Is Tretinoin A Retinoid? Know the Truth


Nowadays, many skincare and anti-aging products are available in the market which can be intriguing and confusing. Among these Tretinoin is very popular as an effective topical or oral retinoid to treat different skin treatments. Retinol is also the best retinoid to promote good skin health. You may find Tretinoin, Retinol, and Retinoid sounding similar but all are entirely different medicines. With this, you might wonder, “Is tretinoin a retinoid?” Tretinoin comes under the retinoid class, a chemical compound derived from vitamin A. Both help treat specific skin issues like wrinkles, acne, and rough texture. Let’s explore the article directly to clarify how Tretinoin and Retinoids are correlated without further delays.

What Is Retinoid?

First, have a basic understanding of what retinoids are and what retinoids do! In general, retinoids are the derivatives of vitamin A. They can increase the turnover of the skin cells, boost the growth of new, healthy skin cells, and rapidly exfoliate the skin. Also, such medication helps unclog the skin pores, clears acne, and reduces wrinkles and fine lines. Dermatologists prescribe such topical cream to add to your anti-aging skincare routine. Therefore, it is a broad term that includes many prescription medicines, such as Tretinoin and retinol. Other medications are adapalene, tazarotene, and retinyl palmitate.

What Is Tretinoin?

picture depicting a woman applying tretinoin cream on the back of her palm

Tretinoin is a derivative of Vitamin A. Dermatologists prescribe it, and it is available under the brand name Retin-A. The medication comes in cream, gel, or tablets, recommended for the treatment of acne and different skin conditions. It keeps the skin pores clear, fades dark spots, reduces fine lines and wrinkles, and smoothes up uneven skin tone and bumpy texture. Being anti-aging, it lightens the dark skin areas and replaces the damaged old skin with the new ones. You might wonder what Retin A is and what Retin A is used for, as we have mentioned the term in the article. It is a brand name for Tretinoin (active ingredient) and is a chemical form of vitamin A. This prescribed medication is typically used for comedonal breakouts and inflammatory acne treatments. Its active ingredient, Tretinoin, treats hyperpigmentation, wrinkles, fine lines, and dark spots.

Also Read: How Retin-A Can Transform Your Skin: Before and After Results

Is Tretinoin A Retinoid?

As mentioned above, both Tretinoin and Retinoids are derived from vitamin A. So, yes, Tretinoin comes under the class of retinoids. It is also known as all-trans retinoic acid (ATRA) and is sold under multiple brand names like Retin-A, not to be confused with retinol. It is a prescription-strength topical cream or oral tablet that can help treat acne, breakouts, fine wrinkles, and sun-damaged skin. Tretinoin shows its effects by irritating the skin. It boosts up the skin cells’ life cycle, which causes fast division and death of the damaged cells, helping the new and healthy cells develop in their place. Many people are confused between Tretinoin and retinol, as both are examples of retinoids. Do you wonder if Tretinoin is retinol? Have a look!

Tretinoin vs Retinol: A Key Difference

Though Tretinoin and retinol are Vitamin A derivatives, also known as retinoids, they differ. So what exactly is the difference between retinol and Tretinoin? The most crucial dissimilarity between both medicated products is their strengths and how they are prescribed. The study says Tretinoin is more potent than retinol and is a widely researched retinoid for photoaging treatment. The strengths of Tretinoin are 0.025%, 0.05%, and 0.1%, making it used only under the guidance of medical specialists as patients have to build a strong tolerance for such products. It is sold only with a medical prescription as it irritates the skin. As per the tretinoin strength chart, 0.025% to 0.05% is often recommended for anti-aging purposes as it is effective while lowering the chances of irritation.

On the other hand, retinol is less potent and stable and comes in different strengths like 0.3%, 0.5%, and 1%. It is not as harsh as Tretinoin, and people with sensitive skin can easily and better take it up. This makes it slightly irritating, so it is sold as an over-the-counter medication.

What Is Tretinoin Used For?

According to a study, Tretinoin is a properly prescribed medicine used topically or systemically. Are you wondering what tretinoin cream is used for? Well, medication like tretinoin cream 0.025 is effective in treatments to prevent severe, moderate, as well as mild acne. This topical cream works partially by maintaining clear skin pores. Also, it helps cure various other skin conditions. These include:

  • fine wrinkles

  • melasma

  • liver spots

  • fine lines

  • dark spots

  • sunspots

  • rough skin

  • solar comedones

Also Read: The 10 Best Exfoliating Scrubs Of 2024

What Are The Benefits Of Tretinoin?

