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Retinol vs Retinaldehyde: What Sets Them Apart?

 Retinol and Retinaldehyde: Understanding the Contrast

While you’re facing fine lines and wrinkles, or struggling with stubborn acne, the retinoid family has got your back. The two beneficial vitamin A derivatives, retinol and retinaldehyde (popularly known as retinal) have distinct but associated properties and potential benefits to give your skin a youthful and radiant transformation.

So, retinol vs. retinaldehyde: what’s the difference between them, and which one is better? It’s crucial to compare them and understand the differences to make informed decisions and reach your skincare goals.

Retinol and retinal both sound similar with a small manipulation of letters. Both these vitamin A derivatives have proven clinical advantages to transform your skin for the good.

Let’s explore all the uncovered secrets of these magical skincare ingredients and decipher the vitamin A cycle before keeping the chosen one on your shelf.

Understanding Vitamin A Derivatives: Retinol & Retinaldehyde


Retinol is a vitamin A derivative, belongs to the retinoid family, and is a critical player in the skincare industry. Mainly used in anti-ageing and acne-combating products, retinol has been gaining an array of popularity over the years.

It has a brilliant capacity to stimulate the cell turnover process. This process further sheds the dead cells and makes the new cells form, promoting a radiant glow.


Retinaldehyde, also known as retinal, is also a form of vitamin A and serves various skincare benefits. This highly beneficial skincare ingredient is popular for its anti-ageing and acne-combating properties similar to retinol. If compared, retinaldehyde is milder than the prescription retinoids.

This one can be a better option if you’re dealing with sensitive skin and can be just the right formula for you if you are looking for an effective combination of potency and gentleness.

How These Ingredients Help Your Skin?

These vitamin A derivatives offer significant benefits to our skin, being a versatile ingredient. Incorporating retinol into your well-rounded skincare routine can help achieve luminous and healthy skin. 

common benefits of retinol and retinaldehyde

Let’s explore some of the most common benefits of retinol and retinaldehyde.

1. Enlarged Pores

There are depressions on the surface of your skin. These depressions feature one or a few openings to the ducts transporting oil and sweat from their glands. These depressions are nothing but enlarged pores for you.

When these pores become clogged with dead skin cells or oil, retinol may help you. You can opt for topical retinol or retinaldehyde which effectively treats the large pores. They are known to increase the cell turnover of your skin, which means shedding old cells and generating new cells quickly.

2. Melasma

Melasma is a common skin condition in which dark brownish or grey patches appear, majorly affecting cheeks, upper lips, nose, and forehead. The overproduction of the cells responsible for your skin colour causes melasma.

If you are a woman, your chances of getting affected through Melasma might be higher than men due to its association with hormonal changes during pregnancy or birth control pills. But vitamin A derivatives are the right ingredient to help you.

Be specific while choosing your product. While using the suitable product, cellular turnover of the skin’s cells gets increased, and the old pigmented cells are replaced with new ones giving you a replenished clean surface. 

3. Psoriasis

Psoriasis is another skin condition that causes inflammation and irritation. Fresh skin cells grow too rapidly in the sufferer’s skin, and when the new cells build up, they come up with redness.


Here the topical retinol or retinaldehyde works to slow down the cellular turnover process of the skin. You might see a decrement in the skin’s rash. What’s more crucial is to combine this ingredient with another one to get the potential results as only retinol may further irritate the skin. Asking your dermatologist would be the smartest move. 

4. Hyperpigmentation

You may have to face hyperpigmentation due to several reasons, sun damage is the most common one. Sun can cause the accumulation of melanin resulting in brownish spots on your skin, mainly on the face, hands, and neck.

These spots are absolutely painless but can affect your appearance and self-esteem. Get rid of them with the appropriate use of a retinoid product; it can brighten and lighten the skin by fading these spots away.

5. Fine Lines & Wrinkles

Some of you may witness a few early signs of ageing, and vitamin A forms can help you here too by making your skin thick, more elastic, and stimulating collagen production. They contribute to the elasticity and texture of your skin by decelerating collagen breakdown.

A consistent usage of topical serum can make a visible difference to your skin. But you must be patient while using it to see the actual results.

6. Acne

Retinoids, specifically retinol and retinaldehyde have a rich potential to perform wonders when it comes to confronting various types of acne. It has been proven as a strong anti-acne ingredient from the early forms of acne to the stubborn ones. When your skin is dealing with the early stages of acne, it aids in normalising the skin. 


7. Tone & Texture

A consistent routine with these skincare ingredients might give you a confident, even skin tone that is smoother to the touch. You can reduce the appearance of rough patches on the skin, and give it a refined texture, just use the appropriate quantity and ensure the right timings for the application.

These ingredients encourage exfoliation and synthesis production, and these phenomena contribute to the overall brightness and youthful appearance of your skin improve your self-esteem and make you even more confident about who you are.

Retinol (also called vitamin A1) and retinaldehyde are available with both over-the-counter and prescription options. They can be brought in the following types;

  • Serums
  • Gels
  • Lotions
  • Creams
  • Ointments

Potential Side Effects

Though these ingredients are widely known and a potential solution for a lot of skin problems, they might not be suitable for the entire populace. You must get a recommendation from your dermatologist before start using them in your skincare regimen.

Here are the probable side effects;

  • Itchiness or tingling sensation
  • Increased sensitivity to the sun
  • Irritation, shedding, dry, or rough skin
  • Peeling or flaky skin

The most common side effects of these two skincare ingredients are dryness and irritation. Another well-known condition that can occur is called retinoid dermatitis which is characterised by an increased sensitivity and redness. This condition can make skin more susceptible to inflammation and flakiness, potentially leading to other skin concerns.

