The Many Skin Benefits of the Vitamin A Family (Retinol, Retinaldehyde, Retinoic Acid)


Long touted as one of the most effective ingredients in skincare, the vitamin A family is composed of over-the-counter (OTC) retinol, retinaldehyde, and prescription retinoic acid.

If you’ve been interested in trying a retinoid product but aren’t sure of its benefits or how it works, let me walk you through everything you need to understand about the vitamin A family. 

The Power of Vitamin A in Topical Skincare

Vitamin A features a unique metabolic pathway that converts active compounds into their ultimate form of retinoic acid. Retinoic acid is a type of retinoid, a derivative of vitamin A that boosts cell turnover and stimulates the production of new skin cells. Your epidermis, or skin, is a retinoid-responsive organ, which means it readily absorbs vitamin A when it’s applied topically. When retinoids are applied to the skin, they stimulate a variety of beneficial processes.

Retinoids are typically added to topical skincare products, such as serums or lotions, to promote skin renewal, brighten overall skin tone, and combat fine lines and wrinkles. A retinoid product also can help sweep away dead skin cells to improve overall photodamage, mottled pigmentation, and even acne and pore size.

The Variety of Vitamin A Products

There are many vitamin A-derived products on the market, each with its own set of advantages and drawbacks, depending on your skin goals. Let's take a deeper look at the most common types of vitamin A products.

Over-the-Counter (OTC) Retinol

OTC retinol is typically found in numerous skincare products that do not require a prescription from a dermatologist or doctor. Clinical research studies have shown that OTC retinol products, such as retinyl palmitate, can improve photodamage and reduce acne by addressing both current breakouts, as well as scarring or pigmentation left behind by previous acne.

OTC retinols are less irritating than prescription retinoic acids. These OTC versions are not as potent as their RX counterparts.

OTC Retinal (Retinaldehyde)

Retinal, or retinaldehyde, is also available to purchase over-the-counter without a prescription. The main difference between retinal and retinol is the speed with which they metabolize, as retinal works up to 11 times faster than retinol. This makes retinal ideal for more mature skin seeking a significant, more rapid improvement in fine lines and wrinkles. However, its faster speed does mean retinal could be more irritating to sensitive skin types.

Likewise, retinal is the only retinoid that displays direct antibacterial properties. For those experiencing acne blemishes, retinal can reduce the bacteria responsible for breakouts, helping to improve overall skin tone and texture. However, if your acne is hormonal-based, a bacteria-fighting retinal may not be the best match.

RX Retinoic Acid: Tretinoin, Renova, and More

RX retinoic acids such as Retin-A, Renova, Tretin-X, and Altreno all require a prescription. These products are typically available in varying strengths, such as 0.025%, 0.05%, or 0.1%. Regardless of which strength you are prescribed, a prescription retinoic acid will be more potent than any OTC vitamin A.

Retinoic acid has been extensively utilized to treat photodamaged skin and prevent the development of additional fine lines, wrinkles, and photo-pigmentation. Much like other retinoids, retinoic acid is a light-sensitive compound, which is why it is best applied at night. Because retinoic acid can make the skin more sensitive to UV rays, adequate and effective daily sun protection is crucial. Consult with a dermatologist to ensure RX retinoic acid is ideal for your skin goals.

Vitamin A Duo

Youth EssentiA C-Quence Serum and Defence Creme provide a powerful daily defense with vitamin A, C and E, Rosemary Leaf and potent Green Tea extract to protect your skin.

Youth Essentia Vita-Peptide C-Quence Serum 1

Vita-Peptide C-Quence Serum 1 is the introductory serum in the premium Environ Vitamin STEP-UP SYSTEM™ and contains the lowest concentration of vitamin A and C in the Youth EssentiA range. The technologically advanced serums in this Vitamin STEP-UP SYSTEM™ range contain a powerful combination of ingredients that work in synergy to assist in: combating the visible signs of aging; creating the appearance of even, smoother and healthier looking skin; supporting and maintaining a radiantly youthful appearance.

Youth EssentiA Vita-Antioxidant Defence Creme

This powerful moisturizing cream is enriched with several antioxidants that help to combat the effects of free radical damage. It also contains a dynamic combination of moisturizers that assist in improving the appearance of the skin, allowing it to feel soft, smooth and looking youthfully radiant.


Concentrated Retinol Serum 3

Retinol Serum 3 has been formulated with high concentrations of vitamin A. It is designed to help normalize the appearance of skin abnormalities and damage, and in promoting healthy-looking skin eventually creating skin that looks truly reborn beautiful.