Best Vegan Retinols In 2022

By Liis Hainla. Updated: April 2022.
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Vegan Retinols

Retinol is a star anti-aging ingredient that has gotten even more popular in recent years.

This type of vitamin A is hailed for erasing wrinkles and transforming skin tone – and science is there to back all those claims up.

Since everyone is talking about retinol, you might also want to give this baby a go. But can you do it the vegan way? Yes, you can.

We have listed the best vegan retinols on the market. Shop cruelty-free vegan retinol products from vegan retinol serums and face creams to vegan retinol body lotions.

What Is Retinol?

Retinol is a form of vitamin A. It is also referred to as vitamin A1. Retinol is a subtype of retinoids – a class of chemical compounds that are vitamers of vitamin A.

Retinol is the third strongest retinoid. It is stronger than retinoid esters (retinyl palmitate, retinyl acetate, retinyl linoleate) and weaker than retinal and retinoic acid (tretinoin).

When applied to your skin, retinol is gradually converted into retinoic acid. Only after the conversion, you will get the skincare benefits such as reduced fine lines and wrinkles.

Unlike pure retinoic acid, retinol is available to buy over the counter. Retinol usually comes in a form of liquid serum, gel, cream, or lotion.

Is Retinol Vegan?

Is Retinol Vegan

Retinol in skincare is always vegan. “Whether it’s in cosmetics or prescription skincare, retinoids are always synthetic,” says Paula Begoun of Paula’s Choice.

Many people think retinol is not vegan because retinol is naturally found in animal-based foods such as liver, oily fish, whole milk, cheese, and butter.

Skincare does not use naturally-derived retinol because it is not stable enough.

However, retinol skincare products can include other animal-derived ingredients and still not be vegan. (i.e. include beeswax, honey, animal glycerin, stearic acid, squalane).

Retinol products can also be animal tested. To make sure your retinol skincare is vegan and cruelty-free, always look for a vegan sticker or certified vegan label.

Retinol Benefits

There are multiple research-backed benefits in including topical retinol in your skincare regime.

  • Reduces wrinkles – retinol smooths out fine lines and wrinkles by increasing the collagen production in your skin
  • Improves skin tone – retinol brightens your skin tone through cellular level exfoliation
  • Fades dark spots – it fades sun spots, age spots and hyperpigmentation by curbing melanin production
  • Regulates oily skin – retinol helps regulate oil production, therefore preventing breakouts and acne
  • Minimizes acne scars – retinol also improves your skin texture and reduces acne scars
  • Tightens pores – retinol clears dead skin cells and clogged oil from your pores which makes your pores appear smaller
  • Strengthtens skin – retinol can increase epidermal thickness which makes your skin stronger and more resistant to environmental stressors
  • Treats kerastoris pilaris – retinol can treat a harmless skin condition that causes your skin to have causes tiny bumps and dry, rough patches and tiny bumps

Retinol Side Effects

There are many potential side effects of topical retinol.

The most common side effects of retinol are excessive dryness, skin scaling, redness, and itching. Less common side effects can include skin discoloration and acne flare-ups.

Thus, you should be very careful with retinol if you have dry or sensitive skin. Heather Rogers, M.D., suggests putting on moisturizer first and then just a pea-size of retinol.

If you have severe acne or some preexisting skin conditions, always consult a dermatologist before incorporating any kind of retinoid into your skincare routine.

What To Look For In Vegan Retinols?

What To Look For In Vegan Retinols

The most important thing in buying vegan retinols is choosing the right strength.

The most common retinol concentrations are 0,25%, 0,3%, 0,5% and 1%. You can also find retinols in the range of 0.01-0.03% but those concentrations are not very effective.

Some companies express retinol concentrations on the cosmetic scale instead of the more popular medical scale. This means often a 2% marked retinol product is actually 0.2%.

When you have never used retinol before, choose the 0.25% strength and gradually work your way up. If you have sensitive skin, always patch test retinol before using it.

You should also pay attention to other key ingredients in your vegan retinol. For instance, vitamin E is a great ingredient for dry skin but might be pore-clogging to oily skin.

Retinol Vs Bakuchiol

When you look for vegan retinol products, you will quickly come across bakuchiol. Bakuchiol (aka bio-retinol) is a natural vegan retinol alternative derived from the Psoralea corylifolia plant.

While having strong wrinkle-reducing and skin-improving benefits, bakuchiol is not yet considered as effective as retinol because there is simply not enough data on it.

Bakuchiol is a good choice if you are looking for a natural plant retinol alternative. Compared to retinol, it is much is safer for sensitive and dry skin.

When paired together retinol, bakuchiol can help stabilize retinol and keep it effective for longer.

