The Naderi Center - Retinols Or Retinoids: Overcoming The Paradox Of Choice

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Why prescription retinoids are better than over-the-counter options. Here is what you need to know.

The Naderi Center

The Naderi Center is truly the most specialized and unique plastic surgery & dermatology practice in the United States.

Have you ever walked into your favorite store and took a pause because of the overwhelming amount of choices of vitamin A derivatives in front of you? The wide range of current skincare options, although a wonderful option to have, can cause some feelings of anxiety to arise. In addition, some people interchangeably use the words “retinol” and “retinoids” without realizing that these are not the same.

Finding the right skincare regimen is hard, expensive, and time-consuming, and The Naderi Center is here to help simplify your choices. Our Board-Certified Dermatologist, Dr. Alexandra Snodgrass, weighs in on why prescription retinoids are better than over-the-counter options, or retinols.

Vitamin A derivatives help exfoliate the skin, boost collagen production, stimulate cellular turnover, decrease oil production, and repair photodamage. Thus, these ingredients are considered the most effective weapons in fighting and preventing acne—including aging. However, selecting the right vitamin A derivative for your skin can be confusing, which usually scares people away from using them altogether. Even worse, not using them properly.

Prescription strength retinoids, or tretinoin, are better than over-the-counter brands because they are stronger. According to Dr. Snodgrass, “retinols are required to undergo three steps of metabolism before they are in their active form and able to exert a meaningful effect on the skin.” Since the retinoic acid present in prescription products are already in the active form and are ready to be absorbed into the skin, Dr. Snodgrass “usually always recommends prescription strength and rarely recommends anything else unless the patient cannot tolerate it.” For patients who cannot tolerate prescription strength, another option would be Differin, or adapalene, which used to only be prescription, but is now available over-the-counter.

Depending on the evaluation of the patient’s dermatologist, “if they have recalcitrant (unresponsive to other therapies) or scarring acne, Accutane may be the next course of action. Isotretinoin, or Accutane, is a powerful and potent drug used in the treatment of acne.

There are lots of products available over-the-counter that are not being used properly, including retinoids and retinols. Thus, having a dermatologist is beneficial for everyone.

The Naderi Center is truly the most specialized and unique plastic surgery & dermatology practice in the United States.

If you would like more information on about this topic, please call us at (703) – 481- 0002 or email

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