Why We’re Loving Retinol Alternatives (and Why You Should, Too!)

If you’ve broken up with retinol and taken it back one too many times, it might be time to give its nicer, gentle version a chance…
BY Sarah Lim
| Last updated Mar, 2022
Retinol Alternatives

Although retinol has been dubbed the Queen of Anti-Aging Skincare Products, it’s not without its side effects, as many of us know. The most notable include irritated skin and sun sensitivity. This is the part of why wearing sunscreen every day is so important. And this is where retinol alternatives come in!

Even though retinol is amazing for the skin, there are retinol alternatives that achieve the same goals. Such as—stimulating cellular turnover and boosting collagen production—to support your anti-aging skincare regimen. These alternatives can provide some of the same effects but without the irritation, retinol can cause.

Here are a few retinol alternatives and why we dig ’em!

Bakuchiol: A Popular Vegan Retinol Alternative

Bakuchiol - A Popular Vegan Retinol Alternative

You may have heard of bakuchiol, which is actually an oil that comes from a plant called Psoralea corylifolia. People widely used Bakuchiol in Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurvedic medicine. And we know it for treating skin disorders, heart disease, kidney inflammation, and even cancer.

As if that wasn’t impressive enough, bakuchiol has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Like retinol, it helps increase the cellular turnover rate to reduce the effects of aging on the skin.

In fact, research shows that bakuchiol works just as well as retinol. It helps improve the appearance of sun damage, wrinkles, and hyperpigmentation, all without the side effects of retinol. As such, many people tolerate bakuchiol better than retinol.  

Bakuchiol is also totally vegan since it comes from a plant, which we can’t say for all retinol products.

Where can I find it? You’ll find bakuchiol in moisturizers, serums, creams, and facial oils. It’s an oil that you can use with other skincare products. And—bonus—it’s considered to be safe to use during pregnancy, unlike retinol, although this hasn’t officially been confirmed by research.

Bio Retinol: Other Forms of Plant-Based Retinol Alternatives

Bio retinol is simply a term that includes plant-derived retinol, so this includes bakuchiol. However, this term can also encompass a few more oils as retinol alternatives that have similar effects without irritation.

• Sea Buckthorn Oil

Sea buckthorn oil

This nutrient-rich oil from small, orange berries that grow by the coast is perfect for dry, mature skin and contains antioxidants that can help fight aging. It’s also anti-inflammatory and can help soothe irritated sensitive skin. Packed with omega-3, 6, and 9 in beneficial ratios, this oil is an understated superstar for the skin.

Where can I find it? You’ll typically find Sea buckthorn oil in facial oils, serums, and even moisturizers. You can use it either with a moisturizer or in place of your moisturizer. Some people can also tolerate sea buckthorn oil directly on the skin. But be aware that its rich, saturated red-orange color may not give you the effect you were going for!

• Carrot Seed Oil

Carrot seed oil

From helping to rejuvenate skin to being anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial, carrot seed oil also has a low SPF factor. Which means it can help protect skin from sun damage. Also, it contains nutrients and antioxidants to support skin anti-aging.

Where can I find it? You’ll find carrot seed oil in moisturizers, serums, facial oils, and some chemical exfoliators. Carrot seed oil is often best used to combine ingredients that support its full potentials, such as vitamin E and even sea buckthorn oil.

• Rosehip Oil

Rosehip oil

High in vitamin C and protective fatty acids, rosehip oil helps inhibit collagen breakdown, improve skin elasticity and protect against sun damage. Not bad for a vegan alternative to retinol!

Where can I find it? Rosehip seed oil is popular in skincare and cosmetic products. And you can find them in—surprise—facial oils, serums, moisturizers, and even sunscreens. Rosehip oil is typically tolerated well when used by itself on your face, too!

• Sea Samphire

Sea samphire

Also called sea fennel, this succulent-like plant also grows on the coast and is rich in vitamins and minerals. But it is also antioxidant and anti-inflammatory to help reduce the appearance of skin aging.

Where can I find it? Sea samphire hasn’t gained a ton of traction in the beauty community yet. But companies that use it find that it works great in serums!

All forms of bio retinol are generally safe to use during the day, unlike retinol. Since retinol can cause DNA damage upon exposure to sunlight, it’s best used at night. However, with these retinol alternatives, you can use them without worry about sun sensitivity.

Some, including carrot seed oil, actually have a protective sun factor that may help reduce the sun’s damage. Of course, you should always use SPF as part of your skincare routine. It’s because sun exposure holds the primary cause for premature aging, fine lines, and wrinkles!

Other retinol alternatives will likely emerge as people look for both more natural forms of retinol and less irritating products that can still reduce the appearance of aging and improve skin tone and texture!

But Are Retinol Alternatives Really as Effective?

But Are Retinol Alternatives Really as Effective

So we know retinol alternatives can provide some great nutrients and anti-aging power to your skin. But the real question is: Are they so effective as retinol?

Although bakuchiol is pretty awesome as a retinol alternative, it’s important to note that it’s most similar to retinol. Not like Tretinoin or other retinoids, which tend to be stronger. And, therefore, better, if the more irritating effect on the skin.

It’s unlikely that you’d find a retinol alternative as effective as the prescription form of retinol. However, suppose you’re looking for a more gentle starter product to ease into a stronger concentration of retinol or are concerned about the effects of retinol on your sensitive skin or in regards to sun sensitivity. In that case, these retinol alternatives may be for YOU!

Grab This FREE Printable Guide on Mixing Retinol

Are you a diehard retinol fan, or do you prefer to use natural retinol alternatives for your skin? Comment below! And in the meantime, grab this free printable guide on mixing retinol. This guide will help you avoid harmful mixtures that could contribute to retinol irritation!

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