Encapsulated Retinol

Encapsulated retinol is also a good choice for sensitive skin. It has a moisturizing outer coating that allows retinol to travel deeper into the skin and release retinol gradually.

Encapsulated retinol provides similar benefits to retinol without the side effects. Yet, it is much weaker. 1% encapsulated retinol equals 0.05-0.08% normal retinol.

Best Vegan Retinols 2022

We have listed the best vegan retinol products on the market. Choose the right vegan retinol for your skin and enjoy the age-defying benefits.

Best Vegan Retinol Serums

Serums are an effective way to add retinol to your skincare regime. Here are the best vegan retinol serums in 2022.

Paula’s Choice 0.3% Retinol + 2% Bakuchiol Treatment

Paula's Choice 0.3% Retinol + 2% Bakuchiol Treatment Vegan Retinol Serum

Hands down, this is the best vegan retinol serum out there. In this serum, natural bakuchiol multiplies the power of retinol to give you smoother, brighter and rejuvenated skin.

By pairing vegan retinol with bakuchiol and peptides, this lightweight lotion targets deep wrinkles and fine lines, rough texture, loss of firmness, and enlargened pores.

This vegan retinol also has vitamin C that helps fade dark spots, dullness, and sun damage. The retinol is made with the highest grade ingredients, it is free of fragrance and parabens.

Retinol strength: 0.3% (moderate), also available as 1%
Other ingredients: bakuchiol, peptides, vitamin C
Skin type: normal, oily, combination, dry

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The Ordinary Retinol 0,5% In Squalane

The Ordinary Vegan Retinol 0,5% In Squalane

This potent vegan retinol oil serum is a simple concentration of retinol in vegan squalane. It visibly reduces the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, photodamage, and dullness.

The alcohol-free vegan retinol is stable and effective but can irritate the skin. If you’re looking for irritation-free vegan retinol, go for Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion instead.

PS The Ordinary retinols are one of the most affordable vegan retinols on the market.

Retinol strength: 0.5% (high), also available as 0,2% and 1%
Other ingredients: squalane, jojoba seed oil
Skin type: normal, oily, combination

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First Aid Beauty FAB Skin Lab Retinol Serum

First Aid Beauty FAB Skin Lab Vegan Retinol Serum

First Aid Beauty has made a beautiful vegan retinol serum for dry and sensitive skin. The serum includes nourishing ingredients that alleviate the irritation associated with retinol.

The vegan retinol with hyaluronic acid minimizes fine lines and wrinkles revealing much firmer, brighter, and smoother skin.

We love that this vegan retinol features aloe, colloidal oatmeal, allantoin, and ceramides to nourish, soothe, and hydrate your skin.

Retinol strength: 0.25% (moderate)
Other ingredients: hyaluronic acid, vitamins C + E, aloe, colloidal oatmeal
Skin type: dry, sensitive, normal, combination, oily

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Flora + Bast Clarifying Facial Treatment

Flora + Bast Clarifying Facial Treatment Vegan Retinol Serum

If you are looking for a vegan retinol serum for acne-prone skin, we recommend the Clarifying Facial Treatment from Flora + Bast.

By combining vegan retinol with CBD (a non-psychoactive constituent of cannabis), you will get a serum that banishes blemishes, acne scars, and signs of aging without irritating the skin.

Cannabis offers a potent calming effect that offsets the irritation from the high concentration of retinol. The extract also reduces redness and puffiness.

Retinol strength: 1% (high)
Other ingredients: cannabis extract
Skin type: acne-prone, normal, oily, combination, dry

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Yeouth Retinol Serum With Hyaluronic Acid

Yeouth Vegan Retinol Serum With Hyaluronic Acid

This bestselling medium-strength vegan retinol serum with hyaluronic acid is great for all skin types. It defies wrinkles and fine lines, boosts, collagen, and provides essential hydration.

The vegan retinol also includes aloe vera and vitamin E that together nourish and hydrate your skin. The serum is also safe for sensitive skin.

Yeouth has many American-made vegan serums we love. They also have offer vegan retinol with glycolic acid for a smoothening and exfoliating experience.

Retinol strength: 0.25% (moderate)
Other ingredients: aloe vera, hyaluronic acid, vitamin E
Skin type: oily, combination, normal, dry, sensitive

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Eva Naturals Skin Clearing Serum

Eva Naturals Skin Clearing Vegan Retinol Serum With C Vitamin

This multitasking vegan retinol serum with salicylic acid, vitamin C, hyaluronic acid, and niacinamide addresses multiple skin concerns.

The serum repairs sun damage, erases wrinkles, supports collagen, reduces acne and blemishes, hydrates your skin, and tightens pores. Need we go on?

