All About Retinoids: You Need One in Your Routine!

Are you confused about retinoids?  I promise, they’re not as confusing as they seem, and almost anyone can benefit from them.  Here’s a quick a simple breakdown of the most popular forms:

Retinoids are forms of Vitamin A, and are some of the most researched ingredients in anti-aging skincare.  They are considered an exfoliant as well as an antioxidant.  Retinoids help fight free radical damage and stimulate collagen production.  As they have the most scientific proof of efficacy (in other words, they are proven to WORK), I decided to try them out.  I have documented my process of using tretinoin (brand names, Retin-A, Renova, et al.) and will be posting about my experience.

Since there are so many retinoids available, I felt it would be a good idea to post about them prior to sharing my experiences.  I have described the three most common forms below, in order of strength:

PLEASE BE ADVISED- It is of the utmost importance that you wear a broad spectrum sunscreen with at least an SPF of 30 EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. when using retinoids.  You CANNOT skip even one day, or you will subject yourself to horrific ugliness and undo all the good you have done.

Retinyl Palmitate

Retinyl palmitate is perhaps the most gentle form of retinoid.  It is the ester of retinol combined with palmitic acid, which is a saturated fatty acid derived from palm oil.  Once it is absorbed by the skin, it is converted to retinol, then to the active component of retinoic acid.  This lengthy process is thought to be the reason this form causes less irritation for most people (Truth in Aging, 2015).

While retinyl palmitate is very gentle, it’s also not as strong as other forms.  This doesn’t mean it’s not effective, it just takes longer for it to work, and the results may not be as dramatic.  The good thing is that you can use it together with stronger forms, and it also works great to help prepare your skin for more potent forms.


Retinol is the most potent, commonly used retinoid in over-the-counter skincare products.  It is the entire Vitamin A molecule, which breaks down into retinoic acid, or tretinoin, when absorbed by the skin (Begoun, 2015).

While retinol is more effective than retinyl palmitate, it can also cause more irritation.  But, once your skin adjusts to it, it’s one of the best known ingredients in anti-aging skincare and should be in almost everyone’s routine.


PLEASE BE ADVISED- As it can cause severe birth defects, tretinoin should NEVER be used by women who are pregnant, may be pregnant, trying to become pregnant, or are breast feeding.

Tretinoin is also known as retinoic acid.  It was originally used to treat acne, but soon, anti-aging effects were noted and it became approved for use in treating wrinkles, photo-aging, etc.  It is available in several strengths, most commonly 0.025%, 0.05%, and 0.10%.  Basically, tretinoin communicates with your cells and makes them reproduce faster, so they behave like the cells of a younger person.

As retinoic acid has been shown to cause a high level of birth defects, it is available by prescription only.  It is also the most irritating of the retinoids, as it can cause severe redness, sensitivity, and peeling.  Almost everyone will experience what is known as “the uglies” when first using tretinoin, so it is important to keep in mind that this nasty effect is only temporary.  However, many people discontinue treatment because they don’t want to wait out this phase.

You should use retinol and tretinoin only at night, unless your doctor directs you to do otherwise.  It is important to maintain an open line of communication with your doctor to minimize negative effects.


I started out with the weaker products, then worked my way up.  I am now using 0.05% tretinoin, and while my skin is more sensitive than it was before due to being hyper-exfoliated, the “uglies” are pretty much gone except for some minor crepiness in my eye area.

Retinyl palmitate- Philosophy Time in a Bottle

Retinol- Dr. Brandt’s Pores No More Anti-Aging Mattifying Lotion, Omorovicza Gold Night Drops

Tretinoin (retinoic acid)- Retin-A, Retino-A, A-Ret Gel

Keep an eye out for my upcoming posts about my retinoid experience.  I will be detailing the effects as well as sharing photos!

Retin A

Almost time to open a new tube!


Begoun, P. (2015). Retinol (Vitamin A) for anti-aging. Paula’s Choice Skincare.  Retrieved October 20, 2015, from

Truth in Aging (2015). Retinyl palmitate.  Truth in Aging.  Retrieved October 20, 2015, from



  1. I thought about trying retin a for my wrinkles but its just so expensive since my insurance won’t cover it. I’m kind of scared to see your results because that will just make me want to try it even more!

    • Lol! The good news is that there are some great over-the-counter retinol products available at many different price points. I’ve heard RoC makes some great products, and you can get them at almost any drugstore 🙂

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