Anti-aging creams are all the rage nowadays for many people trying to minimize signs of aging like crow’s feet, smile lines, or even the tiniest wrinkle. One ingredient that seems to be a constant part of these anti-aging formulas is retinol. Many dermatologists will recommend retinol for your skin woes, especially if you suffer from chronic acne as I did! And from the way these products tout the retinol in their recipes, you’d think that it’s some kind of magic elixir, but that’s not the whole story.
The scary truth is that retinol can actually damage your skin if used in excess. Skincare is a personal passion of mine, and I think it’s super important that we talk about how to take good care of your body’s largest organ— the skin!
If you’re using skin care products to fight those telltale signs of aging, it can be frustrating to know that your serums and lotions may be making you look older! Don’t worry though, there are amazing alternatives to retinol and those chemical-laden products.
But before I explain how retinol can damage your skin, I first want to talk about why retinol is so popular.
What is Retinol?
Retinol is a key ingredient in many creams, serums, lotions, and other skincare products. Retinol is a form of vitamin A that can help clear up acne, but its main use is to combat skin aging, dark spots, and scarring. 
Retinol is often found in many modern skincare routines because of its ability to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
How Does Retinol Affect Your Skin?
Retinol helps unclog pores, increases skin cell turnover, exfoliates your skin, and boosts collagen production.
It does this by penetrating the top layer of your skin— the epidermis— and going into the middle layer, the dermis. Here, retinol helps neutralize the free radicals on your skin that can contribute to aging.
One thing that retinol does not do, though, is remove dead skin cells as an exfoliating scrub would.
As with any chemical you’re exposed to each day, you need to be careful with retinol.
How Retinol Can Damage Your Skin
If you’ve seen a dermatologist seeking answers as I have, chances are, they’ve recommended using retinol-based ingredients in your skincare routine. Many of you may have found results in the short-term, but I found the risks of retinol to be too overwhelming for my personal use.
Some of these risks might include:
- Retinol increases sun sensitivity. Sunscreen won’t help with this either; you need to minimize all sun exposure if you’re using retinol. Your risk of sunburn rises significantly if you use retinol. So if you don’t want to spend a beautiful sunny day stuck inside, retinol may not be for you— especially if you have sensitive skin!
- Retinol can contribute to dry skin, skin thinning, or irritation. It can also cause redness and itching, or it can cause your skin to peel. Yikes!
- If used during pregnancy, retinol can have detrimental effects on a developing baby. This is because retinol, a form of vitamin A, can build up in your body when you use it over time. And while vitamin A itself is vital for supporting fetal growth, it can build up to toxic levels if you have too much of it in your body. This can cause fetal retinoid syndrome (FRS), a serious health condition that can cause birth defects. 
I always say, “If we’re not supposed to use something while we’re pregnant, it probably means it’s not great to use at all!” I don’t know about you, but I also don’t care to avoid the sun and risk a rash just to continue my skincare routine.
What is Retinol Burn?
Retinol burn is a side effect of retinol use that can cause unpleasant symptoms like:
- Dry skin
- Skin irritation
- Redness or discoloration
- Flaky or peeling skin
Retinol burn occurs after using products with high concentrations of retinol, such as tretinoin (a kind of acne medication), or after your first use of topical retinoids.
How To Fight Signs of Aging Without Retinol
We always want to be careful about any products we use long-term. That’s why I’ve done my own research to find alternatives to retinol, and I’m so excited to share what I’ve found with you, Beauty!
Natural Ingredients For Your Skincare Products
Bright and glowing skin shouldn’t have to come at a cost to your health or lifestyle.
There are many plant-based ingredients that provide the anti-aging effects of retinol without the side effects.
One ingredient that’s especially beneficial is Vigna Aconitifolia, sometimes known as moth bean. These legumes are rich in protein and drought-resistant, making them a healthy food source and are amazing for your skin! That’s why I use it as a key ingredient in my Feel Good Moisturizer.