With its skin clarifying effect, this vegan retinol is great for acne-prone and oily skin. With a lot of strong ingredients, it might be too much for sensitive skin.

Retinol strength: 2% (very high)
Other ingredients: salicylic acid, vitamin C, niacinamide, MSM
Skin type: combination, oily, acne-prone

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Shani Darden Retinol Reform

Shani Darden Retinol Reform Vegan Retinol Serum

Shani Darden Retinol Reform pairs vegan retinol with lactic acid – a fantastic AHA that exfoliates the skin surface, revealing a much brighter and smoother complexion.

This vegan retinol with AHAs is made with irritation-free encapsulated retinol that is safe for sensitive skin. It reduces fine lines and dark spots and protects your skin from external factors.

Retinol strength: 2,2% encapsulated retinol (low)
Other ingredients: lactic acid, Pyrus Malus (Apple) Fruit Extract
Skin type: dry, sensitive, normal, combination

Shop here

Best Vegan Retinol Face Creams

Vegan Retinol Face Creams

If you want to keep your skincare routine simple, choose a vegan retinol face cream. Discover great retinol vegan night creams and daily moisturizers for your skin needs.

Best Vegan Retinol Eye Creams

Retinol makes an excellent eye cream ingredient. If you struggle with under-eye puffiness, dark circles, or fine lines, check out these best vegan retinol eye creams and serums.

Best Vegan Retinol Face Masks

These are the best vegan retinol face masks and treatments. Enjoy the age-defying, plumping, brightening, and hydrating experience at once.

Best Vegan Retinol Body Lotions

Your body can also benefit from retinol. Here are the best vegan retinol body lotions. These body moisturizers reduce sagging and wrinkles and improve skin tone and elasticity.

FAQ About Vegan Retinols

Is retinol vegan?

Retinol in skincare is vegan. In food products, it might not be.

Who should use retinol?

You should use retinol if you have aging, dull, or problematic skin. Sensitive and dry skin should be careful with retinol and rather opt for retinol’s natural alternative – bakuchiol.

Is vegan retinol effective?

Vegan retinol is exactly the same thing as regular retinol, so they are both equally effective. In skincare, retinol is always synthetically derived.

Is vegan retinol safe during pregnancy?

No, vegan retinol is not safe during pregnancy. However, retinol’s natural alternative bakuchiol is considered safe during pregnancy.

What is the best vegan retinol?

The best vegan retinol is Paula’s Choice 0.3% Retinol + 2% Bakuchiol Treatment.

What is the best vegan retinol for rosacea?

Retinol can help reduce the red pumps in rosacea but it can also irritate the skin even more. For rosacea, choose either the lowest concentration of retinol or go with the non-irritating natural retinol alternative – bakuchiol.

Is bakuchiol vegan retinol?

In skincare, bakuchiol and retinol are both vegan-friendly. Bakuchiol is simply the natural alternative to retinol. Bakuchiol is derived from the Psoralea corylifolia plant.

Can you use retinol and vitamin C together?

Yes, you can use retinol and vitamin C together. Just make sure that the concentration of both is not extra high.

Is Sunday Riley A+ Retinol Serum vegan?

No, the serum is not vegan because it contains honey.

Is Algenist retinol serum vegan?

No. None of Algenist products are considered vegan since the company tests on animals.

Is Monat Retinol Alternative Lotion vegan?

Yes. All Monat products are vegan and cruelty-free.

Summary

We are glad that retinol in skincare is vegan-friendly. There are so many benefits to incorporating retinol into your skincare routine and it’s great to do it the kind way.

Our favorite vegan retinols come from Paula’s Choice, The Ordinary, First Aid Beauty, Drunk Elephant, Naturium, and other cruelty-free and vegan brands.

As we find new vegan retinol serums and vegan retinol night creams, we are sure to test them out and add our favorites to this list.

PS if you use retinol during the day, make sure you follow it with vegan sunscreen. Retinol can make your skin more susceptible to sun damage.

See also: Vegan Retinol Alternatives, Vegan Skincare, Vegan Anti-Aging Skincare, Vegan Skincare For Acne-Prone Skin, Vegan Moisturizers, Vegan Serums, Vegan Vitamin C Serums

Sources:
Wikipedia: “Retinoid” And “Retinol”
American Academy Of Dermatology Association: “Retinoid Or Retinol”
Medical News Today: “What Is retinol And How Can A Person Use It?”
AJCL: “50 Years of Topical Retinoids for Acne: Evolution of Treatment”
American Osteopathic College of Dermatology “Retinoid, Topical”

My name is Liis. I have been a vegan for a long time and I advocate for the vegan lifestyle. Through Vegan Avenue, I aim to provide quality information about vegan products and bring attention to amazing vegan companies.