Retinol, Retinoic Acid, Retin-A: What Is the Difference?
Where Do Retinoids Come From?
All retinoids are either derived from vitamin A or have functional or structural similarities to vitamin A. (Source). But not all forms of vitamin A are equal. Plants contain provitamin A carotenoids. Rich sources are carrots, Romaine lettuce, sweet potatoes, paprika and mangoes. Animals on the other hand, carry preformed vitamin A. Both provitamin A and preformed vitamin A must be metabolized intracellularly to retinal and retinoic acid, the active forms of vitamin A, to support the vitamin's important biological functions. Liver, egg yolks and dairy products are good dietary sources of preformed vitamin A. These same compounds can be directly delivered to skin cells with properly formulated topical products to achieve remarkable skin care results.
Retinoic acid is a powerful and effective retinoid that your skin can immediately put to use when delivered topically. It is extensively used to prevent and treat both photoaged skin and psoriasis. It is a naturally occurring compound that is derived from retinol via a two step oxidation. First, oxidation converts retinol to retinal and then a second oxidation converts retinal into retinoic acid. (Source).
Retin-A (Topical Tretinoin) is topical retinoic acid that is scientifically formulated to provide the benefits of the active molecule and deliver them straight to the cells where they begin to work. It comes as a prescription only topical medication that packs a serious cosmetic punch. The compound comes in a cream or gel-type application and is distributed under a number of brand names with different concentrations. Retin-A effectively increases skin cell turnover, thickens the layers of skin, stimulates the production of collagen, and increases blood flow to your skin. It does have side effects that include making your skin more sensitive to UV rays, so it is best to avoid the sun and use a good sunscreen when using Retin-A and it can cause some irritation. (Source).
Retinol, is a natural derivative of vitamin A, which is available over the counter and is present in many skin care products. It is also a very effective tool to combat all of the same skin conditions, but it does require the skin's enzymes to convert it into retinoic acid before it can be used within the cell. This is a two step process. First the skin converts the retinol into retinaldehyde and then into retinoic acid. Once it is in the form of retinoic acid, the retinoid you applied to your skin as retinol is able to go to work.
Scientific studies have shown that all topically applied retinoids are effective at increasing epidermal thickness and promoting healthy and abundant collagen growth which creates a more beautiful skin appearance as fine lines and wrinkles disappear. (Source). Retinol, however, is easier to obtain and safer and more gentle on your skin, especially when it is formulated in a skincare product like Calysta Labs Serum which relies on retinol and other antioxidants to enhance the youthful look of your skin.
Topical retinoids are also the go-to treatment choice for dermatologists treating acne. They are anti-inflammatory and promote clearing of acne lesions. (Source). Retinol works to increase exfoliation and restore the cellular processes allowing sebum to have normal channels for release instead of being built up. As the retinol works to restore the skin's functions the skin will have the added benefits of producing more collagen. This is why we dually formulated Calysta Labs Calming Acne Serum with a powerful blend of retinoids and other natural antioxidants to not only fight acne, but to also boost collagen. Because when you can take care of acne and that same beauty product takes away signs of sun damage and aging, it is like finding the fountain of youth - or as close as science can come.