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Is Rosehip Oil Actually As Effective As Retinol for Anti-Aging?

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Retinol is the dream ingredient for wrinkles, dark spots, and lack of firmness, but for some, it can work against them due to its aggressive nature. That’s why rosehip oil is popping more and more in skincare formulations as an alternative to retinol — one that mimics its skin-renewing power while acting more gently on the skin.

So what’s the difference between retinol and rosehip oil, and which one should you use? Is rosehip oil as good as retinol? And more importantly, can you use them together? If you’ve been pondering these questions, you came to the right place. Read on to find out all about retinol vs. rosehip oil.

What is rosehip oil?

Rosehip oil is a natural ingredient rich in vitamins and essential fatty acids (including linoleic and linolenic acids) made from the fruit and seeds of rosehip plants. In skincare, it’s often considered a gentle substitute for retinol because it contains beta-carotene (a provitamin A) and all-trans retinoic acid (the active form of vitamin A). When applied to the skin, rosehip oil can hydrate, brighten, soften, protect, reduce signs of aging and offset sun damage.

What is retinol?

Retinol is a synthetic derivative of vitamin A that provides endless benefits for the skin, including promoting cellular turnover, inducing collagen production, fighting acne, and reducing dark spots and wrinkles. Although it’s one of the most potent and researched ingredients for anti-aging, retinol isn’t the best choice for everyone — it can cause sensitivities and trouble the skin barrier. Hence, people with easily reactive skin should look for gentler options like rosehip oil. 

Retinol vs. rosehip oil

Since rosehip oil is rich in retinoic acid, the active form of vitamin A, and contains beta-carotene, which is converted to retinol once it enters the skin, it can provide similar benefits to retinol. That said, both rosehip oil and retinol stimulate collagen production, promote cell renewal, reduce photoaging, and minimize fine lines and wrinkles.[1][2] Besides, both have antioxidant effects that protect the skin against free radicals, as well as anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties against acne.

There are also quite a few differences between retinol and rosehip oil. With rosehip oil being a natural ingredient and retinol synthetic, this itself brings about a whole list of pros and cons. Unlike retinol, rosehip oil is gentler not only for sensitive skin but for the environment too. This makes it a firm favorite for those looking for more natural and sustainable products. Retinol, on the other hand, is a little harsher but also more effective and has undergone much more research than rosehip oil. 

Another difference between retinol and rosehip oil is that rosehip oil softens and hydrates the skin thanks to its content of vitamin C and essential fatty acids, unlike retinol which can irritate and dehydrate.[1] So rosehip oil is a considerably better option for dry skin than retinol.


The differences between retinol and rosehip oil

  • Rosehip oil is a natural ingredient, while retinol is lab-made.
  • Retinol is more researched than rosehip oil.
  • Rosehip oil also contains vitamin C as well as essential fatty acids.
  • Rosehip oil also hydrates, softens, and strengthens the skin’s barrier, unlike retinol, which does the exact opposite.
  • Rosehip oil can be applied any time, while retinol should be used at night.

The similarities between retinol and rosehip oil

  • Both are effective ingredients for anti-aging.
  • Both support collagen and cell turnover.
  • Both minimize the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and dark spots.
  • Both are antioxidants and reduce free radical damage.
  • Both have anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties.
  • Both accelerate wound healing and improve scars.

Does rosehip oil contain retinol?

Rosehip oil does not contain retinol, but retinoic acid, a form of vitamin A, and beta-carotene, which converts to retinol once it penetrates the skin.

Is rosehip oil as good as retinol?

So is rosehip oil as good as retinol? While there is no short answer, the likelihood that rosehip oil in the tiny amount used in skincare products can mimic the effects of retinol is questionable at best. That’s because you’ll have to use an enormous amount of product to get the same concentration of retinol from rosehip oil as you get from a formula with pure retinol. Not to say retinol is far more researched. Therefore, between retinol vs. rosehip oil, retinol wins the battle for potency.

Is rosehip oil gentler than retinol?

Rosehip oil is a natural ingredient containing softening fatty acids, so it’s much milder than retinol. However, you should still perform a patch test if you plan to add rosehip oil to your routine. As with any ingredient in skincare, it can trigger allergies and sensitivities.

Which one should you use?

You should replace retinol with rosehip oil only if your skin can’t tolerate retinol. So in case you’re experiencing irritation, redness, or excessive dryness after retinol, rosehip oil is a good alternative.

Can I use rosehip oil and retinol together?

It’s safe to use rosehip oil and retinol together. As both target collagen production and skin renewal, the two work great to diminish signs of aging and promote a firmer complexion. You can either use a product containing both ingredients or use them in separate products. It’s important to note that using rosehip oil and retinol together may cause a rash or irritation to those with sensitive skin. If this happens, simply alternate the products and use rosehip in the morning and retinol at night, or use them on alternative days.

What goes on first: retinol or rosehip oil?

Most experts recommend using retinol first, then rosehip oil. Retinol can be drying, and for those with dry skin, applying rosehip oil after helps skin stay moisturized and refreshed.

The takeaway

Indeed, rosehip oil can mimic most retinol effects while acting gentler on the skin, but by no means is it as effective or researched as retinol. Which one you should use comes down to you and your skin type, but if you’re unsure, consult your dermatologist.


References

  1. Phetcharat L, Wongsuphasawat K, Winther K. The effectiveness of a standardized rose hip powder, containing seeds and shells of Rosa canina, on cell longevity, skin wrinkles, moisture, and elasticity. Clin Interv Aging. 2015 Nov 19, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4655903/
  2. Kong, R., Cui, Y., Fisher, G.J., Wang, X., Chen, Y., Schneider, L.M. and Majmudar, G. (2016), A comparative study of the effects of retinol and retinoic acid on histological, molecular, and clinical properties of human skin. J Cosmet Dermatol, 15: 49-57. https://doi.org/10.1111/jocd.12193

Read next: Retinol Alternatives When You Can’t Tolerate Retinol

Who wrote this?
Ana Vasilescu
Ana Vasilescu
Ana is a sociologist and feminist with a shared passion for literature, psychology, and skincare, the combo that made her determined to start Women's Concepts. With over five years of experience in dermatological research, she has now become a certified skincare consultant keen to convince others of the importance of a diligent routine. Her close relationships with dermatologists around the globe, along with years of researching, analyzing studies, and hand-testing products on a daily basis, made Ana one of the best persons you can get advice from.
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