Table of Content:
Are tretinoin and retinol the same? | What are they used for? | Tretinoin vs adapalene | What is tretinoin? | What is adapalene? | What is better for anti-aging? | What is better for acne? | How to use them for anti-aging? | How to get a prescription? | What is the price difference? | Do they cause skin purging?
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Adapalene and tretinoin belong to a class of medications known as retinoids. Retinoids are a class of chemical compounds derived from vitamin A that have a similar structure and function1.
Retinoids play a crucial role in various physiological processes in the body, including maintaining healthy skin, vision, and immune function.
In dermatology, retinoids are often used for their beneficial effects on the skin in the treatment of various skin conditions.
Are tretinoin and adapalene the same?
Adapalene and tretinoin are not the same. They are both vitamin A derivatives used and approved for slightly different purposes.
What are tretinoin and adapalene used for?
Adapalene is FDA approved for the treatment of acne and may be used off-label for the treatment of photoaging and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation5.
Tretinoin vs adapalene (Differin): the main differences
What is tretinoin?
Tretinoin, also known as all-trans retinoic acid (ATRA), is a topical prescription medication used in dermatology for acne and other skin conditions.
Tretinoin helps control the way skin cells grow and mature, which is beneficial to address skin issues. For example, tretinoin speeds up the renewal of aging skin cells and promotes the creation of new ones. This, in turn, aids in clearing blocked pores, lessening inflammation, and enhancing the overall appearance and texture of the skin. It also increases the production of collagen and stimulates the production of new blood vessels in the skin, which improves skin color.6
Tretinoin formulations and strengths
Tretinoin is available as creams, gels and lotions. Tretinoin also has different strengths ranging from 0.01% to 0.1%.
Is tretinoin available over the counter?
Tretinoin is not available over the counter, it can only be bought with a doctor’s prescription.
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What is adapalene?
Adapalene gel (also known as Differin) is a third-generation retinoid developed to reduce the side effects caused by tretinoin7. It is believed to be as efficient as tretinoin against acne but less irritating and, therefore, better tolerated than tretinoin 8.
Adapalene (Differin) formulations and strengths
Adapalene (Differin) is also available as creams, gels and lotions and the most common strengths are 0.1% and 0.3%
Is adapalene (Differin) available over the counter (OTC)?
Adapalene with a lower concentration of 0.1% can be purchased over the counter. However the stronger concentration of adapalene which is 0.3% can only be bought with a doctor’s prescription.
The most common brands of adapalene are: Differin, Epiduo and Plixda
Frequently asked questions about adapalene (Differin) and tretinoin
What is better for anti-aging, adapalene or tretinoin?
In general tretinoin is considered more effective for the treatment of wrinkles than adapalene due to the extensive scientific evidence behind it, which is why it has FDA-approval for this purpose.
Can you use adapalene for anti-aging?
Yes, you can use adapalene for wrinkles too as it is also a vitamin A derivative and using it has many positive effects on the skin. However, if you are after an anti-aging treatment option, you should consider using tretinoin instead as it has been clinically proven for this purpose.
How to use adapalene or tretinoin for wrinkles?
We have put together a dermatologist quick guide on how to use tretinoin for wrinkles.
What is better for acne tretinoin or adapalene?
The effectiveness of adapalene and tretinoin in treating acne has been compared in numerous clinical trials9.
Both adapalene and tretinoin will effectively cure your acne and dark spots, although tretinoin is likely to produce results more quickly, but adapalene gel is less irritating for patients.
However, there is a new formulation with micronized tretinoin called Altreno which is less irritating than original tretinoin formulations.
How to get a prescription for tretinoin or adapalene?
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What is the price difference between adapalene and tretinoin?
The price of tretinoin and adapalene is quite similar starting at $20 for generic product and up to $100 for branded medications.
Is tretinoin more potent than adapalene?
While it is believed that tretinoin is more potent than adapalene, research shows that both demonstrate comparable effectiveness in acne treatment10.
Do tretinoin and adapalene cause skin purging?
Yes, when using adapalene or tretinoin you may experience an initial acne outbreak and skin irritation, usually referred to as skin purging by patients.
Are all tretinoin or adapalene formulations similar?
No they are not. Tretinoin and adapalene can be found as stand-alone ingredients or in combination with other ingredients.
For example Epiduo is a cream that contains adapalene and benzoyl peroxide, which makes it a powerful combination for acne.
Another example is Altreno which includes micronized tretinoin, collagen, hyaluronic acid and niacinamide, making it very gentle on the skin and ideal for anti-aging purposes.
Can you use adapalene and tretinoin together?
Generally, it is not advised to use them together because they work similarly and share the same potential side effects. This increases the likelihood of experiencing skin irritation if used simultaneously. Instead, you should decide which of the two better suits your needs and continue with that treatment.
Adapalene stands out as one of the newest retinoids on the market, having proven its effectiveness in treating acne and its suitability for individuals with sensitive skin. Furthermore, it typically exhibits milder side effects compared to tretinoin, which justifies its development.
The choice between the two ingredients should be a collaborative decision between you and your healthcare provider, taking into account factors such as tolerance, potential adverse effects, and contraindications. In any case, it is crucial to use these products correctly and consistently to achieve optimal results.