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Understanding Vitamin A, Retinoids, Retinols, AlphaRet And Beyond...

Vitamin A, in its various forms, has long been hailed as a powerhouse ingredient in skincare for its ability to promote cell turnover, stimulate collagen production, and improve skin texture and tone. However, the world of vitamin A derivatives can be very overwhelming, with terms like retinoids, retinols, and retinals often used interchangeably (even myself as a skincare professional can find it bit like the wild wild west!)

vitamin A retinol retinoid cream

In this post, I'll break down the different types of vitamin A commonly found in skincare products, discuss their potency and efficacy, and explore why some formulations may be better suited for certain individuals than others.

I have listed them in order of potency. It's always good to learn about ingredients and read labels on products to understand what kind of vitamin A derivative a product contains and any claims they're making. You can still get some nice results with retinyl palmitate, but it is a very gentle form and so I have it as an added bonus to some of my products as opposed to the main event.

1. Retinoids:

Retinoids are a class of compounds derived from vitamin A that includes both prescription-strength and over-the-counter formulations. Tretinoin, also known as retinoic acid, is the most potent form of retinoid and is available by prescription only from your dermatologist. It works by binding to specific receptors in the skin and increasing cell turnover, leading to smoother, more radiant skin. However, tretinoin can also cause significant irritation, dryness, and flaking, particularly during the initial weeks of use—a phenomenon often referred to as the retinoid reaction.

2. Retinals:

Retinals, also known as retinaldehyde, are another intermediate form of vitamin A that are converted into retinoic acid within the skin. Retinals are considered more potent than retinols but gentler than tretinoin, making them suitable for individuals with sensitive skin or those who experience irritation with other retinoid formulations. They offer similar anti-ageing benefits, including increased collagen production and improved skin texture and tone.

3. Retinols:

Retinols are a milder form of vitamin A that are available over the counter. They undergo a conversion process within the skin to become retinoic acid, the active form of vitamin A. While retinols are less potent than tretinoin, they still offer similar benefits, including improved skin texture, reduced fine lines and wrinkles, and enhanced collagen production. However, retinols are generally better tolerated by most individuals and may cause less irritation and sensitivity compared to prescription-strength retinoids.

4. Retinyl Palmitate:

Retinyl palmitate is a less potent form of vitamin A commonly found in over-the-counter skincare products. It undergoes a conversion process in the skin to become retinoic acid but is considered less effective than retinols or retinals. While retinyl palmitate may provide some anti-ageing benefits, its efficacy is generally lower compared to other vitamin A derivatives.

I use retinyl palmitate in my Face Serum as it's a very gentle form of vitamin A to help with skin rejuvenation and works well in the oil based serum.

three face serums

The SkinBetter Science AlphaRet range is a revolutionary skincare line that combines the power of retinoids with patented AlphaRet technology to deliver superior results without the irritation often associated with traditional retinoid formulations. AlphaRet is formulated with a unique blend of alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) and a retinoid ester that provides the same efficacy as tretinoin but with minimal irritation. This makes it an ideal option for individuals who want the anti-ageing benefits of vitamin A without the risk of experiencing a retinoid reaction.

alpharet before and after

This product line for me is the only type of retinoid I recommend as it is so effective and yet so gentle. There is nothing that I have come across so far on the market like it and the results just speak for themselves.

alpharet before and after

I adore the full range, but the peel pads used twice a week and then overnight cream or clearing serum used each night is a true force to be reckoned with in my opinion.

alpharet before and after

When talking about Vitamin A, we also cannot forget to mention Derma Defense from Skinade as well. This is a drinkable form of vitamin A and so works incredibly well alongside a topical form of Vitamin A for the ultimate result. Treating the skin from 'inside out' and also 'outside in' to create almost a sandwich effect on the skin can show such great results, it's definitely not to be forgotten.

Understanding the different types of vitamin A derivatives in skincare products can help you choose the most suitable formulation for your skin type and concerns. While retinoids and retinols offer powerful anti-ageing benefits, they may not be suitable for everyone due to potential irritation and sensitivity. The SkinBetter Science AlphaRet range provides a gentle yet effective alternative for achieving radiant, youthful-looking skin without the drawbacks of traditional retinoid formulations.

Please just drop me an email before incorporating any of my actives into your skincare routine, especially if you have sensitive or reactive skin. Alternatively, please just fill out this form here to learn more about Meder, Nimue Skin Technology and SkinBetter Science Products.

I hope you have found this guide useful,

Thank you so much for reading,

Emmaline x


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