Black woman with moisturizer Black woman with moisturizer


By Maria Velve

Black woman with moisturizer Black woman with moisturizer


Retinol is one of the most talked about anti-aging ingredients and for a good reason! Also known as vitamin A, retinol can repair and rejuvenate the skin beautifully. However, not everyone can use the conventional vitamin A products that are found on many cosmetic store shelves.  This is why natural retinol products have taken the green beauty industry by storm.  They're gentler on the skin and work just as well.  Read on about how retinol products work and how to use them in a way that works for your skin.

Young woman looking in mirror

What is Retinol?

Retinol, also called vitamin A₁, is in the vitamin A family found in food and used as a dietary supplement. In skincare, it's regarded as the "anti-aging" miracle worker.  Most of the retinol products we see around us are over-the-counter retinol versions used in skincare. Retinol is the strongest version that can be found in over-the-counter products.  It's much stronger than retinol palmitate and retinaldehyde. 

Retinol Benefits

Retinol molecules work by penetrating deep into your skin. Once they are in the deeper layers of your skin, they neutralize free radicals and help boost collagen and elastin production. This creates a plumping and smoothing effect of the skin, and thus reduces fine lines and wrinkles.

Retinol also has an exfoliating effect, so it can improve the tone and texture of the skin's surface. It can help treat acne, and help heal acne related scarring. Retinol can also help with other types of hyperpigmentation, such as sun spots and melasma. If you suffer from any of these conditions by also sensitivity, a natural retinol alternative is a fantastic option for you. 

Skincare serum on hand

Retinol Side Effects

Undoubtedly, retinol has numerous benefits for the skin, so what's the problem? What I often hear from my clients is that retinol has certain side effects on the skin. These include redness, itchiness and peeling of the skin. For some people, these side effects are temporary.  However for other people, the skin may never acclimate to the side effects of retinol. Before I get into natural retinol alternatives which your skin will be able to tolerate, I want to offer you some tips to try when using a conventional retinol product.  From my experience, these tips can help your skin tolerate retinol a bit better, whether it's a natural retinol alternative or conventional. 

Tips for using Retinol

  • Wait 15-20 minutes between cleansing the skin and applying retinol 
  • Start with a reduced strength version of retinol. 0.5% is great to start with, and gradually work up to using 1% potency if your skin tolerates it
  • Use it as part of your skin regimen for at least 12 weeks before expecting to see results
  • Start slow by using it twice a week, and then move up to 4 days a week, etc., until your skin adjusts

 Black woman applying face cream

How to use Retinol

Always follow the directions on your retinol product's packaging.  However, some skincare product "rules" can still apply depending on the type of retinol product you have. It's best to stay away from conventional retinol when using acids like BHAs or AHAs and to be careful with treatments such as chemical peels and lasers.  Always talk to your skin tech about the retinol you're using before booking any such treatments. 

If it’s a moisturizer with retinol: use after cleansing, after any lighter serums but before any facial oils

If it’s a retinol in oil form: use last after you’ve applied your other lighter products.

Natural Retinol Ingredients

If you’ve tried all the above tips to adjust your skin to retinol, and it’s still too harsh for your skin, then try using a natural retinol or plant-based alternative. Keep in mind that plant retinoids are not as potent as the standard retinoids.  It will take more time to see their effect. Give them at least 12 weeks of consistent usage before expecting to see results. 


Bakuchiol is a vegan skin care ingredient found in the leaves and seeds of the Psoralea corylifolia  plant.  It's native to India where it has long been used in Ayurvedic practices. It is a plant derivative and often called “nature’s retinol”.  It functions just like retinol or topical vitamin A, without the harsh side effects of stinging and burning.  Bakuchiol is a powerful antioxidant helping to reduce discoloration from environmental pollution and has a soothing effect on the skin. 

Moth Bean Extract

Derived from the moth bean plant, this botanical retinol is more gentle than conventional retinol, but just as effective. It helps to strengthen the dermis and decrease the look of fine lines and wrinkles. Moth bean extract helps to encourage collagen production and boost skin cell renewal. It contains phenolic compounds like caffeic acid, cinnamic acid, ferulic acid, and kaempferol which protect the skin against free radicals and UV damage.

Aguaje (Buriti) oil

Aguaje oil comes from the Moriche Palm which grows in the Amazon regions of South America. It is the richest source of Beta-Carotene (Vitamin A) found in nature - five times higher than Carrot Root Oil!  When applied topically on the skin, it converts into an active form of the vitamin, Retinol.  It contains a rich combination of Omega 3, 6 and 9 and is high in oleic acid.  It intensively strengthens skin and hair without any artificial chemicals.

Buriti fruit

Products with natural retinol

Bukuchiol and moth bean extract are two natural retinol ingredients that are found together in Graydon Skincare’s Phyto Clear. They help to reduce fine lines and wrinkles, and photoaging.  This gel-like natural retinol moisturizer contains not just one, but two retinol alternative botanicals. It's the perfect choice if you’re looking to get the benefits of conventional retinol without the sensitizing effects. This light gel product is excellent for combination skin and oilier skin types and layers beautifully under a facial oil in cooler months. If your skin needs a bit of a richer product, you can also find Bakuchiol in Etymologie's Bakuchiol Bio-Retinol Concentrate. Moth Bean Extract is also found in the Graydon Skincare Fullmoon Serum

Imaya’s Retinoic Face Oil is made from 100% pure Aguaje oil, which is very high in beta carotene and vitamin E.  Imaya's Retinoic Face Oil will smooth, clear and firm the skin without clogging pores.  It's a beautiful and vibrant oil that you can use day or night.  You can add it to your face cream, or apply it as is on cleansed skin (this product is currently going through a rebrand and it's out of stock).

Final Thoughts

Please give retinol a try if you haven't already. Be patient and consistent, and I guarantee that you will see results after 12 weeks. If you don’t have success with conventional retinol, give the natural retinol alternatives I mentioned a try instead. If you have any other questions about retinol, don’t hesitate to contact me, and I will be happy to assist you! Thank you for being here and for reading!



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