Does Retinaldehyde Works Better & Faster Than Retinol For Wrinkles?

by Gio
medik8 crystal retinal 6

Is retinol’s reign over?

Up until now, no other retinoid was a serious threat to its OTC supremacy. Everything else was too gentle to make a dent on wrinkles or too unstable to be of an any use.

Those days are over. Meet retinaldehyde, a form of vitamin A that promises to work faster than retinol – and without the irritation, too!

Is it too good to be true? I’ve put Medik8 Crystal Retinal 6 to the test for the past few weeks to find out:


Retinol doesn’t work. Retinoic acid does.

For retinol to work its magic on wrinkles, it must be converted into retinoic acid. The conversion goes like this:

Retinol → Retinaldehyde → Retinoic acid.

You see it now, don’t you? If you use retinaldehyde from the start, you’d get retinoid acid in one step. And that’s what your skin is really after.

The fewer steps it takes a retinoid to convert into retinoic acid, the better it works. Don’t take my word for it. Science agrees too:

  • A 1999 study found that retinaldehyde “has many of the properties of tretinoin in its beneficial effects on photoaging”. It reduces UVA damage, boosts collagen and repairs elastin fibers.
  • A 2005 study confirms its collagen-boosting abilities and suggests retinaldehyde works even better when paired with other antioxidants (no one likes to play alone).
  • A 2013 study proves it’s just as good at fading dark spots. It works by reducing melanin concentration in the skin.
  • A 2002 study discovered its has powerful antibacterial properties that kill P.Acnes, the bacteria that causes acne.
  • A 2014 study paired it with glycolic acid and noted this combo is effective at treating mild to moderate acne even during the sun exposure period – without irritating skin.

To sum it all up: retinaldehyde fades away wrinkles, dark spots and acne – just like retinol.

One more thing: Medik8 has microencapsulated retinaldehyde. In plain English, microencapsulation is a technology that releases retinaldehyde into the skin slowly over a period of a few hours instead than all at once. That makes it gentle enough for sensitive skin too.

Related: Does Retinaldehyde Provide The Benefits Of Retinol Without The Side Effects?

Hyaluronic Acid

Retinaldehyde works… overtime. Those wrinkles weren’t formed in a day. They won’t disappear in a day.

In the meantime, why not use something that plumps up skin so much, those fine lines look way smaller? That’s a job for moisture magnets like hyaluronic acid.

Hyaluronic acid steals moisture from the air and gives it to the skin so it can stay plump all day. 

FYI, this plumping effect isn’t all hyaluronic acid does. This moisture magnet can hold up to 1000 times its weight in water so it deeply hydrates skin from within and gives it a lovely glow, too.

Related: Why You Should Add Hyaluronic Acid To Your Skincare Routine

Let’s Put It To The Test: Personal Use & Opinion

Medik8 Crystal Retinal 6 has a lightweight, orange-coloured texture that spreads easily on the skin and absorbs quickly.

I’ve been using it for a month now and the results are very similar to retinol: after a couple of days, the texture of my skin was way smoother. The large pores on my t-zone had shrunk. And my skin has a lovely glow.

But what about wrinkles? Let’s be honest here: you won’t see a massive reduction in 4 weeks. Retinaldehyde, like all retinoids, demands consistency. Keep using it and you’ll see results.

Also, strength matters. The higher the concentration of retinaldehyde, the faster it works. Medik8 Crystal Retinal 6 has 0.06% stabilized retinaldehyde, but the brand also makes a Crystal Retinal 10 version that has 0.1% stabilised retinaldehyde. As always, start small and build up dose overtime.

Unless you have oily skin, this alone won’t be moisturising enough for you. I apply an oil on top to give my skin the extra moisture it needs during the night.

So, should you switch? If your skin’s sensitive or you simply don’t want to put up with retinol’s side effects (think peeling and flaking), this is a good alternative to try. Let me know how you like it if you do. 😉

Available at: £59.00 at Medik8

Have you ever tried retinaldehyde? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

PR Sample

Take The Guesswork Out Of Skincare Shopping

Screenshot from 2017 04 30 11 51 35

Get access to the “Pro Skincare Library” for exclusive skincare routine “cheat sheets” and tricks to help you navigate the beauty aisles jungle like a pro and immediately know what to pick off the shelves to achieve the gorgeous skin of your dreams - even when you’re drowning in an endless sea of skincare products.

Powered by ConvertKit



Mariana Rodrigues May 15, 2018 - 8:32 pm

Retinols make me very curious and sometimes I feel tempted to dive deeper… but, on the other hand, the side effects, like peeling, scare me! That’s why this Medik8 product sounds like heaven!
I’m 24 and I’m not crazy over wrinkles (yet!) but I did start to have my first fine lines some time ago.
Gio, do you think retinols and such could be too much for someone like me? I think I have a pretty smart skincare routine and my inner nerd is very curious about preventing wrinkles… but then I chicken up and think “girl just stick to your Vineactiv and rose hip oil” haha! ?

