12 Alternatives to Retinoids That Are Safe & Effective

Our love affair with retinol (a vitamin A derivative) has been going on for quite some time now. With super-effective over-the-counter and prescription-strength formulas, who wouldn’t want to take advantage of such a powerful antiaging, acne-fighting superhero?

But regardless of how dewy and zit-free retinoids leave your skin, they have one major pitfall: They’re banned from the skin care routines of all pregnant and breastfeeding women as a precaution, as excess amounts of vitamin A have been linked to birth defects (and even using a topical cream can risk absorption of vitamin A into your bloodstream).

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That’s a pretty important group of women who can’t use these products, especially considering the stress and body changes that come with childbirth and caring for a baby (read: out-of-whack skin that probably needs soothing the most). There must be safe, effective alternatives out there, right?

We consulted Yale dermatologist Mona Gohara, who says that while retinoids are hands-down the most effective antiager on the market, vitamin C comes in a close second. “Free radicals are cosmetic particles that bind to your skin and cause cancer, sagging and wrinkles, and antioxidants like vitamin C pick them up, almost like a game of Pac-Man,” she says.

“Most vitamin C products are cosmetically elegant, easy to layer and highly concentrated,” says Gohara. Along with vitamin C, Gohara also cites hyaluronic acid, a commonly used ingredient in fillers, as a top-notch antiager. “Hyaluronic acid absorbs water, which in turn plumps the skin like a filler would,” she says.

Smoothing and plumping is one thing, but fighting acne without retinoids can be a bit trickier. Gohara says that even some of the most common zit-fighting ingredients like benzoyl peroxide are unsafe for pregnant women. “I recommend using a mild exfoliating wash that unclogs pores and helps to regulate and even out the skin.”

For all the moms and moms-to-be out there, we found the best retinoid alternative products that actually work — including a skin-brightening vitamin C serum from SkinCeuticals and a gentle exfoliator from Aveeno. Shop all 12. 

   

Originally posted on StyleCaster.

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