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Where Does Retin A Come From?

by Ella Goodman 05 Dec 2019

Retin A is one of the most well-known skincare treatments in use today. It’s a prescription-only treatment that’s being used to treat a range of skin conditions, from healing acne to minimizing the signs of aging skin. It’s a product that has developed a following from both the celebrity crowd as well as ordinary people who just love what it does for the appearance and texture of their skin. With so much fuss about Retin A, it’s only natural to wonder what the stuff really is, and where it comes from.

What Is Retin A?

Retin A is a brand name of a retinoid called tretinoin. All retinoids are derivatives of Vitamin A, or if we’re going to get more specific about it, beta carotene. Tretinoin is considered a first-generation retinoid, which means it’s very similar in chemical structure to vitamin A.

Tretinoin, which would eventually become available under the brand name of Retin A, was first developed in the 1950s. A few years later it was officially approved for medical use for the treatment of acne. Tretinoin is also sometimes used to treat non-skin related conditions, such as a very specific type of leukemia. However, when we speak of tretinoin here, we’re referring primarily to topical applications, such as those used by people who are prescribed Retin A.

Where Does Retin A Come From?

Retin A is technically formulated in a lab, but it has natural roots in that it’s synthesized from beta carotene. There is a specific biosynthesis pathway that’s followed in the development of Retin A. To put it in technical chemistry terms, beta carotene is cleated into beta carotene 15-15-monoxygnease with a double bond oxidized to epoxide. It is then reduced by water to aldehyde. This is the short version of the story, but it’s enough to demonstrate the chain of chemical reactions between pure beta carotene and Retin A is relatively small.

In less scientific terms, we know that because Retin A is a Vitamin A derivative that it also presents with some of the same health boosting properties of beta carotene – being a powerful antioxidant as just one example. If you’re someone who pays attention to what’s new and exciting in the world of skincare, you might have noticed that Vitamin A has been showing up more on the labels of your favorite skincare products. This is because vitamin A, and its derivatives, can do wonderful things for your skin.

Is Retin A a Retinoid or a Retinol?

While Retin A has a reputation of being a virtual miracle worker in the cosmetic and skincare industry, it has also been the instigator in causing some confusion among consumers. While Retin A is a prescription only product, the skincare market is flooded with products containing retinols, or other retinoids. What’s the difference, and where does Retin A fall along the scale?

Like retinoids, retinols are derived from Vitamin A. The simplest way to explain it is that all retinols are retinoids, but not all retinoids are retinols. If that made your head spin a little, let’s try another example. Blueberries are a berry, as are strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries. All blueberries are berries, but not all berries are blueberries. Hopefully, that makes the concept a little clearer to understand, and if you’re like me, you might also have a craving for a nice berry tart right about now.

Generally speaking, retinoids are stronger than retinols. This is why retinoids like tretinoin, or Retin A, are only available through a prescription, while retinols can be found in the products you buy off the shelf, or through a website as the case may be. Retin A is known to come with a few side effects, which can be unpleasant if the treatment is used improperly. This is a major part of the reason why you need to see a doctor to get a prescription for Retin A. Retinols, on the other hand, are generally milder and produce minimal, if any side effects.

Is There a Non-Prescription Alternative to Retin A?

Retin A has some very devoted followers, and many of them would argue that there is no substitute that can produce such noticeable, impressive results. However, there are non-prescription strength retinol products that have compared very favorably in trials against Retin A. And yes, the trial participants included those who were quite fond of their Retin A.

What was discovered was that in many cases, a quality non-prescription retinoid cream is equally effective in minimizing the signs of aging, as well as improving the texture and appearance of the skin. Considering that retinol doesn’t require a prescription, this has led a good number of individuals to reconsider their skincare options.

Is Retin A Right for You?

Retin A works beautifully for some people and produces unpleasant side effects in others. The best approach might be to start with something that’s gentler than Retin A, but that has also shown to be on par with the results produced.

Admire My Skin Clinically Effective Retinoid Cream is a gentle retinol cream that’s suitable for a range of skin types, and is formulated with other powerful, yet gentle active ingredients. Beautiful skin shouldn’t require harsh treatments, or anything that comes with a list of potential side effects. Be gentle with your skin, treat it right, and watch your natural beauty shine through.

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

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