Choosing the right retinoid treatment for you will depend on your skin type, risk factors, and the desired outcome. A dermatologist can help you make an informed decision that works for your unique set of circumstances.

Who should try retinol?

For most people, retinol is going to be the best first choice for retinoid treatments.

Because retinol has a lower concentration, the irritation it causes will likely be less severe. If you’re just starting a new regimen, you can apply retinol cream every other day at first, so your skin has more time to adjust to the treatment.

If you’re not seeing the desired effects after 2 to 3 months, you can always try switching to a higher percentage retinol cream. These are OTC medications, so you can switch to a lower or higher concentration as you see fit.

Be on the lookout for adverse reactions whenever you change your retinol treatment.

Who should try tretinoin?

If you’ve tried retinol and haven’t gotten the results you’re after, you might think about switching to tretinoin. The higher concentration of tretinoin tends to make its side effects more pronounced than retinol, so you may want to take that into consideration before making a decision.

Tretinoin is available by prescription only, so you will need to speak with a doctor before you can purchase it. Be sure to tell them what, if any, retinol treatments you may have already tried. Prescription tretinoin can be adjusted to your individual needs.

Tretinoin vs Retinol? Conclusion

Retinol and tretinoin are both retinoids, which means they are compounds that come from vitamin A. They’re both commonly used in topical creams to treat a number of skin conditions.

Though they’re similar, tretinoin is more concentrated than retinol. For this reason, tretinoin acts faster and has more dramatic results — but its side effects can be more severe, too.

Retinol is available OTC, but tretinoin requires a prescription. If you’re thinking about using one of these treatments, it can be helpful to discuss it with a doctor first, especially a dermatologist.

Whichever treatment you choose, be sure to follow the recommended usage guidelines and be aware of the potential side effects. If you have a reaction that you’re not sure about, it’s always best to consult with a healthcare professional.