The world of retinol is nothing if not confusing but rest assured there are plenty of natural retinol alternatives to choose from in skincare. Retinol is the animal-based derivative of vitamin A, while the natural plant-based (and preferable) derivative of vitamin A comes in the form of carotenoids. Topically, vitamin A has been used for many years to enhance collagen production and promote skin renewal1, helping to reduce wrinkles, fade pigmentation, even out skin tone and help repair sun damaged skin2. In skincare, most vitamin A products will boast the synthetic forms of retinol or retinyl palmitate in their formulations. This form of vitamin A can be easily avoided by seeking out natural retinol alternatives in plant-based carotenoid-rich oils, which are high in antioxidants and promote anti-inflammatory benefits. Plant-based vitamin A is considered much more gentle on the skin than its synthetic counterparts, and is best used at night so it can work with your skin’s natural repairing processes.
Natural Retinol Alternatives in Skincare
Just as seeds make a healthy snack, they’re also a great topical skin food ingredient with a host of good reasons to include them in your skincare routine. Ideally with all seed oils you want to look for certified organic, cold-pressed oils that have been processed without chemicals or heat so the potency isn’t compromised.
Carrot Seed Oil
Carrot seed oil is one of the powerful natural retinol alternatives that is naturally rich in beta-carotene. Because of this high carotenoid content, carrot seed oil acts as an anti-ageing oil for skin, which renders it an antioxidant and protector from UV rays, pollution and stress2. It’s also a source of vitamins K, E and C, which work together to rejuvenate skin cells. Trilogy’s Vital Moisturising Cream Tube harnesses the benefits of carrot seed oil to promote supple and soft skin, particularly helpful for those with dry and mature skin. It is intended for daily use and works well as a light base under organic makeup. The Antipodes Kiwi Seed Oil Eye Cream includes carrot seed oil to help rescue damaged skin tissue around the eyes, providing a cooling and soothing effect on the skin. Madara’s Superseed Age Recovery Organic Facial Oil combines carrot seed oil with other carotene-bursting oils to help reactivate your skin’s natural regeneration rhythms. It is a lovely base to moisturiser and makeup, and can double as a primer on dry skin. The Whamisa Organic Flowers Water Cream is a hydrating, lightweight cream infused with carrot seed, camellia seed, avocado, grape seed and olive oils, particularly beneficial for oily, normal, or combination skin types.
Rosehip Seed Oil
Rosehip seed oil has been coined “nature’s retinol” because of its naturally rich content of vitamin A. As well as skin-protecting carotenoids, rosehip seed oil has very high omega 3, 6, 7 and 9 fatty acids, which help fuel the skin’s natural function and promote smooth complexion. Rosehip seed oil is commonly used in skincare specific for reducing the appearance of scars, marks and stretch marks. The key ingredient used in Pai Skincare Rosehip Biogenerate Oil is rosehip seed extract, an essential fuel for the skin’s natural repair function that provides the power of retinol without irritation. Evolve’s Miracle Facial Oil also contains natural retinol from organic rosehip oil, as well as antioxidants from organic Argan Oil to nourish and regenerate skin. The Nuori Perfecting Facial Oil and Body Oil use rosehip seed oil alongside vitamin E for ultimate antioxidant protection to help naturally regenerate skin cells. These oils can be used alone at night, mixed in with your moisturiser or added to a face mask.
Sea Buckthorn Seed Oil
Sea buckthorn is a shrub that grows in the mountainous and coastal areas of Asia and Europe and does not actually come from the sea, despite what its name suggests. It is another seed that is used in skincare for its naturally high content of beta-carotene carotenoids. Kahina Serum uses sea buckthorn seed oil along with carrot seed oil and coffee oil for a formula that helps to repair tissue damage, calm inflammation and combat flaky skin. Pai Skincare Age Confidence Facial Oil harnesses the benefits of sea buckthorn seed oil alongside macadamia and argan oils to deliver high levels of antioxidants for aiding cell regeneration. For an ultra nourishing balm with anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties, the Organii Organic Soothing Cream will help relieve itchy or inflamed skin.
1. Kong R, Cui Y, Fisher GJ, Wang X, Chen Y & Schneider LM. (2015). A comparative study of the effects of retinol and retinoic acid on histological, molecular, and clinical properties of human skin. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology. 15(1), 49-57.
2. Burke I. (2016). The Nature of Beauty: Organic Skincare, Botanical Beauty Rituals and Clean Cosmetics. London: Ebury Press.