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If you like to keep an eye on trending skin care ingredients, there may be times when you need to pause and dig a bit deeper. It's understandable—skin care is its own world, and that world is always growing. Two ingredients that might've come up in your daily scroll are Retinol vs. Tretinoin. So, is Tretinoin better than Retinol? Which makes more sense for you? Where you have questions, we have answers.

Dive in to decode these ingredients so you can make the best choice for your skin.


Understanding Retinol vs. Tretinoin

Think of these two skin care ingredients as members of the same Vitamin A Retinoid family, each with unique powers.


How Does Retinol Work?

Available in many over-the-counter products, Retinol is like a gentle nudge for your skin cells, coaxing them to do better. Retinol encourages faster skin cell turnover, improving skin tone and texture and reducing visible signs of aging and acne. It's a fantastic option if you're dipping your toe into the world of Retinoids, aiming for smoother, brighter skin while minimizing dryness and sensitivity.


Is Tretinoin Better than Retinol?

Neither is inherently better than the other. It depends on what you're hoping to address and your unique skin care needs. Dermatologists and Estheticians often recommend Tretinoin for more pronounced skin concerns, like severe acne and deep wrinkles. Tretinoin works similarly to Retinol—just faster and more intensely. It can unclog pores and stimulate new skin cells to grow, significantly improving skin texture and tone. But with great power comes the need for more careful handling.


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Key Considerations When Choosing Your Retinoid



Tretinoin is more potent than Retinol and gets you results fast. Retinol, on the other hand, takes a steadier, gentler route.


Uses and Benefits

Both are great for a skin glow-up, but Tretinoin takes the lead in treating more stubborn or severe skin concerns. Retinol is your go-to for overall skin rejuvenation with fewer side effects, like skin irritation and sensitivity, making it a popular choice for beginners.



While you can quickly grab Retinol products off the shelf or online, Tretinoin requires a chat with your Derm and a prescription. So, this is a crucial consideration when weighing Retinol vs. Tretinoin.


Best Practices

Start slow with Retinol by applying it just a couple of times a week. Then, gradually up your game to daily application over the course of several weeks. With Tretinoin, follow your Derm's guidance to a T.


Time to See Results

Patience is key when using Retinol. Depending on your skin's condition, it might take several weeks to months to see improvement in fine lines, acne, and discoloration. Tretinoin, on the other hand, often shows results in a few weeks owing to its higher potency.


Making the Right Choice for Your Skin

Wondering which to choose? If you're new to the Retinoid world or if you have sensitive skin, start your journey with Retinol. It's a great way to introduce your skin to Vitamin A benefits. If you're up against more challenging skin concerns, make an appointment with your Derm to talk about introducing Tretinoin into your skin care routine. Remember: the right ingredient is the one that suits your skin best, and a skin care professional can help you determine what that is.


PCA SKIN Star Players

PCA SKIN harnesses the gentle power of Retinol in their products, striking that perfect balance between efficacy and comfort with a skin care lineup that delivers real results for a range of skin care concerns. For example, PCA SKIN Intensive Clarity Treatment® offers 0.5 percent pure Retinol to target acne effectively. PCA SKIN Intensive Brightening Treatment® and Intensive Age Refining Treatment® tackle discoloration and fine lines respectively, embodying dedication to science-backed skin care that meets you where you're at.


Customizing Your Skin Care Journey

Deciding between Retinol vs. Tretinoin might seem tricky initially, but it really comes down to where you're headed, how quickly you want to get there, and what your skin can tolerate along the way. Start your personalized skin care experience by connecting with a skin care professional and see just how handsomely your skin thanks you for it.


Daisy Brumby
Daisy Brumby is a journalist turned beauty writer who specializes in all things skincare. She has written for West Dermatology, the Skin and Cancer Institute, and The Aesthetic Guide. What’s her skin care secret? She swears by the power of sunscreen to protect skin and Retinol to rejuvenate it.