How to Use Phyto-Retinols

Retinols are a sought after skincare ingredient highly regarded as the industry’s anti-aging ingredient. Retinols, like retinals, are a subcategory of retinoids that are vitamin A derivatives used topically. They are generally man-made, or synthetic, and upon application, the skin works to convert retinoid into retinoic acid. Originally used to fight acne in the 1970s, research quickly showed results in reducing signs of premature aging and the cosmetic world shifted with this new discovery. Cosmetic retailers now offer a variety of retinol products from serums to creams, yet stronger concentrations of retinoids will need a prescription. 

When using vitamin A derivatives it is important to know that they interact powerfully with skin even when formulated with a very small percentage and should be introduced slowly into a routine. It is common to experience side effects when beginning the use of retinol, these may include: irritation and sensitivity, dryness, uneven texture and skin flakiness, redness and photosensitivity leading to hyperpigmentation. To manage the effects of retinol we recommend an application in the evening and to always apply a lipid-based moisturizer after the retinol along with using a sun protectant the next day.

Due to the sensitivity retinol has been known to cause, a large majority of people are looking elsewhere to address acne and aging skin. In the clean beauty world there has been an emergence of phyto-retinols. “Phyto-” meaning: of a plant; relating to plants. Phyto-retinols are plant-based ingredients that are high in pro-vitamin A and are not synthesized. Phyto-retinols remain gentle on reactive, sensitive skin and are even regarded as safe for pregnancy and breastfeeding although we always recommend you speak with your healthcare provider. 

Beta-carotene is the star player for most plant-based cosmetics to provide skin with the “anti-aging” effects of retinol. Just as retinol is a subcategory of retinoids, beta-carotene is a subcategory of carotenoids. When using phyto-retinols your body metabolizes the provitamin-A found in plant-based retinols into vitamin A. Beta-carotene is the orange pigment we see in the natural world.

In skincare, the most popular phyto-retinols include rosehip, carrot, seabuckthorn and pumpkin. These plant sources are bioavailable and are incredibly nutrient rich providing the skin with much more than pro-vitamin A. They are deeply hydrating, are not found to cause skin sensitivity and address underlying dehydration and inflammation. 

What retinol and phyto-retinol have in common:

  • Promote cellular formation and regeneration
  • Improve skin’s texture 
  • Corrects dullness and hyperpigmentation
  • Plumps skin, as it targets fine and set-in lines by helping to build collagen and elastin 
  • Helps to manage acne

Our favorite part is that retinoids and phyto-retinols can be used together without increased sensitivity. Due to the ultra gentle nature of phyto-retinols, you can pair them with other exfoliants and retinoids alike. 

Our top recommendation when using both is to use phyto-retinols morning and night and to incorporate retinol only during your nighttime routine. Apply a facial hydrator after your retinol product, even if your retinol is formulated within a moisturizer, and follow with a sun protectant then next morning to avoid photosensitivity and hyperpigmentation. 

Our featured phyto-retinol formulations are:

You’ll also find organic rosehip seed oil and organic pumpkin seed oil in various other products for the face and body.

If you would like more guidance on how to structure your facial care routine, we offer a complimentary Skincare Concierge to help you find the perfect ritual. Just reach out, we're always here!