How To Pick The Right Retinol For Your Skin


How To Pick The Right Retinol For Your Skin

By Anupriya Jamuar 


When it comes to vitamin A, or retinol, even seasoned skincare experts recommend it with caution. Not because there are any doubts about its efficacy, but because it can be highly sensitising and irritating to the skin. Even with its wide range of benefits, retinol should be used carefully.  

If you are someone who has tried to add this highly talked-about ingredient into your skincare routine, only to end up with irritated skin, you’re not alone. The answer to why it did not suit you depends on many factors.  

Maybe you did not use it right, paired it with the wrong ingredients, choose a stronger derivative than what your skin could tolerate, and so on.  

So, to reap the benefits of retinol, you need to understand this complicated ingredient first.  


Over-the-counter and prescription retinol: What’s the difference? 

The main difference is their potency. Prescription retinols are stronger and more aggressive than OTC (over-the-counter) retinols. The chances of prescription retinol irritating your skin are higher than OTC prodcuts as they have a more concentrated formulation. 

As a newbie, it is better to start with the lowest percentage of retinol as it can be quite sensitising to your skin. With vitamin A, the ‘more is better’ philosophy does not apply. You need to slowly introduce it into your routine and add to it over time. 

Another difference is that you might see visible results within a few weeks of usage with prescription retinol. While with OTC products, you need to be more patient.  


Types of retinols and their benefits 

Not using a suitable derivative of retinol for your skin can cause an adverse reaction. There are different derivatives of vitamin A, and to pick the right one, you need to understand their safety profile and efficacy. 

Some factors to consider are which form of vitamin A is best for first-time users, what percentage of the formulation is best suited for your skin type, how to gradually increase usage, etc To start with, get acquainted with some commonly used retinol derivatives. 



Retinyl palmitate 

This is relatively mild retinol derivative is least likely to cause skin irritation. We would especially recommend it for first-time users who wish to introduce retinol into their skincare routine. The side-effects of retinyl palmitate are few, and it is generally used in over-the-counter products. This one is a safe bet. 



One of the most potent derivatives of retinol, retinaldehyde also provides anti-ageing benefits, preserves skin elasticity and balances sebum production. This is also an OTC retinol, but the downside is that the derivative itself is quite expensive. Hence, there are few formulations available in the market.  



Adapalene, also known as Differin, is a dermatologist’s favourite retinol. It helps to reduce hyperpigmentation caused by acne. It is available in two formulations0.1% adapalene gel is available over the counter and is better tolerated than the prescription-based 0.3% adapalene.  



Also known as Retin-A, this is one of the most potent retinol derivatives in the market, and most likely to cause skin irritation. Tretinoin works best for controlling active acne, but can also cause itching, flaking, stinging, and irritation of the skin easily. Tretinoin is also a prescription-based retinol, and it is best you consult your dermatologist before using it.  



This third-generation topical retinol works well for pitted acne and scars. Tazarotene is also a prescription-based retinol and is best advised to use only after consulting a dermatologist.  


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