Medically reviewed by Aimee Paik, MD, MD
Written by Apostrophe Team
Last updated 1/3/2023
For skincare veterans and newbies alike, retinoids can be an important cornerstone of anyone’s skincare routine (hear more about retinoid benefits from our medical director here.) Well known brands like Sunday Riley and Drunk Elephant have both recently spotlighted new products containing retinol — a form of vitamin A. Prescription strength acne and wrinkle treatments often contain tretinoin (a stronger and more effective derivative of vitamin A). But what are the differences between over-the-counter retinols, prescription strength retinoids, and Apostrophe’s own Tretinoin Formula? We did the research so you don’t have to.
You can pick up retinols at your local drugstore or on the shelves at Sephora. Retinol must go through a conversion process to be effective on the skin which means that while you may feel some irritating side effects, they will be much less severe than those of prescription strength retinoids. However, this also means that over-the-counter retinols are far less potent and less effective than their prescription counterparts. In fact, retinol is twenty times less potent than prescription strength tretinoin. If you need smoothing, plumping, and acne fighting effects that pack a real punch, you should explore…
Getting a prescription from a dermatologist or healthcare provider is the best way to get the full benefits of retinoids. One of the most common forms of prescription retinoids is tretinoin, often known under the brand name Retin-A. Tretinoin is not available over the counter because it is far more powerful than any non-prescription retinol. Its higher strengths can mean more side effects, but it also means greater benefits like smoother, plumper, and more glowing skin.
We offer our own prescription strength retinoid formulation called Tretinoin Formula (it’s our personal favorite, but we might be biased). Created by our medical director, Dr. Aimee Paik, it combines tretinoin and niacinamide so you get the prescription strength smoothing and plumping benefits of both in a formula that keeps sensitive skin in mind. Tretinoin helps shed dead skin cells and promote collagen production, while niacinamide decreases hyperpigmentation and inflammation. Give it a try and get your tretinoin prescription online with Apostrophe!
Now that you know the difference between retinols, retinoids, and our own Tretinoin Formula, you can choose the option that best fits your life and your skin!
1. Beauty 411: Retin-A Vs. Retinol. WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/beauty/features/beauty-411-retin-a-vs-retinol. Accessed March 14, 2019.
2. Gehring W. Nicotinic acid/niacinamide and the skin. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology. 2004;3(2):88-93. doi:10.1111/j.1473-2130.2004.00115.x
3. Mukherjee S, Date A, Patravale V, Korting HC, Roeder A, Weindl G. Retinoids in the treatment of skin aging: an overview of clinical efficacy and safety. Clinical Interventions in Aging. 2006;1(4):327-348. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2699641/. Accessed April 9, 2019.
4. Topical retinoids. Topical retinoids | DermNet NZ. https://www.dermnetnz.org/topics/topical-retinoids/. Accessed March 14, 2019.
5. Tretinoin Topical : Uses, Side Effects, Interactions, Pictures, Warnings & Dosing. WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/drugs/2/drug-3956/tretinoin-topical/details. Accessed March 14, 2019.
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