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Retinoids are a class of chemical compounds that are chemically related to vitamin A or retinol. They play a crucial role in various biological processes, including vision, skin health, and the regulation of gene expression. Retinoids are commonly used in medicine and skincare due to their diverse functions and benefits.[1]


Retinoids encompass a family of natural and synthetic compounds, including retinol, retinoic acid, and various derivatives. These compounds are essential for maintaining the normal functioning of the human body and are involved in processes such as cell growth, differentiation, and immune response. They are widely recognized for their beneficial effects on the skin, making them popular in skincare products and dermatology.[2]


  • Retinol (Vitamin A1): This is the most common form of vitamin A found in food and supplements. The body can convert retinol into other active forms of vitamin A, such as retinal and retinoic acid.
  • Retinal (Retinaldehyde): Retinal is an intermediate in the conversion of retinol to retinoic acid and is used in various skincare products to promote collagen production and reduce signs of aging.
  • Retinoic Acid (Tretinoin): This is the most potent form of retinoid and is often used in prescription medications to treat skin conditions like acne. It can improve skin texture and reduce the appearance of wrinkles.
  • Isotretinoin (Accutane): A derivative of retinoic acid, isotretinoin is commonly prescribed to treat severe acne. It reduces oil production, preventing clogged pores.
  • Adapalene: This synthetic retinoid is used to treat acne and is available in both over-the-counter and prescription forms.[3]


Retinoids are essential for many physiological processes, including:[4]

  • Vision: Retinoids are a fundamental component of the visual cycle in the retina. In this process, retinaldehyde (derived from vitamin A) combines with opsins to form visual pigments (rhodopsin and others) that help detect light and facilitate vision in low-light conditions.
  • Skin Health: Retinoids play a crucial role in maintaining the health and appearance of the skin. They promote skin cell turnover, prevent the formation of acne, reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and stimulate collagen production. This makes them popular in the skincare industry for the treatment of conditions like acne, psoriasis, and photoaging.
  • Immune System: Retinoids are involved in immune system function, including the development and differentiation of immune cells. They are important for the maintenance of mucosal barriers and the body's defense against infections.


Retinoids have a wide range of applications, including:[5]

  • Skincare: Retinoids are used in topical products to improve skin texture, reduce wrinkles, and treat acne. They can stimulate collagen production, promote skin cell turnover, and fade dark spots.
  • Medicine: Prescription retinoids like tretinoin and isotretinoin are used to treat various skin conditions, including acne, psoriasis, and keratosis pilaris.
  • Ophthalmology: Retinoids play a critical role in maintaining vision. Retinal (retinaldehyde) is a component of rhodopsin, a light-sensitive pigment in the photoreceptor cells of the retina.
  • Cancer Research: Retinoids have been studied for their potential role in preventing certain types of cancer and controlling cell growth.

Side Effects

The use of retinoids can lead to side effects such as skin irritation, dryness, redness, and increased sensitivity to sunlight. It is essential to follow proper usage guidelines and consult a healthcare professional for guidance when using prescription retinoids.[6]


  1. What are retinoids and what do they treat?
  2. Overview of Retinoids in treatment of skin aging
  3. Retinoids: Types, Benefits, Safety & How To Use and Tips
  4. Retinoid Function in Early Development - SpringerLink
  5. Premium Skin Care Products from Admire My Skin
  6. How Does Retinol Work? Facts and Side Effects