If you were to poll 100 dermatologists, you would likely find about 99 of them use retinoids daily. So why choose this important product? And which one is right for you?

When we are young, our skin replenishes itself in an even fashion. But as we age, the replenishment often gets out of sync. The result is dull skin, wrinkles and “age spots”. Retinoids restore the orderly process, resulting in more youthful skin.

Products can be confusing. Terms like Retin-A, retinoid, retinol, Tretinoin are often used interchangeably. Some are prescription. Some are found at the cosmetic counter.

So here’s how to negotiate the confusion:

Retin A (or Tretinoin)

  • Comes in multiple strengths
  • Prescription only
  • May cause dryness, peeling or redness
  • While stronger may be more effective, it is often better to start slowly and “work up”.


  • Similar to Tretinoin but less effective
  • Also less irritating
  • Not FDA regulated (a product that contains retinol may only have a sprinkling)
  • Often a good starting place for individuals with sensitive skin

What’s right for you? Consult your dermatologist. I often start my patients on Retin-A (Tretinoin) in their teens to cure zits-and then tell them to use it forever. I’ve been personally using the product since I was 30. My only more regular beauty product is sunscreen.

(Photo credit: mahmoud99725 / Flickr)