Tretinoin vs Retinol

Tretinoin vs Retinol: Understanding the Key Differences

Tretinoin and Retinol are two popular skincare ingredients that are known for their anti-aging and skin-renewing benefits. They both belong to the same class of compounds called retinoids, which are derived from Vitamin A. Despite being similar in their origin and purpose, Tretinoin and Retinol have some key differences that are important to understand when it comes to choosing the right product for your skincare needs.


Tretinoin is a specific medicine that comes under the category of skin treatment drugs. This medicine usually comes under the category of retinoids or trans-retinoic acids. The basic or primary use of this medicine is in treating skin-related problems, especially acne, pimples, wrinkles, dark skin, patchy skin, rough skin, dark spots, and skin breakouts. One of the major benefits of using this medicine is it will keep your skin pores clean and clear as well. You have to use this medicinal product consistently in order to get rid of your entire skin issues.

Primary Uses of Tretinoin

Tretinoin cream has several benefits, and we have tried to list some of its major uses below. 

  • The Tretinoin cream is used to treat and cure skin-related issues like acne, pimples, breakouts, rough/dry skin, patchy skin, dark spots, fine lines, uneven skin tone, and skin texture problems.
  • This medicinal product specifically works by removing dead skin cells from your face and clearing the overall texture of your skin.
  • Tretinoin cream is used to lighten your skin tone by replacing old skin with new and healthier-looking skin. 
  • This product should be used with a good-quality sunscreen lotion in order to intensify its overall effect on the skin.

Tretinoin: A Complete Remedy For Skin Acne

Tretinoin is a safe and reliable solution for treating your skin problems like acne, and pimples in a better way. It treats the acne and pimples present on your skin by clearing your skin pores and rejuvenating your skin texture. Tretinoin works by repairing the inner layers of your skin and by transforming the outer layer of your skin. In this way, it works by making your skin glowing and flawless. This cream reduces or removes dead skin cells and diminishes the acne or pimples present on your skin.

Usage Steps of Tretinoin Cream 

Tretinoin cream should be used in a series of steps that are described below. This product is available in different forms, like gel cream, jelly cream, and lotion. However, it depends on you in which form you should use it.

  • You should use this product as advised by your doctor or healthcare professional.
  • Apply this product with clean hands. You should wash your hands and fingers gently before applying this cream.
  • Clean your face with a mild and gentle face wash and apply a small amount of this cream on the required area.
  • Ensure that you do not apply this medicine in or around your ears, lips, or nose. 
  • Apply this cream onto completely dry skin as applying it to wet skin may cause irritation and redness on your skin.
  • Wash your hands after applying this medicine in order to avoid touching your other body parts. 

Dosage and Storage 

  • Apply the Tretinoin cream on the affected area once a day 30 minutes before going to the bed.
  • Ensure that you apply this product at the same time daily in order to analyse its effect on your skin.
  • This medicine should not be used by the small children or the children who are under 9 years of age.
  • Store this product at a cool temperature that is less than 30 degree Celsius.

Possible Side-Effects of Tretinoin Cream 

Every skin cream or ointment comes with a set of some side effects. However, some medicines can cause some unwanted side effects that can generally harm your health. I have listed some of the side-effects of using Tretinoin cream below.

  • A feeling of burning sensation at your skin immediately after applying the cream.
  • Dryness or redness at the affected area of your skin.
  • Peeling or slight chapping of skin. 
  • An unusual warming sensation at your skin.
  • Worsening of acne due to some other skin issue. In this case, immediately consult your doctor and get the required treatment.
  • Slight lightening up of the treated areas. 


Retinol is a skin cream or a compound that is found in various skin ointments for the purpose of treating fine lines, wrinkles, and hyperpigmentation. In simple terms, Retinol is a Vitamin A compound that comes in different forms. It is very essential in case of skin care products or ointments. This product is also found in different skin lightening and skin brightening creams as it can improve the skin’s overall texture. 

