The many forms of retinol, and which one is right for you

You may hear the word ‘retinol’ being thrown around a lot in the Beauty world, but did you know that it comes in many different forms, and each can work differently depending on your skin type? We’ve outlined the main different forms of retinol and the benefits of each...

First of all, what is retinol?

Retinol is a key skincare ingredient for targeting fine lines and wrinkles. Although it’s mainly known as an anti-ageing ingredient, it also brightens up dull complexions, treats acne, and reduces dark spots and hyperpigmentation. Retinol works by speeding up cell turnover, which results in younger-looking skin. 

I also hear the word ‘retinoids’ a lot—what’s the difference between retinol and retinoids?

This is where the different forms of retinol come in: retinoids are actually the umbrella term for all different types of retinol and vitamin A derivatives! Retinol is simply one retinoid—it’s the most common retinoid because it’s typically the most tolerable on the skin.

So what are the other types of retinoids?

There are a few different types, and they all work differently.

The most gentle retinoid is retinyl palmitate. This ingredient is mostly found in nighttime serums and creams. It’s a great starting point if you’re wanting to introduce retinoids into your skincare routine, or if your skin is usually sensitive. Just like other retinoids, retinyl palmitate stimulates collagen production, speeds up cell turnover, and keeps pores clear by acting as an exfoliant.

The next strongest retinoid is retinol. Retinol is on the gentler end of the retinoid spectrum but is still slightly stronger than retinyl palmitate. It’s often advised to mix a retinol serum with a moisturiser and use it every two or three days if your skin is sensitive to new ingredients. 

Retinaldehyde is the next step up from retinol. It’s ideal for anyone who wants the anti-ageing properties of retinol but isn’t seeing the desired results from weaker forms of retinoids. Remember to ease strong ingredients like retinaldehyde into your routine slowly so you don’t overwhelm your skin!

There are stronger forms of retinoids such as adapalene, tretinoin, and tazarotene, but often these require a prescription from a dermatologist. Most beauty professionals advise starting off with the gentlest retinoid, and only introducing a stronger ingredient after at least a year if you are not experiencing significant results. 

Are there any ingredients I should avoid if I’m using retinoids?

Never mix retinoids with AHAs, astringents, or other exfoliants (like glycolic acid)—they can cause irritation and may decrease the effects of each other. Some beauty experts also advise avoiding Vitamin C if you’re using retinoids, but it’s always best to consult with a professional to discuss what’s best for your specific skin type and concerns.

Do you have more questions about retinol or want to discuss what form of retinoid is best for you? Contact us for a consultation with one of our therapists today!