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 • Beauty  • Retinol vs Retinal: Which One Should You Choose?

Retinol vs Retinal: Which One Should You Choose?

Vitamin A derivatives have been increasingly popular in the beauty and skincare community for the last couple of years. While you can’t buy Tretinoin (aka the golden standard of anti-aging) over-the-counter, you can go for his less potent “cousins” retinol or retinal. Most of us have heard of retinol by now, but retinal has just started to gain its place in the spotlight. So if you are confused about what the exact difference between these two ingredients is, and which one you should choose, then keep on reading.

Retinol vs Retinal

The biggest difference between these two kinds of vitamin A is the way in which our skin absorbs them. Retinol is changed in the skin into retinal, and then retinal is changed into retinoic acid, which is the form of vitamin A that the skin actually uses. As you can see, retinal is one step further along the path, so it will work faster than retinol. In addition to that, retinal does not irritate the skin any more than retinol does, and it also has anti-bacterial properties. That makes it a great choice for fighting acne too. The problem is that retinal is a much less stable ingredient, which means that formulas with retinal tend to be hard to find and often cost more.

Neither type of vitamin A is superior to the other, but retinal will work faster than retinol. Consistency is key when it comes to skincare, and neither of these two ingredients will work overnight. That doesn’t mean that you should overuse them either. All vitamin A derivatives can dry out and irritate the skin. So if you are a newbie, make sure you don’t use it more often than every other night. If they are still too strong for you, try the “sandwich method”. Apply a layer of moisturizer, then your retinol or retinal, and then another layer of moisturizer.

Which one should you choose?

Now this one is completely up to you. Both of these vitamin A derivatives will deliver similar results, but retinal is the one that is going to work faster. It’s also a better choice for acne-prone skin or people who are using these ingredients to get rid of blemishes. However, retinol is much easier to get your hands on. It’s cheaper, more stable, and way easier to find. There aren’t too many products with retinal out there, while you can find a retinol serum pretty much anywhere.

If your skin is extremely sensitive then there is a possibility that neither of these two ingredients will work for you. However, there is also a vegan option available that causes minimal skin irritation and delivers similar benefits to a vitamin A derivative. It’s called bakuchiol, a potent antioxidant that gives great anti-aging results. No, it’s not exactly the same as using retinol. But it’s much more gentle, and can be used even while pregnant or breastfeeding.


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