Retinol Oil vs. Retinol Cream: Which One Is Better?

Ask any dermatologist, or skin care expert for that matter, which one ingredient you should use indefinitely and the answer will pretty much be a resounding one: retinol, or it’s stronger, prescription-strength counterpart of a retinoid (which you probably recognize by the name of Retin-A).

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But, to go one step further, what should the formulation of your retinol be? And does it really make a difference if you use a cream with retinol or an oil-based one? Turns out, it does, especially when you take your skin type and skin's needs into consideration.

“In either case, retinoids (a form of vitamin A), can be made in an oil-soluble form and delivered in an oil-based product, which are useful for those with dry skin that needs more occlusive elements,” says Hal Simeroth, CTO of Stemology, a skin care company. On the other hand, creams that contain retinol may be void of oils, making them a better choice for oily and acne-prone skin. New York dermatologist Hooman Khorasani, MD, says most serums with retinol are water-based and tend to contain higher concentrations of the ingredient. “In addition, serums, which are great for oily or acne-prone skin, leave no residue either.”

Regardless of the formula you choose, the action of the ingredient is the same, as are the garnered results. “It makes no difference in the performance of vitamin A if the product is oil-soluble or water-soluble,” says Simeroth. “In either form, what’s important is the concentration of retinol in the product and how well the supporting ingredients provide delivery of the vitamin.”

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