Contrary to skincare folklore, retinol in skincare is always vegan. But be that as it may, you might still want to look for more natural and less irritating vegan retinol alternatives.
There are many vegan retinol alternatives that share similar skincare benefits with retinol. And we have put together a guide with the best vegan retinol alternatives for your skin.
From bakuchiol to carrot seed oil – here are our favorite retinol alternatives that fight wrinkles, fine lines, uneven skin tone, and hyperpigmentation the natural way.
Why Choose Vegan Retinol Alternatives?
Retinol – a synthetically derived form of vitamin A – is one of the most effective skincare ingredients. Yet, it can come with some heavy side effects like excessive dryness and scaling.
Vegan retinol alternatives are much gentler on your skin than retinol. Also known as Bio-Retinol or Alt-Retinol, retinol alternatives are also safer for dry and sensitive skin.
Another reason to use natural vegan retinol alternatives is the fact that they are mostly natural. Natural skincare is a virtue on its own as it’s safer for our health and the environment.
That being said, if you have skin problems like mild acne, skin scarring, or deep wrinkles, real retinol can be much more effective than its natural cousins.
In those cases, consult with your dermatologist first to find the right solution for your skin. If they suggest retinol, you can also find plenty of good vegan retinols to try out.
What To Look For In Vegan Retinol Alternatives?
When looking for vegan retinol alternatives, you first need to decide on which skin concern you want to address the most. You might not get it all but you can get the right benefits.
Retinol is a powerful multitasking ingredient that smooths out wrinkles, reduces dullness, evens skin tone, improves skin texture, regulates sebum production, and much more.
Vegan retinol alternatives are not as powerful as retinol. Some are better at reducing wrinkles, others improve your skin tone. Decide on the main purpose and it’s easier to choose.
Another important aspect of buying vegan retinol alternatives is making sure they fit your skin type. Some ingredients are great at hydrating dry skin but can clog pores for oily skin.
Best Vegan Retinol Alternatives
Drum roll – here is the best vegan retinol alternatives. Reduce wrinkles and fine lines and improve your skin tone without the harsh side effects.
Skin type: normal, oily, dry, combination, sensitive
Other names: Psoralea corylifolia, Babchi oil
Also known as Bio-retinol, bakuchiol has been proven to significantly reduce fine lines, wrinkles, photodamage, and pigmentation. It also improves skin tone and texture.
Similar to retinol, bakuchiol works by increasing cellular turnover and boosting collagen production. Bakuchiol is also safe for sensitive skin.
Best Vegan Bakuchiol Skincare:
- Herbivore Bakuchiol Smoothing Serum
- Acure Dual-Phase Bakuchiol Serum
- I Dew Care Firming Bakuchiol Night Cream
Skin type: normal, dry, oily, combination, acne-prone
Other names: Algae, Astaxanthin, Chlorella, Corallina, Arophira, Dunaliella Salina, Kelp
While green and blue algae are excellent cleansers, red seaweed is able to stop UV-induced oxidative stress that breaks down collagen causing wrinkles and skin texture problems.
Some algae also produce Astaxanthin which is 6000 times more potent than vitamin C. The powerful antioxidant brightens the skin erasing acne scars and dark circles.
While great for different skin types, sensitive skin should still be careful as some types of algae have algae shown possible allergenicity.
Best Vegan Marine Algae Skincare:
- Kora Organics Active Algae Lightweight Moisturizer
- Josie Maran Argan Beta Retinol Pink Algae Serum
- Biossance Squalane + Marine Algae Eye Cream
Skin type: normal, dry, sensitive, combination
Other Names: Rosehip Seed Oil, Rosa Canina Fruit
Rich in vitamin A, rosehip oil is a great natural vegan retinol alternative that can brighten the skin, and diminish scars and discoloration. It is also an anti-inflammatory ingredient.
A 2015 study shows that rosehip oil has also some great age-defying qualities. It can reduce crow’s feet wrinkles and significantly improve skin moisture levels and elasticity.
