Everything You Need To Know About Retinal

No, we didn't mean retinol.

Woman Putting on Face Cream
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You know retinol—the vitamin A derivative and antiaging wonder. The skin care ingredient that countless beauty editors, dermatologists, and know-it-all (er, we mean, well-informed) friends have been touting for years. It's also known to clear up persistent acne, brighten and smooth skin tone and texture, and boost collagen production. Needless to say, it's easy to see why it has such an enthusiastic fan base. Though often lauded as the preeminent skincare ingredient for turning back the clock on aging, another vitamin A powerhouse on the market has proven to have even more muscle: Enter, retinaldehyde, aka retinal.

What is Retinal?

Retinal is the closest thing you can get to prescription-strength vitamin A, which in its mildest form is tretinoin. Retinal can be more effective than retinol, but with the extra punch of power comes an increased likelihood of skin sensitivity. Therefore, it's a logical next step for those already using retinol as part of their skincare routine but isn't seeing results. It's best to know that your skin tolerates retinol before venturing into using a retinal.

What is the Difference Between Retinal and Retinol?

One of the primary differences between retinal vs. retinol is the time it takes to make an impact. After retinol absorbs into the skin, it has to go through two processes to convert into active retinoic acid: retinol to retinal, then retinal to retinoic acid. Retinal, on the other hand, needs one conversion before hitting the big time.

Because retinol takes a bit longer to become beneficial to the skin in its retinoic acid form, it also takes more time to see results. Retinal's increased speed in effectiveness can mean faster results, but it can also go hand-in-hand with an increased likelihood of a skin reaction—particularly redness and irritation.

To decrease skin sensitivity, your dermatologist may suggest easing into use by applying every other day until your skin has shown a tolerance. We've listed a few retinal products below. As with any topical treatment for skin care concerns, your dermatologist can provide a wealth of information specific to your individual skin needs, including what vitamin A product is best for you.

Retinal Products To Try

  • Allies of Skin 1A™ Retinal + Peptides Overnight Mask, $109; dermstore.com
  • Avène RetrinAL ADVANCED Wrinkle Corrector, $56; dermstore.com
  • Obagi RETIVANCE® Skin Rejuvenating Complex, $133; dermstore.com

WATCH: This Is the Antiaging Cleanser Jackie Kennedy Used for Her Gorgeous Skin

What's your go-to skincare ingredient? You know, the one you immediately look for in ingredient lists. Are you an avid fan of bakuchiol, retinol, or hyaluronic acid? Share with us.

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