Basic Mechanism of Action of Retinol

Retinol usually works by improving the skin texture and reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles from your face. It improves and rejuvenates your skin by making your skin tone even and by unclogging the skin pores. However, retinol can easily help you in treating the skin problem of hyperpigmentation and reducing the content of melanin from your skin. Your skin cells convert the retinol into retinoic acid; it takes a specific amount of time to show its impact as compared to other retinoids.

Primary Uses of Retinol 

Retinol is a great compound that is used to treat different skin issues like dark patches on the skin, hyperpigmentation, and pigmentation disorders. However, some of its other primary uses are mentioned and described as follows.

  • The main and most common use of retinol is to treat pigmented skin and to lighten the overall skin tone. 
  • It naturally nourishes your skin cells by treating hyperpigmentation present inside them.
  • Retinol can treat Melasma skin conditions in which there is excess melanin production and the development of brown patches on your skin.
  • This compound can encourage the overall turnover of your skin cells. 
  • Retinol can also fight the visible signs of aging, fine lines, and wrinkles present on your skin. 
  • Another amazing use of retinol is in improving the overall elasticity of your skin.

How Does Retinoic Acid Actually Work On Skin?

Retinol or Retinoic Acid actually works by neutralizing the free radicals that are present in the middle layer of the skin. The skincare products that contain retinol compounds in them enhance your skin texture by exfoliating it. This will unclog your skin pores and improve the overall elasticity of your skin. Retinol can even help in reducing your wrinkles, fine lines, and dark patches. However, Vitamin A is counted as the main ingredient from which retinol is derived. Retinol or products containing Retinoic Acid are well known for treating different skin concerns such as acne, pimples, fine lines, wrinkles, pigmentation, dark spots, and some other signs of aging.

Possible Side Effects of Retinol or Retinoic Acid 

Skin products that contain retinol have some side effects. I have listed and described some of them below.

  • Some retinol creams can cause irritation and dryness to your skin.
  • You can feel skin lightness or skin sensitivity after applying it.
  • Skin blistering and redness to a small extent.
  • You might experience rough and dry patches on your skin after applying the products containing Retinoic Acid.
  • Retinol or its compounds can also cause sun sensitivity. 

Key Differences Between Tretinoin and Retinol

Both Tretinoin and Retinol are designed to enhance the overall look of your skin from inside and outside as well. These two products are similar in their chemical composition, yet they exhibit different results. However, there are certain differences between these two compounds that are listed and explained below.

  • Retinol is available as an over-the-counter retinoid and is not so strong in its effect. However, tretinoin is basically a synthetic Vitamin A compound that helps in the production of skin cells.
  • Retinoic Acid or Retinol is used to improve skin texture by increasing cell production and unclogging skin pores. However, tretinoin is used to treat acne, pimples, and leukemia. 
  • Retinol creams work slowly by enhancing the overall quality of your skin, but tretinoin works fastly by speeding up the development of skin cells. 
  • Retinol is a skin-friendly compound but tretinoin can cause mild to severe irritation to your skin.
  • Tretinoin compounds or products are more effective in treating acne, pimples, or breakouts. However, Retinol products are used for enhancing skin tone, producing more skin cells, and making your skin look rejuvenated.
  • Retinol can reduce or mitigate the signs of photo-aging such as wrinkles, rough skin, uneven skin tone, and enlarged skin pores. However, Tretinoin treats acne-related issues and pimples in a better way.
  • Retinol is a fat-soluble compound and it can live in your body for a longer time. However, tretinoin is more effective than retinol because of its concentrated quantity.
  • Retinol compound is found in several skin care products but tretinoin is found in some specific acne treatment products. 
  • People who want anti-aging effects more than any other treatment should go for retinol compounds. However, those who want rid of their acne or pimples should purchase tretinoin products for their skin. 


Tretinoin and Retinol are both retinoids derived from Vitamin A and are used for anti-aging and skin-renewing benefits. Tretinoin is a prescription-strength retinoid that can cause skin irritation but delivers quick results, while Retinol is a milder over-the-counter retinoid suitable for most skin types. The choice between the two depends on individual skin concerns and preferences. Consulting with a dermatologist is recommended.