Retinaldehyde vs Retinol vs Tretinoin: Explained

In the world of skincare enthusiasts and experts, there's a never-ending debate on what or which is better - retinaldehyde (also known as retinal) or retinol and are they same strength of retinoids? This debate has created a lot of buzz, drawing attention from all quarters. The two ingredient are known for their ability to reverse skin damage, banish wrinkles and fine lines, leaving you with smooth and youthful skin – but the question is, which is better, and why?

This exploration will help you navigate through the science behind these skincare superheroes, decrypting their unique properties and benefits. We will take a deep dive into the retinol vs. retinaldehyde debate, providing a nuanced perspective that humanizes the conversation to make it more approachable, practical, and insightful.

understanding the different types of retinoids process

The world of retinoids is not as simple as it seems! While the term "retinol" is often used broadly, there is actually a variety of retinoids with different properties. Let us break it down for you: Retinoids are a group of derivatives of vitamin A that work wonders for the skin. They enhance cell turnover, improve skin tone and texture, and stimulate collagen production, effectively combating signs of aging like fine lines and wrinkles.

Among the retinoids, retinoic acid, also known as tretinoin, stands out as the only pure form directly utilized by the skin. However, it is available only with a prescription. On the other hand, retinyl palmitate, retinol, and retinaldehyde are commonly found in over-the-counter products. These retinoids need to undergo a conversion process in order to be transformed into retinoic acid, which is when the skin can fully benefit from their effects. Interestingly, the number of conversion steps also correlates with the potency and efficacy of the retinoid - the fewer steps, the stronger it is.

According to dermatologists, retinaldehyde is the last step in the conversion process before reaching the potent prescription-strength level. As a result, it is considered to be one of the most powerful retinoids available without a prescription. This means that for enthusiasts and skincare experts seeking to maximize the benefits of retinoids, retinaldehyde could be the go-to ingredient.

What is Retinaldehyde?

Retinaldehyde also know as retinal, often found in retinaldehyde serum, is a form of Vitamin A and a less commonly known cousin of retinol. Its claim to fame lies in its proximity to retinoic acid, the active form of Vitamin A.

what does Retinaldehyde do for the skin?

  • Nature: Retinal is one step closer to Retinoic Acid in the metabolic pathway compared to Retinol. This makes it more potent than Retinol but less so than Retinoic Acid.
  • Function: It requires fewer conversion steps to become Retinoic Acid, which makes it act faster than Retinol once applied to the skin.
  • Uses: Retinal is used for its anti-aging benefits, including reducing wrinkles and fine lines, improving skin texture and tone, and is also effective in treating acne.
  • Skin Tolerance: Often better tolerated than Retinoic Acid, Retinal can be a good option for those with sensitive skin who are looking for a more potent retinoid than Retinol.

what is Retinol?

Retinol is a well-recognized ingredient in the skincare realm. It undergoes a two-step conversion process to become retinoic acid, making it milder yet effective. Retinol is a another derivative of Vitamin A, widely used in skincare for its ability to promote skin cell renewal.

what does Retinol do for the skin

  • Nature: Retinol is a type of retinoid that is less potent than Retinoic Acid. It's commonly found in over-the-counter skincare products.
  • Function: When applied to the skin, retinol is converted by enzymes into Retinal and eventually into Retinoic Acid, the active form that can be utilized by skin cells.
  • Uses: It's widely used for its anti-aging properties, helping to reduce the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and improve overall skin texture and tone. Retinol is also effective in treating acne and hyperpigmentation.
  • Skin Tolerance: Generally well-tolerated, making it a popular choice for those who are new to retinoids or have sensitive skin.

In a recent clinical study, our Retinol Night Cream delivered impressive effects. Using Antera 3D Technology, our cream improved wrinkle depth index by 17.5% within 28 days of use. A formula that not only improves the wrinkle index but also improves skin moisture by 65.7%. Our Night Cream offers a gentle introduction to the retinoid family. For experienced users, elevate your skincare routine with our advanced Retinal Serums.

Recommeded: Anti-Aging Retinol Night Cream

what is tretinoin (Retinoic Acid)?

Tretinoin is a powerful derivative of Vitamin A and is part of the retinoid family of compounds. It is more commonly known in its pure, acid form as Retinoic Acid. Unlike other retinoids such as retinol or retinaldehyde, tretinoin does not require conversion by the skin to become active, as it is already in its active form.

what does tretinoin do for the skin

  • Nature: Retinoic Acid is the active form of Vitamin A and is the most potent among these Vitamin A derivatives. It's available by prescription and is known in various formulations such as Tretinoin.
  • Function: Being the active form, it does not require conversion and works directly on the skin cells.
  • Uses: Retinoic Acid is highly effective in treating severe acne, deep wrinkles, and sun damage. It is also used to improve skin texture and pigmentation issues.
  • Skin Tolerance: Due to its potency, Retinoic Acid can cause more significant skin irritation and dryness compared to Retinol and Retinal, and it should be prescribed by a healthcare professional/dermatologist.


retinoids Guide to Types, Strengths, and Usage

Retinoids, derived from vitamin A, are celebrated for their ability to combat a myriad of skin concerns, but navigating their world can be confusing. Let's demystify the different types, strengths, and how to use them safely and effectively:

1. Retinyl Esters (Weakest):

  • Examples: Retinyl palmitate, retinyl acetate, retinyl propionate
  • Strength: Very mild
  • Usage: Suitable for sensitive skin, beginners, or as a moisturizer with mild retinol benefits. Apply daily after cleansing and toning.

