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The Best Retinols and Alternatives You Need to Know About

Ask any skin expert for the secret to youthful, glowing skin and chances are they’ll say sunscreen, retinol, and vitamin C—and probably in that order! Now, you already know how important sunscreen is and that vitamin C promotes youthful, even, and bright skin, but what exactly is retinol?

For many, retinol is considered the gold standard of skincare. A type of retinoid and a topical derivative of vitamin A, retinol has the ability to prevent dullness, promote the appearance of plump, firm skin, and minimize the look of fine lines. According to the research, it may help increase collagen production and the rate at which your skin cells turn over and regenerate, which makes it an incredible ingredient for treating blemishes, as well as anyone looking for a more even, youthful glow.

Unfortunately, retinol's reputation is not untarnished. Conventional versions are often loaded with yucky preservatives like butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT), and retinol is known for being particularly harsh, even on skin types that aren’t normally sensitive. Those harsh side effects can include skin irritation, dryness, skin flaking, peeling and redness.

Natural retinol alternatives

Luckily, clean alternatives of retinol incorporative active botanicals to deliver the same smoothing, rejuvenating, skin-perfecting results. Read on to learn about the most popular retinol alternatives.


Bakuchiol is a plant extract derived from the psoralea corylifolia plant, which has long been used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine. Bakuchiol also happens to be one of the most researched plant-based retinol alternatives and stacks up strongly when compared to conventional retinol. Studies have shown bakuchiol to be as effective as retinol at reducing the appearance of sun damage and helping to improve skin elasticity—without the irritation. It’s also fun to say: buh-koo-chee-all.

Moth bean extract

Moth bean extract is another retinol alternative you can turn to for similar benefits. Contrary to what you may think, moth bean extract is derived from a legume (and has nothing to do with moths!) so it is plant-based and vegan. Like conventional retinol, moth bean extract helps revitalize dull skin, brightens the look of dark spots for a more even tone, and reduces the appearance of fine lines. It also has antioxidant properties which help shield skin from stressors like pollution and sun damage.

Rosehip seed oil

Rosehip seed oil contains retinoic acid, a naturally occurring form of vitamin A. While it is less potent than conventional oil, rosehip-derived retinoic acid offers similar benefits, including skin that appears firm and even-toned. It’s super gentle and soothing. You’ll notice a rosy glow, but never need to worry about redness.

Shop clean retinol and retinol alternatives

MARA - Evening Primrose + Green Tea Algae Retinol Face Oil

MARA - Evening Primrose + Green Tea Algae Retinol Face Oil

Price: $120

A topical derivative of vitamin A, retinol helps clear the appearance of breakouts while shedding congested, pore-clogging cells. This oil features 1.2% retinol, hydrating algae extracts, and plant sources of vitamin A to clear things up and get you glowing.



Maya Chia - Straight A Advanced Gentle Retinol Treatment

Maya Chia - Straight A Advanced Gentle Retinol Treatment

Price: $125

We love a triple threat. Fast track your way to plump, radiant, even-looking skin with this potent formula that combines retinol with bakuchiol and moth bean extract—two “botanical retinols” treasured for their transformative powers.



Honua - Aloha Youth Serum

Honua - Aloha Youth Serum

Price: $92

Enriched with bakuchiol, a plant-based retinol alternative, along with a targeted blend of Hawaiian botanicals, this fatty acid-rich serum soaks in quickly for skin that looks tight, bright, and just right.



Tata Harper - Retinoic Nutrient Face Oil

Tata Harper - Retinoic Nutrient Face Oil

Price: $165

Gentle on skin, tough on fine lines. Designed to restore a youthful vibrance, this lightweight face oil visibly eases the appearance of wrinkles and dark spots via rosehip-derived retinoic acid and an infusion of nourishing oils.



Alpyn Beauty - PlantGenius Melt Moisturizer

Alpyn Beauty - PlantGenius Melt Moisturizer

Price: $60

Dryness and flaking? No thank you. Supercharged with bakuchiol, this velvety moisturizer is made with soothing aloe—plus squalane, hyaluronic acid, and ceramides—to deliver major skin benefits sans stripping.



Discover more retinol alternatives. 


How we chose the best Retinols and Alternatives on this list

These retinol and retinol alternatives were meticulously curated by our team of experts based on their innovation, performance, and buzz-worthiness. At the Detox Market, all of the products we carry have pure ingredients, exceptional performance, and cruelty free formulations. We've been the trusted clean beauty experts for over a decade, cutting through the clean beauty noise and providing you with nothing but the best in green beauty. You can learn more about our commitment to clean beauty here.

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