Natural Retinol

Retinol has been praised a lot in the beauty world. It is a vitamin A derivative, a retinoid, and like all forms of vitamin A, it aids in cell turnover, increases the amount of collagen in your skin, and makes the skin more resistant to the appearance of new wrinkles. It is commonly found in anti-aging products, acne treatments, and sunscreens, and is available in over-the-counter as well as prescription products. However, this synthetic ingredient can actually hurt you! Many beauty industries and dermatologists are irresponsibly marketing retinol products without cautioning the consumers of the downsides. We want to make sure you have all of the information.

Possible side effects of retinol include skin irritation, photosensibility, telangiectasia, teratogenicity, and embryotoxicity. Skin irritation is a common issue–avoid it by testing a small amount of product on your forearm to see if irritation occurs before using it on your face. Photosensibility occurs when the skin is highly sensitive to UV rays from the sun as well as other sources of light, and comes with the risk of developing sunburn, skin damage, and skin cancer. A 2012 government study found that mice who had spent time in the sun with creams containing retinyl palmitate or retinoic acid developed more tumors than mice who had those creams but were not in the sun. Retinol products should not be used during the daytime/in sunlight because of this! Unfortunately, retinol is increasingly being included in sunscreen and other products targeted for day-time use. Telangiectasia, commonly known as “spider veins,” occurs due to the widening of blood vessels, which causes red lines or web like patterns on the skin. While this condition is treatable, there is no cure. Teratogens result in permanent structural or functional malformations in fetuses, and can even result in death, referred to as teratogenicity. Embryotoxicity is, as the name implies, is embryonic death. Retinol has the ability to enter the maternal system and cross the placental barrier, and it has a devastating impact on developing fetuses. When retinoids are used, they often are stabilized with BHT and Parabens, which are ingredients that are connected to cancer and reproductive issues but often not identifiable from ingredient lists. There are higher risks when using this product for children and older people, particularly the risk of higher skin sensitivity and sun damage. Retinol usage causes dryness and irritation in its initial usage, and typically should be only used at night. 


Because of all this, the Environmental Working Group (a non-profit, American activist group specializing in research and advocacy when it comes to toxic chemicals and corporate accountability) recommends that consumers avoid the use of skincare products with Vitamin A (typically labelled as retinol or retinyl). The EWG cautions that Vitamin A in these forms is not safe for topical use. 

Vitamin A is, however, crucial to the maintenance of healthy skin. So, what should you do? Luckily, there are many safer alternatives to retinol, many of which are natural! Look for plant-based carotenoid-rich oils. Rosehip oil (found in R3), mango butter, and moringa oil are a few options, and they work to protect and brighten the skin without causing devastating side effects and long-term damage to the skin.

Recent studies have identified one natural ingredient that works best of all: bakuchiol. Bakuchiol is derived from the psoralea corylifolia plant, and proves to significantly reduce wrinkles, increase elasticity, and help with pigmentation. This wonderful ingredient can be found in Essentique’s facial oil serum, Reine.

There are other natural forms of retinol available in various products carried at Essentique, including Vigna Aconitifolia Seed Extract in the upcoming eye serum, Glow. Bidens Pilosa Extract is another great alternative to retinol and is currently being tested as an additional element to Essentique’s moisturizers. Additionally, you can get Vitamin A from your diet, rather than your skincare. Fruits and vegetables should be an essential part of your diet, especially sweet potatoes, carrots, kale, spinach, as well as eggs and cow’s milk. By prioritizing vitamin A in your diet, you can avoid the need for topical application of retinoids, but if you notice issues in your skin, opt for the more gentle, plant-based vitamin A and use at night. 

While you may have heard that retinol is a miracle ingredient, remember that there are plenty of natural, safer alternatives that produce similar effects and can be used without fear of permanent skin damage. When picking skin care products in the future, keep an eye out for retinol in any of its disguised names, and avoid them altogether by picking natural beauty! Here at Essentique, we are transparent about the ingredients in our products, and we know that your skin deserves only the best. 

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