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8 Excellent, Effective Alternatives To Retinol

Retinol, one type of vitamin A, is widely considered the most effective way to fight fine lines, bumps, dark spots and wrinkles. However, this holy grail ingredient isn't for everyone. If you have sensitive skin, you may experience flaking, redness, dryness and other unwanted symptoms while using a retinol cream. In addition, this formula isn't safe for use while pregnant or breastfeeding. Instead, try these eight great retinol alternatives to achieve a smooth, healthy, glowing complexion while avoiding common concerns associated with topical vitamin A.

Amino acids

These compounds, also called peptides, prevent signs of aging by warding off environmental damage. As a result, you'll see fewer fine lines and wrinkles and improved firmness. Animo acids also assist with exfoliation, which in turn trounces dark spots, blemishes and enlarged pores.

Cacay oil

While this oil includes vitamin A, it's also packed with healing, hydrating linoleum acid. In addition, Cacay oil is also rich in vitamins E and F. This powerful trio packs a punch against wrinkles while boosting elasticity and firmness, two key characteristics of a youthful complexion.


Those in the know turn to bakuchiol as an effective retinol alternative. Derived from the Babchi plant's seeds, bakuchiol adds a soothing step to your routine while mirroring many of the storied effects of retinol. Natural antioxidant and antibacterial properties take the harshness out of this step in your skincare routine. What's more, while you need to stay out of the sun with retinol, bakuchiol doesn't cause the same photosensitivity.

By using bakuchiol, you'll see less redness and inflammation along with a more even skin tone. Fine lines also become less noticeable since bakuchiol stimulates collagen production, which keeps the complexion plump and firm. A study published in the British Journal of Dermatology even found that 0.5% strength bakuchiol works as well as 0.5% strength retinol.

Glycolic acid

Similar to retinol, gentle glycolic acid speeds cell turnover to smooth and refine the complexion. Made from sugar cane, this ingredient is a common alpha hydroxy acid. Its primary advantage is the tiny size of each glycolic acid molecule, making it easy for the skin to absorb the formula.


I love this ingredient when I want the smoothing effect of retinol with an unmatched hydration infusion. Look for anti-aging serums, moisturizers and other products that contain niacinamide if you want to revitalize a dull complexion or strengthen skin that begins to thin as you age.


This tropical plant is turning heads as an effective retinol alternative, boosting skin elasticity and reducing wrinkles for a more youthful appearance. Rambutan, a fruit related to the lychee, instantly tightens, brightens and firms the complexion, with a healthy dose of hydration that makes pores look minuscule. Like both bakuchiol and retinol, it also encourages natural collagen production.


Resveratrol, which is derived from grapes and olives, showed similar effects as retinol in a study conducted by Harvard. This antioxidant shines by shielding the skin from the impact of the sun's rays, reducing the stress that can lead to signs of aging and even cancer.

Rose seed oil

Like retinol, rose seed oil is a rich source of vitamin A. As a result, you'll experience the same swift cell turnover that creates such impressive results without discomfort. Unlike retinol, however, rose seed oil is gentle enough to use daily, and I suspect it will quickly become a go-to component of your skincare regimen.

Whether you're a retinol enthusiast who is currently pregnant or breastfeeding or you're seeking alternatives to vitamin A for your sensitive skin, I stand by these tried-and-true stand-in ingredients that make the perfect swap.

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