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These Are The Best Gentle Natural-ish Retinoids (And Alternatives) For Every Skin Type

Lindsay Kellner
Contributing Wellness & Beauty Editor
By Lindsay Kellner
Contributing Wellness & Beauty Editor
Lindsay is a freelance writer and certified yoga instructor based in Brooklyn, NY. She holds a journalism and psychology degree from New York University. Kellner is the co-author of “The Spirit Almanac: A Modern Guide to Ancient Self Care,” with mbg Sustainability Editor Emma Loewe.
Photo by mbg Creative / Megan Doty
November 19, 2018

Retinol remains one of the most sought-after and highly recommended ingredients that help reduce acne and fine lines, two common skin features people ask their derms to treat. If you want a deep dive into the world of retinols, take a peek at our ultimate retinol guide. And then carry onto the below for our favorites.

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REN Bio Retinoid Anti-Wrinkle Concentrate Oil

While the jury is still out on whether ingredients containing natural beta-carotene and pro vitamin A exhibit the same activity on the skin as a retinoid, some research shows that they do convert to retinol (vitamin A) on the skin in mouse models and in vivo with human skin. This oil by REN is not only Clean at Sephora certified—it's formulated without ingredients like parabens, sulfates, and more—and will leave your skin feeling nourished without the side effects of peeling and irritated skin that conventional retinols can cause.

Bio Retinoid Anti-Wrinkle Concentrate Oil, REN, $69

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Tata Harper Retinoic Nutrient Facial Oil

Similar to REN's Bio Retinoid Anti-Wrinkle Concentrate Oil, Tata Harper references natural sources of vitamin A, in this case rosehip oil, as the product's main source of retinol. Over time, the product claims to help speed up skin cell turnover, but the process will be so slow you won't experience any peeling. Coupled with olive oil and jojoba oil, the nurturing blend is velvety smooth and smells divine, making it a great choice for nighttime facial massage rituals.

Retinoic Nutrient Facial Oil, Tata Harper, $125


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Marie Veronique Gentle Retinol Night Serum

I used this until the bottle ran out and never experienced the intense peel of a prescription retinoid but did notice that it made my complexion glow, especially after using a gentle exfoliating product like Acure Organics' Brilliantly Brightening Facial Scrub. It's packed with antioxidants like vitamin C, too, which helps post-cell-turnover skin glow.

Gentle Retinol Night Serum, Marie Veronique, $110


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African Botanics Fleurs D’Afrique Intensive Recovery Oil

Oils from night-blooming baobab flowers instantly up-level this restorative and rejuvenating oil. It's packed with anti-inflammatory omegas; other active botanicals like jasmine, rose, and evening primrose; and retinoid vitamin A for skin cell turnover. Antioxidant-rich ingredients like marine microalgae, vitamin C, and CoQ10 help with the lifting and brightening effects.

Fleurs D'Afrique Intensive Recovery Oil, African Botanics, $250

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Kypris Moonlight Catalyst

With pumpkin enzymes and fermented radish root coupled with active botanicals, this serum helps gently exfoliate the skin to even out and brighten the skin's tone. This one is a good choice for anyone using retinol for acne, as the exfoliation helps unclog pores and keep blemishes at bay. Nourishing ingredients like algae, neroli oil, and sea buckthorn oil add a hydrating boost without disrupting the skin's natural balance.

Moonlight Catalyst, Kypris, $77

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Omorvicza Miracle Facial Oil

Known to sell out, the Omorvicza Miracle Facial Oil contains bakuchiol, the latest buzzy natural alternative to retinol. European studies comparing retinol and bakuchiol have concluded that the anti-aging activity of bakuchiol is similar to that of retinol without the undesirable side effects that often come with committing to a conventional retinol.

Miracle Facial Oil, Omorvicza, $120

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Biossance Squalane + Phyto Retinol Serum

Beloved by many mbg staffers, Biossance Squalane + Phyto Retinol Serum has been a game-changer. For one, bakuchiol is safe to wear during the day, which gives you more room for versatility in your skin care routine, especially if you want to use another product in the evening. In addition to bakuchiol, this formula contains skin-brightening niacinamide and squalane oil, which serve to brighten and hydrate, respectively.

Squalane + Phyto Retinol Serum, Biossance, $78

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alpyn beauty Wildcrafted Actives Plant Genius Melt Moisturizer

Using herbal ingredients that are grown in Wyoming's Jackson Hole mountain range, alpyn beauty has concocted a sophisticated moisturizer with exfoliating, moisturizing, and glow-promoting ingredients. Vitamin C brightens, bakuchiol works on fine lines for the short- and long-term, and ceramides help to hydrate and protect the skin's barrier.

Plant Genius Melt Moisturizer, alpyn beauty, $60

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Lindsay Kellner
Lindsay Kellner
Contributing Wellness & Beauty Editor

Lindsay Kellner is a freelance writer, editor and content strategist based out of Brooklyn, NY. She received her bachelor’s degree in journalism and psychology at New York University and earned a 200-hour yoga certification from Sky Ting. She is the co-author of “The Spirit Almanac: A Modern Guide to Ancient Self Care,” along with mbg’s Sustainability Editor, Emma Loewe.