5 Best Retinol Moisturizers

5 Best Retinol Moisturizers

Having to choose between properly hydrated, youthful-looking skin and one’s core values seems like cruel and unusual punishment for a crime you didn’t even commit. Luckily, that’s one choice you’ll never have to make again! While finding furry friend-friendly, youth-preserving moisturizers used to be a nearly impossible task, more and more are popping up! And you can bet they deliver some seriously impressive results, especially when they feature famed anti-aging hero, retinol! But is there actually such a thing as plant-based retinol? What is retinol anyway? And most importantly, which ethically made retinol formulas are worth a try?


Main Takeaways: Retinol is a traditionally animal derived skincare ingredient, whose anti-aging powers are virtually unmatched. But plant-based forms of this dynamo are now popping up in moisturizers all over the market, so you can keep your skin smooth and bright without compromising your lifestyle.

Good to Know: Retinol, no matter where it comes from, can amplify the effects of UV rays on the skin. So be sure to either use it only at night or follow with a meticulously applied SPF to prevent sun damage.

Recommended Products: Youth Fairy Retinol Moisturizer.


Looking for the perfect retinol moisturizer? We've got you covered.

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What Is Retinol?

For decades, retinol has dominated the anti-aging skincare industry for its incomparable ability to deliver baby’s-bottom smoothness to skin of varying conditions. Nothing is magic, but retinol is probably as close as it gets. It’s a form of vitamin A that works by complimenting your skin’s natural renewal process to reveal fresher, smoother, more glowing skin. And though it can be a bit harsh and even irritating, it’s known to minimize the look of pores, enhance tone and texture, boost your skin’s bounce, and visibly reduce the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, dark spots, and dullness; sometimes dramatically so! Retinol is basically skincare sorcery! What more could you ask for?!

…Well actually, we can think of one thing. The retinol used in most skincare formulas is often either animal derived, or a synthetic molecule designed in a lab to unerringly mimic retinol found in animal products. Hailing from things like eggs, dairy, fish, and even beef or chicken, traditional forms of retinol are unfortunately just not compatible with everyone’s lifestyle. They are often inserted into larger formulas that either contain other animal ingredients or have been tested on animals. But have no fear; plant-based retinol is HERE!

Found in plants we all know and love, like carrots, squash, pumpkin, and more, plant-based retinol is totally the real deal! Further, there are tons of plant-based actives that behave just like retinol when applied to skin (e.g., things like bukachiol and bidens pilosa). Thankfully, these are now being used to power ethical retinol-infused skincare formulas, many of them offering comparable results to their non-vegan counterparts and often with greater skin tolerance than traditional retinol.

Time out. Does anyone else hear angels singing?

A great way to incorporate plant-based retinol into your routine is through a moisturizer. It allows your chosen formula to do double duty, as the retinol helps renew the skin’s surface area so moisturizing agents can absorb even deeper for radical hydration. And though many of these retinol moisturizers are new-ish to market, clinical results speak for themselves and we already have some faves!

Shop Fleur & Bee

1. Best Overall Retinol Moisturizer

Fleur & Bee: Youth Fairy Retinol Moisturizer

Ok, we’d be lying if we said we weren’t totally psyched about this. Rich with 18 natural, age-defying actives - including squalane, plant-based stem cells, and of course, the star of tonight’s show, vegan retinol - Fleur & Bee’s brand-spankin’ new Youth Fairy Retinol Moisturizer is just tickled pixie pink to wield her magic wand and grant you a charmed complexion! This silky formula features 0.03% retinol for a powerful, yet gentle-on-your-skin, foray into plant powered age defense, without the typically nasty retinol-related side effects. Youth Fairy will radically rejuvenate your appearance, minimizing the look of dark spots and revivifying your complexion for brighter, more even, and highly hydrated skin. And it’s perfectly designed for all ages and skin types; so everyone can lock the clock with this long-awaited formula that is bound to become a routine staple.

Fleur & Bee Youth Fairy

2. Best Retinol Moisturizer for Dry Skin

LilyAna Naturals: Retinol Cream

This max power retinol cream will lift and brighten the skin with tone-evening and fine line-blasting powers that pack a punch. It’s rich with a blend of hyaluronic moisturizers, while added jojoba and shea butter offer all day hyper-hydration. This makes it a great option for dry skin, but those with excess oils may want to proceed with caution; shea butter can be comedogenic and may lead to blemishes for some.


3. Best Retinol Moisturizer for Oily Skin

bareMinerals: Ageless Phyto-Retinol Face Cream

This may be our pick for those with oily skin, but we are also tempted to peg it “best bargain”. While listed at $50 for 1.7 oz, it may not feel like a steal at first glance. But this cream is so thick and super rich that it could easily last you more than twice as long as any other moisturizer ounce for ounce. A little goes a long, LONG way; so much so that you will need to seriously retrain yourself when apportioning your daily dose. But gosh, is the learning curve worth it! Protein peptides and hyaluronic acid work together to infuse skin with humectant-based hydration without the use of heavy, possibly problematic oils. And bareMinerals touts their soothing, non-irritating, natural plant-based phyto-retinol (a traditional retinol alternative) as equally effective as its animal-derived counterparts. In fact, clinical data shows that the Ageless Phyto-Retinol Cream can offer results in as little as one week! That’s crazy; especially when most brands suggest consistent use of their products for an entire month before one should expect improvement.

Reduce the appearance of fine lines, amp up hydration, and kick uneven tone for smoother, more youthful-looking skin that will make you want to go bare!


4. Best Drugstore Retinol Moisturizer

Pacifica: Wake Up Beautiful

While we will be the first to tell you that true beauty has little to do with one’s appearance, we think waking up beautiful sounds a lot better than rolling out of bed looking like the crypt keeper… which we swear we know absolutely nothing about. Nada. Zilch.

This feather-light moisturizer literally melts into skin with a buttery texture that will leave you dreaming of your morning toast. You may not be able to eat it, but this food-for-your-face is clinically proven to hydrate and repair skin while you sleep. Address various signs of aging with Pacifica’s RestLab Complex - an amalgamation that features melatonin, mushroom, quinoa, and a non-irritating vegan retinoid for a youthful glow. Then, rise to seize the dawning day, putting forward your freshest, most fabulous face!


5. Best Splurge Retinol Moisturizer

REN: Bio Retinoid Youth Cream

For a haute plant-based retinol experience, reach for Ren’s Bio Retinoid Youth Cream. This sumptuous moisturizer is proven to naturally and gently fight signs of aging for firmer looking skin in 28 days. With retinol-mimicking bidens pilosa and a blend of plant-based oils, you’ll be sporting more youthful skin with the help of a super luxe cream that isn’t shy about corroborating its value.


So, what are you waiting for? Snatch one of these ground-breaking formulas and get your clean and cruelty-free retinol on… literally!

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