This article was originally published on February 14, 2018.
If there’s one thing nearly every skincare specialist seems to agree on, it’s retinol. This vitamin A-based wonder ingredient is also known as a “cell-communicating ingredient” because it “tells” skin cells to behave like normal, healthy cells—rather than like damaged cells that render our complexions dull and uneven. So whether you’re dealing with acne and acne scarring or sun-damaged, weathered skin, there’s a good chance that a retinol-based product can help lessen these skin woes.
In my case, retinol and exfoliating acids (AHA and BHA) have dramatically improved the condition of my skin in terms of fines lines, hyperpigmentation from post-acne marks, skin brightness, suppleness, resilience, texture…everything. (I avoided retinol during my pregnancy, and I noticed a difference even though my skin remained very clear—thanks, hormones!)
There’s an understandable misconception that all retinol ingredients are animal derived—many, many of them are! Fortunately, conscious companies and innovations in beauty science have brought us vegan retinol and vegan vitamin A products with lab-created retinol and plant-based vitamin A. The following are some of the best options for cruelty-free and vegan retinol creams and serums.
How to Use Retinol
Retinol use usually requires an adjustment period. In the first few weeks of use, it can cause skin-sensitivity (tenderness, mild redness, mild peeling), and often this reaction is delayed (i.e., it won’t necessarily happen with the first few uses). It’s generally suggested that you apply retinol a few times a week and gradually increase your applications until you can apply it daily. The sensitivity should pass after a few weeks.
Because retinol increases skin sensitivity, it’s imperative that you wear a sunscreen of at least SPF 30 (even after the adjustment period has passed). Most dermatologists also recommend applying retinol at night rather than in the morning.
Finally, if you’re introducing retinol into your skin care regimen, go easy on other skin-sensitizing ingredients (like exfoliants and vitamin C) until your skin is used to retinol. Gradually reintroduce other skin care treatments.
Best Vegan Retinol and Plant-Base Vitamin A Products
So far, this retinol has been my holy grail. It leaves my skin looking even better than the prescription retinoids I used in my early days of fighting acne. Formulated with a controlled-release delivery system that allows for even, consistent absorption, this potent retinol serum is surprisingly only minimally irritating at first use. It’s lightweight and absorbs quickly. The bottle lasts for several months, which helps justify the price.
With quite possibly the highest concentration of retinol for an OTC product, this innovative cream promises to help transform your skin sans prescription. It also contains a host of nourishing natural ingredients, including aloe, grapeseed oil, rosehip fruit oil, pomegranate seed extract, and green tea extract. (Leaping Bunny and Vegan certified!)
One of the gentlest formulas out there without losing any of the efficacy, this retinol serum is suitable for aging, blemish-prone, or sensitive skin. It combines retinol with Vitamins C and E to brighten and nourish the skin. Also, it’s a favorite of Bonnie Wright, aka Ginny Weasley.
Designed with all skin types in mind, this vegan serum absorbs quickly to smooth skin’s surface, improve radiance, and reverse the signs of sun damage. Ferulic acid is a plant-based antioxidant that helps enhance the skincare benefits of other vitamins.
Disclaimer: This retinol cream contains beeswax and is therefore not suitable for bee product-avoiding consumers. With carrot-derived vitamin A, this rich, softening balm helps promote clear, supple, and radiant skin. Non-comedogenic avocado butter and rich plant oils enhance the effectiveness of the plant-derived vitamin A. Suitable for all skin types.
Do you use a vegan retinol product? What’s your favorite skincare cream?
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