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A Wrinkle in Time

by Celia Shatzman

Retinols, a form of vitamin A, are often hailed as one-size-fits-all solutions. They can fight acne, reduce fine lines and increase collagen production, to name a few. 

But retinols can also wreak havoc on your skin, especially since they can contain harsh chemical ingredients. 

“Retinol is often thought of as the gold standard for wrinkles, but many people experience skin irritation, including redness, itching and burning,” says Aimee Werner, founder of Whish. “It’s also a strong exfoliant—and if you’re out, even on an overcast day, you’re exposing new skin to an added dose of radiation. That means more sun damage and photoaging, which is what you’re using retinol to combat in the first place. It’s a bit counterintuitive, unless you’ve resigned yourself to only going out at night!”  

And retinol may not be the miracle panacea that it is often made out to be. “When we were researching retinol we learned that it is very unstable and difficult to handle during the manufacturing process,” Werner says. “It needs be processed in a dark room and any light or temperature fluctuations can damage its efficacy. We were shocked to learn that a lot of products with retinol may not be as potent as they are labeled due to its instability.” 

Luckily, a slew of natural retinol alternatives is hitting the beauty world. “There’s no adjustment period, no skin irritation and you can apply it anytime without worrying about UV sensitivity,” Werner says. “It’s not just about choosing a natural retinol alternative, but the right alternative. We use bakuchiol, which has been shown to have all the anti-aging features of retinol without any of its side effects.” 

Bakuchiol is an excellent natural alternative to retinol. In fact, according to a study published in the International Journal of Cosmetic Science, the plant extract has been proven to work the same way as a retinol by boosting the production of collagen, which smoothes existing wrinkles and prevents future ones. Unlike a traditional retinol though, it won’t cause redness, irritation, dryness or flaky skin, making it especially ideal for those with naturally parched complexions or sensitive skin. 

Since natural retinol alternatives can pack a punch just like the real deal and tend to have active ingredients, “you just need to follow the directions,” Werner advises. Then you’ll be on your way to younger, smoother skin. 


Whish Replenishing Day Cream and Recovering Night Cream. Other natural retinol alternative ingredients include squalane, which can reduce fine lines and wrinkles, found in Biossance Squalane + Vitamin C Rose Oil. Eminence Organics Bamboo Firming Fluid contains its Natural Retinol Alternative Complex, with chicory root, oligosaccharides and tara tree to smooth the appearance of wrinkles. Mad Hippie Vitamin A Serum includes nine actives, with a bioactive form of vitamin A, and a form of hyaluronic acid. 

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