The best way to avoid the probable side effects is to start using retinol or retinaldehyde after a dermatologist’s recommendation. Begin with a tiny amount and increase that gradually instead of using it like a pro. It will save you from future skin issues, as you can trace the underlying concerns in the beginning only.

Retinol vs Retinaldehyde: The Comparison

Though retinol and retinaldehyde offer similar purposes, there are some notable differences that you might consider before choosing any one of them.

  • Retinaldehyde is what we consider more potent as compared to retinol but at the same time, it is milder than the prescription-strength retinoids like tretinoin (Retin-A).
  • Retinol needs two conversion steps to become an active form of vitamin A, known as retinoic acid, whereas retinaldehyde is one step closer to retinoic acid, thus requiring only a single step to get converted.
  • Retinol might be more irritating on the skin due to its lower potency than retinaldehyde. People with sensitive skin prefer retinaldehyde for this specific reason.
  • Retinaldehyde is a more stable form of retinol. What does it mean? When you expose both these ingredients to air and light, retinol degrades faster while retinaldehyde is more inclined to sustain its effectiveness over a longer duration.
  • There are chances to see faster results while using retinaldehyde compared to retinol. The reason is retinaldehyde’s closer proximity to the active form of vitamin A.

Which One Should You Choose?

Choosing between retinol and retinaldehyde can be a tough choice as both of them offer similar advantages. But you can be more specific and think of some considerations.

Typically, retinaldehyde is a more potent form of vitamin A and can be less irritating on the skin while addressing your concerns, so it’s ideal to opt for it leaving the retinol.

Moreover, if you are eager to witness faster results, retinaldehyde will help you. It works better with mature skin.

How to Introduce Retinol or Retinaldehyde into Beauty Routine?

Before we actually start rooting into the routine, you must know that both the ingredients, retinol or retinaldehyde must be applied at nighttime.

We have outlined a few tips to start using vitamin A derivatives to ensure the maximum results.

1. Begin Slowly

Your skin is not habitual to using these ingredients and applying it every single night can be harsh to your skin. Your skin takes time to adjust to the new ingredient. The best way would be to start using it two to three times a week. Then gradually you can increase the number of days after consulting your dermatologist and the skin concern.

2. Nighttime Application

These two ingredients are sensitive to light and that’s why they have dark-coloured packaging. Similarly, when we use them during the day, sun exposure can cause damage to the skin. So, stay safe and use it before your bed at night only.

3. Use a Tiny Quantity

Good results are not directly proportional to a huge amount. A pea-sized amount for the entire face is more than enough. 

Tiny quantity on face

4. Monitor Your Skin’s Behaviour

Your skin may or may not behave well with vitamin A, and you can come across flakiness, dryness, or even irritation as some common side effects. If any of these happen, stop using the product and consult your doctor immediately to save yourself from deep-down damage.

5. Stay Consistent

Be consistent in your routine, and stay regular. Vitamin A derivatives cannot perform an overnight miracle on your skin. Thus, you must be patient and positive. But you can expect good results over a longer period.

DRSQ’s Retinaldehyde-Containing Products

At DRSQ Skincare, we have a range of skincare products infused with retinaldehyde available. You can find products according to your concerns;

  • Miracle Pro Vitamin Serum: It is a level 2 potent multipurpose vitamin A serum with 0.5% retinaldehyde. From stimulating collagen production, and minimising congestion, to restoring skin’s elasticity and firmness and reducing congestion in acne and rosacea, the serum is suitable for all skin types.
  • Advanced Vitamin A Serum: If you have already tried lower-strength vitamin A serums, then this 1% retinaldehyde-containing serum is for you. It is non-irritating and gives anti-ageing effects by acting upon wrinkles and fine lines.
  • Starter Vitamin A Serum: Starter Vitamin A serum is infused with 0.25% retinaldehyde. It is a suitable product for dermatitis, rosacea-prone, and inflamed skin. It aids in the reversal of multiple topical ageing signs, including loose skin and pigmentation.
  • Acne Clear Serum: This is an anti-acne and hyperpigmentation serum with 0.5% retinaldehyde. The serum targets breakouts, pigmentation, uneven skin, and blemishes, to give you clear, healthy, and younger-looking skin. It normalises oil and acts against bacteria and inflammation on your skin.

Recommended Skincare Routine

Regardless of how you choose to proceed with your skincare regimen, introducing it the right way is of the utmost importance. You must use a thoughtful approach to maximise the benefits.

  • Cleansing: DRSQ offers an extensive cleanser range suitable for various concerns to begin with.
  • Toner: Toners balance the skin’s pH levels. It also prepares your skin for the next step.
  • Vitamin A Derivative Treatment (Retinol or Retinaldehyde): You can apply a serum addressing the specific skin concern.
  • Eye Treatment: If you’re going through dark circles or puffiness around the eye area, treat it with the right eye cream or balm.
  • Moisturiser: Give your skin a pinch of good moisturiser to lock the hydration.


Retinol and retinaldehyde are the derivatives of vitamin A. Though both of them offer similar advantages to your skin, you cannot go with any of them randomly. While retinol is more popular, retinaldehyde is more potent and offers faster results. There can be way more reasons to make the right choice, from your expectations to your concerns. Whichever you choose, we suggest following the above-mentioned tips and getting clean and healthy skin gradually over time. 

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