Retinoids are vitamin A and its natural derivatives. The body uses vitamin A in many ways beyond skincare: to improve vision, regulate cell proliferation and differentiation, grow bone tissue, and activate immune function and tumor suppressor genes. In the context of skin, retinoids stimulate collagen production, normalize melanocyte function, and regulate skin cell turnover.
When dermatologists refer to “retinoids,” they refer to prescription-grade retinoids, which contain the active ingredient retinoic acid. Upon direct contact with your skin, retinoic acid is converted by your skin to boost collagen. It improves pigmentation, skin texture and roughness, fine lines and wrinkles, and acne. It also has protective effects against precancerous skin lesions.
Retinol is a type of non-prescription-grade retinoid often found in anti-aging creams. Retinol is the precursor of retinoic acid, the active ingredient in prescription-grade retinoids like Tretinoin and Retin-A. Because retinols require further conversion to retinoic acid, they are not as potent as prescription-grade retinoids.