Retin-A is a prescription-strength, brand-name product that falls under the retinoid class of ingredients. Retinoids are derived from vitamin A, and have been shown to have many benefits when used topically: “It helps speed up skin cell turnover and increase collagen synthesis. This in turn helps to target fine lines, pigmentation, and at higher doses acne,” says board-certified dermatologist, Jennifer Herrmann, M.D. There is a reason derms have dubbed it “the gold standard.”
Retin-a, specifically, has become the catch-all for most all prescription strength vitamin A derivatives—sometimes it’s even mistakenly used to describe over-the-counter retinoids too (those are technically called retinols though). Compare it to facial napkins: You may ask someone to kindly pass you a Kleenex, when you’re not really asking for that specific brand—you’re just referring to any tissue. Or more aptly, perhaps you ask a friend for an Advil when you have an ache; you are likely just looking for any form of ibuprofen.
How did Retin-A get so lucky to become the proprietary eponym? Easy: It was the first. Debuting as a patented, FDA-approved acne-treatment in the early ‘70s, it quickly became equally loved for it’s healthy aging benefits too. After the patent expired, generic versions (Tretinoin) and other brand name versions with slightly different formulas popped up (like Tazorac and Differin). Less potent OTC options appeared, too. But Retin-A has remained the most recognizable.