Please fill your 3-month assessment

Hey , To better understand your specific needs and goals, and ensure we prescribe the most suitable plan for you, please complete the assessment.
Start assessment

The Power of Retinoids: Retinol vs. Retinoic Acid


Retinol, retinoids, and retinoic acid all sound similar, but are they the same thing? There are times when words are interchangeable, but in this case, there are differences. We’ll try our best to help you understand.

The Retinoid Family

Retinol and retinoic acid are both retinoids. Think of retinoids as the parent and the other two as children. If a product contains retinoids, it contains either a retinol or a retinoic acid.

What are retinoids?

Retinoids are a derivative of Vitamin A. They work by breaking down bonds on the surface of the skin, which forces the dead cells to break away. They go even further by working through to the dermis, or the middle layer of your skin. In the dermis, retinoids help grow collagen and elastin. Another retinoid benefit is that they attack free radicals, which can cause cancer. 

Retinoids are amazing when it comes to skincare. They tackle a variety of skincare issues from aging to acne. Because they break down and rebuild, retinoids are a crucial part of speeding up the cellular turnover cycle, which is the entire basis of all of Qyral’s products!

Retinoids are good for:

  • Fine lines and wrinkles

  • Acne

  • Hyperpigmentation

  • Psoriasis

  • Unclogging Pores

  • Reducing inflammation

Although retinoids can be a one-stop-solution for a variety of skin conditions, they do come with side effects. These include:

  • Redness

  • Peeling or flaking

  • Mild stinging or burning

  • Increased sensitivity to the sun

  • Dryness

Retinol and Retinoic Acid

Retinol and retinoic acid are retinoids. To make things even more confusing, retinoic acid is sometimes just called retinoid. But for the purpose of this article, we’ll stick with retinoic acid for consistency’s sake.


Retinol is an ingredient that is available over the counter. It can be used as a standalone or as an ingredient in a compounded product. It’s commonly found in a variety of anti-aging products. You can find it listed as retinyl palmitate, retinaldehyde, retinyl acetate, retinyl linoleate, and propionic acid. 

Since retinol is widely available without a prescription, it’s the weaker retinoid, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t work! Retinol breaks down into retinoic acid once it’s exposed to enzymes on the skin, but it is less potent since it needs to go through steps to get there. It takes longer to see results, but that’s the trade off for convenience and a lower price tag. 

One of the other benefits is that there are fewer side effects, so retinol can be a great option for those with sensitive skin or people who don’t want to go out in public with a red or peeling face. It’s also good for people with dry skin since it tends to be combined with hydrating ingredients.

Retinoic Acid

If you’re wanting a skincare product that packs a major punch, retinoic acid is the way to go. They are extremely potent and for that reason, they are only available with a prescription. That is because these products tend to have more side effects and can also be dangerous when used along with certain other prescriptions, or for people who have health conditions. It’s also advised to avoid products containing retinoic acid while pregnant or nursing. You may see retinoic acid listed as tretinoin, Retin-A, Retin-A Micro, isotretinoin, tazarotene, and others. 

Retinoic acid is powerful and effective and you’ll see the results in a relatively short period of time. But, your skin will be angry for a while as it processes the side effects. You’ll likely experience something called a skin purge, where your skin will look worse for a while before it gets better. 

People with any skin type can use retinoic acid, but like retinols, there are several potencies available. It’s best to start low and work your way up.

How to Use Retinoids

As we’ve mentioned, it’s often smart to work your way up when using retinoids. Start with a lower strength retinol, especially if you have sensitive or dry skin. It won’t take long for your skin to adjust, so next time, take a step up. Eventually, you’ll be able to use retinoic acids and can start the step up process with those.

Because there are so many visible side effects of retinoids, it is often recommended to use them at night so they can work while you are asleep. One tip is to start off using retinoids every other night, in order to minimize the side effects.

After removing any makeup you may be wearing, use a gentle cleanser and thoroughly dry your face. Then apply your retinoid product. Moisturize after to help counteract the dryness. 

Although you’ll be using your retinoid at night, be sure to always wear sunscreen during the day! While your skin is purging, it is extra sensitive so sunscreen is even more important! That said, you should be using sunscreen whether or not you are currently using retinoids!

One thing to note is that retinoids can interact with certain ingredients, so be sure to check you ingredient list. Anything containing benzoyl peroxide or alpha hydroxy acids can actually deactivate the retinoids, making them ineffective. Be careful about using astringents or witch hazel with retinoids. That combination could cause extreme dryness or redness!

How do I get Retinoids?

Retinol is available everywhere from discount store shelves to high end brands. It’s easy and convenient to get. 

Retinoic acid requires you to get a prescription from a doctor. They will review your health history to make sure that these products are safe for you to use. Once you have the prescription, you can fill it at any pharmacy.

But now there’s an easier way to get your hands on quality retinoids!

Qyral has teamed up with board certified dermatologists in order to help you get what you need quickly, easily, and at a substantial cost savings. Simply take our skin assessment. You’ll answer questions about your skin type, your habits, and your medical history. 

We’ll match you with a dermatologist and they’ll write you a prescription that we’ll fill for you! You won’t have to worry about finding time for a doctor’s appointment. It’ll cost $50 for the doctor fee, which will cover you for the next year pertaining to Qyral’s products. If you prefer to stick with our non-prescription options, that’s okay too. You’ll likely get a product containing retinol and you can work your way into the more potent stuff, if that’s your preference.

All of Qyral’s products are custom blended for your skin, so you’ll get exactly what your skin needs to look and feel amazing!

back to blog