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Face Oils vs. Retinols: Which One Reigns Supreme?

Discover why face oils are the superior alternative to retinol for healthy, youthful skin.

Face Oils vs. Retinols: Which One Reigns Supreme?


I am often approached with questions about the most effective ways to achieve healthy, youthful-looking skin. Many people believe that retinol is the gold standard when it comes to anti-aging and are reluctant to give it up in their skincare routine, even when switching to more natural ingredient-based products. I believe the secret to better skin lies in face oils, which rival and surpass retinol in several key aspects. Let's explore why face oils shine as a superior alternative to retinol, especially for people prioritizing gentle yet effective skincare solutions.


Face oils: nature’s gentle nourishment.

Face oils are typically made from a blend of carrier and essential oils derived from natural sources such as plants, seeds, and fruits. Carrier oils, also known as base oils, serve as the primary component of face oil formulations and possess emollient properties, meaning they help moisturize and soften your skin by forming a protective barrier that locks hydration in. Essential oils, called as such because they contain the ‘essence’ of the plant from which they are extracted, are highly concentrated compounds with potent therapeutic properties that can target a broad spectrum of skin issues.

Face oils, as a result, are rich in skin-nourishing compounds like fatty acids, antioxidants, and vitamins that work synergistically to improve your skin. Face oils provide a gentle yet effective approach to skincare. They soothe inflammation and fortify the skin barrier, resulting in a healthier, more resilient complexion over time.


Retinol: the harsh reality of anti-aging.

Retinol itself is a naturally occurring form of vitamin A, but in skincare products, it is typically used in a synthetic form. It works by accelerating cell turnover and promoting collagen production with the purpose of improving skin texture and tone.

Although it is often touted as the gold standard of anti-aging skincare, it comes with a laundry list of drawbacks that cannot be overlooked. Retinol can cause redness, dryness, and flakiness, particularly during the initial stages of use. It makes your skin more sensitive to sunlight, which increases your risk of sunburn and sun damage and can increase your overall skin sensitivity to other products or ingredients.

Over time, it can wear down your skin’s barrier, resulting in thinned-out skin that is unable to protect and maintain its structural integrity. While certain skin conditions may initially appear to improve when using retinol, I have seen firsthand the result of long-term use on many of my clients, and I do not believe it is conducive or sustainable for healthy skin.

Furthermore, retinols are not suitable for everyone, especially those with sensitive or already dry skin. Their abrasive nature can exacerbate existing issues and cause discomfort, making them a risky choice for individuals seeking gentle skincare solutions. Additionally, retinols are contraindicated during pregnancy and breastfeeding, further limiting their applicability.


Face oils vs. retinols.

When it comes to gentle yet effective skincare, face oils are the clear winner over retinol, in my opinion. Here's why:

Nourishment without Irritation

Nourished skin is healthy skin, and healthy skin looks its best. Face oils deliver a potent dose of moisture and nutrients to the skin without causing irritation or sensitivity. Their gentle formulation makes them suitable for all skin types, including sensitive and reactive skin. Retinols on their own do not provide any moisturization or nourishment to your skin.

Calming and Comforting

Unlike retinol, which can leave the skin red, flaky, and inflamed, face oils provide a soothing and calming effect. They reduce inflammation, alleviate discomfort, and promote skin healing, resulting in a more balanced and radiant complexion.

Antioxidant Powerhouse

Many face oils contain antioxidant-rich ingredients that combat free radicals and environmental damage, effectively delaying some of the signs of aging, such as fine lines and sun spots/hyperpigmentation. By providing superior antioxidant protection, face oils help maintain skin health and vitality without the risk of adverse reactions associated with retinol.

Increased Cellular Turnover

Many essential oils found in face oils contain compounds capable of increasing cellular turnover, much like retinol can, but in a more gentle way that does not strip the skin or thin it out. Over time, this results in the softening of fine lines, and the lightening of hyperpigmentation, giving your skin a brighter, more even appearance. When cellular turnover is increased too quickly from retinol use, your skin loses cells faster than it can produce, thinning out your skin over time.

Pregnancy-Safe Option

For expectant mothers or those breastfeeding, face oils offer a safe and gentle alternative to retinol. These natural formulations do not pose the risks that retinol does, allowing mothers to prioritize skincare without compromising their health or the health of their children.


Incorporating face oils into your skincare routine.

If you're ready to ditch the harshness of retinol in favor of the gentle nourishment of face oils, here's how to get started:

  1. Choose Wisely: Select a face oil tailored to your skin type and concerns. I’ve written a few blog posts. that can help you choose the best oils for your skin which you can read here, here, and here.
  2. Apply Liberally: Incorporate face oils into your skincare routine as needed. I recommend using them in the morning and evening in place of traditional serums and moisturizers.
  3. Enjoy the Benefits: Revel in the soothing, nourishing effects of face oils as they transform your skin, leaving it soft, supple, and radiant.


A Holy Grail Face Oil to replace your retinols.

I formulated our Holy Grail Face Oil to have potent anti-aging benefits since it is one of the most common skin concerns I encounter. Its carrier oils- Sacha Inchi, Apricot Kernel, and Pomegranate Seed oils are loaded with fatty acids and vitamins that help restore your skin’s barrier, increase elasticity, lock in hydration, and deeply moisturize.

It is infused with Vanilla and Saffron, which contain compounds such as Niacin and Crocin which support healthy circulation and give your skin a glow, and it contains Sandalwood, Frankincense, Lavender, Rose, and Oud essential oils which are some of the most anti-aging natural oils; they contain a host of compounds that gently increase cellular turnover, minimize fine lines, reduce hyperpigmentation, and also target redness, irritation, and acne.

If you are looking for an easy, effective, and healthy solution to your anti-aging skincare woes, this truly is the holy grail. Click here to learn more and shop now.



In conclusion, while retinols may hold a prominent place in the realm of anti-aging skincare, their harsh effects and limitations cannot be ignored. Face oils offer a gentle yet potent alternative, delivering nourishment, protection, and rejuvenation without compromise. By embracing the power of nature's bounty, you can achieve radiant, healthy skin without the risks associated with retinol.

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