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Retin-A VS Retin A MICRO®

Everyone should know that prior to the development of Retin-A in the 1970’s, by Dr.Albert Kligman and Dr.James Fulton, dermatologists basically relied upon oral Vitamin A to help treat acne, and just a few topical treatments helped with signs of photoaging.

Then Retin-A Cream was developed.  Although it was originally used as an acne treatment product, Retin-A has numerous uses now, such as:

  • Treating signs of aging
  • Deeply exfoliating the skin
  • Acting as a keratolytic agent (an agent that removes a plug out of a hair follicle or sweat gland).

After that, different delivery systems of tretinoin were developed, including the following:

Here are the most important things you need to know about Retin-A and the different forms of tretinoin.

1. Retin-A Micro is better for skin and much innovative than Retin-A.

Retin-A Micro is just a technologically evolutioned Retin-A. Retin-A Micro has the sustained Microsponge® systems technology enables the retinoid to be active in your skin for a longer time and absorb faster and deeper in skin cells. The Retin-A Micro Microsponge® system prevents the accumulation of excessive tretinoin within the surface layers of the skin. Each Microsponge® is less than one-thousandth of an inch of diameter, holding a small amount of tretinoin in reserve and introducing only small amounts of tretinoin to the skin over time during prolonged period.

The progressive Microsponge® delivery technology is the reason why Retin-A Micro has higher efficacy and lower irritation rates than simle Retin-A gel or cream. Remember, your skin never gets more vitamin A than it can handle at one time. Retin-A Micro is superior for those with oily and sensitive skin types, due to there being more shine reduction and less irritation potential than with traditional Retin-A.

There is one smaill downside – Retin-A Micro is significantly more expensive than Retin-A, although the price may vary.

2. If your skin is rough, you still may prefer creamy emollient tretinoin options for dry and rough skin such as – Retin-A 0.025% & Retin-A 0.05% and its analogs/generics such as Tretoin 0.05%, Retino-A 0.025%, Retino-A 0.05%, Tretin 0.025%, Tretin 0.05%. They all have the same active ingredients as Retin-A and Retin-A Micro: (tretinoin at 0.05% or 0.025% concentration).

Only Renova is FDA-approved for the treatment of skin surface roughness following UV exposure, including fine facial wrinkles and brown spots. But as we can see all this mentioned creams has the same composition so you can choose whichever you like and achieve the same or better results with all of these analogs/generics and original Retin-A cream.

The reason why plain Retin-A cream is significantly better than Retin-A Micro gel/cream for treating skin aging is due to its emollient system, which prevents irritation for dry and rough skin types (proved by biomedical and Life Sciences). Retin-A softens and soothes the skin once it is absorbed, so users typically have much better compliance, sticking with it far longer than Retin-A Micro.

Since your skin only turns over once every three to four weeks as an adult, it takes this long to see reductions in fine facial wrinkles and brown spots. Since a lot of people have given up on  Retin A Micro at this time, it makes emollient tretinoin creams the better choice for skin aging.

3. Adaferin has NOT the same active ingredient as Retin-A, Retin A micro, or Tretoin. It may be better for acne treatment purposes.
People often think that all retinoids are the same, but in fact, they are not. Adaferin is a form of tretinoin called adapalene at 0.1%. Tazorac or Tazret is a form of vitamin A called tazarotene at 0.1% or tazarotene at 0.05%.

Adaferin or Differin contains adapalene, a derivative of naphthoic acid. Adaferin or Differin possesses similar biological properties to tretinoin, but has higher solubility in fats and oils, and increased photostability (i.e., stability in light).

Adaferin or Differin is also a lot more targeted than Retin-A or Retin-A Micro. Adaferin or Differin only binds to specific receptors within the skin, RAR-β, and RAR-γ, whereas Retin-A or Retin-A Micro binds to a multitude of proteins.

What this means for practical purposes is that adaferin/differin is great for cutting through oil and treating acne. At 12 weeks, the combination has been shown to significantly reduce total, inflammatory, and non-inflammatory acne lesions. It has also been shown to have fewer side effects than tretinoin.

4. Tazret / Tazorac also does not have the same form of vitamin A as Retin-A or Retin-A Micro. It may be better for psoriasis.
Tazret / Tazorac contains a form of vitamin A known as tazarotene at 0.1% or tazarotene at 0.05%.

Tazorotene is the first retinoid formulated specifically for psoriasis. Like Adaferin and Differin, Tazorac only binds to specific receptors in the skin, RAR-β, and RAR-γ.

But if you’re considering Tazorac for treating fine lines, wrinkles, and other signs of UV damage and aging, you may want to reconsider. There are a lot of evidence nowadays that tazarotene benefits patients with moderate photodamage on the face.

5. Retinol is a non-prescription formula and about 20 times less potent than tretinoin (Retin-A, Retin A Micro, Adaferin, and Tazret).

Retinol has incredible efficacy but is technically still a cosmetic rather than a cosmeceutical or professional dermatologist solution. This is because retinol must be activated within the skin before it can do anything: retinol must first be converted to retinaldehyde, and then a compound called all-trans retinoic acid within the skin in order to be effective.

In general, retinol is considered to be about 20 times less potent than retinoic acid, ounce for ounce. So a 0.025% tretinoin is like a 0.50% retinol. A 0.050% tretinoin is like a 1.0% retinol.

Although retinol needs to be present in higher quantities than tretinoin in order to be effective, patients typically experience lower levels of irritation when using retinol products. This may be due to the time it takes for retinol to convert to all-trans retinoic acid within the skin.

6. Retinyl palmitate is even weaker than retinol.
Retinyl palmitate is a combination of pure retinol and palmitic acid  – a substance typically used in cosmetics as a cleansing agent.

Retinyl palmitate must be broken down into retinol and palmitic acid, and then the retinol must still be converted to retinaldehyde and then all-trans retinoic acid within the skin in order to be effective.

It is true that retinyl palmitate present in sufficiently high concentrations can have efficacy similar to that of retinol. But have you ever seen a skin care product say “5.0% retinyl palmitate?” No. Manufacturers of retinyl palmitate don’t dare suggest the concentration of retinyl palmitate, because it leads to questions they don’t want to answer. They know it doesn’t do much if anything.

You’ll sometimes see retinyl palmitate added towards the bottom of ingredient lists in products. If they’re great products aside from the retinyl palmitate, I’ll still advocate for them. Never buy a skin care product with retinyl palmitate less than the concentration of 5% or higher, because they are all super weak.

A dermatologist is always advised to Retin-A and Retin A Micro for skin aging problems but try to rethink all you read now and consider the following: Retin-A Micro has better efficacy than Retin-A cream; Retin-A & Tretoin creams have been shown to have better results for treating signs of sun damage than Retin-A Micro, with typical use; Adaferine or adapalene may be better for people with acne who also want to improve their skin; Tazret or tazarotene may be better for people with psoriasis who also want to improve their skin; 0.025% tretinoin is similar to 0.50% retinol; 0.050% tretinoin is similar to 1.00% retinol; Retinol is far more effective than retinyl palmitate.


Post by:

Dermatologist Marcela J






Marcella Jiovanni

Skin Care Professional

“Marcella Jiovanni actively promotes the importance of maintaining healthy skin, she envisions the future of dermatology as moving away from pure medical, pharmacological dermatology and flowing more toward a holistic approach to wellness and skincare.”