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Retinol Alternatives for Skin Care: What To Use if Retinol Irritates Your Skin

If you need a retinol alternative, defensins are your best choice. Defensins work with your skin cells to create young skin cells by stimulating young cells. It can do this by activating your already young and healthy cells. In contrast, retinol activates old stem cells to make old skin cells. Defensins act very similar to retinol by providing you with antiaging skincare results.

Another popular alternative is bakuchiol. This plant byproduct replicates the results of retinol and is well-known for its skin refinement and anti-inflammatory benefits. Other top contenders include amino acids, rose seed oil, carrot seed oil, and other plant-based options and oils.

People love retinol for what it can do: smooth out wrinkles, unclog pores, and revitalize your skin. But that doesn’t mean it’s for everyone. However, many people find that retinol is harsh and abrasive on their skin. If you feel like retinol doesn’t give your skin the fresh results you’re looking for, then a substitute for retinol can still get you the desired results.

Don’t let your skin suffer just because it doesn’t agree with retinol. There are plenty of natural retinol serums and products with defensins that work, so you can get the skin care regimen your face deserves. This article will go over the myriad of retinol alternatives so you can find your perfect match when it comes to skin care products. Read on to learn all you need to know.

What Does it Take to Be a Retinol Alternative?

In the skin care industry, retinol reigns supreme, but it can still produce negative side effects like dry skin and inflammation. If that’s the case for you, you’ll find peace of mind in the fact that there are effective retinol alternatives available.

But what exactly is a retinol alternative? To be an alternative, the product needs to make — and achieve — the same claims as retinol. So what is retinol’s claim to fame? Anti-aging. A bunch of products might claim to have anti-aging benefits, but how do you know which ones really do?

You can’t take the promises on the packaging at face value. To find out which products are comparable to retinol, you’ll have to do a little research. Lucky for you, we’ve done a lot of that for you in this article. But to get you started, it comes down to ingredients. Retinol is a vitamin A product, so if you're looking for retinol substitutes, look for similar ingredients, including vitamin A, defensins, retinoic acids, and other moisturizing ingredients. And, if a product doesn’t have the same ingredients, the ingredients it does have still need to accomplish the anti-aging claim.

Are Retinol Alternatives Effective?

As a general rule, most retinol alternatives are not as potent as their retinol counterparts — but that doesn’t mean they don’t work. These substitutes provide a natural and less harsh option for your skin. The good news is that these alternates can still be effective in slowing aging, reducing acne, and regenerating healthy skin.

The only downside to these retinol alternatives is they haven’t been as thoroughly studied as retinol. Because of this, there isn’t as much scientific data to go off of, and we don’t know the full extent of what these products can do.

What Can You Use Instead Of Retinol?

The closest alternatives to retinol are defensins, as they are the most similar in function. Another popular retinol alternative on the market is bakuchiol, but these two are far from the only choices you have. Here are some of the top natural retinol serum alternatives available to you.


Defensins are a great tool to add to your anti-aging skin regimen. They work within your skin to activate your LGR6+ cells. Once these cells are activated, they help create fresh, new basal cells which in turn produce young and healthy keratinocytes — the skin cells that revitalize your face and give you that youthful glow.


Bakuchiol, made from the babchi plant, is one of the top retinol alternatives available and also the most studied. This plant-based product delivers similar results as retinol, including cell turnover, wrinkle reduction, and collagen production.

Amino Acids

Amino acids, or peptides, are a formative defense against aging. Like retinol and bakuchiol, amino acids can help protect you from free-radical damage and slow signs of aging. Add them to your daily routine for effective results.


Rambutan is a plant related to lychee that has many benefits for your skin. It can improve skin elasticity, support collagen production, and tighten skin. Try this product if you’re looking for something that is natural and performs many of the same functions as retinol.

Phyto-Retinol or Picao Preto Plant

Phyto-retinol, or picao preto plantare, are natural retinol serum alternatives. They are said to enhance your skin’s collagen supply, smooth out smile lines and crow's feet, and improve sun damage.


Niacinamide is a popular skin care ingredient that comes from vitamin B. Similar to retinol, niacinamide   can stimulate collagen and proteins in your skin. However, it is less harsh on your skin than retinol.

Rosehip Oil

Rosehip oil is full of vitamins A, C, and E, and also contains small amounts of retinoic acids. These vitamins are instrumental in smoothing wrinkles and fine lines and can also visibly reduce hyperpigmentation. Additionally, rosehip oil won’t dry out your skin thanks to its hydrating properties.

Rose Seed Oil

People love rose seed oil because of its abundance of vitamin A and its hydrating properties. This winning combination can promote skin cell rejuvenation without the accompanying skin irritation and dryness.

Carrot Seed Oil

This oil contains a high amount of antioxidants and promotes skin regeneration. Carrot seed oil also encourages new skin growth for a more youthful appearance.

How To Add a Retinol Alternative to Your Skin Care Regimen

Do you love the benefits of retinol but can’t put up with its negative side effects any longer? Do you dream of a skin care regimen that leaves your skin hydrated and fresh? Retinol alternatives can help. They will up your skin care game and keep your skin hydrated to reduce wrinkles and lines.

When looking for retinol alternatives, seek out products with high-quality ingredients from trusted brands. You can also look for products that aim to treat specific skin conditions, such as dry skin, wrinkles, and acne.

Once you find products that fit your criteria, try them one at a time. Carefully watch how your skin reacts. If you notice irritation or discomfort, stop using the product and try a different one instead. As you try different skin care products, you’ll eventually find what works best for you. Everyone’s skin reacts differently to products and ingredients. Don’t give up if you don’t see your desired results immediately, and keep searching until you find your perfect combination of products

DefenAge wants to help you find top-tier products made with high-quality ingredients and clean beauty standards. We strive for excellence and performance in each of our skin care products, which are made with powerful defensins. Explore the skin care products on our website to find the perfect ones to add to your routine. You can also check out our FAQ page to learn more about products and their uses. If you have further questions, feel free to reach out to our team of experts.

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