Complete topical retinoids list for healthy happy skin.

topical retinoids list

Retinoids are a great addition to anyone’s skincare routine, they can be used by teens as well as people with more mature skin.

They help to deal with a variety of skin problems. This versatile product is usually associated with the name Retin-A, but Retin-A isn’t the only type of retinoid there is.

This article is a list of topical retinoids available that can transform your skin.

Retinoids have a variety of uses and over the years we have found ways to use them in over the counter skin care products as well as medical-grade prescription products.

They are multifunctional products that have changed the world of skincare and changed the lives of millions of people.

Complete topical retinoids list for healthy happy skin

What do retinoids do for the skin?

Retinoids are derived from vitamin A, this ingredient promotes cell turnover in the skin. This can translate in helping the skin with a number of issues including:

Helps treat acne: The ingredient encourages faster cell turnover in the skin. This process removes all the dead skin cells from the top layer of your skin.

The faster cell turnover also purges all the acne that is about to form. In this way, the dead skin cells cannot create new acne by clogging pores and the old acne is purged out revealing new fresh clear skin.

Learn more about the purging stage here.

Treats the effects of ageing: Retinol encourages faster cell turnover and this brings up new fresh skin, the new skin produces collagen.

Collagen is what makes our skin plump and young-looking.

As we get older the amount of collagen production on the skin reduces significantly. Retinoids help bump up the production.

What is a topical retinoid?

There are many ways you can use retinoids. They can come in the form of pills that you take orally, gels, creams or lotions.

The ones that come in the form of gels, creams or lotions are the topical options. You can apply this product to the skin.

These come in various strengths and it is always good to consult a doctor before use, even with over the counter options.

Topical retinoids list:  


This type of retinoid is more known by its brand names Renova, Retin-A and Vesanoid.

It’s very effective in helping to clear up acne as it has the ability to decrease the number of pimples on the skin. It also helps heal the pimples much faster than other retinoids.

This is a prescribed product and it is quite harsh on the skin. It can cause your skin to become dry, scaly, red, itchy and it can cause the skin to burn slightly.


This product is better known by the names Tazorac and Avage Fabior.

This medication is helpful, and very effective, in helping to treat fine lines, psoriasis, wrinkles as well as discoloured patches on the face. It’s one of the newer types of retinoids available.

It’s also one of the most developed, most effective and most expensive types of retinoids offered.

The side effects of this product include irritation of the skin, skin rash, discolouration and skin bleeding.


This product is better known by its name Differin.

This an option for people who have sensitive skin as it not as harsh on the skin, in addition, it’s the least irritating.

This is a product that can help you treat your acne. It does this by decreasing the level of severity of the acne as well as helping to heal the pimples faster.

The side effects of this product will include red eyes, watery eyes, swollen eyes, redness of the skin, skin irritation and discolouration of the skin.  


This is a product that can be used to treat sores in patients who have AIDs related cancers, Kaposi sarcoma as well as chronic hand eczema.

The side effects of using this retinoid are uncommon.  Though in some people side effects such as peeling of the skin, crusting, blistering and oozing of the skin can occur.


  • Before you use any of these products make sure that the doctor you got the prescription from knows your medical history and approves of you using this product with your routine. If not then change the routine)
  • Retinoids, in general, will make your skin more sensitive to the sun. Avoid wearing the product in the morning, rather apply it at night. If you can’t do this then you need to limit the amount of time you spend in the sun and wear a good sunscreen. This sunscreen is effective.
  • Do not do anything that will irritate your skin while using these retinoids. Do not wax, do electrolysis or use chemical depilatories
  • Don’t use any types of retinoids during pregnancy. If used this can harm the unborn baby.

topical retinoids list

What is the strongest topical retinoid?

The strongest topical retinoid is Tretinoin. Tretinoin is a prescription-strength cream, in order to access this cream you’ll need a doctor to sign off.

Tretinoin can treat skin issues such as fine lines and wrinkles, sun-damaged skin as well as acne. All these skin conditions can be dealt with by speeding up the cells life cycle ie: speeding up cell turnover.

Even though the product is perfectly safe to use on the skin it needs to be prescribed because it’s much stronger than other retinoids.

Tretinoin is a synthetic version of vitamin A and because it’s so strong sensitive skin generally cannot handle it.

In addition, even if your skin can handle this treatment you should be wary of wearing it out in the sunlight, under sun lamps, using harsh soaps or cosmetics that can cause dry skin, winds and extreme cold.

Using or being exposed to these elements will irritate the skin. Exposing yourself will make the problem worse if your skin is already irritated.

You can also experience burning, blistering, excessive redness, and serious irritation.

Are topical retinoids safe?

Yes, topical retinoids are safe when used in the correct manner. You should ideally use your retinoids during the night-time.

Retinoids are degraded by sunlight making them less potent on your skin. In addition, retinol can also cause you to develop sensitive skin.

Having more sensitive skin increases your chances of burning your skin especially if you don’t wear sunscreen or you don’t apply your sunscreen as often as you need to.

In addition, retinol can be quite harsh on your skin. You should only be using it if you really need it.

That is, if you have acne that’s particularly difficult to deal with or if you are starting to see the signs of ageing on your skin.

Can I mix retinol with moisturizer?

It depends. You should only mix your retinol in with your moisturiser if you want to dilute it.

The correct way of using retinol is on its own. This will allow you to use the correct amount of product and allow it to absorb into our skin directly.

