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Vitamin A Derivatives: Which One Should You Choose?

You probably already know that Vitamin A and its derivatives are powerful ingredients in the skincare world. They promote healthy skin cell turnover, reduce fine lines and wrinkles, and also help prevent acne.  However, because there are several different types of vitamin A derivatives out there, choosing the right one for you can be overwhelming. So if you’re a newbie in the skincare world, here’s a quick and easy guide to the world of vitamin A derivatives. 


Retinoids are the most potent form of vitamin A derivatives and are highly effective at reducing the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and sun damage. They work by increasing collagen production, promoting skin cell turnover, and unclogging pores to prevent acne. However, retinoids can be irritating to the skin. Especially for those who suffer from sensitivity. In addition to that, this is a prescription-only skincare product.


Retinol seems to be all the rage in the drugstore skincare world. Almost any skincare brand out there has a product that contains this superstar ingredient. And for good reason. Retinol is a milder form of retinoid that’s less irritating but still highly effective at reducing fine lines, wrinkles, and hyperpigmentation. It’s converted into retinoic acid in the skin, which promotes healthy skin cell turnover and collagen production. Retinol is a good option for those with sensitive skin or those who are new to using vitamin A derivatives in their skincare routine.


Retinaldehyde is a less common form of vitamin A derivative. However, it is quickly gaining popularity due to its undeniable potency, yet low irritation potential. That basically means that retinal is the Hannah Montana of the vitamin A derivative family. Because it delivers the best of both worlds. Once on the skin, retinal is converted into retinoic acid. Unlike retinol, it is more stable and less likely to cause irritation. Retinaldehyde is a good option for those with sensitive skin. But also for those who are looking for a gentler option than retinoids.

Retinyl Palmitate

Retinyl palmitate is a mild form of vitamin A derivative that’s less potent than retinol or retinoids but still offers some anti-aging benefits. It’s a good option for those with very sensitive skin or those who are new to using vitamin A derivatives in their skincare routine. However, it’s important to note that retinyl palmitate is not as effective as retinol or retinoids at reducing fine lines and wrinkles. This definitely isn’t my favorite form of vitamin A, however, it’s a great introduction to the retinol world for anyone with sensitive skin.


Adapalene used to be a prescription-strength vitamin A derivative that was widely used for treating acne. But nowadays it’s possible to buy it without a prescription. It works by unclogging pores, reducing inflammation, and preventing new acne from forming. Adapalene is less irritating than other retinoids but can still cause dryness and redness. It’s a great product to combat those monthly hormonal breakouts or help with the treatment of acne in teenagers or young adults.


No matter what skin type you have, or what your skincare concerns are — there is still a vitamin A derivative for you out there. However, it’s important to choose wisely. And no matter which one you choose, it’s even more important to start slow and make sure to care for your skin barrier in the meantime. Vitamin A derivatives are unbelievably powerful skincare products, and in most cases — there is no need to use them every day. So make sure you stick to the approach that less is more.


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