3 Biggest Skincare Rumors You May Have Heard + Facts
See Tretinoin and other prescription retinol products can be extremely helpful for something people, especially those who struggle with persistent or inflammatory acne. But that doesn’t mean over-the-counter retinol is useless.
To understand the difference between over-the-counter and prescription retinol products, you need to be familiar with the retinol hierarchy. From “weakest” to “strongest,” the order is as follows: retinyl esters, retinol, retinaldehyde, and then retinoic acid.
These “weaker” forms of retinol simply require more conversions to reach retinoic acid, so they’re less gentle on the skin — as the list gets closer to retinoic acid, they require fewer conversions. Example, retinaldehyde1 is only one step away from retinoic acid, while prescription versions have a higher concentration of retinoic acid.
Some people might see this as a drawback (namely those just looking for the strongest formula), but it’s actually helpful to start at the bottom and work your way up, especially if you’re prone to sensitivity.
So yes, it’s true that retinoic acid is the superstar form that does most of the heavy lifting, but other forms of retinol eventually turn into it. Both options are great, but again, prescription products are not one-size-fits-all.
RELATED: Tretinoin vs. Retinol: Which Is Right for You?