Retinol vs retinal: what’s the difference?

Retinol vs retinal: what’s the difference?

05 February 2024 – 2 min read

Breaking beauty news: not all retinoids are created equal. And while retinol might be the best-known member of the retinoid family, here at Kester Black we’re all about the smoothing, brightening and firming powers of retinal. Simply put, it’s better and faster - that’s why it’s the hero ingredient in our Super Retinal Vitamin A Serum - but for more of an explainer, read on.

What is retinol? 

Retinol, a vital member of the retinoid family and a derivative of vitamin A, is like a master key to unlocking youthful skin. It works wonders by stimulating skin cell renewal and boosting collagen production. This not only enhances your skin's radiance, tone and texture but also ushers in a rejuvenated, youthful glow. 

The journey of vitamin A through the 'vitamin A pathway' is fascinating. Upon application, retinol transforms first into retinal and then into retinoic acid. It's in this final, active stage that the true power of retinol shines, bringing visible, transformative results to your skin.

What is retinal?

Meet retinal, (short for retinaldehyde) a distinguished member of the retinoid family. Its position in the vitamin A pathway is what sets it apart - it's just one step away from becoming retinoic acid. This means retinal not only acts faster on your skin compared to retinol, but it also offers additional benefits. We don’t call it Super Retinal Vitamin A Serum for nothing!

Retinoid family tree graphic

Retinal vs. retinol

The main difference between retinal and retinol is the speed at which each ingredient works on the skin. Retinal can work up to 11 times faster than traditional retinol, delivering next-level anti-aging, radiance-enhancing and skin-smoothing benefits. Because retinal converts to retinoic acid faster than retinol, it’s also the stronger and more potent option.  

Retinal also stands out for its antibacterial properties, setting it apart from retinol. It actively combats the bacteria responsible for breakouts and clogged pores, making it a great ingredient for those with acne and blemish-prone skin.

Vitamin A pathway graphic

Are there any side effects of using retinal?

While all retinoids come with a warning for potential irritation for new users, retinal has been shown to be well tolerated by most skin types and is considered comparatively effective but less irritating than prescription retinoids. Better yet, Super Retinal Vitamin A Serum is packed with a host of soothing skincare ingredients like willowherb plus peptides for extra anti-aging benefits without the risk of added irritation. 

But if you’re using any retinoid for the first time, it’s best to start slow. For newbies, we recommend using Super Retinal Vitamin A Serum twice weekly for two weeks, always at night. Gradually build skin tolerance by using every alternate night for another two weeks, and then nightly, or as needed to suit skin tolerance. Don’t forget to follow with a soothing, hydrating moisturiser (may we suggest Skin Drench?) and always use broad-spectrum sunscreen the following morning.  

More questions? Check out our retinal FAQ blog.

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