Retinol vs Retinal - What's the difference? – Above The Collar

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Retinol vs Retinal - What's the difference?


If you were anything like me, then you probably were mistaken into thinking retinal is just retinol by another name. Well, I'm here to clarify that it's not.

See, Vitamin A has long reigned supreme as the gold standard of anti-aging, it resurfaces your skin, enhances collagen production, reduces blemishes, fades wrinkles, and brightens the complexion.

Vitamin A however comes in many different forms, there's the tried and tested retinol and then there's the next generation Retinal.

So what's the difference?


Skin Type

Although working in similar ways, they have few differences when it comes to skin types.

Retinal: Retinal works up to 11 times faster than its counterpart. This makes it perfect for more mature skin types that want to see a rapid improvement in fines lines and wrinkles.

Retinal is the only Retinoid that exhibits direct antibacterial properties.

This makes it perfect for those prone to blemishes. With continued use, it diminishes the bacteria responsible for breakouts to leave skin looking clear, radiant, and youthful.

Retinol: Not everyone needs such rapid rejuvenation, however, So more youthful skin would fare better with retinol, especially when it comes to signs of aging. 



Both retinol and retinal speed up cellular regeneration and collagen production to plump the skin while reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. They also help to inhibit the production of excess melanin to promote a brighter and more even-toned complexion.

Retinal: Yields results much faster. 11 times faster to be precise. it also has a faster exfoliation rate which contributes to even-toned and radiant skin. 


Retinol: Still effective in fighting anti-aging, however, is more gentle on the skin, though works its magic slower.


Side Effects

Both Retinal and Retinol can cause mild irritation when they're first introduced to the skin. These effects are only temporary, and they usually occur when vitamin A has been introduced too quickly or in too high a quantity. 

Retinal: Generally retinal is harsher on the skin than retinol, but developments in encapsulation techniques have allowed formulators to create products that are just as kind on the skin.


Retinol: This is more gentle on the skin than Retinal, and you will likely see less irritation with the use of this product.  


Introducing vitamin A into your routine gradually is the best way to avoid irritation. Start with a low percentage. Use it twice a week for the first 2 weeks, every other night for a further 2 weeks, and then every night.

Once your skin has built up a tolerance to the ingredient, you can then move on to higher-strength products.