Rosehip oil ranks low on the comedogenic scale and is safe for oily and acne-prone skin. But we recommend it still mostly for dry skin types.
Best Vegan Rosehip Oil Skincare:
- Radha Beauty Certified Organic Rosehip Oil
- Sukin Rosehip Enriching Night Cream
- LilyAna Rosehip & Hibiscus Eye Cream
Skin type: normal, dry, oily, combination
Other names: Bidens Pilosa, Black Jack, Hairy Beggarticks
Here’s a little plant from South America that can take on retinol. Picão Preto is a natural vegan retinol alternative with similar anti-aging benefits minus redness, dryness, or sensitivity.
Studies show that this natural vegan retinol alternative increases collagen and elastin production in your skin thereby reducing wrinkles, fine lines, and signs of photoaging.
This potent plant has been also used medicinally throughout Africa, Asia, and South America for its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.
Picão Preto has a key role in the BareMinerals Ageless line. The vegan line features a Phyto-Retinol complex which consists of Picão Preto, protein peptides, and hyaluronic acid.
Best Vegan Picão Preto Skincare:
- REN Bio Retinoid Youth Concentrate Oil
- BareMinerals Ageless Phyto-Retinol Face Cream
- BareMinerals Ageless Phyto-Retinol Eye Cream
- BareMinerals Ageless Phyto-Retinol Night Concentrate
Skin type: normal, dry, oily, combination
Other names: Palmitoyl Pentapeptide, Palmitoyl Tripeptide, Acetyl Tetrapeptides
Peptides are short-string amino acids crucial to supporting stem cell regeneration in the skin. When used in topical skincare, peptides have a Botox-like wrinkle-smoothing effect.
Peptides like Palmitoyl Pentapeptide-4 are proven to stimulate collagen, heal wounds, and smooth out wrinkles. Also, peptides have antioxidative, antimicrobial, and skin-whitening effects.
In vegan skincare, peptides are synthetic, so they do not offer a natural retinol alternative but they are a gentler retinol alternative. Natural collagen peptides in skincare are not vegan.
Best Vegan Peptide Skincare:
- Drunk Elephant Protini Polypeptide Cream
- Youth To The People Triple Peptide Serum
- Biossance Squalane + Peptide Eye Gel
Skin type: normal, dry, dull, oily, combination
Other names: Ascorbic Acid, Ascorbate, Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate, and many more
Vitamin C is a tested and true skincare ingredient that is an effective vegan alternative to retinol. Vitamin C comes in both active and inactive forms – all of which vegan-friendly.
Best Vegan Vitamin C Skincare:
- Root Science Arctic-C Vitamin C Serum
- Derma E Vitamin C Intense Night Cream
- See the best vegan vitamin C serums here
Skin type: normal, dry, sensitive, combination
Other names: Tocopheryl Acetate
Vitamin E is the quintessential skin vitamin. It makes your skin hydrated and supple by locking in moisture. When your skin is plump and hydrated, it’s harder for wrinkles to appear.
We recommend vitamin E as a natural vegan retinol alternative for dry and sensitive skin. As an oil-soluble vitamin, vitamin E can be pore-clogging for oily and acne-prone skin.
Best Vegan Vitamin E Skincare:
- The Body Shop Vitamin E Moisture Cream
- The Body Shop Vitamin E Eye Cream
- DERMA-E Vitamin E 12,000 IU Cream
Skin type: normal, dry, sensitive, eczema
Other names: Vitamin B3
Niacinamide aka vitamin B3 makes a fantastic vegan retinol alternative. While retinol can induce dryness and irritation, niacinamide helps hydrate and protect your skin.
Niacinamide works by helping your skin grow a lipid barrier. In turn, the barrier helps your skin to retain moisture and protect itself from outside pollutants.
