Beauty trend analysts see an explosion in natural retinol alternatives, and 2022 will be no different. Fueled by the increased use of masks that cause face irritation plus the growing skinimalism movement, this might just be the year to say goodbye to retinol forever.
Retinoids have been the Queen of the anti-aging skincare category for a long time. It’s no surprise, given their results. Depending on the type and strength of the retinoid, users will experience improvements in the appearance of dark spots, fine lines, deep wrinkles, firmness, and even acne. These effects are all due to the action that retinoids have on the cells in the skin – primarily by improving collagen production and cell turnover.
Unfortunately, using retinoids often comes at the cost of a lengthy period of unpleasant side effects. Many users need to build tolerance over a prolonged period, during which their skin becomes red, dry, irritated, flaky, and acne often increases temporarily due to purging. The side effects of retinol alone often make people give up and search for a different product. Another reason you might avoid using retinol is if you’re hoping to become pregnant (retinoids are not recommended for use in pregnancy).
The biggest reason to quit retinol in our minds – retinol is a harsh chemical. Although it’s derived from Vitamin A, there’s nothing organic or botanical about it. The effect that retinol has on your skin can be achieved using a regimen of natural products instead.
Below we discuss five natural retinol alternatives that are effective and safe. They each target different retinol-like effects using a combination of ingredients and are a great starting point for developing a routine without retinol.
1. Vintner’s Daughter Active Botanical Serum
This luxurious face oil is a 100% organic anti-aging product. It contains 22 botanicals with over 60 nutrients, vitamins, and minerals that target the visible signs of aging. These botanicals work together to create a highly nourishing face oil that balances, revitalizes, and supports the skin. One feature that makes Vintner’s Daughter stand out from almost every other green beauty brand is that they control the production of their botanical extracts through their own highly controlled and proprietary technology.
If you are searching for a single product to replace retinol, this oil doesn’t have a specific hero ingredient. However, for those looking for a genuinely luxurious, balanced, and 100% organic product, you will not be disappointed. This product is vegan and cruelty-free. It comes in at a price of $185 USD/oz.
2. Tata Harper Retinoic Nutrient Face Oil
Don’t let the name fool you – this isn’t a retinol-containing product. Tata Harper is another luxury green beauty brand that controls and manages the farming and processing of many of its botanical extracts. The concept behind the name retinoic nutrient is likely because the product contains high levels of natural vitamin A from the botanicals used. This is a lightweight, fast-absorbing oil that will moisturize and smooth skin. This is an ultimate luxury green beauty face oil that focuses on providing a nourishing and balanced effect on the skin. This product is vegan and cruelty-free and priced at $150 USD/oz.
3. bareLUXE Bakuchiol Age Support Elevated Face Oil
If you’re looking for a face oil with a hero ingredient to replace retinol, Bakuchiol is a botanical retinol alternative that deserves a lot of attention. This face oil contains a base mixture of carrier oils, all known to have high levels of antioxidants and natural Vitamin A. bareLUXE goes a step further by including several performance botanicals that work actively to improve hydration, plumpness, and facial contour. The pure Bakuchiol oil is present at 1.5%, and the expected results are visibly improved elasticity, firmness, texture, pigmentation, and acne. This product is vegan and cruelty-free. bareLUXE is a Canadian natural beauty brand, and their Bakuchiol face oil is priced at $108 CDN ($84 USD).
4. Insta Natural Vitamin C Serum
This is more than just a vitamin C serum! If you’re looking for a natural retinol alternative, this serum targets multiple different effects. Unlike the options above, which are face oils, this light serum is water-based, hydrating, and can be used under a moisturizer if needed. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant known to target fine lines and firmness due to its effects on collagen. Licorice root extract is included for its ability to reduce the appearance of dark spots and pigmentation. Very high levels of natural Vitamin A are found in carrot seed oil and sea buckthorn oil. This product is vegan, cruelty-free, and is a must-try for only $22USD.
5. Juice Beauty Green Apple Peel Full Strength
If you’re looking for a combination chemical exfoliator that also has botanical retinol effects, you might hit the jackpot with this product. This peel is going to take care of your chemical exfoliating needs with a combination of natural acids like citric (from lemon), glycolic, lactic, and willow bark extract. Your skin will be protected, soothed, and hydrated with aloe juice and glycerin. It contains vitamin C and other potent antioxidants. It also contains bakuchiol, the botanical retinol alternative.
By leaving the product on for 10 minutes or more, the ingredients should have time to work before rinsing them away. If you’re looking to use a dedicated Bakuchiol serum or oil, you will want to add a second product since this peel should only be used 1-2x per week, while Bakuchiol should be used twice a day. This is a cruelty-free product priced at $49 USD/2oz.
Building a Retinol Alternative Routine
To build a retinol alternative regimen, you want to look for a combination of products that have active ingredients known to work on: moisture and hydration, pigmentation, collagen production, and exfoliation.
Exfoliation is a massive topic on its own, but it’s the key to increasing cell turnover. If you prefer mechanical exfoliation, this is the list of our ten favorite natural and organic face scrubs. If chemical exfoliation, like hydroxy acids, is more your style, consider something like the Amla Skin Perfecting AHA Sleep Serum.
Other high-yield powerhouse natural ingredients include co-enzyme Q10, resveratrol, niacinamide, and brightening agents like bearberry extract and betulin. Many high performance botanicals work to function as natural retinol alternatives.
Consumers are rapidly abandoning harsh retinoids. Although retinoids still have a role, especially for prescription acne treatment, botanical alternatives to retinol can give comparable results without the unpleasant side effects.
If you’re starting a natural retinol alternative routine, focus on finding a good balance between hydration, moisture, and exfoliation. After that, add products that use natural ingredients like Vitamin C, licorice root, and botanical retinol alternatives like Bakuchiol oil.
This article was last updated on May 6, 2022 .