What Is Vegan Retinol?

By Liis Hainla. Updated: May 2023.
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Retinol has created quite a lot of confusion in the world of vegan skincare. What exactly is vegan retinol? Is retinol in skincare vegan? Let us clear things up for good.

Here is a quick summary on what vegan retinol means:

  • Vegan retinol often refers to bakuchiol – Bakuchiol is the most common vegan retinol alternative that has similar properties to retinol. Bakuchiol is derived from the Psoralea corylfolia plant.
  • Vegan retinol can also mean regular retinol – Retinol in skincare is synthetically made, so technically all retinol in skincare products is vegan retinol. See our selection of vegan retinols here.

What Is Vegan Retinol?

Vegan retinol can mean two different things. This is why many people are justifiably confused by this skincare ingredient. Vegan retinol can mean actual retinol or a vegan retinol alternative.

When skincare experts talk about vegan retinol, they typically refer to bakuchiol. Bakuchiol is the most common vegan retinol alternative. Obtained from the seeds of the Psoralea corylifolia plant, bakuchiol has similar qualities to retinol but it is gentler on the skin.

That being said, real retinol in skincare is also vegan. Retinol aka vitamin A is included in many animal ingredients like liver or milk but the skincare industry does not use natural retinol. Retinol in skincare products is synthetically made for better purity and stability.

Thus, when the skincare product is said to include vegan retinol it can mean that it includes either bakuchiol or actual retinol. Sometimes producers just want to highlight that they use vegan-friendly retinol for clarity.

To find out what type of vegan retinol is in question, always double-check the product ingredient list. With more vegan retinol alternatives available, vegan retinol can refer to a number of different active ingredients.

Many vegan skincare products also combine real retinol with bakuchiol for better results (e.g. Paula’s Choice Clinical 0.3% Retinol + 2% Bakuchiol Treatment).


Hope you now understand better what vegan retinol means. Our goal at Vegan Avenue is to make vegan skincare resrouces simple and accessiible to everyone. Retinol is an excellent anti-aging and anti-acne ingredient and we are glad that vegans can also enjoy its perks.

Keep in mind that just because retinol is a vegan skincare ingredient, retinol skincare products may still not be vegan and include other animal ingredients. To be sure you are opting for a vegan retinol product, look for a certified vegan label.

See also: Best Vegan Retinols

Update on May 05 (2023): Fact checked and medically reviewed by MD Shimona Garg
Update on February 19 (2023): Added a reference

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.