How to fight skin ageing if retinol doesn’t work for you

These substitutes are friendlier for the skin!

Harper's Bazaar India

In the world of skincare ingredients, retinoids hold an exalted status. It’s lauded and celebrated for being an anti-ageing superstar. This group of Vitamin A derivatives (of which retinol is the over the counter form) can seemingly do it all—from reducing dark spots and fighting off hyperpigmentation to evening out the skin tone and boosting collagen and elastin production to stop mature skin from sagging. 

However, with all these benefits come a host of downsides. It doesn’t work for people with even slightly sensitive skin, pregnant women, women who are breastfeeding, or those who generally prefer using organic and natural skincare. Retinol is the skin’s frenemy and it can be tricky to work with. Some of its irksome side effects include redness, dryness, and overall skin irritation. 

Does this mean the people who fall under the above-mentioned categories don’t protect their skin against ageing? Nope. Luckily for them, numerous alternatives to retinol are gentler and more tolerant on the skin without compromising on the results. We’ve rounded up a few of these dupes for you to check out if retinol doesn’t work for you. 

PS: Before trying any ingredient, remember to do a patch test. 


Bakuchiol is derived from the leaves and seeds of the babchi plant and is probably the most well-known studied natural alternative to retinol. While it is not in the Vitamin A family, it functions similarly by stimulating the production of collagen and elastin to wage a war against signs of ageing. As a bonus, it also works on reducing wrinkles and pigmentation, and is much friendlier to the skin. 

Products you can use: 

The Inkey List Bakuchiol Moisturiser, ₹2,450 

82°E Bakuchiol Slip, ₹2,900

Azelaic Acid  

Azelaic acid is an ingredient that doesn’t get nearly enough credit. It occurs naturally in grains such as wheat and barley and it has the potential to take care of a host of skin troubles. While it doesn’t typically work like retinol, there is a lot of overlap in their functions. Azeliac acid helps to reduce breakouts, inflammation, and hyperpigmentation. It also gently exfoliates and cleans out any clogged pores. All this, without any harsh side effects. It is an ideal option for pregnant women or those dealing with skin concers like rosacea. 

Products you can use: 

Paula’s Choice Skincare 10% Azelaic Acid Booster, ₹1,200  

Aminu Wellness Skin Perfecting Serum, ₹2,450 


Peptides are chains of amino acids (the building blocks for protein) that fight tooth and nail to give us radiant skin. When used topically, this buzzy ingredient catalyses the production of collagen, which helps to tighten sagging skin and smoothen out wrinkles and fine lines. It also helps improve the skin’s uneven texture and works on its elasticity. Unlike retinol, though, peptides are gentler on the skin and are usually suitable for all skin types.  

Products you can use: 

RAS Luxury Skincare Anti-Ageing & Retexturizing Advanced Booster Serum, ₹2,490 

The Ordinary Multi-Peptide + Copper Peptides 1% Serum, ₹2,688 


A potent form of Vitamin B-3, Niacinamide is one of the well-known ingredients in the skincare world. It promises a lot of the same benefits as retinol such as boosting collagen production, evening out skin’s texture, reducing inflammation, and getting rid of rigid hyperpigmentation. And while retinol is drying on the skin, niacinamide maintains hydration levels. However, the active ingredient works slower so you don’t see the results as clearly as you would when using retinol. 

Products you can use:

Farmacy 10% Niacinamide Night Mask, ₹4,350

Allies Of Skin Prebiotics & Niacinamide Pore Refining Booster, ₹6,350 

Rosehip oil 

Rosehip oil contains small amounts of retinoic acid. You get no points for guessing that retinoic acid and retinol are related. Retinol needs to be converted into retinoic acid in the skin to have any effect. And so, rosehip oil increases collagen production, restores radiance to dull skin, and works on visible signs of ageing like fine lines and wrinkles. It is also rich in fatty acids that strengthen the moisture barrier and prevent loss of moisture. All this with minimal side effects, sounds like a win-win!

Products you can use: 

Purearth Wild Rosehip Supercritical Oil, ₹7,000 

Trilogy Certified Organic Rosehip Oil, ₹2,300