The Retinoid Family - All the Retinols

The Retinoid Family - All the Retinols

Posted by Kristen Woodson, Delasco on April 29, 2022, 10:21 am

Retinols are considered the gold standard in anti-aging products, but there are many forms with varying benefits and side affects.

All retinols are derivatives of Vitamin A, so let’s start by answering the question ‘what is vitamin A?’

Vitamin A is a potent antioxidant ingredient that helps protect the skin against UV damage and slows the signs of aging. Vitamin A is great for skin conditions like acne, hyperpigmentation and aging skin. It’s composed of two parts: Carotenoids (Pro Vitamin A) and Retinoids. Carotenoids, like Beta Carotene, help maintain healthy skin. Retinoids are the active form of vitamin A and can take on a few forms, like Retinyl Esters, Retinol, Retinaldehyde, Retinyl Palmitate and Retinoic Acid.

So, what are Retinoids?

Let’s dive into each type…


This is the most common retinoid and is prescription only. Retin-A, Renova (Tretinoin), Tazorac (Tazarotene), and Differin (Adapalene) are all prescription brands for retinoic acid. Retin-A was fist developed in the 1970’s as an acne treatment, though studies showed a reduction in hyperpigmentation and wrinkles as well. It was later approved by the FDA for those skin conditions too.

Retinoic Acid has the most side effects of all the retinoids - redness, irritation, inflammation, photo-sensitivity and excessive peeling are just a few of the side effects of retinoic acid.


Retinol is found in many over-the-counter skincare products and is considered the gold standard in anti-aging because it smooths out fine lines and wrinkles, as well as texture concerns.

Retinol converts to retinoic acid in the skin, aids damaged cells to mature normally, encourages exfoliation, stimulates cell proliferation, brightens skin, and can improve conditions such as acne, rosacea and hyperpigmentation.

The adverse reactions are less than retinoic acid, but proceed with caution as this is still a powerful ingredient.


Retinaldehyde has been shown to improve the feel of firmness and elasticity, and reduce the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles and rough skin. It is also better tolerated than Retinoic Acid, making it an attractive option for those with sensitive or delicate skin.


Along with Retinol, this is the most common retinoid found naturally in the body. It is a storage form of retinol that carries retinol binding proteins. For example, Palmitic Acid, found in Retinyl Palmitate, is a Retinyl Ester.


A combination of retinol (vitamin A) and palmitic acid (retinyl ester), this highly effective antioxidant is a gentle retinoid with overall less side effects. It helps protect skin from UV rays, effective at reducing sun damage and hyperpigmentation, and (when combined with Alpha Hydroxy Acids) reduces fine lines and wrinkles.

Retinyl Palmitate also has a ‘BEST’ rating on Paula’s Choice, a notable reference site for skincare ingredients.

What kind of Skin Therapeutic products have retinoids in their formula?

So glad you asked. Click the product name to learn more.