Is Retinol Good For Your Skin? These 4 Plant-based Retinol Alternatives Are Worth The Hype

Plant-based for the win ✨

Explore in this Article

  1. What is retinol?
  2. How does retinol work?
  3. Is retinol safe?
  4. Is retinol vegan?
  5. What are some plant-based alternatives to retinol?
  6. Why choose plant-based retinol?

Retinol is one of those skincare ingredients that you can’t seem to ignore. When it comes to defense against fine lines and maintaining a healthy glow, there’s no ingredient in skincare that’s more lauded. But is it good for your skin? After all, it is a strong ingredient with a prominent side effect: skin irritation. Here, we’ll look at how retinol works inside the skin, if it is good for you, and some plant-based alternatives.

What is retinol?

Retinol, a derivative of Vitamin-A, falls under the category of retinoids. It is used in many countertop skincare products. When applied topically, retinol converts into retinoic acid with the help of specific enzymes that are present in your skin.

Retinol, along with other retinoids like retinoic acid and retinyl palmitate, is one of the body’s critical nutrients for promoting cell renewal.

How does retinol work?

When it comes to working on the skin, retinol has its fair share of benefits. It boosts collagen production, accelerates skin cell turnover, and exfoliates the skin. For its anti-aging and skin-clearing benefits, it is regarded as the gold standard.

Retinol’s tiny molecules deeply penetrate the skin’s surface (dermis). It frees the radicals and increases the skin’s surface cell turnover, stimulating the growth of new cells under the surface. It thickens the deeper layer of skin and lessens collagen degradation. Additionally, it promotes the growth of new blood vessels on the skin, which lightens skin pigmentation.

It can be purchased as oils, creams, or serums. When applied topically, it is quickly absorbed within the skin’s surface.

Is retinol safe?

Yes, retinol is safe to use. Although it is synthetic, retinol is safe. It’s been around since the 1940s and is one of the most thoroughly studied and advised skincare products. It truly depends on how you define “clean” when it comes to retinol and clean beauty.

If your definition of clean is totally plant-based, then Retinol will not be considered clean. Fortunately, there are plant-based retinol alternatives too.

Is retinol vegan?

Yes, even common synthetic retinol extracts are usually vegan. Naturally occurring retinol in foods is not vegan friendly, as they are commonly found in milk, cheese, butter, fish, cod liver oil, liver, and meat. However, in the beauty industry, retinol is either lab-made or derived from plant extracts.

What are some plant-based alternatives to retinol?

So plant-based retinol has similar anti-aging, wrinkle-fighting, glowing skin properties as the conventional one, but without the side effects. It can be used even on sensitive skin.

Here are a few retinol alternatives and products you should try.

1. Bakuchiol

alpynbeauty/ Instagram

You might have probably heard of bakuchiol, a budding skincare ingredient well-known for its antioxidant properties. But did you know, that this star ingredient is a part of a wider family of plant-based alternatives to retinol?

Bakuchiol is derived from a variety of sources, including the Indian plant Babchi and Asteraceae, the daisy’s sister plant. Say hello to this plant-based skincare super-star if you have sensitive skin and want all the retinol benefits, without its side effects.

Our pick for Bakuchiol product

Alpyn Beauty’s barberry and vitamins C glow serum gives off an immediate glow while gradually lightening the appearance of dark spots. What we love about this serum is that plant-based AHA and bakuchiol here gently resurface and smoothen skin for more apparent luminosity.

plant-based retinol product

This natural retinol serum is as dreamy as the glow it imparts. Let’s take a closer look at what exactly it does to your skin:

✔️ Brightens the look of dark spots⁠
✔️ Improves discoloration and tone⁠
✔️ Imparts an instant and lasting radiance 

It’s a 10/10!

2. Cockspur

plant-based retinol oil
oneloveorganics/ Instagram

Okay, you might not have heard about this one. Besides, the name shocked us too (you know what we mean 😅). Cockspur is known to provide similar skin-clearing and youth-enhancing effects to retinol while promoting the skin microbiota.

It is naturally abundant in isoflavones (a crystalline compound mainly found in pulses) and bioflavonoids (a group of compounds mainly found in citrus fruit).

Our pick for Cockspur product

One Love Organic’s botanical A bio-retinol night serum is how we found about cockspur. It is an effective retinol substitute that provides similar skin-clarifying, smoothing, and youth-enhancing benefits to produce regenerated and radiant skin.

