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What is Non-Prescription Retinol?

by Ella Goodman 04 Mar 2020

We live in a time when we have practically endless options for skincare. No matter what your skin type or budget, there seems to be a solution out there that promises true results for your skin. Skincare consumers have become savvy enough that they’re better able to determine when a product is really going to work, and when the claims are full of hot air. One skincare ingredient that has stood the test of time and earned a reputation as being a trustworthy, solid gold performer is retinol.

It’s difficult to look at any skincare line without coming across the words retinoid or retinol somewhere on the label. These products can work wonderfully if they’re formulated correctly but it’s important to realize that not all retinoids are the same. Some retinoids, as you know, are available without a prescription and readily available for purchase. Others, like tretinoin require a prescription to use. What’s the difference between these types of retinoids, and is non-prescription retinol as effective as its prescription strength counterparts?

What Are Retinoids?

Retinoid has become quite the buzzword in the skincare industry but surprisingly few people really understand what retinoids are and how they work. To begin, there are several compounds that fall into the category of retinoids, all of which are derivatives of Vitamin A. Retinoids have been shown in scientific studies to help heal acne and reduce the visible signs of aging that appear on your skin. While retinoids are valued, prescribed and recommended for a variety of applications, the only use that is currently approved by the FDA is for the treatment of acne. Many are surprised to learn this as Retin-A has become a popular choice for antiaging skin care regimens.

There are several different compounds in the retinoid family. These include adapalene, retinaldehyde, tretinoin, retinyl esters, and retinol. Of these, adapalene and tretinoin are the strongest, which is why you’re not going to find these types of retinoids in your standard over-the-counter skincare products. Less potent retinoids, like retinyl esters and retinol are weaker. These are the types of retinoids that are in all those non- prescription anti-aging skincare products you see advertised.

Of the prescription retinoids, tretinoin, which is frequently prescribed under the brand name of Retin-A, is among the most popular and widely used. It’s also only available through a medical prescription due to the potential side effects and the importance of using it properly. Topical tretinoin can cause side effects such as itching, burning, redness, irritation, and peeling – some of which can be severe in sensitive individuals. It’s important that use of tretinoin is monitored to reduce the risk of side effects.

So, What About Non-Prescription Retinol?

When it comes to non-prescription strength retinol, you might be wondering if the retinol skincare products you might purchase from a cosmetics counter, your local drug store, or online are going to live up to all the hype – especially when compared to super strength tretinoin.

There isn’t a tremendous difference in the mechanisms through which these different types of retinoids perform. The main difference is in the potency, and how fast they work. Tretinoin, because of its strength, works incredibly fast. You see noticeable changes to your skin rather quickly. The main drawback of tretinoin is the side effects. Most people who use tretinoin experience at least mild side effects for the first couple of weeks of use. It’s difficult to focus on how clear your skin is becoming or how those fine lines seem less noticeable when you’re more focused on the fact that your skin is peeling and red.

With non-prescription retinol, you won’t see results quite as quickly. However, you’re not going to suffer through all the side effects either. Non-prescription retinols work a little slower but have been shown to produce results on par with that of Retin-A several months into treatment. In studies that compared users of nonprescription retinoid cream to those who used prescription strength products, there weren’t any notable side effects reported with non-prescription retinoid cream use. The absence of side effects is a huge benefit. Also, a major portion of those who had tried both reported the results of the non-prescription retinol were significant enough that they’d be willing to say goodbye to their expensive prescription retinoid treatments.

Choosing the Right Retinoid for Your Skin

Should you choose a non-prescription retinol product or head to your dermatologist for a tretinoin prescription? You should take your skincare concerns and the results you’re looking to achieve into consideration. One word of caution – some medical professionals are quick to prescribe tretinoin, even when a non-prescription retinol will work just as effectively, with practically zero side effects.

If your skincare concerns are generally mild, it’s always best to start with the gentlest option available. Look for a non-prescription retinoid cream that is formulated with ingredients that complement the power of retinol. Admire My Skin’s Clinically Effective Retinoid Cream contains plant stem cells and hyaluronic acid in addition to 2.5% retinol to produce visible results without the troublesome side effects. Beautiful skin requires good care and good diligence in choosing the products you use to care for it.

Discover how to build an effective skincare routine for all skin types with our top selection skincare product bundles.

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