Much like our mind, our skin has no idea what year it is. Half the time, it breaks out like a high schooler and the other half, it seems to age overnight. But there are two ingredients that combat both problems in one fell swoop. We give you retinol and retinoids. And while they’re both vitamin A derivatives that combat similar skin-care qualms, they work slightly differently. Dr. Dhaval Bhanusali, a medical and cosmetic dermatologist in New York City, taught us everything we know.
Retinol is found in over-the-counter products (i.e., any creams, serums or oils you can buy without a prescription) and contains a lower concentration of the active ingredient. This means that it also works gradually (think around 12 weeks) to clear skin of blemishes and fine lines, because it takes more steps to be converted into molecules your skin can absorb.
Retinoids require a prescription (aside from Differin, the first and only over-the-counter retinoid) and have a much higher dose of the active ingredient, so it readily absorbs into the skin without having to be converted. Meaning you’ll see results much quicker than you will while using retinol (like, six weeks sooner). This also means that retinoids are slightly more irritating than over-the-counter retinol and should be slowly ramped up to limit irritation.