Clean Retinol And Plant-Based Vitamin A Decoded

As information regarding skincare products and ingredients becomes more widely known, green beauty brands are adopting new formulas and developing products that balance organic botanicals and carefully sourced active ingredients, like plant-based vitamin A or the lab-created vitamin A derivative retinol. At Beauty Heroes, we get a lot of questions about these ingredients, so we thought we’d share some information and advances that have prompted this ingredient to show up in formulas we love at Beauty Heroes.  It can be tricky to navigate the skincare aisles, or the Instagram feed to decipher which product is best suited for your skin. You might hear about all the benefits of a retinol product, and be curious to try it, but may be unsure where to begin. Establishing a well-balanced skincare routine can be a relaxed, stress-free process as long as you know where to look. It is about time we took away some of the mystery surrounding retinol and addressing the question we get most often: what is clean retinol?  Let’s take a closer look at variations of this type of skincare product and see which type could fit in your routine.

What is retinol and what is it used for?

Retinol is a derivative of vitamin A and has been a popular ingredient in skincare formulations in over-the-counter and prescription-strength products. Retinol helps to increase the cell turnover rate which is what allows your body to rid itself of old, dead skin, and replace it with fresh skin cells. This rapid cell turnover results in a reduced appearance of hyperpigmentation, fine lines and wrinkles. A by-product of the increased cell turnover rate is a boost in collagen production that helps skin appear and feel more plump, healthy, and hydrated.

What is ‘clean retinol’?

Clean retinol is a marketing term, but the truth is that there have been some advances in retinol that have made it more comfortable for conscious beauty brands to add it into their skincare formulations. For years, retinol was most commonly processed with BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene), an ingredient we don’t allow at Beauty Heroes and that has been linked to cancer and endocrine disruption. New forms of retinol have emerged that are BHT-free and therefore now considered ‘clean retinol.’

We get asked all the time if retinol is safe for use when pregnant and breastfeeding. High doses of Vitamin A have been linked to birth defects, but that has not been very well studied, so we respond by advising pregnant and nursing mothers to wait to use retinol out of an abundance of caution. And, we always recommend you consult your doctor or trusted medical professional.

It’s also important to note that when using any form of vitamin A (and even if you’re not) we recommend wearing sun protection. Using retinol can be photosensitizing for the skin.

A few of the products we carry containing ‘clean retinol’ include Josh Rosebrook Active Infusion Oil, Mara Algae Retinol Face Oil, Maya Chia The Straight A, and Fitglow Vita Youth Serum, which also features Bakuchiol.

Plant-Based Vitamin A

By now you may have already heard about bakuchiol since it has had such an uptick in popularity in recent years. We are constantly seeing new products come out that tout bakuchiol as a star ingredient and dubbed a ‘clean retinol’. Bakuchiol, a legume from the bakuchi seed has a high level of vitamin A, making it a plant-based cousin to traditional retinol. It’s not the only ingredient, however, that has this property. Moth Beans are very similar and are also a wonderful source of vitamin A for the skin. These plant-based derivatives have been studied and observed to be gentler than synthetic retinol, perhaps with less peeling and drying of the skin. Some studies have shown them to have very similar results to retinol, making them really interesting to many green beauty brands. Bakuchiol was used traditionally in India to treat acne, discoloration and other skin issues. It is a unique ingredient and we are excited to see the advancements it has brought to many of the skincare formulations we feature at Beauty Heroes. A few products that feature these plant-based clean retinol alternatives include Blüh Alchemy’s Botanic Retinol, Graydon’s Full Moon Serum, YINA’s, Nourish Rhodiola + Bakuchiol Oil Complex,  Earthwise Beauty’s Black Locust Firming Concentrate, Maya Chia’s The Straight A Treatment and Honua’s Aloha Youth Serum.

Other Sources of Carotenoids

As amazing as bakuchiol and moth bean extract are, there are a lot of botanicals that contain vitamin A, like rosehip seed oil and carrot seed oil, and it’s perfectly fine to rely on these lower concentrations to vitamin A to support healthy cell turnover if retinol or bakuchiol and moth bean extract don’t work for your skin. These botanicals have the benefits we love from in retinol, just in a much lower concentration. Beauty Heroes features products that use retinol, retinol alternatives and combinations of the two. There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to skincare, so we hope that we have helped you navigate vitamin A in all its forms.

We are fascinated by the developments constantly taking place in the skincare industry and do our best to keep up with the latest findings in research. Beauty Heroes provides a wide range of clean retinol products that allow you to see the benefits of these innovative formulas. If you have questions about retinol, or any product or ingredient, contact our beauty educators at and we would love to offer you our personalized recommendations.