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Adapalene (Differin Gel) vs. Tretinoin vs. Retinol: Which Should I Choose?

Adapalene (Differin Gel) vs. Tretinoin vs. Retinol: Which Should I Choose?

    • If you're deep into your skincare journey, you might have heard of Retinol by now and you might have even seen it pit against Tretinoin and Adapalene, three ingredients used in popular skincare products. These active ingredients are some of the most well-researched in the treatment of skin aging and acne. So what are these three substances? Do they have significant differences and which is best for you?

  • The Common

Adapelene, Tretinoin, and Retinol are all topical retinoids, which are derived from vitamin A. All retinoids increase cell turnover, leading to an increase in the thickness of the epidermis and improvement in age-related texture changes and brown spots. The ingredients are also known for their collagen and elastin stimulating properties, which help with aging and wrinkles.

Additionally, retinoids can unclog pores, removing the bacteria that contributes to acne breakouts, and reduce the inflammation and shedding associated with psoriasis.

  • The Differences


Adapalene, a third-generation retinoid,  is a topical retinoid FDA approved for the treatment of acne. It's available in both prescription and over-the-counter formulations and is the active ingredient found in the Differin topical gel. Adapalene penetrates hair follicles and helps prevent and treat acne, exfoliates skin, and minimizes inflammation. Adapalene has been studied in numerous trials that show it's highly effective and has a low risk of skin irritation.

Product to try:

1. Differin Adapalene Gel 0.1% Acne Treatment

($15.99/15g, up to 4% cashback at Walgreens)


Differin Gel an OTC retinoid, containing adapalene, is a great option as not only does it work to prevent breakouts, but it also treats acne and helps to improve scarring. It can diminish discoloration and textural changes that go along with acne scars by evening out the skin tone and boosting collagen production.

It can be used once daily and it is often best to start just a few times per week and increase the frequency as tolerated. It can be used by all skin types and can be used while getting active breakouts and should continue to be used after breakouts subside to help reduce scarring and prevent new breakouts from forming.

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| Tretinoin

Tretinoin is much older than adapalene, coming from the first generation of retinoids and being patented in 1957 before receiving medical approval in 1962. It's prescribed generically, under various branded names, and as the active ingredient in medicines including Treclin, and is used across the world to treat various conditions. It is more well studied for its anti-aging benefits and works to increase cell turnover, improving the thickness of the epidermis and minimizing fine lines while improving discolorations and treating acne.

Adapalene vs Tretinoin: What's the difference?

According to studies, both are considered approximately the same in terms of effectiveness toward acne. 

The primary difference between adapalene and Tretinoin is that adapalene is primarily used for treating acne, whereas tretinoin is used for acne and/or anti-aging effects. (Tretinoin is therefore more effective for addressing wrinkles, sagging skin and other signs of aging.)

If you do desire anti-aging benefits, tretinoin might be your better choice. It can cause irritation and sun sensitivity, however, and might not be worth it if you have sensitive skin. 

If you need to treat acne but have more sensitive skin, adapalene may be your optimal bet, since it is the more mild of the two. 

In addition, unlike adapalene, you can't buy tretinoin over the counter. This retinoid is only available by prescription. 

Product to try:

1. Retin-A® (Tretinoin) Cream 0.05%


Retin-A Tretinoin 0.05% Cream  made by Jannsen Cilag, Johnson & Johnson - is created to treat acne, also flawlessly used to reduce and gradually remove the appearance of wrinkles & age spots, the roughness of facial skin while also facilitating the disappearance of darker and lighter spots. It is one of a family of gels called Retinoids, and is effective in preventing pimples and healing existing pimples. It can also be used to reduce the signs of ageing like facial lines and sun spots, as well as alone or with other topical treatments to treat alopecia and other kinds of hair loss. Tretinoin Cream must be used with a total skin care and sunlight avoidance program. 

2. Obagi Tretinoin Cream


Obagi Tretinoin is a potent type of Vitamin A that works deep within the skin to help address and prevent acne. Available in multiple strengths to meet different needs, this powerful acne treatment has been clinically proven to improve breakout symptoms and prevent the development of acne. Prescription required.

| Retinol

Retinol is a type of retinoid commonly used in over-the-counter skin care products, normally in concentrations of around 0.05 to 1 percent. In skincare, retinol is the gold standard for youth preservation (anti-aging) because it is the only scientifically proven ingredient that effectively stimulates the production of collagen while also being extremely effective against acne. 

Retinols are formulated in an ester form, which means they need to be degraded into retinoic acid once applied to the skin. That said, retinols can certainly still help reduce the appearance of fine wrinkles and treat milder forms of acne and hyperpigmentation. It'll just take longer before you notice these effects.

Retinol vs Tretinoin: What's the difference?

A major difference between retinol vs tretinoin is that where tretinoin works directly with skin cells, retinol doesn't actually affect the skin directly even though you put it right on the skin. It becomes absorbed and then goes through a metabolic process, using your skin's natural enzymes to convert retinol to retinoic acid. That retinoic acid works directly with the skin. This process isn't instantaneous however, which is why you must stick with your treatment in order to see results.

Product to try:

1. CeraVe Skin Renewing Retinol Serum

($15.06, up to 4% cashback at Walmart)


Developed with dermatologists, CeraVe Skin Renewing Retinol Face Cream Serum is designed to help diminish the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles while also helping to repair the protective skin barrier. It uses MVE Technology (MultiVesicular Emulsion Technology) for the controlled release of encapsulated retinol over the course of 24 hours. It also combines with hyaluronic acid, soothing niacinamide, and three essential ceramides (1, 3, 6-II)  to help restore the skin's barrier. Ideal for all skin types.

2. Drunk Elephant A-Passioni Retinol Cream

($74, up to 4% cashback at Sephora)


Ideal for all those who're already acquainted with the wonders of retinol (this can trigger irritation and peeling if your skin is sensitive, or if you're new to the retinol realm), Drunk Elephant's game-changing A-Passioni Retinol Cream is the perfect addition to your evening-time routine.

Formulated with retinol and peptides, this cream works to restore brightness and elasticity to the complexion without causing redness. Along with hydrating vitamin F, it contains jojoba, apricot and marula oils to moisturise as well as an antioxidant blend to protect from environmental damage.

3. PCA SKIN Intensive Brightening Treatment 0.5 Percent Pure Retinol Night

($115, up to 10% cashback at LOOKFANTASTIC US)


PCA SKIN Intensive Brightening Treatment delivers potent and stable ingredients deep into the skin through a patented OmniSome delivery system. Retinol, resveratrol and hexylresorcinol produce radiance from within, while promoting an even skin tone. Additional actives smooth the skin's surface, while niacinamide minimizes redness and yellowing of the complexion. An overall glow and even skin tone is the outcome with nightly use of this breakthrough Retinol formulation. cooperates with many merchants, such as: Walmart (Up to 4% cashback), Sephora(4% -5% cash back), Moosejaw (5% -6% cash back), LOOKFANTASTIC (Up to 10% cash back)Sam's Club (Up to 15% cashback)Norton(Up to 20% cashback), Microsoft (Up to 7% cash back) and so on. You can save on buying daily necessities, fashion, beauty, electronic products, broadband installation, mobile communication, air tickets, hotels and other aspects of life! 

2022-03-15 03:04689