What is the Difference Between Tretinoin and Retinol

The key difference between tretinoin and retinol is that tretinoin can be taken orally or dermally, and it is useful in treating acne and promyelocytic leukemia, respectively, whereas retinol is taken orally to treat xerophthalmia caused by vitamin A deficiency.

Both tretinoin and retinol are fat-soluble organic compounds. We can synthesize these substances from beta carotene, and they are essential medicines.

CONTENTS

1. Overview and Key Difference
2. What is Tretinoin 
3. What is Retinol
4. Similarities – Tretinoin vs Retinol
5. Tretinoin vs Retinol in Tabular Form
6. Summary

What is Tretinoin?

Tretinoin is a medication that is useful for the treatment of acne and acute promyelocytic leukemia. It is also named as all-trans retinoic acid or ATRA. When treating acne, we can apply this medication in the form of a cream, gel, or ointment that we can directly apply to the skin. When treating leukemia, we need to take this medicine orally for about three months. The chemical formula of tretinoin is C20H28O2. The molar mass of this substance is 300.44 g/mol.

Figure 01: The Chemical Structure of Tretinoin

This medication has some common side effects, including redness of the skin, peeling, and sun sensitivity when it is applied to the skin. The common side effects of tretinoin, when taken orally, include shortness of breath, headache, numbness, depression, skin dryness, vomiting, etc.

Typically, tretinoin has less stability in the presence of light and oxidizing agents. When 10% of benzyl peroxide and light combine with tretinoin, it can cause more than 50% degradation of tretinoin in about 2 hours. In 24 hours, it can give us a 95% degradation of tretinoin. This instability has led tretinoin to undergo developments to reduce this degradation, e.g. microencapsulated tretinoin can be exposed to benzyl peroxide and light upon less than 1% degradation of tretinoin that takes place in about 4 hours.

What is Retinol?

Retinol is a type of vitamin that occurs in food items, and it is useful as a dietary supplement. This substance is also known as Vitamin A1. When considering the uses of this vitamin, it is an important ingredient in dietary supplements, and it undergoes ingestion to treat and prevent us from vitamin A deficiency. Vitamin A deficiency can lead to xerophthalmia.

Figure 02: The Chemical Structure of Retinol

If we take retinol in normal doses, our body can easily tolerate it, but if the dose is high, it can result in an enlarged liver, dry skin, or hypervitaminosis A. Furthermore, taking a high dose of retinol during pregnancy can harm the baby. When taking this vitamin orally, it gets converted into retinal and retinoic acid. These forms are the active forms of retinol in our body.

What are the Similarities Between Tretinoin and Retinol?

    1. Both are fat-soluble organic compounds.
  1. They can synthesize from beta carotene.
  2. Both are essential medicines.

What is the Difference Between Tretinoin and Retinol?

Both tretinoin and retinol are fat-soluble organic compounds. We can synthesize these substances from beta carotene, and they are essential medicines. The key difference between tretinoin and retinol is that tretinoin can be taken orally or dermally, and it is useful in treating acne and promyelocytic leukemia respectively whereas retinol is taken orally to treat xerophthalmia caused by vitamin A deficiency.

The following infographic lists the differences between tretinoin and retinol in tabular form for side by side comparison.

Summary – Tretinoin vs Retinol

Both tretinoin and retinol are fat-soluble organic compounds. We can synthesize these substances from beta carotene, and they are essential medicines. The key difference between tretinoin and retinol is that tretinoin can be taken orally or dermally, and it is useful in treating acne and promyelocytic leukemia respectively whereas retinol is taken orally to treat xerophthalmia caused by vitamin A deficiency.