2. Retinaldehyde (Mid-Strength):

  • Examples: Granactive Retinoid (HPR), retinal
  • Strength: Moderate
  • Usage: Effective for most skin types, tackles wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, and acne. Apply every other day, increasing gradually. Use sunscreen as it increases sun sensitivity.

3. Retinol (Strong):

  • Examples: Retinol A, Retin-A, Tretinoin (prescription)
  • Strength: Potent
  • Usage: Highly effective for wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, acne, but can be irritating. Start with once or twice a week, increasing slowly. Moisturize and use sunscreen religiously.

More Info: Can I Use Retinol With Niacinamide? | Retinol Pairing Guides

4. Adapalene (Prescription):

  • Examples: Differin, Adapalene gel
  • Strength: Very strong
  • Usage: Primarily for acne, may cause dryness and peeling. Follow dermatologist's instructions.

More Info: Adapalene vs Tretinoin: Whats The Difference?

Best Pairings with Retinal: Do's and don'ts

  1. Matrixyl: Yes

    • Do: Safe to use with retinal. Matrixyl, a peptide, can complement retinal's anti-aging effects.
    • Don't: No specific restrictions.

  2. Argireline: Yes

    • Do: Combine with retinal for enhanced anti-wrinkle benefits.
    • Don't: No major concerns, but always monitor for skin irritation.

  3. Vitamin C: Caution

    • Do: Use at different times (Vitamin C in the AM, retinal in the PM) to avoid potential irritation.
    • Don't: Avoid using them in the same part of your routine as they can be unstable together and cause irritation.

  4. Niacinamide: Yes

    • Do: Safe to use with retinal. Niacinamide can help mitigate irritation caused by retinal.
    • Don't: No specific restrictions, but as always, observe how your skin reacts.

  5. Glycolic Acid: Caution

    • Do: If you must use both, apply them at different times (glycolic acid in the AM, retinal in the PM) or on alternate days.
    • Don't: Avoid using them in the same part of your routine as combining them can lead to irritation and over-exfoliation.

  6. Salicylic Acid: Caution

    • Do: Like glycolic acid, use at different times or on alternate days.
    • Don't: Avoid simultaneous use as it can be too harsh and drying, especially for sensitive skin.

frequently asked questions about Retinaldehyde

Using retinal in combination with other skincare ingredients can be highly beneficial, but it's crucial to know the dos and don'ts to avoid irritation and maximize benefits. Here are some FAQs on retinaldehyde.

can i use retinal (Retinaldehyde) with argireline

Yes, you can use Retinal (Retinaldehyde) with Argireline in your skincare regimen. Combining the two elements, Retinal, a revitalising Vitamin A derivative, and Argireline, a peptide that helps smooth out expression lines, is like giving your skin a caring, wrinkle prevention therapy. Retinal revitalises the texture of your skin, while Argireline softly smoothes wrinkles caused by life's smiles and frowns, making this pair a caring, effective option for a more youthful look.

Can i use retinal
(Retinaldehyde) with matrixyl 3000

Yes, combining Retinal (Retinaldehyde) with Matrixyl is like giving your skin a balanced combination of youth-reviving elements. Retinal significantly refreshes and renews the texture of your skin, while Matrixyl, a peptide, softens the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Together, they form a caring and powerful combination, assisting your skin in gradually accepting a smoother, more youthful appearance.

Is Retinaldehyde Stronger than Retinol?

When it comes to potency, is retinaldehyde stronger than retinol? The answer lies in their conversion rates. Retinaldehyde is just one step away from becoming retinoic acid, making it more potent and fast-acting.

Adapalene vs Retinaldehyde

Adding another layer to this comparison, is adapalene stronger than retinaldehyde? Adapalene, a synthetic retinoid, is known for its robust acne-fighting properties, but it's generally harsher than retinaldehyde.



Retilogy™ Retinal 0.05% Renewing Serum. Designed for those new to the world of retinoids or at an intermediate level, this serum is your first step towards a more radiant, youthful complexion. With a gentle 0.05% concentration of retinal, this serum is perfect for beginners or intermediate users. It offers a less intense introduction to retinoids, ensuring your skin can comfortably adjust to this powerful ingredient.

Benefits of 0.05% Retinal serum:

  • Targets Aging Signs: Specifically formulated to reduce the appearance of fine lines and improve uneven skin texture.
  • Gentle and Effective: Our encapsulated retinal formula ensures smoothness and radiance without the harshness.
  • Hydration and Nourishment: Ingredients like Niacinamide and Squalane work to hydrate and nourish, leaving your skin glowing.

Key Ingredients of retinal serum :

  1. Retilogy™ Complex: Retinal percentage strength 0.05%. This is the signature complex of the serum, featuring encapsulated retinal, which is a form of Vitamin A.

