Difference Between Retin-A and Retin-A Micro

Both Retin-A and Retin-A Micro are topical prescription medications that a dermatologist may prescribe to treat acne. Because they have nearly the same name (and are made by the same company), you may wonder if they are the same drug.

Despite the similar names, Retin-A and Retin-A Micro are not identical. There are some big differences between the two products, namely their formulation and the way they deliver the active ingredients to the skin.

This article describes the similarities and differences between Retin-A and Retin-A Micro, including when each was used. It also looks at other treatments your doctor may prescribe with a similar mechanism of action.

Retin-A and Retin-A Micro Similarities

Both Retin-A and Retin-A Micro contain the same active ingredient called Retinoic acid. The active ingredient is the ingredient that makes the medicine work.

Retinoic acid is a topical retinoic acid. These are medicines derived from vitamin A used to treat various skin conditions.

Retinoic acid can be used to treat acne, Keratosis pilaris (non-infectious rash) and hyperpigmentation (abnormal darkening of the skin), among others. It is also used as an anti-aging product as it can help soften fine lines and wrinkles and improve skin texture.

how they work

Because they contain the same active ingredients, Retin-A and Retin-A Micro work basically the same way. Both drugs speed up the cell turnover rate. In short, they remove dead skin cells faster and more efficiently than they do on their own.

Retinoic acid also helps pores clogged with dead skin cells and oil become less sticky.By doing this, pores are less likely to form whiteheads or blackheads (also known as acne). This in turn reduces the risk of acne.

Topical retinoids such as Retin-A and Retin-A Micro are available for teens, teens, and adults.


Retin-A and Retin-A Micro are topical retinoids available only by prescription. Both contain a drug called retinoic acid, which increases the rate of skin cell turnover. Both are used to treat acne and other skin conditions.

Difference Between Retin-A and Retinoic Acid

How are the drugs different

Retin-A and Retin-A Micro are basically different versions of the same drug. They work in the same way, are used to treat the same skin problems, and contain the same active ingredients.

They differ in formulation (composition of ingredients), application, recommended use, and price.


While the active ingredients in Retin-A and Retin-A Micro are the same, the carriers are different. The carrier is the basis for delivering the active ingredient to the skin.

Retin-A comes in many different forms, including creams, gels, and liquids. When you use Retin-A, the full potency of the drug is delivered to the skin immediately. Because you get a “full shot” of the drug, the risk of side effects — namely dryness and irritation — increases.

Retin-A Micro is formulated differently and is only available in gel form. After use, some of the medication is retained and slowly released into the skin. This makes the drug effective for a longer period of time.

Retin-A Micro consists of retinoid microspheres that rupture over time rather than all at once. Therefore, there is less risk of irritation. That doesn’t mean it won’t cause dryness or irritation, but it’s generally less likely to do so than Retin-A.


Retin-A and Retin-A Micro are also applied slightly differently.

The manufacturer recommends waiting 20 to 30 minutes after cleaning before using Retin-A. This ensures complete drying of the skin (since the evaporation of moisture from wet skin can enhance the drying effect of retinoids).

Retina-A Micro does not require waiting time, and the medication can be used immediately after cleaning.


Retin-A is more commonly used to improve signs of aging than Retin-A Micro. This is largely due to Retin-A’s creamy formula.Cream contains more emollient (substances that increase skin moisture) than gels. This makes the skin look plumper and helps reduce fine lines and wrinkles.

On the other hand, gels are less likely to make skin look greasy than emollient-rich creams. For this reason, Retin-A Micro may be more popular than Retin-A Cream for people with oily skin.


Another major difference between Retin-A and Retin-A Micro is price. Retin-A Micro costs about $200 to $300 per tube, while Retin-A costs between $50 and $60.

Fortunately, there are generic versions of both, which usually cost a lot less. Most health insurance and insurance plans also cover generic retinoids.


  • Available in creams, gels and liquids

  • full effect immediately

  • Must wait 20 to 30 minutes after cleansing before applying

  • more annoying

  • Creams are better for dry skin

  • lower cost

Retin-A Micro

  • Comes only in gel form

  • The drug is released more slowly over time

  • Can be used immediately after washing face

  • less exciting

  • Gel is better for oily skin

  • higher cost

At-home peels with topical retinoids

Which is right for you?

Because you can only get Retin-A and Retin-A Micro by prescription, you need to consult a dermatologist. During your appointment, a dermatologist will review your skin and medical history and help you develop an effective acne treatment plan.

If you are interested in trying Retin-A or Retin-A Micro, please consult your dermatologist. Your dermatologist will help you choose between the two, or let you know if another acne treatment is better for you.

This includes other types of topical retinoids. These include a “weaker” over-the-counter (OTC) version of Retin-A called retinol.

Other topical retinoids

Retin-A and Retin-A Micro aren’t the only drugs that use retinoic acid as the active ingredient. Some even contain topical antibiotics that can help control skin bacteria.

Other brands that contain tretinoin include:

  • atralin
  • Avita
  • Ressa
  • Renoir
  • Ziana

There are also topical retinoids that are not made with retinoids. These include:

  • Retinal: This is an over-the-counter retinoid that is stronger than retinol but not as strong as prescription topical retinoids.
  • Tazarotene: Sold under the brands Fabior, Tazorac, Avage, and others, this is a prescription topical retinoid commonly used to treat psoriasis.
  • Differin (adapalene): Differin is an OTC product used to treat acne that works like topical retinoids.


Your dermatologist can help determine whether Retin-A or Retin-A Micro is a better choice for you. They may also direct you to use other topical medicines that contain tretinoin or other topical tretinoin made with medicines other than tretinoin.


Retin-A and Retin-A Micro are prescription topical retinoids used to treat acne. They both contain a drug called retinoic acid, which increases the rate at which dry skin cells shed. This reduces the risk of blackheads, whiteheads and acne.

Retina-A can be used as a cream, gel or lotion. Because it acts on the skin immediately, Retin-A is more likely to cause dryness or irritation. To reduce these risks, you need to wait 20 to 30 minutes before applying Retin-A to your skin.

Retin-A Micro is a more expensive, longer-release version that is only available in gel form. It is less likely to cause irritation and dryness and can be used right after cleansing. However, it may not be as effective as Retin-A creams as an anti-aging treatment and may be more suitable than creams for oily skin types.

VigorTip words

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to acne. In the end, it may take some trial and error to find the right solution for you personally.

If your acne is severe or difficult to control, don’t put more and more medication on your skin without consulting a dermatologist. Because some skin types are so delicate, over-treating acne can do more harm than good.