Retinol vs. Tretinoin

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.

Side Effects

  1. Irritation. Retinoid creams can irritate the application site, especially after you first start using them or at higher concentrations. Use caution when applying retinoid cream around your eyes and mouth.
  2. Hyperpigmentation. This is a term for patches of dark skin marks. People with dark skin are especially likely to have this reaction to retinoids, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.
  3. Photosensitivity. Avoid exposure to the sun when using retinoid creams, even if you’re only applying them at night. According to a 2021 reviewTrusted Source, retinoids increase your risk of sunburn.
  4. Pregnancy risks. Speak with a doctor about using retinoid creams if you’re pregnant or might become pregnant.

While tretinoin can have more significant benefits than retinol, it also tends to cause more pronounced side effects.

  1. Tretinoin should not be used long-term but rather for general medical repair of the skin. Retinol can be used long-term.

Related Post


Dermaplaning is a safe and highly effective physical exfoliation procedure. It is performed by a board-certified dermatologist or a licensed...

See more $

Diamond-tip Microdermabrasion

Utilizing a sterile diamond coated handpiece, the top layer of skin is gently removed, leaving newer, healthier skin at the surface.

See more $


Hyperpigmentation is a common skin condition in which patches of skin become darker in color than the surrounding skin...

See more $

Send Us A Message

All services are by appointment only. ZO professional products are available for purchase at the spa or on the online store.