Fighting against acne, wrinkles, fine lines, wrinkles, and dark spots, medication like Tretinoin is undoubtedly a vast skincare powerhouse. Learn about these tretinoin benefits in detail:

Fights Off Acne

When skin pores get clogged due to the oil, dirt, and damaged skin cells, they become significant. Large pores cause more accumulation of dirt in the skin, leading to moderate to mild acne. Here, Tretinoin acts as a great acne-fighter. By speeding up the turnover of the skin cells, it significantly improves the ability of the skin to exfoliate. With proper exfoliation, the medication reduces dead skin cells and clears out all the blocked pores, returning them to their standard size. As a result, this prevents the clogging of pores and the growth of acne.

Reduces Fine Lines And Wrinkles

Fine wrinkles and lines are natural signs of aging. But, sometimes, external factors such as sun exposure can increase the chances of their appearance. Collagen is a potent protein that is a building block of skin structure. According to a study, after your 20s, collagen production drops by nearly 1% each year. The effects of collagen decline in the body cause visible signs of fine lines and wrinkles; here, Tretinoin plays a role. The result of applying Tretinoin before and after aging is tremendous, as it acts proficiently and counteracts premature fine lines and wrinkles by accelerating collagen production. Research shows that using Tretinoin 0.05% over 12 months improves the signs of photoaging.

Improves Skin Texture

Untreated dead skin cells can cause flaky patches and dryness in the skin. Tretinoin is known for its potential exfoliating powers which help prevent the layer of dead skin cells from the skin surface. The result is the smooth texture of the skin. Moreover, Tretinoin also increases the glycosaminoglycan (GAG) known for its widespread roles within the body. Hyaluronic acid is an uncommon GAG responsible for hydrating and making the skin more elastic and firm. This consequently makes skin feel and look smooth.

Treats Hyperpigmentation

Another cause of skin issues like aging is hyperpigmentation. The increase in melanin production in the body leads to hyperpigmentation, which makes the skin look uneven and darker. The reasons can be excessive sun exposure, skin injuries, hormonal changes, aging, melasma, and certain skin-related diseases. Tretinoin can significantly help even pigmentation by increasing the skin cell turnover. It can disperse the excess amount of melanin granules, reducing the appearance of darkness in the affected skin areas.

Also Read: 12 Best Skin Lightening Creams for Melasma

Side Effects Of Tretinoin

Despite the benefits, topical application of Tretinoin can have some side effects that include:

  • redness, dryness, or peeling of the skin

  • continuous or worsening irritation

  • itching or mild burning near the application area

  • skin feels warm on touching

  • skin lightening at the application area

On the other hand, consuming Tretinoin orally may also cause some side effects that are as follows:

  • headache

  • vomiting

  • fever

  • fatigue

  • anxiety

  • diarrhea

  • dizziness

  • chest discomfort

  • bone pain

  • nausea

  • weight fluctuations

  • symptoms of depression

  • an irregular heartbeat

Tretinoin can also leave the outer layer of the skin thin, increasing the chances of more sun exposure and damage. Therefore, dermatologists advise patients using Tretinoin or other types of retinoids to apply SPF sunscreen whenever planning to go outside. Oral Tretinoin can even cause congenital disabilities in newborns. That’s why health professionals do not recommend Tretinoin during pregnancy, the breastfeeding phase, or when planning to conceive.

Summing Up

In this comprehensive guide, we answer the burning question: Is tretinoin a retinoid?We learn Tretinoin is a chemically formulated retinoid form derived from vitamin A. Its common uses are acne prevention, reducing wrinkles, and improving skin texture and appearance. The medication only requires a doctor’s prescription and is available as topical creams and oral tablets. Though some scientific research has shown that Tretinoin is an effective solution to treat acne and sun-damaged skin, it can also have some side effects, including burning, skin redness, irritation, dizziness, and fatigue. Therefore, if you experience these symptoms after using this medication topically or orally, consult the dermatologists as soon as possible. Adapalene gel and retinol serum are the best OTC retinol that may be more suitable for people with sensitive skin or who show adverse drug reactions to Tretinoin.



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