Vigna Aconitifolia is often seen as a natural alternative to Retinol because of its ability to increase cell overturn and communication. With natural ingredients like Vigna Aconitifolia encouraging our cells to work, we don’t have to worry about the toxic buildup over time.
Pumpkin Seed Stem Cells
Another natural powerhouse I include in my Feel Good Moisturizer formula is pumpkin seed stem cells. These plant stem cells have amazing skincare properties and are an excellent source of antioxidants and nutrients your skin needs to stay youthful.
These cells work wonders against oxidative damage and stimulate collagen production, keeping your skin smooth and toned!
Another ingredient I feel is worth mentioning is Asc2-P. Asc2-P is a form of Vitamin C that is 10 times more potent than regular vitamin C, more stable, and penetrates deep into your dermis (the second layer of skin) far better than regular Vitamin C. Just like Vigna Aconitifolia, Asc2-P stimulates the creation of collagen that supports skin elasticity and minimizes fine lines.
This is the primary ingredient used in my Solluna Feel Good Serum, and is amazing for firming and brightening your skin and protecting it from sun damage. This can be a true game changer if you are looking for a radiant, youthful look and want to stick to all-natural ingredients.
Get Plenty of Sleep
Getting your beauty sleep is so important to keeping your skin looking youthful and vibrant.
Sleep deserves the same attention and care as diet and exercise does to keep you looking healthy and maintaining a healthy glow. Always aim for 7-9 hours of good quality sleep each night to ensure that you look and feel great both inside and out. It’s really helpful to get up at the same time every day to ensure your best sleep, according to sleep expert Dr. Michael Breus.
I consider dehydration to be the ultimate beauty no-no! When you’re dehydrated, your body has a harder time working efficiently; your energy drops, your hair becomes dry, and so does your skin! Dehydration can make you look and feel older.
Of course, drinking plenty of water fights dehydration, but a healthy diet of enriching foods beverages— such as coconut water, cucumbers, and the Glowing Green Smoothie® (GGS)— can provide you with even more nourishment and keep your skin youthful for years to come.
Use Essential Oils in Your Skin Care Routine
Essential oils have been super popular lately for everything from household use to in being a staple in many beauty routines!
Scent has a powerful effect on our minds, helping us change our moods and our emotions. Essential oils can also be a beneficial addition to your skin care routine, helping fight acne, moisturizing your skin, clear your complexion, and prevent signs of aging.
Related: A Beginner’s Guide to Using Essential Oils for Wellness & Beauty!
5. Protect Your Skin While Out in the Sun
We need the sun to get that coveted sun-kissed glow, but too much of a good thing is unhealthy. Too much sun exposure can not only cause uncomfortable sunburns, but the UV rays in sunlight contribute to skin cancer and accelerated aging.
To prevent this, you can use sunscreen each time you go outside— even on a cloudy day. (I recommend Suntegrity’s sunscreen!) Apply it at least 15-30 minutes before you go outside, and reapply every two hours.
You can also wear clothing that covers your skin, like long sleeves or pants. A sun hat that shades your head, neck, and even your shoulders can be helpful too. Don’t forget your sunglasses! Just make sure that they have 99 to 100 percent UV absorption. 🙂
Age Before Beauty? It Doesn’t Have to be That Way!
Retinol is a common and popular ingredient in many anti-aging serums, lotions, and tinctures, but just because it’s popular doesn’t mean it doesn’t come with any risks! Used in excess, retinol can damage your skin, make it more sensitive to sunlight, and even have detrimental effects on a developing baby if you use it during pregnancy.
So next time you consider using a retinol serum to combat signs of aging, just remember— there’s a better, more natural way to keep yourself looking bright and fresh and healthily youthful! All it takes is a holistic approach. 🙂
In health and beauty,
- “Retinol: Cream, Serum, What It Is, Benefits, How to Use.” Cleveland Clinic, my.clevelandclinic.org/health/treatments/23293-retinol.
- Whelan, Corey. “Retinol Use during Pregnancy: Risks and Alternatives.” Healthline, Healthline Media, 30 June 2022, www.healthline.com/health/pregnancy/retinol-pregnancy.