Natural Alternatives to Retinol


We now know retinoids are harvested from animals or are synthetic copies of something our bodies can convert ourselves. Their side effects are known as the retinol uglies, which sound worse than the wrinkles we’re trying to fight in the first place. And the potential for long-term skin damage could have us constantly searching for more remedies. Maybe it’s time to search for alternatives to retinol instead!

What Is Retinol?

So if retinol isn’t really the best solution to get vitamin A, what is? That’s where carotenoids come in. Carotenoids are an alternative that our bodies naturally convert to usable retinoids. And there’s good news! They occur naturally in a number of soothing, gentle ingredients that won’t cause more problems for your skin later on.

Some Alternatives To Retinol

If you’re searching for alternatives to retinol, look for beta-carotene-rich ingredients such as mango butter[i], seaweed extract[ii], sunflower seed oil and chicory root. They are all safer, plant-based carotenoids, that won’t cause the red, burning, flaky side effects of retinol.[iii]

Their effectiveness made them key ingredients in our Daily Facial Routine. Goddess Garden Bright Eyes uses mango butter, seaweed extract and sunflower seed oil. Day Undone contains mango butter and sunflower seed oil. Both Face the Day and Dream Repair use chicory root, and Under the Sun offers a boost of sunflower oil.

More Alternatives to Retinol

While other natural ingredients don’t convert vitamin A into a usable retinoid, many mimic the benefits of retinol. In addition to the carotnoids listed above, if you’re looking for alternatives to retinol, you may want to make sure your skincare is rich with these ingredients:


Lycopene, found in Goddess Garden Under the Sun Hydrating Vitamin Serum, comes from tomatoes and other red fruits and vegetables. It reduces skin roughness, particularly when applied topically, and inhibits collagen breakdown to help keep skin firm, without the risk of retinoid dermatitis.[iv]

It’s also a powerful antioxidant—more powerful than Vitamin C and E![v]

Immortelle Oil

Immortelle oil is used in Goddess Garden Under the Sun Hydrating Vitamin Serum, Day Undone Softening Night Serum and Immortelle-flower-300x300 Dream Repair Brightening Night Cream. It can boost the skin’s protective barrier, unlike retinol which can make you more susceptible to sun damage.[vi]

Rich in essential fatty acids and antioxidants, Immortelle oil softens and strengthens the skin, and is said to promote collagen-production and smooth fine lines. Because of its rejuvenating effects, it could be used to improve the pigmentation of scars and damaged skin.[vii]

Black Elder

An ingredient in Goddess Garden Bright Eyes Firming Eye Cream, black elder is a strong antioxidant. It provides flavonoids such as quercetin and rutin. Quercetin’s effects on the skin are often seen as a natural alternative to retinol[viii]

. It is high in antioxidants, and can help ward off the appearance of skin aging[ix]

. Rutin is a strong antioxidant as well, and its anti-edema qualities help fight puffiness[x]

. The black elder is also the source of elderberries, which are often used to boost the immune system.

Vitamin B3 (Niacinamide)

Studies show vitamin B3 dramatically reduces the appearance of dark spots. It has a long history of safe use in skincare, and offers wrinkle-reducing benefits like retinol, but without the risk of retinoid dermatitis.[xi]

Goddess Garden Dream Repair Brightening Night Cream is rich in vitamin B3.


A naturally occurring oil in the skin’s own lipid barrier, squalene helps prevent moisture loss. Production of squalene slows after age 30, so it’s a helpful additive to skincare. It is also an antioxidant with purported antibacterial properties, and is used reduce the appearance of dark spots and wrinkles, without causing photosensitivity.[xii]

People and animals alike produce squalene, and it’s commonly harvested from shark livers. For a vegan-friendly alternative, squalane, like we use in Goddess Garden Tinted Face the Day, provides the same benefit and is sourced from olives.


Sun Damage Repair = Wrinkle Repair

Retinol is most often used to counter wrinkles, roughness and dark spots—AKA sun damage. People use it because it works, at least for the short term, but there’s a lot of debate on whether or not it’s a good long-term solution, or if you should even use it at all.

We feel skincare shouldn’t be a source of worry lines. By preventing new damage with a daily SPF, avoiding inflammation and treating the skin to the gentle alternatives to retinol, you can visually go back in time, without the harsh side effects or the retinol uglies. Your skin will be with you forever—treat it with care!

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Daily Facial Routine

Goddess Garden – Daily Facial Routine
Organic, plant-based ingredients that help to reduce wrinkles & other signs of sun damage

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Wesley, Naissan. “Which Butter is Better?” Skin & Allergy News 43.8 (2012): 22. Web.



Goldfaden, Gary, and Robert Goldfaden. Topical Lycopene Improves Skin Cellular Function. LE Publications, Inc, 2012. Web

Andreassi, M., et al. “Antioxidant Activity of Topically Applied Lycopene.” Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology 18.1 (2004): 52-5. Web


Dweck, Anthony C. “The Internal and External Use of Medicinal Plants.” Clinics in Dermatology 27.2 (2009): 148-58. Web.

Chondrogianni et al. Anti-ageing and rejuvenating effects of quercetin. Exp Gerontol 45:763-71 (2010).

Dawidowicz, Andrzej L., Dorota Wianowska, and Barbara Baraniak. “The Antioxidant Properties of Alcoholic Extracts from Sambucus Nigra L. (Antioxidant Properties of Extracts).” LWT – Food Science and Technology 39.3 (2006): 308-15. Web.


Rolfe, Heidi M. “A Review of Nicotinamide: Treatment of Skin Diseases and Potential Side Effects.” Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology 13.4 (2014): 324-8. Web.

Huang, Zih-Rou, Yin-Ku Lin, and Jia-You Fang. “Biological and Pharmacological Activities of Squalene and Related Compounds: Potential Uses in Cosmetic Dermatology.” Molecules 14.1 (2009): 540-54. Web.