Trendy skin-care ingredients come and go (snail venom, anyone?) but when it comes to tried-and-true, effective options, the same one constantly tops the list-retinol. With the ability to do everything from stimulating collagen to fighting blemishes, this multitasker is a worthy addition to pretty much anyone’s skin-care routine. Ahead, answers to six common questions about this important ingredient, straight from derms.
What is it, exactly?
Let’s start with the basics. “Retinoids are a class of chemicals that are all related to vitamin A,” explains Dr. Neal Schultz, NYC dermatologist, host of DermTV.com, and creator of BeautyRx by Dr. Schultz. This includes both retinol-the OTC form-and prescription-strength versions, many of which, like the commonly prescribed Retin-A, are retinoic acid. To simplify matters, it’s easiest to think of them all in the same category, essentially delivering the same type of benefits (though there are some important differences-more on those in a minute).
The difference between retinol and retinoid
Dr. Dennie Gross, board-certified dermatologist and dermatologic surgeon, and founder of Dr. Dennis Gross Dermatology as well as his own skincare line Dr. Dennie Gross Skincare™ pointed out that “retinoids work more quickly than retinol because they have different molecular structures, so the skin processes them differently. Retinol requires steps to convert to active retinoic acid, while retinoid does not need to convert and therefore is usually stronger than retinol products.