You’ve probably heard of Renova, Retin-A Micro and Retin-A, and know they are good for treating acne and wrinkles, but which one is best? All three prescription-only products share the same main ingredient – topical tretinoin, a form of Vitamin A. Generally, Renova and Retin-A Cream are used to treat fine wrinkles, discolored skin, and rough facial skin, while Retin-A Gel and Retin-A Micro are used to treat acne. You can also get over the counter retinol products that work the same way as tretinoins, but they just aren’t as powerful. Tretinoins are thought to be the best anti-aging treatment for wrinkles, and they can work well for acne as well.
Retin-A has been around the longest, and I remember using it in high school for acne. I believe I got the gel version, and after about a week my face was so red and on fire that I couldn’t bring myself to use it anymore, so I suffered through high school with pimples instead. Even though I followed the instructions and started out slowly, and I had oily skin at the time and lived in a humid climate, it was still too much for my skin. If your skin can tolerate it, the advantage of Retin-A Gel is that it comes in a generic version, which can save a lot of money.
This gel product is the newer form of Retin-A, and it’s also used to treat acne. It has a special microsponge technology, which release the tretinoin slowly over time, so this helps minimize skin irritation. I tried Retin-A Micro maybe 5-7 years ago when I got acne once again in my late 20s. Despite the new microsphere technology, I still couldn’t handle Retin-A Micro and once again found myself with red, flaky, painful skin, so once again I gave up. A lot of people have great success with Retin-A Micro, and it’s best for oily skin, so it’s definitely worth trying if you have oily skin and acne. This would also be a great product to try if you have oily skin and want to combat fine wrinkles, facial roughness, or uneven pigmentation. Unfortunately, I don’t believe Retin-A Micro comes in a generic, but if you have good health insurance, that shouldn’t matter.
I tried Retin-A Cream last year to see how it would work for my fine wrinkles, slight hyperpigmentation and enlarged nose pores. I made the mistake of not checking the ingredients of Retin-A Cream, and I totally broke out after a few days, and every day after using it. It turns out isopropyl myristate is one of the first few ingredients in it, which is a major pore clogger. The cream is much more hydrating than the gel version, but I had to give up on this product after a week due to the acne it caused. This would be a great cream to use if you aren’t prone to acne because it comes in a generic, so it’s cheaper than the name brand.
Finally I decided to try Renova, which does not contain any pore cloggers, plus like Retin-A Cream, it’s good for normal to dry skin, and it’s meant to treat wrinkles, and smooth out the texture and tone of your skin. The first time around I thought I was being smart by getting a generic version, which was still expensive, but the generic was made by a compounding pharmacy, and they didn’t use the exact same ingredients as Renova. The cream also expired after two months, but I probably would have had a lot left over since I only intended to use the product every other night. The generic Renova also made me break out like crazy! Ugh. Not all compounding pharmacies use the same ingredients, but I wouldn’t risk it, and you aren’t really saving much money by having to throw out a half-used container every two months.
Finally I bit the bullet and paid the big money for the brand-name .05% Renova (it’s like $170 but should last me a year since I don’t use it every day). Success! Most insurance companies don’t cover Renova because it’s indicated for wrinkles, so if you have acne and your skin can handle it, Retin-A Micro will help with wrinkles and acne, and your insurance might cover it. So I’ve been using Renova for at least six months now, and it doesn’t cause any breakouts! Yay. It still took a lot for my skin to get used to it, and my skin was peeling for at least a month when I first started using it every other night. I didn’t get any redness or pain, though. In other parts of the world – Asia, Mexico, and Europe, for example, Renova is call Retacnyl, which is exactly the same thing, so if you don’t live in the US, you can probably save yourself a ton of money by getting Retacnyl.
I haven’t seen too much change in my skin since I’ve been using Renova, but that’s probably because I’ve been using .1% Differin for the last several years, which has probably already improved my fine lines.
Differin is another prescription acne treatment, and it’s generally more tolerated than Retin-A Gel or Retin-A Micro. It contains adapalene, instead of tretinoin, which is a different type of retinoid. It doesn’t come in a generic. I’ve had good success with Differin helping my acne, in conjunction with other acne products, and I haven’t had any of the peeling, stinging, or redness that I had with Retin-A Gel. Differin comes in an acne-safe cream or gel, so if you have dry skin, try the cream first, and the gel is better for oily skin. However, I use the gel on my currently normal to dry skin, and my skin can tolerate it well. For acne, some people do better on Differin, and some do better on Retin-A Micro. The reason I wanted to try Renova is because I wanted to see if it works better on my wrinkles than Differin. I have yet to find any studies that say how well Differin works on wrinkles, and if it does reduce them, I wanted to see if Renova was even better. From what I’ve concluded, most doctors believe Differin does work on wrinkles, but that a tretinoin like Renova may work better.
Renova, Retin-A, Retin-A Micro and Differin all come in different strengths, so talk to your doctor about what strength is right for you. Bottom line: Do Not use Retin-A Cream or generic Renova if you have acne. If you have acne and dry or sensitive skin, try Differin before trying Retin-A Micro. If your skin can handle it, Retin-A Gel generic is cheapest for acne, and Retin-A Cream generic is cheapest for wrinkles. Do you use one of these products? What do you think?