Best Vegan Niacinamide Skincare:
- The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%
- Glow Recipe Watermelon Glow Niacinamide Dew Drops
- Alpyn Beauty Wild Nettle & Niacinamide Firming Serum
Skin type: acne-prone, oily, combination, normal, dry
Other names: Punica Granatum
Korean skincare loves to use antioxidant-rich pomegranate extract for its moisturizing, age-defying, and cellular renewing qualities.
With high levels of tannins and anthocyanins, pomegranate fights congested pores in oily skin and makes them appear smaller.
Best Vegan Pomegranate Skincare:
- Leven Rose Organic Pomegranate Seed Oil
- Nourish Organic Pomegranate & Argan Face Cream
- Hempz Pomegranate Herbal Body Moisturizer
Skin type: normal, combination, oily
Other names: Vaccinium Myrtillus
Bilberry aka European wild blueberry is one of the richest natural sources of anthocyanins. These polyphenols have high antioxidant content that prevents premature aging. Also, a 2021 study showed bilberry to increase skin barrier function.
The tannin content in bilberries also acts as an astringent – they remove excess oil and tighten the pores. For this reason, bilberry is excellent for oily and combination skin.
While not having as potent anti-aging benefits as retinol, bilberries do include resveratrol – an antioxidant that can significantly reduce fine lines.
Best Vegan Bilberry Skincare:
- Theoderma Bilberry Matte Moisturizer
- Hygieia Calendula & Bilberry Eye Cream
- Blue Beautifly Bilberry Antioxidant Mask
Skin type: oily, acne-prone, combination, rosacea
Other names: Camellia Sinensis
Green tea is a vegan retinol alternative for fighting acne and inflammation. Studies show that green tea can be also effective in treating rosacea.
By containing a powerful polyphenol called EGCG, green tea in skincare also reduces UVA-induced sun damage.
Best Vegan Green Tea Skincare:
- Bonajour Green Tea Water Bomb Cream
- Herbivore Natural Jasmine Green Tea Toner
- Lily Sado Green Tea Detox Mask
- Everything from Teaology
Carrot Seed Oil
Skin type: dry, dull, normal, combination
Other names: Daucus Carota
Carrot seed oil makes a very natural vegan retinol alternative. Retinol is a type of vitamin A and carrot seed oil is rich in vitamin A – the vitamin that fights wrinkles and fine lines.
The carrot seed oil has high levels of carotenoids and vitamins. It has anti-aging vitamin A, collagen-boosting and brightening vitamin C, and moisturizing vitamin E.
Carotenoids act as antioxidants for the skin, they support epidermal regeneration, improve skin tone and firmness, and protect the skin from UV light.
Carrot seed has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory qualities. But since carrot seed oil is a type of essential oil, sensitive skin should be careful.
Vegan Carrot Seed Oil Skincare:
- Leven Rose Organic Carrot Seed Oil
- AprilSkin Carrotene Clarifying Vita Pads
- SkinFood Carrot Carotene Relief Cream
FAQ About Vegan Retinol Alternatives
Vegan retinol alternatives are natural extracts that have similar benefits to retinol. The most common vegan retinol alternatives are bakuchiol, marine algae, and rosehip oil.
Some vegan retinol alternatives have significant anti-aging, skin-brightening, and even acne-fighting properties. One effective vegan retinol alternative is bakuchiol.
Yes. Vegan retinol alternatives are safer for sensitive skin.
There are many vegan retinol alternatives that give retinol a run for its money. Many natural vegan retinol alternatives are also much safer for your skin.
Our favorite vegan retinol is bakuchiol. It is a well-researched ingredient that has the closest benefits to retinol. Plus, unlike retinol, bakuchiol is better for dry and sensitive skin types.
We also love natural oils that have great anti-aging and skin-improving benefits such as rosehip oil and carrot seed oil.
Hope you enjoyed the vegan retinol alternative skincare suggestions. As we find more retinol-replacing vegan skincare, we will let you know.
Update on May 04 (2023): Fact checked and medically reviewed by MD Shimona Garg
Update on February 19 (2023): Added more references