Looking for a Retinol Alternative? Here are 7 Your Skin Will Love

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Pretty much everyone would agree that retinol is one of the most popular skincare ingredients out there. A vitamin A derivative, retinol seems to do just about everything – it’s loved for its anti-aging, anti-acne, and anti-inflammatory properties.

While that may be the case, there are only a handful of skin care ingredients that can be safely used on every skin type without any issues, and retinol isn’t one of them.

So, if you’ve been searching for retinol alternatives that provide all of the benefits of retinol, but without any of the side effects, you’ve come to the right place. We’re about to share seven retinol alternatives that are worth trying.

Why Would You Need a Retinol Alternative?

Although often referred to as a miracle skin care ingredient, retinol is infamous for its side effects. Many experience dryness, flakiness, redness, and other sensitivities after using it. Experts say to wait it out for a couple of weeks – your skin needs time to acclimate to the ingredient.

However, for some, this never happens, leaving them with no choice but to cut retinol out of their skin care routine. That brand new retinol serum or cream ends up never being used again.

This is where retinol alternatives can be a game-changer. They ensure that your skin doesn’t miss out on the many benefits that retinol offers, but are gentle enough not to cause any irritation.

7 Retinol Alternatives to Try

Woman testing other serum brands

Ready to get your complexion glowing again? These seven retinol alternatives offer a multitude of science-backed benefits:


The most popular retinol alternative available, bakuchiol comes from the babchi plant.

The reason why this ingredient is deemed as being one of the best retinol alternatives is that it’s almost identical to retinol in terms of how it treats aging-related concerns.

Studies show that both retinol and bakuchiol offer the same results when it comes to reducing fine lines and wrinkles and fading dark spots, with the main difference being that many of the participants that used retinol experienced skin tingling and skin scaling [1].

Just like retinol, bakuchiol also speeds up cell turnover, lowers inflammation, and is rich in antioxidants. Even better, it doesn’t leave your skin more sensitive to sun damage in the way that retinol does.

This is why you’ll now find more and more serum and cream formulas containing bakuchiol – it’s such a promising ingredient to try.

Rosehip Oil

Rosehip oil actually contains small amounts of retinol in the form of retinoic acids. It’s also packed with vitamin C – another beauty must-have. This explains why both rosehip extract and oil can stimulate collagen production and improve skin elasticity.

Research shows that the ingredient is extremely effective at reducing wrinkles, brightening skin tone, boosting skin moisture levels, and increasing the longevity of skin cells [2].

If you have acne-prone skin, don’t worry – rosehip oil won’t clog up your pores. In fact, its linoleic acids can actually regulate sebum production in the skin, making it a suitable acne treatment too.

A bottle of rosehip oil

Carrot Seed Oil

Just like rosehip oil, carrot seed oil also contains retinol in its natural form. This makes it capable of boosting cell turnover and speeding up collagen production to give your skin a smooth and firm appearance.

However, this plant-based ingredient is also loved for its antioxidant content. To make the most of it, look for a serum containing the oil and use this every night.

Rambutan Extract

A juicy tropical superfruit, rambutans, particularly their skin, contain powerful compounds that make their effects comparable to retinol. Studies show that rambutan extract can increase elasticity, improve skin texture, and rejuvenate the skin [3].

It’s also loaded with collagen-boosting antioxidants, making it a fantastic natural ingredient to add to any anti-aging beauty treatment. It may not be as commonly used in skincare products as some of the other ingredients on this list, but it’s worth seeking out.

Glycolic Acid

A popular chemical exfoliant, glycolic acid is a plant-based ingredient derived from sugar cane. It gently exfoliates the skin, removing dead skin cells and speeding up cell turnover to give the complexion a brighter and smoother appearance.

Woman after glycolic acid peel treatment

But does it really compare to retinol? In many ways, yes – it offers numerous anti-aging skincare benefits. However, just like retinol, glycolic acid can cause irritation when used on sensitive skin. If your skin isn’t able to tolerate retinol, you may struggle with glycolic acid too.


Otherwise known as vitamin B3, niacinamide is another ingredient that reduces wrinkles, tightens enlarged pores, and treats hyperpigmentation, making it a worthy contender.

However, where it lacks is in boosting collagen synthesis – it does this too, but not to the same extent that some of these other retinol alternatives do. For best results, try looking for a moisturizer or serum that combines niacinamide with some of the other ingredients on this list.

Peptides and Amino Acids

Again, peptides and amino acids aren’t quite as powerful as retinol when it comes to drastically reducing wrinkles. However, give them some time and they’ll offer similar results.

They may take a little longer to work, but use them every night and they’ll also strengthen your skin barrier, reduce inflammation, and treat acne – those results are well worth the wait!

Woman using a serum for skincare


Is bakuchiol better than retinol for skin care?

If you have sensitive skin, then yes, bakuchiol is better than retinol.

What works like retinol naturally for fine lines and wrinkles?

Bakuchiol works just like retinol, but the other ingredients on this list are also worth considering.

What oil has natural retinol?

Rosehip oil and carrot seed oil both contain natural forms of retinol.


Retinol may have made a name for itself in the beauty world, but these retinol alternatives are just as worthy. Even better, since they’re much gentler than retinol, you’ll be able to incorporate several of them into your skincare routine at the same time, meaning faster and better results!


[1] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29947134/
[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4655903/
[3] https://www.carecreations.basf.com/docs/default-source/press-center-files/personal-care-in-the-media/2020/personal-care-europe-rambutan.pdf?sfvrsn=466cd060_2

Avatar for Megan Foley

Megan has been a freelance writer and editor since 2016. In that time, she’s penned a diverse collection of articles for online publication, with a focus on skincare and beauty. From in-depth product reviews to concise marketing content, Megan is passionate about developing content that informs, entertains, and inspires.