• Beauty

Natural alternatives to retinol

All the results without the chemicals

By Erica Watson 

Any skincare aficionado – qualified or otherwise – will agree on one thing when it comes to anti-ageing; retinol is the gold-standard in the fight against wrinkles (or just about any other skin problem for that matter, too). It can plump and brighten, fight pigmentation and boost collagen production, but it can also be pretty aggravating, especially for sensitive skin. 

Retinol is a chemical derivative of Vitamin A, and since we’ve made the switch to using only natural beauty and skincare products, it left us wondering if there was in fact a natural alternative that still delivered the same (or close to!) amazing results. Turns out there is: Bakuchiol. 

what’s Bakuchiol? 

Although Bakuchiol stimulates collagen production in a similar way to retinol, it’s important to note that it’s not a retinoid. A derivative of the Bakuchi plant, it’s also a vegan alternative to its synthetic counterpart and another bonus is that it can be used day and night as it’s photostable and won’t cause sensitivities in sunlight. 

“Bakuchiol is proving to be almost as effective as synthetic forms of retinol in building cell walls and plumping the skin’s tone and texture, explains Sydney natural beauty specialist Nicole Manning.“The science is still evolving, but it is impressing us to date at lower strengths than we would see in retinoids.”

Danielle Glover, chemist and founder of Simple as That skincare, agrees: “It has long been used in traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine but is only just gaining attention in the Western world for its anti-ageing properties,” she explains. 

How’s it used? 

Like retinol, natural alternatives are best introduced into your daily beauty routine gradually. “This allows your skin time to adapt and adjust to the new ingredients and helps avoid unwanted reactions such as irritation, redness or flaky skin,” Danielle says. “Just because these retinol alternatives are natural, it doesn’t mean they can’t trigger their own share of skin irritations.”

Danielle adds that it’s best applied at night after cleansing, and for the uninitiated, start by using a small amount twice a week and gradually increase your use. 

Does it work? 

Well, yes and no, say the experts.

“Currently, the natural options do not have the potency of retinol, retinoids and their derivatives are incredibly powerful ingredients, when respected and used correctly they can do remarkable things for the skin. There are certainly natural ingredients that can complement and enhance the effects but retinoids are in a league of their own for now,” Nicole says.

What you can do though, is use a combination of ingredients to increase its effectiveness. “Combining it with a few other natural ingredients can give your skin an extra anti-ageing boost,” Danielle says. 

She believes ingredients such as polyhydroxy acid (PHA), Vitamin C, rosehip oil and cacay oil can all work synergistically with Bakuchiol to help stimulate collagen at a deeper level and brighten – and firm – on a superficial level. And all without the synthetic chemicals.

Other natural “retinol” alternatives 

They might not have the strength of the real deal, but these natural alternatives are still good options for glowing skin and when teamed with Bakuchiol products will have optimum results. 

Rosehip oil 

A mainstay in most beauty routines, rosehip contains Vitamin A as well as lycopene and Beta carotene. It’s great for hydration and sensitive skin. 

Caycay oil 

Caycay contains three times more vitamin A than rosehip oil, as well as concentrated levels of Vitamin E (up to 50 per cent more than argan oil) and Vitamin F. Good for skin smoothing. 

Carrot seed oil 

An essential oil, it contains Vitamin A and Beta Carotene. Good for skin detoxifying, but will need to be added to a carrier oil – like almond oil – before use. 

Related: The clean mascaras we swear by 

Related: Can science and beauty co-exist 

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