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A 39-year-old member asked:

What's the difference between retinol and vitamin a in skin cream, if any?

2 doctor answers4 doctors weighed in
Dr. M. Christine Lee
Dermatology 30 years experience
Retinol more active: Retinol is an animal form of vitamin a. Vitamin a comes in 2 sources: animal and plant. The animal source is called retinoids which include retinol. The plant source is called carotenoids which includes beta-carotene. The body converts beta-carotene to vitamin a. Retinol is the more active form of vitamin a that is better absorbed thru the skin.
Created for people with ongoing healthcare needs but benefits everyone.
Dr. Catherine Winslow
Facial Plastic Surgery 36 years experience
Strength and potency: There are many derivatives of vitamin a in skin creams, and retinols are such derivatives. Anything purchased over the counter will pale in comparison to a tretinoin, or prescription strength vitamin a (like Retin-A or renova). To obtain this you would have to go through a doctor's office but will get maximum potency out of such a product. Don't use any if pregnant or trying to get pregnant!
Created for people with ongoing healthcare needs but benefits everyone.
Last updated May 6, 2019


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