If you apply your retinol with your moisturiser you may not apply enough of each product and thus your skin won’t fully benefit from the ingredients in each product.

If you find that your retinol is too harsh on your skin then you can mix it in with your moisturiser to dilute it. This is a well-loved retinol.

Is benzoyl peroxide a topical retinoid?

No benzoyl peroxide is not a topical retinoid.

That being said, just like retinoids, this ingredient can help treat acne, but unlike retinoids, it can’t help treat fine lines and wrinkles so at its core it works differently to retinol.

Benzoyl peroxide helps get rid of acne by removing the bacteria and dead skin cells that cause acne.

Retinol speeds up cell turnover thus bringing up the acne forming deep in your skin and clearing it. Both of these products can lead to dryness, some level of irritation, excessive peeling and flaking of the skin. 

This is especially bad if too high a dose is used in the first place.

Are there side effects to retinol?

Yes, there are side effects to using retinol. Retinol is quite a strong ingredient, side effects can include dryness, peeling of the skin, irritation and redness.

These side effects can show up more harshly if the product is incorporated into the skincare routine too quickly or you use too strong of retinol.

You can even develop purging as a result of retinol use. This is normal, you can read more about it here.

In order to minimise these side effects, you need to slowly introduce the product into your routine.

Start by using it a couple of times a week and when your skin begins to get used to the product you can gradually increase how often you choose to use it.

Take note of how your skin reacts while you’re doing this. In addition, you should wait 20-30 minutes after you apply your retinol before you apply your next product.

Here is an article going over how to manage your skin while being on prescription skin medication like retinol.

topical retinoids list

Can I put tretinoin under my eyes?

Yes, you can put tretinoin under your eyes.

A study found that when tretinoin was used on the wrinkled skin around the eyes these wrinkles became less visible.

The eye area is where we generally start to develop signs of ageing.

If you start to use tretinoin around your eyes early, when the signs of ageing show up, then you’ll be better off.

When you apply the product on that area the skin may sting a little but this is normal and won’t harm you. Your skin just needs to develop a tolerance to the product just as the skin on the rest of your face wold.

Is retinol or tretinoin better for wrinkles?

Tretinoin is much stronger than retinol so it’s more effective in treating wrinkles on your skin.

That being said, you should take note that with this added strength comes with more irritation on the skin when you start to use it.

People who have sensitive skin should not use tretinoin because their skin cannot handle the harshness of the product.

If used over a period of time retinol is also effective in reducing the appearance of wrinkles.

In addition, tretinoin can only be accessed through a prescription making retinol more convenient and easier to get.

Can you use retinol twice a day?

No, you shouldn’t be using retinol twice a day.

When you start off, and if you haven’t used retinol before, you should start using retinol once a week, even dilute it with your moisturiser in the beginning stages.

As you continue to use the product your skin will start to tolerate it.

From that point on you can use it daily if your skin can handle it. Using too much retinol over a short period of time will just irritate your skin.

You need patience when you’re using this product so start off slow.

Using retinol twice a day can result in increased skin irritation, redness, peeling of the skin as well as flaking of the skin.

What age should you start using retinol?

It depends on why you’re using the retinol.

If your goal is to minimise the appearance of ageing then you can start using retinol when you start developing signs of ageing. This can be in your mid 20’s or mid-30s depending on your genetics.

It has been widely accepted that you start using retinol in your early 30’s.

If you’re trying to minimize the early signs of ageing then you may want to get a head start on using the product.

That being said, you should have a talk with you dermatologist before using this product.

When you start using retinol you should ideally use it every day for the rest of your life so make sure you’re ready for the commitment of using this product daily.

That being said retinol should not be used if you are pregnant or nursing.

If used during this time there is a risk of your child being born with birth defects or a fetal death can happen.

Can you use Retinol and Collagen together?

You technically can use retinol and collagen together but using them both together will pretty much be a waste of money.

Retinol is able to penetrate very deeply into your skin. It is much stronger than collagen and will give you the younger and smoother skin you’re looking for.

Collagen can only penetrate through a few layers of your skin. It is a temporary fix when compared to retinol.

Retinol boosts collagen in the skin, retinol will help you develop more collagen than you would get from actually applying collagen to the skin.

Adding collagen on top of this will be overkill.

Can I use benzoyl peroxide in the morning and retinol at night?

If you want to clear up your acne and are considering using benzoyl peroxide in the morning and retinol at night then you can do that.

Note: Both these products can trigger dry skin so they should not be used together.

When you start off with any of these products you should use a formula with a small percentage of the active ingredient and work your way up as your skin becomes accustomed to it.

Using benzoyl peroxide in the mornings and retinol at night will reduce the chances of getting dryness and irritation

Can I use retinol and hyaluronic acid at the same time?

Yes, you should definitely use retinol and hyaluronic acid at the same time.

Because retinol is known to irritate your skin and cause dryness using a product that deeply hydrates your skin will be a lifesaver.

While the retinol does its job of speeding up cell turnover the hyaluronic acid will bring water into the skin.

Hyaluronic acid is a humectant, it draws water from the environment into your skin.

Hyaluronic acid can hold up to 6 parts of water to one part hyaluronic acid. It can also penetrate deep into the skin to deliver water.

This water delivery into your face will be very beneficial in rehydrating your skin thus combatting dryness.

I hope you enjoyed this article looking at this list of topical retinoids. If you enjoyed this article then please share it.

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