Tretinoin vs. Retinol: Which One Is Right For You?


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Hannah Frye

“Tretinoin is a tried-and-true retinoid that has been used for decades and is available in many different strengths and formulations,” board-certified dermatologist and founder of MaieMD Rebecca Marcus, M.D., FAAD, tells mbg. Tretinoin is also commonly referred to as the brand name Retin-A.

This retinoid (and other prescription-grade formulas) are stronger than the OTC options, which is why it’s available by prescription only. However, tretinoin is among the most common prescription retinoids out there. “It is widely available and accessible, and its strength can be titrated up according to its efficacy for a specific person and its tolerability,” Marcus explains.

“Tretinoin is a great product to use for acne and anti-aging,” board-certified dermatologist Jeremy Fenton, M.D., of Schweiger Dermatology Group in NYC states. However, some people may need to proceed with caution.

“That will include those with very sensitive skin, rosacea, dry skin, eczema, or an existing difficulty with sun sensitivity,” Fenton explains. “Depending on how severe their condition is, they may need to use a very low strength, reduced frequency, or not use the product at all,” he adds.

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