The Best Retinol Alternatives

Dermatologists and skincare experts alike love to sing the praises of Retinol. And for good reason: The complexion heavy hitter is known to work wonders on everything from acne and hyperpigmentation to fine lines, and uneven texture. Unfortunately, this derivative of Vitamin A is also not well-tolerated by a large swath of the population — it has a well-earned reputation for being harsh on a variety of skin types, not just the ultra-sensitive.

If you’re one of the unlucky ones whose skin can’t handle Retinol, does that mean you’ll be left to suffer with fine lines and acne forever? Nope — thanks to recent discoveries and some clever formulas and extracts, it’s now possible to use alternatives that dare we say, might actually rival the real thing.

Keep reading to learn about alternatives to Retinol.

Vitamin C & Hyaluronic Acid

On the anti-aging front, one of Retinol’s biggest benefits is its ability to minimize the look of dark spots and plump the skin. It’s difficult to find one alternative that can do both of those things well, however with the help of Vitamin C and Hyaluronic Acid, your skin can appear plumped with hydration and defended. Antioxidant Vitamin C is a free-radical fighter that can help defend skin’s surface from environmental aggressors as well as smooth out the look of wrinkles in the process. Super-hydrating Hyaluronic Acid — which can hold 1000x its weight in water — provides immediate plumping when applied to skin, which makes wrinkles and fine lines even less noticeable.

Try: Kiehl’s Powerful Strength Line Reducing Concentrate

Vitamin B3

Also known as Niacinamide, Vitamin B3 has is said to improve the appearance of acne-prone skin and the visible signs of aging. Research has shown that certain percentages of Niacinamide can be just as effective at regulating moderate acne as some topical prescription antibiotics. When used regularly, it can also minimize the appearance of hyperpigmentation, as well as smooth rough skin texture. While it’s not technically on par with full-strength retinol, it’s a solid option for those who simply can’t tolerate more intense treatments.

Try: Kiehl’s Breakout Control Acne Treatment Facial Lotion

Alpha-Hydroxy & Beta-Hydroxy Acids

Another double act, AHA and BHA (like the Glycolic Acid and White Birch Extract in our Clearly Corrective hydrator) gives the skin a double dose of acne-clearing and texture-refining power. By exfoliating dead skin surface cells and pollution that has accumulated on skin’s surface, skin is left looking clearer, feeling softer, and having the general appearance of freshness and glow.

Try: Kiehl’s Clearly Corrective Brightening & Moisturizing Treatment

Retinyl Palmitate

Ok, technically this falls under the Retinol family proper, however Retinyl Palmitate is gentle enough that it’s considered an entry level Retinol. It boasts the fine line-minimizing, skin-smoothing powers of its full-strength cousin, but is much less likely to cause irritation or reactions. In fact, it’s so gentle it can even be used around the eye area.

Try: Kiehl’s Youth Dose Eye Treatment

Just because your skin is too much of a delicate flower to handle Retinol doesn’t mean you can’t reap the skin-clearing, anti-aging benefits from other ingredients found in Kiehls skincare formulas. Add these substitutes to your beauty cabinet and you’ll find that missing out on Retinol doesn’t have to mean missing out on great looking skin.

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