When it comes to anti-aging cosmetics, there is no doubt that retinol is the gold standard. However, you may be among the many people who can’t use it. Maybe your skin can’t tolerate it, or maybe it’s it’s not recommended for you right now; either way, you may find yourself looking for the best retinol alternative for your needs.
To help you on this journey, we’re going to guide you through some of the ingredients we recommend as alternatives to retinol. They may not work as well as retinol (few things do), but at least you’ll be able to use them.
To keep things simple, let’s focus on three of the most common situations where you may not want or be able to use retinol: you want a natural anti-aging ingredient, you’re pregnant, or you’ve have sensitive skin.
On this post:
- Natural retinol alternatives
- Pregnancy-safe retinol alternatives
- Retinol alternatives for sensitive skin
Natural retinol alternatives
Bakuchiol & fruit AHAs
If you haven’t heard of bakuchiol, you’re late to the party! Bakuchiol revolutionized skincare by entering the scene a few years ago. It was the first molecule to be introduced as an actual natural alternative to retinol. But, is it actually an alternative? Sort of. In fact, the best way to include bakuchiol in an anti-aging routine is alongside retinol, all in the same product. Bakuchiol is a great efficacy booster for retinol, which allows the product to achieve the same benefits with a lower concentration of retinol.
If you really want to avoid retinol, then you can use products built around bakuchiol as a retinol alternative: bakuchiol offers a number of benefits on its own, including being a great antioxidant.
Another natural alternative to retinol, which may not be immediately obvious, is exfoliating acids. AHAs are, in fact, derived from fruits, meaning they are of natural origin. Glycolic acid in particular is known for its efficacy in exfoliating the skin and improving cell turnover. This means it will make your skin smoother and help to improve the penetration of other ingredients.
Considering these two natural alternatives, why not try a routine that includes an exfoliating toner with AHAs and a bakuchiol serum?
Pregnancy-safe retinol alternatives
While pregnant, it’s recommended that you avoid retinol and retinoids. This is because they are related to tretinoin, which has harmful effects on the growing baby. There is no evidence that retinoids can cause the same type of harm, but we like to play it extra safe and avoid these ingredients during pregnancy.
Our favorite molecules to replace retinol during pregnancy are peptides. There are plenty of anti-aging peptides that you can safely use while pregnant, and they can offer pretty impressive results.
Retinol alternatives while breastfeeding
If you’re looking for a retinol alternative to use while breastfeeding, we’ve got good news: you don’t need one. As we mentioned above, the risks associated with retinol during pregnancy are related to the baby growing in the womb; if your baby has already been born and you are breastfeeding, that scenario no longer applies to you. In short: using a skincare product with retinol on your face, while breastfeeding, is not harmful to you or your baby.
That’s it! Good news, you can go back to your favorite retinol. Yes, even if a popular blog about breastfeeding says you can’t. Again: you may notice that blogs and articles aimed at mothers always refer to the risk of retinol causing “birth defects”. Well, if your baby is already out in the world, meaning birth has already occurred, there is no chance that your use of retinol will cause “birth defects” in your baby. You’re safe.
Retinol alternatives for sensitive skin
If your skin can’t tolerate retinol because it’s very sensitive, you may want to consider using a retinol alternative like niacinamide.
Niacinamide is a triple agent in the world of skincare: it has an anti-aging action, it helps correct dark spots, and it also helps restore the skin barrier. This last point is a must-have for sensitive skin, which so often struggles with a damaged skin barrier.
If you have sensitive skin, niacinamide may actually be the most suitable anti-aging ingredient for you: it may not be as effective as retinol, but it will help you avoid the constant flaring and irritation you’d get with retinol. Considering that inflammation also ages your skin (and the use of niacinamide will help you avoid inflammation), you’ll get a double anti-aging effect by using niacinamide.
We know that retinol is a perfect anti-aging ingredient. However, not everyone can tolerate it, and some people can’t really use it. Fortunately, there are retinol alternatives you can use: we’ve talked about bakuchiol, AHAs, peptides, and niacinamide, but there are many more!
If you feel like exploring further, drop by the shop and check out our selection of anti-aging products. We have plenty of great products for all tastes, so you won’t have to look hard to find your match!
Pharmacy Technician & Beauty Writer