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A closeup of a person applying a dab of Retinol to their finger from a pump bottle.

So you want to know more about the types of Retinoids—those mighty skin care ingredients you've probably heard everyone from Dermatologists to social media beauty gurus rave about. And for good reason. These Vitamin A derivatives do it all: smooth wrinkles, even out pigmentation, and fight acne, too.

Think of Retinoids as your skin's personal trainers. Their main gig is to keep your skin in top-notch shape by kicking your skin cells into high gear, making them turn over faster, resulting in fresher, smoother skin. They can also pump up collagen production (hello, firmness) and go to town on dark spots, fine lines, and acne.

PCA SKIN has pioneered and perfected science-backed skin care, so you've come to the right place to learn about the different types of Retinoids and what they can do for your skin.


Your Options: Types of Retinoids

"Retinoids" is an umbrella term for a class of molecules, or compounds, derived from Vitamin A that bind to Retinoic Acid receptors in your skin. Several forms of topical Retinoids are available within this larger category. The Retinoid roster includes:

  • Tretinoin
  • Adapalene
  • Retinol
  • Tazarotene
  • Trifarotene
  • Alitretinoin
  • Bexarotene


The three most common forms of Retinoids used in skin care are Tretinoin, Adapalene, and Retinol. So, what's the best type of Retinoid for you? Read on for a deeper dive into each.



Dermatologists have recommended Tretinoin for quite some time. While Retinoids may seem like the hottest new trend, the Food and Drug Administration approved Tretinoin in 1971 as a topical treatment for acne.

Tretinoin is a prescription-only Retinoid. It targets acne and signs of aging by promoting rapid skin cell turnover and collagen production, improving skin texture, and reducing wrinkles and blemishes. Its potent formula makes it a preferred choice for more severe skin concerns, but it can cause increased skin sensitivity and irritation.



Adapalene is a bit more forgiving. It's used to treat acne and is considered more stable and less irritating than Tretinoin, making it a good option if you have sensitive skin or are new to Retinoids. Most formulations require a prescription, although a milder 0.1 percent gel is available over the counter.



For the gentlest formula, you might sidestep to Retinol. Retinol is perfect for Retinoid newbies. It may take a bit longer to show results, but it's kinder to your skin in the introduction phase and still gets the job done beautifully.


Choosing the Right Retinoid for You

Choosing the best type of Retinoid for you really comes down to your skin care professional's recommendation and your skin type and goals.

Generally speaking, Retinol is mild, suitable for sensitive skin, and effective on all skin types. Many people think of Retinol as the shining star of Retinoids, as it can resolve acne, discoloration, and visible signs of aging with the lowest risk of sensitivity or irritation.



Depending on what your skin's craving, PCA SKIN has a Retinol product with your name on it. Here's a look at this all-star lineup of Retinol products and what they can do for you:


Your skin goals can steer you toward the best product for you.


Navigating Your Retinol Routine

Ease Retinol into your routine gradually, like getting into a hot bath one toe at a time. Start small with a pea-sized amount at bedtime twice a week. After a couple of weeks, try every other day before finally building up to daily use. Allow your skin to adjust—patience is key to getting that healthy glow.

While Retinoids are fantastic for your skin, they do have a catch: they make your skin more sun-sensitive. So, slather on a broad-spectrum sunscreen before you step out the door, and remember to reapply regularly. Additionally, skip Retinol in your morning routine. Instead, let it work its magic while you sleep.


Moving toward Healthier Skin One Step at a Time

The journey to radiant skin is a marathon, not a sprint, so take your time with Retinol. And remember: PCA SKIN is here to support you every step of the way. Whether you're just starting or looking to fine-tune your routine, they've got the Retinol lowdown to empower your choices.

After all, PCA SKIN helps people feel their best, and that includes you!


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.