Before trying it out, I caught up with board-certified dermatologist Marisa Garshick, MD, to get the lowdown on what exactly retinal does compared to traditional retinol formulas.
“Retinal, referring to retinaldehyde, is a type of retinoid—or vitamin A derivative—that gets converted to retinoic acid to help regulate skin cell turnover and boost collagen production, improving overall texture and tone,” she says. “Retinaldehyde is considered more potent compared to retinol, given there are fewer steps to convert to retinoic acid as compared to retinol. In general, all retinol derivatives need to be converted to retinoic acid in order to be effective—and the more steps involved, the less potent and the gentler it is.”
That said, being a retinal serum, Moonlight falls somewhere between retinol and prescription retinoic acid in terms of strength, making it one of the more powerful products you can buy over the counter. “It can be used by anyone wanting to start a retinoid, but it may be especially good for someone who has already used a retinol and tolerated it well but isn’t noticing significant improvement,” adds Garshick. “Additionally, if someone isn’t quite ready or isn’t able to tolerate a prescription retinoid, this is a great option.”