Gio May 18, 2018 - 4:01 pm

Mariana, I hear ya! It’s so unfair we have to deal with the peeling phase to get younger skin. I’d say reinoids are for everyone bar the most sensitive of skin types. It’s just a matter of finding what works for you. As you’re still so young, starting with something like this two or three times a week will be enough to slow down aging without irritating skin. 🙂

Debbie May 15, 2018 - 10:40 pm

Sounds good, but the only place I found to order is from the United Kingdom? Where did you get yours? Is there another product available that is like this one in the US?

Gio May 18, 2018 - 3:59 pm

Debbie, I don’t think this is available in the US yet. But keep a look on the US Medik8 site. ::)

Cristina Risso July 19, 2018 - 12:47 pm

The product has a couple of bad pore clogging ingredients which scare me a little. Also, can you use AHAs before retinaldeyde or is it debatable as with retinols? Thank you.

Gio July 21, 2018 - 7:02 pm

Cristina, which ingredients worry you? I don’t see anything comedogenic at the top of the list and small concentrations don’t usually cause problems for most people.

It really depends on your skin type. I always recommend you use them on alternate days just to be on the safe side but if your skin is pretty resistant it may be able to tolerate both.

Cristina Risso July 22, 2018 - 4:25 pm

Cetearyl Alcohol is high on the inci list. The rest is quite at the end of it; so it should indeed not be a concern. As for the AHAs/BHAs , i was more talking about the pH of the skin being disrupted and not allowing the retinaldeyde to work its wonders (more than the irritation caused by using them together).

Gio July 28, 2018 - 6:37 pm

Cristina, oh, I see. I couldn’t find any reference in the literature that that’s the case. But if you want to be extra safe, apply them on alternate days.

Cristina Risso August 21, 2018 - 2:38 pm

yes, that is what i am doing 🙂

MoJo November 19, 2019 - 3:53 am

I have been using Avene RetrinAL 0.1 for three weeks every other night with a glycolic acid cream on non-retinaldehyde nights. I use two pumps and ‘dot’ several places over my face then rub it in. I have had no flaking or irritation though I do follow-up with Matrixyl 6 and Resveratrol serums then a moisturizer. Prior to switching to a retinaldehyde, I used Mad Hippie Vitamin A serum for almost a year so my skin was probably more accepting to retinaldehyde. So far so good but in a couple of weeks, I’m thinking of starting Tretinoin 0.25 once a week and continuing Avene 0.1 all on alternating days. My goal is to eventually in several months graduate to Tretinoin. Would it be okay to use tretinoin and retinaldehyde?

Gio December 20, 2019 - 7:46 am

Mojo, pick one. If you’re starting on Treinoin, drop the retinaldehyde.

Natalia August 24, 2018 - 7:37 am

Hi Gio!
I use Retinol Booster from PC but wanted to step up and try something stronger.
I was considering Medik8; I read your reviews on both Retinol and the new Retinal – which one do you think is better?
Thank you!

Gio September 7, 2018 - 12:31 pm

Natalia, PC’s retinol booster already packs a punch so I would go with Medik8 Retinol 10TR+ or even 10TR+ Intense.

Steph November 8, 2018 - 6:04 pm

Hi Gio,

Fellow blogger here (waves) and I have been sent the Medik8 crystal 6 to review. I’ve had issues before with tretanoin and one from ZO and had to stop as I couldn’t cope with the flaking and the fact it made me look 100 years older!! I also found it gave me more spots than clear any up, but guess I have to persevere on that point as if they’re lurking they’ve gotta come out! I’ve always had spots sadly, and still getting them even though I’m 48!!!! II’m excited to try this one from Medik8 and see how I go but can I just ask, what oil do you suggest I put on top as I do like an oil to be honest. My skin is dry and I think more often than not dehydrated 🙁
Thanks so much

Gio November 10, 2018 - 6:33 pm

Hello Steph, I hear, tretinoin and ZO are great for anti aging but sadly, they make your skin worse before they make it better. Medik8 crystal 6 is a great alternative. It’s gentle but still effective for wrinkles. Are you using salicylic acid? It helps you get rid of breakouts faster and keeps them from coming back. 🙂

Have you tried marula? It’s a great oil for dry skin.

Irtaza November 27, 2018 - 3:13 pm

I have oily acne prone skin. I am currently using neostrata retinol+ nag complex. I was contemplating using medik8.
However, my main concern is the moisturising ingredients in the product. How would you compare neostrata retinol+NAG
complex against medik8 retinal 6 ?

Gio December 7, 2018 - 10:18 am

Irtaza, I don’t think you can really compare the two because neostrata uses retinol while medik8 uses retinal. They belong to the same family but they’re not the same thing. I don’t see anything in medik8 that could upset oily, acne-prone skin but if you’re worried, try to get hold of a sample first. Having said that, if you’re happy with neostrata, I don’t see any reason to change. You know what they say, if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it.


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.