Everything You Need to Know about Retinol Alternatives


As you probably already know, retinol, or vitamin A, is the church we all pray in when it comes to skincare. Retinol is probably one of the most researched ingredients in the skincare industry and its benefits have been proven time after time.

To many consumers all around the world, it’s almost unimaginable to buy an anti-aging cream without retinol. Simply put, brands have become less important. As long as the cream, or any other product, has retinol, consumers will be interested.

This is because, by now, everyone knows that vitamin A has rejuvenating effects on the skin and that it prevents fine lines and wrinkles. However, more and more people are considering retinol alternatives.

Why Should You Consider Retinol Alternatives?

For a long time, retinol reigned and it seemed like nothing could stop it. Everyone believed that retinol had no downsides. The only thing that was considered a side-effect was the fact that it dried the skin. But this obstacle was easily surpassed with skin moisturizers and better care.

But now, it’s clear that retinol doesn’t come without side-effects. One condition has been so common that it even got a name – retinoid dermatitis. The symptoms of this condition include skin redness, inflammation, burning, flaking skin, increased sun sensitivity, and itching.

Long-term Use Damages

The protective response of our skin to inflammation causes irritation and redness. When skin cells get damaged or we get sunburns, this response is triggered to prevent skin cells from becoming cancerous.

At the same time, it starts the healing process. However, when inflammation is induced on healthy skin with skincare products such as retinol, this leads to even more damage and causes skin cells to die out.

Understanding the Terminology

Before we talk about retinol alternatives, it’s important to understand all the terminologies to avoid confusion. Retinol is a vitamin A derivative as well as retinoids. However, retinoids are a broader category and even though they work similarly as retinol, they aren’t as effective or as active.

They also don’t have side-effects as retinol does and that’s why you might find them in alternative products. Simply put, retinol products can come in the form of other retinoids such as retinyl palmitate or retinyl aldehyde.

There are also plant-based and natural ingredients that have similar effects as retinol but without the side-effects. So let’s see which retinol alternatives are available.

Natural & Plant-based Alternatives

As we mentioned earlier, retinol isn’t for everyone. A lot of people desperately try to use it but their skin simply hates it. It causes bumps and redness which are actually the opposite of what you want to achieve – beautiful, and youthful skin.

This is why there has been a growing interest in natural alternatives to retinol. The question is whether there are other ingredients that have similar effects without the downsides. The best way to go is to find products that have as fewer ingredients as possible.

Here are some natural and plant-based retinol alternatives you should try out:

  • Bakuchiol

Bakuchiol has already sparked a lot of interest in the skincare industry as a great natural retinol alternative. This compound comes from the seed of Psoralea Corylifolia, a plant that grows in India. So far, it has shown great results in terms of protecting the skin from sun damage and helping it heal.

The hype around bakuchiol is similar to when retinol first appeared and it is one of the rare natural and plant-based ingredients that has been studied extensively. It has been proven that bakuchiol mimics both the benefits and activity of retinol. Bakuchiol has been used for ages as traditional skin medicine in China and India.

Bakuchiol research:

  • A study that directly compared bakuchiol and retinol has shown that bakuchiol increases collagen production. It has also shown that they have similar functionalities while not having any structural resemblance.
  • Another study has proven that the regular use of bakuchiol leads to improvement in skin firmness, its elasticity, pigmentation, wrinkles, and fine lines.
  • Rosehip seed oil

Rosehip seed oil comes from rose bushes. This ingredient is full of essential fatty acids, antioxidants, and different vitamins which are all individually great for face skin. Rosehip oil use is a traditional Chilean beauty trick and even though there still isn’t a lot of research available on this ingredient, many people are using it and reporting positive results.

So far, there is only a single study showing that rosehip seed oil has amazing regenerative properties. Still, all of its ingredients have been proven to be beneficial for skin repair and rejuvenation. Rosehip seed has been praised by users for its moisturizing, brightening, firming, exfoliating, and wrinkle-reducing effects.

  • Granactive retinoid

As you might have noticed by now, the word retinol can be used in different variations and it’s easy to get them confused. Another variation of this word is “granactive retinoid”. This ingredient is a combination of different chemical esters formulated to have all of the benefits as retinol with one major difference – granactive retinoids don’t have irritating effects on the skin.

Users who have highly sensitive skin which is prone to rosacea or eczema, or they simply can’t tolerate commercial retinol, might find granactive retinol as a viable alternative. Even though this ingredient isn’t natural, it’s a step forward in comparison to the retinol formula.

  • Benzoyl Peroxide

Benzoyl Peroxide often comes in skincare products alongside retinol and the effects of this compound are overlooked. Apart from having anti-aging capabilities, benzoyl peroxide is great for acne-reduction. Benzoyl peroxide comes in different over-the-counter products with different concentrations and it has keratolytic effects like retinoids.

It sheds old layers of skin and gives refreshing and rejuvenating results. This substance is also good for removing bacteria and it helps keep the skin clean. However, compared to retinol, it doesn’t have strong anti-aging effects and that’s why it often comes as part of a more complex formula.


Consider these retinol alternatives for your regular skincare routine. It doesn’t matter if your skin handles commercial retinol well. It’s always a better idea to go with milder and more natural products. Luckily, with science and research, we can learn more about them and their effects.