What’s the Difference: Retin-A and Retin-A Micro?


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Hey Nicki,

Quick question: Is there a substantial difference between Retin-a and Retin-a Micro? My dermatologist prescribed regular Retin-a, but I’ve heard that Micro is more effective — much higher co-pay though!


Dear Alaina,

Thanks for such a great question!

In truth, you will get similar results with Retin-A and Retin-A Micro, unless you have oily skin, in which case Retin-A Micro will reduce shine significantly more.

The main difference between Retin-A and Retin-A Micro is the following:

  • Retin-A:  A cream with a given concentration of tretinoin.  Delivers all of the ingredient all at once.
  • Retin-A Micro:  A lightweight gel with a given concentration of tretinoin packaged in microspheres for a sustained time-release.
  • Retin-A:  You must wait 20-30 minutes after washing your face before applying.
  • Retin-A Micro:  You can apply immediately after washing your face.
  • Retin-A:  Risk of irritation is significantly higher.
  • Retin-A Micro:  Risk of irritation is significantly lower.  Microspheres help the ingredient to slowly diffuse into the skin, rather than applied all at once.

Bottom Line

Retin-A Micro is better – the sustained release enables the retinoid to be active in your skin longer.  It is also superior in particular for oily and sensitive skin types, because there is more shine reduction and less irritation potential than with traditional Retin-A.

Whether or not to spring for it depends on how much you want to spend.  If we’re trying to convert efficacy into dollars, I’d say Retin-A Micro is worth about one skin care product in efficacy more than Retin-A. So if you typically buy drugstore products, I’d say a $20 (the price of one product) co-pay would make Retin-A Micro worth it.  On the other hand, if you typically buy department store or specialty products, I’d say $40 (the price of one product) co-pay would make the upgrade to Micro worth it.  Again, all a matter of your personal preference.

Hope this helps!



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  • Hana

    Great article again! Thank you so much for all your great research and information.

    I was just wondering: in one of your posts, I think you said that trentinoin is good for stretch marks. Does your new FutreDerm Time-Release will help to reduce them?

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