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Our 12 Favorite Cruelty-Free Retinol Products With The Best-Performing Formulas

Pamper your skin while protecting your furry friends with these cruelty-free retinols.
Brand courtesy / Sunday Riley
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We all love retinol, the powerhouse for anti-aging, acne, and hyperpigmentation. But we’re also animal lovers, so looking for the best cruelty-free retinol it deems just right. Aiming for consciously-made skincare products is a slight change toward what we hope to be an initiative for forever-banning animal testing worldwide.

How to find genuine cruelty-free retinol products?

The regulations on cruelty-free terms are vague, and brands can claim their final product is not tested on animals, but the ingredients in the formula can be. So to find a genuine cruelty-free retinol, look for products with certifications from PETA, Leaping Bunny, or CCF. Another way to check if a brand is cruelty-free is to search on their FAQ page, where they specify if they test on animals or ask someone else to do it on their behalf.

To save you some time, we rounded up the best cruelty-free retinol products that are committed to delivering results without harming our furry friends. Whether you’re looking for a serum or a moisturizer or you’re a retinol newbie in search of a toner, we got you covered.

P.S.: These products are intended for nighttime use.


SkinMedica Retinol Complex

For a potent anti-aging retinol serum that is also cruelty-free, SkinMedica Retinol Complex stands out. It is made with 1% retinol to diminish wrinkles, even tone, and enhance texture when used in the long run. Additionally, the formula is spiked with niacinamidesqualane, and vitamin E to soften and seal moisture into the skin. At first, it may feel a bit sticky, but the serum dries nicely on the skin, prepping the perfect canvas for your PM moisturizer.

SkinMedica Retinol 1.0 Complex


Allies of Skin Repair Night Cream

As the best cruelty-free retinol cream, Allies of Skin Retinal & Peptides Repair Night Cream offers a lot, from firming to soothing, nourishing, and softening. The star of the show is encapsulated retinaldehyde, which gives all the rejuvenating benefits of retinol, just that it is gentler, making it a better fit for sensitive skin. Additionally, a blend of peptides supports collagen production, softening fine lines and wrinkles and improving elasticity. Since the cream is formulated at a pH value close to that of the skin, it’s less likely to trigger reactions. Thanks to the rich yet not heavy texture, it covers the skin in a cocoon of moisture that never feels sticky. P.S.: Allies of Skin is PETA certified.

Allies of Skin Retinal & Peptides Repair Night Cream


Paula’s Choice Resist Intensive Repair Cream

If you’re looking for an effective cruelty-free retinol that’s also budget-friendly, this is your best bet. It infuses skin with 0.01% retinol, peptides, ceramides, and hyaluronic acid, all of which contribute to younger-looking skin. The cream not only gives long-term benefits in terms of suppleness and rejuvenation, but it also ensures instant relief for dry skin thanks to its rich, creamy texture. Apply it as the last step in your nighttime regimen and enjoy restored, revitalized skin in the morning—a true feat!

Paula's Choice Resist Intensive Repair Cream


StriVectin Advanced Retinol Star Light Night Oil

You can’t go wrong with StriVectin Advanced Retinol Star Light Night Oil, whether you struggle with age spots, uneven tone, or rough texture. The formula uses retinol, a slow-release retinol, and bakuchiol (a natural retinol alternative) to encourage cell turnover and renew the skin. There’s also the brand’s proprietary form of niacinamide to limit sensitivities and help build proteins in the skin for a plumper appearance. Despite being an oil, the texture is fluid and absorbs in a flash with no greasy feeling.

StriVectin Cruelty-Free Retinol


Murad Retinol Youth Renewal Eye Serum

This is the best cruelty-free retinol product for the eye area because it is made with a fast-acting retinoid, time-released retinol, and a retinol booster to smooth crows’ feet and fine lines. Rest assured, the serum won’t irritate your eyes as it’s boasted with cotton wool extract, trehalosebetaine, and amino acids to keep dryness often associated with retinol use at bay. The formula feels super pampering, layers seamlessly, and absorbs in the blink of an eye.

