As if we don’t have enough information to know that there are different types and strength of retinoids, now we have to recognize which is natural and which is synthetic – they work in different way, actually. Read on.
Natural retinoids are the one who are, natural (duh) and derived directly from vitamin A and synthetic retinoids, they’re not from vitamin A, and instead they’re man-made. Synthetic acts like a natural retinoid would, and the key difference is which receptors – retinoid acid receptors (RAR) – within your skin will receive and trigger the intended purpose (say, cell regeneration and collagen formation).
Both natural and synthetic retinoids have their own properties and which RARs that they will attach themselves to. In the ideal world, it’s better to have all the RARs to be activated, isn’t it? Well, that’s not for every case.
For example, a natural retinoid like Tretinoin (familiar with its other name Retin-A?) while it works, it can be very irritating to the skin, hence synthetic ones that mimics what a natural retinoid do will be helpful as it targets specific RARs for desired result, while minimizing side effects.
Plus, we all know how not all retinoids is suitable for your skin, natural ones may not be effective for your skin as well, that’s where a synthetic retinoid will come in handy.
Another thing to consider is their photo stability properties, as retinoids can make your skin more vulnerable in sun exposure (remember, a sunscreen is a must!). Natural retinoids tend to break down in sun light (in some cases, they can turn toxic for your skin) while the man-made ones are relatively stable.
Still, same rules apply when choosing a retinol – opt for the one comes in opaque packaging as it protects the ingredients from sun exposure. The concentration strength also applies which you need to try out the lowest concentration and getting your skin adapt to it before considering upgrading to higher concentration.
So the bottom line, which is better? The answer is very much depends on your skin, if the result is good and your skin is able to tolerate well with their minor side effects (dryness, irritation, extra sensitivity), it doesn’t matter if it’s natural or synthetic kind of retinoid.
So not to worry, if you think you ‘mistakenly’ get yourself a synthetic retinoid, it’s not like you got ripped off.