat acne and it's scarring. It's odd as it can cause spots when you start using it. However there is lots of evidence to show that it works wonders on both the spots and to reduce the scarred appearance that it often left when the spots have gone.

Tretinoin Warnings

Apart from the things I have already mentioned it's important to note that you should never use tretinoin when you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

You might also consult your doctor is you have any sort of auto-immune condition.

Dosage

No more than a pea sized amount of the cream or the gel. Spread evenly over the skin and let it sink in before applying a rich moisturiser. I always apply an oil before applying the tretinoin.

You don't need to use an oil in conjunction with a retinol.

Tretinoin Cream Strengths

It comes in a 0.025%, 0.05% and 1%.

It's always advisable to start with the lowest strength and work up.

An Alternative to Retinoids

If you want to see the same anti-ageing results with much less dryness, then you might think about using a glycolic acid cream instead.

All of these products are strong and should always be used with caution.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

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