Murad Retinol Youth Renewal Eye Serum


The Ordinary Retinol 1% in Squalane

The Ordinary, the minimalist and affordable brand, never tested on animals, and they never will. This formula promises to help support collagen production and encourage cell turnover, revealing plumper skin, evener tone, and less noticeable fine lines. To offset possible irritation that often comes with retinol use, the serum is made in a base of squalane, an oil-like substance that mimics sebum and has emollient and softening benefits. And it costs less than a coffee at Starbucks. P.S.: If you’re a retinol starter, you should consider the other options, with 0.2 or 0.5% retinol.

The Ordinary Retinol 1% in Squalane


Sunday Riley A+ High-Dose Retinol Serum

Everybody is in love with this serum, and for a good reason. It works to improve aging signs and UV-damaged skin with 5% retinol, 1% encapsulated retinol, and 0.5% blue algae (retinol alternative). At the same time, CoQ10, honey, and sodium hyaluronate offset dryness and help prevent side effects caused by retinol. The creamy, never-heavy, or sticky texture veils the skin in deep moisture and a healthy glow—a dream. However, if you’re a retinol beginner, use this formula two days on and two days off to help your skin build tolerance and avoid reactions.

Sunday Riley A+ High-Dose Retinol Serum


100% Pure Retinol Restorative Overnight Balm

Certified by Leaping Bunny and PETA, you can use 100% Pure Retinol Restorative Overnight Balm at ease, knowing no animal was hurt in its making. The rich balm addresses loss of firmness and dehydration, which is why it’s a go-to for combination, mature and dry complexions. Its main roles are to trap water in the skin with a slew of organic oils, boost collagen production thanks to vitamin C, and encourage cell turnover with retinol. All in all, it’s great for regenerating the skin and restoring moisture.

100% Pure Retinol Restorative Overnight Balm


Exponent Time Rewind Retinol System

Exponent is a new (cruelty-free) skincare brand that is different from what you’ve seen until now. Its products allow you to mix the ingredients yourself at the moment of application for enhanced benefits and transformative results. The retinol powder mixes with four molecular-weight hyaluronic acids that work synergistically to firm skin, improve elasticity and soften wrinkles. Just blend for eight seconds, and you’ve got your own activated serum with 0.25% retinol, safe even for sensitive complexions.

Exponent Tome Rewind Retinol System

Read full review:  Exponent Time Rewind Retinol System


Glossier Universal Pro-Retinol

For a gentle alternative, try this cruelty-free serum. It’s made with 0.5% retinyl sunflowerate, aka retinol mixed with sunflower fatty acids to boost the benefits and reduce the chances of peeling. Besides, the shea butter, aloe juice, and sodium hyaluronate trap moisture and reinforce hydration. Despite how whipped the formula appears to be, the texture is a creamy-like nourishing serum that feels dreamy to apply. As an added bonus, this cruelty-free retinol serum skips fragrances and drying alcohol, so it’s a great option for people with dry, sensitive skin.

Glossier Universal Pro-Retinol


Biossance Squalane + Phyto-Retinol Serum

If you want to give your skin a break from chemicals and synthetic ingredients, Biossance has this amazing natural cruelty-free retinol that’s also vegan and EWG-certified (meaning it’s really clean). It softens fine lines and improves skin texture with bakuchiol, hydrates with sodium hyaluronate, and instantly comforts the skin with squalane. You’ll also love the 100% recyclable container and the airless pump that dispenses every last drop of product. Yes, you waste nothing with Biossance Squalane + Phyto-Retinol Serum.

Biossance Squalane + Phyto-Retinol Serum


Pixi Retinol Tonic

This toner is your best bet if you want to take it slow with a cruelty-free retinol product or have sensitive skin. It’s made with a mix of skin-loving ingredients, including retinol, panthenol, vitamin C, sodium hyaluronate, and peptides, you name it. Pixi Retinol Tonic is the perfect in-between step that eliminates dirt and preps the canvas for the next skincare steps while infusing the skin with a dose of potent actives.

Pixi Retinol Tonic
Who wrote this?
Ana Vasilescu
Ana Vasilescu
Ana Vasilescu is the founder of Women's Concepts and a certified skincare consultant. She has over five years of experience working in the beauty editorial industry and over a decade as an acne sufferer. With a background in dermatological research, Ana brings a wealth of expertise to a diverse range of topics, from buzzy ingredients to anti-aging and acne advice. She holds a BA in Sociology and Political Sciences. Find her on LinkedIn or Instagram.
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