We frequently hear the names Retin-A, Retinol and Retinova used but it can be confusing to understand how all these skin products are different.
Retinoids are the name for this class of skin treatments because they are all chemically related to vitamin A. However, each has different formulations and strengths.
Retin-A is the brand name for tretinoin. Tretinoin was originally approved as a prescription-strength treatment for acne by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) over 30 years ago.
Tretinoin contains the active form of vitamin A, which is called retinoic acid. Dermatologists discovered that Retin-A not only helped with acne but it helped with fine lines, wrinkles and other signs of photoaging during the 1990s.
Retinova was developed by taking the active ingredient in Retin-A (tretinoin) and combining it with more moisturizers since it was intended to be used on an older population with drier skin.
Retinova has the same active ingredient as Retin-A but is only formulated into a cream so is less penetrating, while Retin-A comes as a gel or cream.
Retinol is the non-prescription formulation of vitamin A, but is not in the acid form of retinoic acid like in Retin-A or Retinova. Retinol is thought to be gentler to use.
Retinol is combined with enzymes to make it absorb better into the skin but less than 10 percent actually coverts into the active form of Retin- A as tretinoin, or may not convert at all.
“Many skin care products tout their products containing Retinol as working as if they contained tretinoin. This is definitely a case of buyer beware,” stated Dr. Neil Schultz from DermTV.
There are a few other formulations of tretinoin, some stronger and some weaker, but they all fall into the category of retinoids.
The cost for prescription retinoids like Retin-A is about $75 a tube. Generic tretinoin costs about $40. Retinol products cost under $25.
Retinoids can cause redness, flaking and itching of the skin, especially when you first start to use them.