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Retinoids: Their Role in Acne Treatment

Updated: Mar 11

Acne is a common skin issue that affects many of us. While there are countless treatments out there, one type has been making waves due to its effectiveness - retinoids. This article will help you understand what retinoids are, how they can help treat acne, and where you can get them.


A woman with wrapped hair putting serum resembling retinol from a dropper on her face

Unravelling the Mystery of Retinoids

Retinoids are a type of ingredient that's often found in skincare products. They're known for their powerful anti-aging benefits and their ability to help clear up acne. Retinoids work by promoting skin cell turnover, which helps to unclog pores, reduce acne, and even out skin tone. They also stimulate collagen production, which can help reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Despite their benefits, retinoids can cause skin irritation, so it's important to use them correctly and under the guidance of a skincare professional. There are several types of retinoids, each with its own unique benefits and uses, which we'll explore in this article.

How Retinol Works

Retinol, also known as Vitamin A1, is one of the many forms of Vitamin A. It is a fat-soluble vitamin that is essential for various biological processes, including vision, immune function, and cell growth.

In the body, retinol is converted into retinoic acid through a two-step process:

After the conversion of retinol, retinoic acid is then able to benefit the skin by:

  1. Promoting Cell Turnover: Retinoic acid increases the rate of cell turnover, which means it helps your skin shed dead cells and produce new ones. This process can help unclog pores, reduce acne, and make your skin smoother.

  2. Boosts Collagen Production: Retinoic acid can stimulate the production of collagen, the protein responsible for maintaining skin elasticity and firmness. Increased collagen can help reduce the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines, leading to a more youthful appearance.

  3. Fades Hyperpigmentation: By accelerating cell turnover, retinoic acid can also help fade hyperpigmentation (dark spots, age spots, acne scars) for a more even skin tone.

  4. Regulates Sebum Production: Retinoic acid can help regulate sebum production, which can reduce acne and make your skin less oily.

  5. Improves Blood Vessel Formation: Retinoic acid can stimulate the formation of new blood vessels in the skin, improving skin color and giving a healthier appearance.

  6. Antioxidant Properties: Retinoic acid has antioxidant properties, which means it can neutralise harmful free radicals that cause damage to skin cells. This can help prevent premature ageing and maintain overall skin health.

Exploring the Different Types of Retinoids

There are several types of retinoids, each with its own unique benefits. In this article, we'll be looking at five of them: Tretinoin, Adapalene, Tazarotene, Retinaldehyde, and Isotretinoin.

1. Tretinoin

Tretinoin is a type of retinoid that's known for its anti-aging benefits. It helps to keep your skin firm by boosting collagen production, and it can also help to heal wounds faster. Plus, it's great for treating acne because it helps to regulate skin cell growth. Tretinoin is usually prescribed by a doctor and is not available over the counter.

2. Adapalene

Adapalene is another type of retinoid that's great for people with sensitive skin. It's used for anti-aging purposes and has been shown to significantly improve skin that's been damaged by the sun. Adapalene is available over the counter in lower strengths, but stronger concentrations require a prescription.

3. Tazarotene

Tazarotene is a retinoid that's used to help reduce fine lines and pigmentation on the face. It works by binding to certain receptors in your skin cells, helping to keep your skin looking youthful. Tazarotene is usually prescribed by a doctor and is not available over the counter.

4. Understanding Retinaldehyde

Retinaldehyde is a type of retinoid that's found in some skincare products. It's been shown to help reduce wrinkles and roughness in the skin. However, for it to work, it needs to be converted into another form of retinoid called tretinoin. Retinaldehyde is typically available over the counter.

5. Isotretinoin: A Closer Look

Isotretinoin is a type of retinoid that's often used to treat severe acne. However, it can have side effects, including mood changes and hair loss. Doctors usually monitor these side effects closely during treatment. Isotretinoin is a prescription medication and is not available over the counter.


Understanding the different types of retinoids, their effectiveness, and how to get them is important for anyone dealing with acne. Remember, it's always best to talk to a skincare professional before starting any new treatment.

Schedule a consultation with us today to start your acne recovery journey today!

This blog post was medically reviewed by Dr Summer Zhang.


2. G. Leonardi. (2017). Tretinoin Peel: A Critical Review.


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