Tretinoin vs. Retin-A: is there a difference?
Tretinoin vs. Retin-A: is there a difference?

December 5th, 2019

2020-01-22T21:07:57.456Z

Apostrophe

If you’re exploring the world of retinoids and retinols, you’ve probably heard of “Retin-A.” Unlike over-the-counter retinols, Retin-A is a prescription-strength treatment for preventing or reducing fine lines and wrinkles. You may have also seen another word: tretinoin. How do tretinoin and Retin-A differ? Is one more effective than the other? How do you know which is a better fit for you? Read on to find out!

First, a little history

Dr. Albert Kligman first studied (also known as retinoic acid) in 1967 as a possible treatment for keratonic disorders (disorders characterized by thick, scaly skin). He noted that retinoic acid worked as a treatment by removing the top layer of skin and theorized that the medication might also work as a treatment for acne. The FDA approved it in 1971 and retinoic acid began to be marketed under the brand name Retin-A.

The fountain of youth

Retin-A was to treat adolescent acne, but it was also used to treat adult acne and older women who used the medication reported that their skin felt smoother and firmer after using it. Following more rounds of testing, Retin-A was repackaged under the name Renova and prescribed as a treatment for fine lines and wrinkles in the early 90s. Dermatologists have relied on retinoic acid as a proven way to reduce signs of aging ever since!

Where does tretinoin come in?

Tretinoin is another name for the active ingredient in Retin-A and Renova. When you purchase this medication as a generic (as opposed to under a brand name like Retin-A), it will be labeled as tretinoin. However, the active ingredient is exactly the same! In fact, all generic medications have identical active ingredients as compared to their brand name counterparts. The difference between a generic and a brand name is in their : the compounds that make up the base that carry the active ingredient. Inactive ingredients neither help nor hinder the therapeutic effects of active ingredients and generic medications are often provided in place of the brand name because they are usually much cheaper. It is important to note that inactive ingredients can still cause or other side effects, but they will not directly affect the effectiveness of your treatment.

Tretinoin Formula

With Apostrophe’s own Tretinoin Formula, we wanted to create a product that would maximize tretinoin’s effectiveness and minimize irritation and dryness. Tretinoin Formula contains the same active ingredient as Retin-A, but our medical director, Dr. Aimee Paik, formulated our product to avoid the most common irritating ingredients and included niacinamide which has smoothing and moisturizing properties (learn more about what goes into developing our skincare formulas here!).

Tretinoin and Retin-A use the same active ingredient and, as long as their strengths are the same, are equally effective treatments. To decide which is the best choice for you, you should see if you are allergic or sensitive to any of the inactive ingredients in the different available formulas and compare prices (which vary depending on location, pharmacy and insurance coverage). Whether you go with generic tretinoin or brand name Retin-A, you can be confident the treatment you are using contains the active ingredient you are looking for!

Thinking about trying tretinoin? Tweet at us @hi_apostrophe or shoot an email to social@apostrophe.com!

Welcome to the fine print! Just so you know, this article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment, and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. It’s always best to talk to a doctor for that stuff.

Prescription medication should only be used according to doctor's instructions. Do not use Tretinoin Formula if you are allergic to one of its ingredients. Common side effects include redness and peeling. Full list of safety information can be found at: apostr.com/side

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