One love organics bio retinol night serum
oneloveorganics/ Instagram

Botanical A bio-retinol Serum features a blend of three concentrated acids along with plant-derived retinol alternatives to exfoliate, refine, and perfect skin. Unlike harsh synthetic retinol treatments, this vegan retinol serum also supports the skin microbiome for lasting radiance.

3. Rambutan

plant-based retinol serum

The second most frequently used swap that we’ve noticed is certainly rambutan! It’s a peculiar-looking fruit that is indigenous to Southeast Asia. It doesn’t actually have ingredients that treat acne like retinol does. But it does assist with age spots, fine lines, and skin suppleness.

Since it also increases skin hydration, it is especially beneficial for dry skin types, as opposed to retinol, which has a drying effect.

Our pick for Rambutan product

Hydrate, target fine lines, fade dark spots, and slip into beautiful smooth skin, all with one serum!

rambutan, plant-based retinol

Wild nettle & niacinamide firming serum from Alpyn Beauty glides onto the skin to provide potent, noticeable firmness, (much like a silk robe against the skin!) In this weightless, silky-soft serum, rambutan, niacinamide, and wild nettle combine to visibly smooth, plump, and hydrate all skin types (it even works on sensitive skin).

4. Rosehip

rosehip oil plant-based retinol
paiskincare/ Instagram

Rosehip is known as nature’s best plant-based retinol as it contains naturally-occurring trans retinoic acid – a form of vitamin A. This natural retinol provides spanning nearly like reducing scarring and promoting firm, even skin tone.

Since it is typically derived from seeds rather than flowers, it lacks the rose scent and absorbs nicely without being excessively greasy.

Our pick for Rambutan product

The skin-loving elixirs in Rosehip seed and fruit are all extracted with CO2, giving Pai Skincare’s rosehip biogenerate oil its superpowers. When we say it does it all, we mean it.

plant-based retinol

That deliciously deep golden hour color comes from the plant extraction technique. No added coloring whatsoever here. You’ll adore the way rosehip oil feels on your skin as it absorbs quickly. It smoothes lines and feels fantastic.

For skin that is prone to blackheads and breakouts, this non-greasy, natural retinol oil works like magic. And it doesn’t irritate any skin type!

Why choose plant-based retinol?

There’s no doubt that synthetic retinol is safe to use. But when it comes to clean beauty and safety, we all have our own standards. And with that, there are a few reasons why synthetic retinol might not fit into everyone’s definition of clean; i.e.,

  • Some people might simply prefer plant-based retinol since synthetic options cannot be produced out of a lab and do not originate from plants.
  • When using retinol, you should take extra precautions when exposed to the sun because it may make your skin more sensitive.
  • Retinol shouldn’t be used by those who are expecting, nursing, or trying to conceive because these situations do not call for high vitamin A concentrations.

We hope you enjoyed reading our blog post on retinol and its plant-based alternatives. For many people, retinol is a great anti-aging solution, but it can also cause some negative side effects. If you’re interested in the same anti-aging, wrinkle-fighting, glowy skin properties without the side effects, we suggest you try these retinol alternatives like bakuchiol and others, mentioned above. They are completely natural and do not cause any negative side effects.

And hey, if you want to know more about clean, plant-based ingredients, then check out our blog – 10 Clean Ingredients You Should Look For In Your Cosmetics.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Which oils have retinol in them?

Rosehip and carrot seed oils are natural alternatives to retinol. These natural oils for the skin are high in antioxidants to fight free radicals. Rosehip oil has numerous benefits, including regenerating & healing skin, increasing collagen production, and skin elasticity. The carrot seed oil promotes cell regeneration.

Rosehip oil is exceptional in regenerating and healing the skin while increasing collagen production and skin elasticity. Similarly, carrot seed oil promotes cellular turnover. An added benefit of both oils is that they are high in antioxidants to fight free radicals.

2. What foods contain retinol?

Foods like milk, yogurt, egg, cheese, and oily fish contain Vitamin A (retinol) in them. Orange and red-colored veggies and fruits also contain a good amount of beta-carotene (a red-colored pigment), which breaks down as Vitamin A in the human body. Hence forming retinol in the body. Look for fruits and vegetables like pumpkins, apricots, peaches, mangoes, and sweet potatoes for beta-carotene.

We hope you love the products we recommend! All products featured on GoodGuilt are independently selected by our editors. If you buy something through our retail links, we may earn a commission on the sale. Oh, and FYI — prices are accurate and items in stock as of the time of publication.

Subscribe to our newsletter

To receive updates on all things good and guilt-free!