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Retinol vs Retinoid: What's the Difference?

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At A Glance


Not all Vitamin A is created equally. Learn the difference between retinol and retinoid and how you can apply it to both your skin and your routine.


Retinol is one of our favorite ingredients for clearing, smoothing, and renewing skin of all ages.


Great debate: retinol vs retinoid

Learn what makes retinol different from retinoids and why it matters for your skin.

What’s the difference between retinol and retinoid? Is one better than the other? Why does it even matter? Read on to answer all your burning questions about the differences between these ingredients and why it matters for your skin.



retinol vs retinoid

So, what’s the difference between retinol and retinoid? Plot twist: retinol is actually a type of retinoid. A retinoid is a Vitamin A derivative that has many subtypes, including retinol. Retinoids are stronger and more potent, usually requiring a prescription to attain them. Retinol is a less potent, gentler ingredient that can be found over-the-counter in common skin care products like serums.



what makes retinoids more potent than retinol?

The simple answer lies in the difference between how retinoids and retinol are processed on the skin. In order for skin to effectively use retinoids or retinol, they must be broken down into retinoic acid. The faster this process happens, the more effective it is on the skin. Retinoids generally take less time to be broken down into retinoic acid, making them more effective in treating skin concerns quickly. Retinol usually takes longer to be broken down, so it has a less potent effect on the skin.



which is better for my skin?

Just because retinol is less potent than retinoids doesn’t mean it’s inferior. Retinol is still very good at treating common skin concerns like acne and aging, plus it has a lower chance of irritating skin than retinoids. Retinol is recommended for common and moderate skin issues like routine breakouts, fine lines and wrinkles, and dark spots. Retinoids can only be attained with a doctor’s prescription and should only be used when skin concerns become severe or chronic. Retinoids can be too harsh on skin that isn’t  medically damaged or doesn’t need as much reparative care. If you think you’re a good fit for retinoids, talk to your doctor and work together to determine if it’s right for you.



add retinol to your routine

For aging skin, we recommend using our Dynamic Skin Retinol Serum. It’s formulated with a 3.5% Retinoid Complex that easily and effectively treats the 4 signs of skin aging.


For acne and breakouts, reach for Retinol Clearing Oil, which infuses reparative retinol with skin-supporting ingredients to clear and calm bumpy skin.


Make sure to top off your retinol treatment with a protective moisturizer like Dynamic Skin Recovery SPF 50. It helps seal in treatment while shielding skin from damaging irritants like sun rays and free radicals.



retinol + spf

If you use retinol in the daytime, always remember to apply and reapply sunscreen. Sun exposure can heighten skin sensitivity and potentially irritate skin that’s already susceptible to damage due to retinol use. Never leave home with it!



how to start retinol

If this is your first time using retinol, remember the golden rule: take it slow. Retinol is a powerful ingredient;  you don’t want to accidentally oversaturate it in your skin and cause damage. Start with a pea-sized amount, then gradually build up your usage until your skin gets used to it. Even then, make sure you tune into your skin, in case you need to dial it back.

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