  2. Peptides: These are short chains of amino acids that act as building blocks of proteins such as collagen, elastin, and keratin.

  3. Niacinamide: Also known as Vitamin B3, niacinamide is a powerhouse ingredient that works to visibly improve the appearance of enlarged pores, uneven skin tone, fine lines, dullness, and a weakened skin surface.

  4. Squalane: This is a hydrating ingredient that mimics your skin's natural oils, making it an excellent moisturizer. It's known for its ability to replenish the lipid barrier of the skin, leading to softer, smoother, and more hydrated skin.

How To Incorporate: Start with a gradual application to let your skin adapt to the retinoid experience, enhancing comfort and effectiveness.

Our Pick:

Retilogy™ Retinal 0.1% Renewing Serum

This serum isn't just a skincare product; it's a powerful ally in your journey towards youthful, rejuvenated skin. Crafted for those experienced with retinoids or with mature skin, this 0.1% Retinal serum is your key to refined and revitalized skin.

Benefits of 0.1% Retinal serum:

  • Reduces Fine Lines and Wrinkles: Watch your skin regain its smooth, youthful appearance.
  • Enhances Skin Texture and Firmness: Experience a firmer, smoother complexion.
  • Revitalizes Your Look: Achieve a brighter, more youthful glow.

Key Ingredients of retinal serum :

  • Retilogy™ Complex: The heart of our formula, leveraging the power of retinal. Percentage strength of retinal 0.05%.
  • Peptides: Essential for rebuilding and rejuvenating skin.
  • Niacinamide: A multitasking vitamin for skin restoration.
  • Squalane: For deep hydration and soothing comfort.

How To Incorporate: Start with a gradual application to let your skin adapt to the retinoid experience, enhancing comfort and effectiveness.

The Retilogy™ Retinal 0.1% Renewing Serum isn't just skincare; it's a commitment to nurturing your skin's natural beauty. Embrace this journey towards a radiant, age-defying complexion with us.

Our Pick:

How to Use the Retilogy™ retinal Serum in your routine?

Morning Routine: AM

  1. Cleanse: Start with a gentle cleanser.
  2. Toner (Optional): Follow up with toner if it's part of your regimen.
  3. Vitamin C Serum: Continue with Vitamin C serum for antioxidant protection.
  4. Niacinamide Serum: Niacinamide can be administered both morning and night. Because it works well with other skincare products (including potentially difficult actives like exfoliating acids and vitamin C).
  5. Moisturizer: Hydrate and seal the ingredients in your skin.
  6. Sunscreen: Finish with a broad-spectrum sunscreen (SPF 30 or higher).

night Routine: PM

  1. Cleanse: Remove the day’s grime and makeup using cleansing balm.
  2. Toner (Optional): Use a toner if it suits your skin.
  3. Retinal Serum (Pea-Sized Amount): Apply the retinal serum first due to potent strength and let it absorb fully. Remember, a little goes a long way.
    • Beginners: Use Retinal 0.05% serum, beginning with a few times a week and gradually increasing.
    • Experienced Users: Switch to the 0.1% serum as your skin becomes more accustomed.
  4. Depology Peptide Serum Duo (Peptide Complex Serum and Matrixyl® 3000) Follow with the peptide serum for added skin benefits.
  5. Moisturize: Seal in your treatments with a good moisturizer.
  6. Eye Cream: If you use an eye cream, now's the time.


when will is see results of retinal?: the skin cycle


Imagine your skin as a bustling city. Every 28-31 days, there's a major renovation project happening! Old buildings (skin cells) get replaced with shiny new ones, keeping the whole place fresh and vibrant. That's your skin cycle in action!

Now, to really transform your city (skin), consistency is key. Think of skincare products like retinoids and peptides as skilled architects and builders. They work their magic over this cycle, but just like any big project, it takes time to see the amazing results. So, be patient! Give your skin at least 6 months with a consistent routine, and you'll be amazed at the transformation - like a whole new skyline!

Remember, beautiful skin takes time and dedication, just like building a thriving city. So be patient, be consistent, and watch your skin glow with its newfound radiance!

conclusion: Can i use Retinaldehyde serum?

Depology's approach in offering two different strengths of retinal serums – 0.1% for advanced users and 0.05% for beginners – showcases their commitment to providing personalized skincare solutions. This allows users to choose a product that aligns with their skin's tolerance and needs, ensuring a comfortable and effective retinoid experience. Whether you're just starting with retinoids or looking for a more robust treatment, Depology has a serum to fit your skincare journey.

Tips for all Retinoids:

  • Start low and go slow, increasing frequency gradually to avoid irritation.
  • Pea sized amount
  • Patch test on a small area first.
  • Apply at night, avoiding eyes and lips.
  • Moisturize thoroughly, as retinoids can be drying.
  • Use sunscreen daily, even on cloudy days.
  • Consult a dermatologist for personalized advice, especially if you have sensitive skin or are pregnant/breastfeeding.


  • This is a general guide, and individual experiences may vary.
  • Retinoids require commitment and patience for optimal results.
  • Listen to your skin and adjust usage accordingly.