Difference between Adapalene and Retinol

The retinoid adapalene is a common ingredient in acne creams. Vitamin A, often known as retinol, is essential to healthy vision.

What is Adapalene?

Chemically manufactured and used to treat skin disorders like acne, adapalene is a retinoid compound. Adapalene is a chemical compound with the molecular formula C28H28O3 that is synthesised from naphthoic acid via a sequence of processes. The molecular mass of adapalene is 412.52 grammes per molecule.

Adapalene's effects on keratin development in the skin, together with its ability to reduce inflammation and slow the growth of specific cells, make it useful for reducing the prevalence of acne's characteristic pimples. Gels with a 0.1% concentration of adapalene are commonly used for this purpose. However, it can also be used in a dosage of 0.3% in gel form to treat acne vulgaris; this concentration has been demonstrated to be more successful than the lower amount, albeit it may produce greater adverse effects in persons who are hypersensitive. Adapalene, marketed under the trade name Differin, is a topical gel used to treat acne. The skin condition associated with Darier's illness has also been treated with this.

Synthesis of adapalene requires a number of ingredients, including naphthoic acid. It has properties with several different retinoid compounds but is a synthetically produced drug. It's easy to mistake it for retinol, although retinol is naturally produced in the body from precursors and has a completely different chemical structure.

What is Retinol?

Retinol, often known as vitamin A, is an antioxidant vital to healthy skin and eyes. Retinol's molecular formula is C20H30 and its weight is 286.45 g/mol, classifying it as an alcohol. It melts at 63 degrees Celsius and boils at 137 degrees C. It is insoluble in water but does dissolve in lipids since it is an alcohol.

Retinol is converted by the body into various forms that the eye's rods and cones may utilise. These are the photoreceptor cells that receive light and deliver messages to the visual cortex of the brain.

Retinol is synthesized by enzymatic processes involving carotenoids, a form of provitamin A. Eating more orange and yellow fruits and vegetables, which are rich in carotenoids, might enhance retinol synthesis in the body naturally. Although not identical to adapalene, vitamin A synthesis in the body similarly benefits the skin.

Differences: Adapalene and Retinol

The following table highlights the major differences between Adapalene and Retinol −





Adapalene is a retinoid substance made to treat skin problems such as acne.

Retinol is the name for the substance we know as vitamin A, which is important for our eyes and skin.

Overall molecular structure

The molecular structure of adapalene is like that of a retinoid and it is derived from naphthoic acid.

The molecular structure of retinol is that of an alcohol substance.

Molecular formula

The molecular formula of adapalene is C28H28O3.

The molecular formula of retinol is C20H30O.

Molecular weight

Adapalene has a molecular weight of 412,52 g/mol.

Retinol has a much lower molecular weight of 286, 45 g/mol.


Adapalene is used to treat skin problems; specifically it helps treat acne vulgaris by reducing the inflammatory response, and it helps stop too much keratin from being formed; research has also shown it to be useful for treating people with Darier’s disease.

Retinol is used in the body by the special cells in the eye, the rods and cones, and it helps the skin to stay healthy.


The adapalene is manufactured synthetically using various chemicals including naphthoic acid.

Retinol is formed via various enzyme-catalyzed reactions using precursors such as carotenoid pigments taken in through the diet.


Adapalene's anti-inflammatory and anti-swelling effects are most noticeable when used exactly as prescribed for acne, although it might cause severe allergic reactions in some people. If a hypersensitive person experiences negative side effects from a standard dose of DIfferin, they can try a lower dose or switch to another product.

Too little retinol can impair eyesight, while too much can build up in the liver cells and cause damage. Night blindness is more common in those who are vitamin A deficient. Taking vitamin A supplements may help, but getting too much of it might be harmful due to retinol buildup in the liver, which can lead to hepatic damage.

Updated on: 01-Mar-2023


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