Bidens Pilosa as a natural alternative for retinol

Bidens Pilosa: A plant-based alternative to retinol

Retinol has numerous skin-perfecting benefits which cannot be denied and is considered a star product for anti-ageing. It is the go-to for improving skin texture, dark spots and even acne. However certain forms can cause skin irritation, photosensitivity (sensitive to the sun) and increase skin sensitivity.

Given summer is fast approaching, this ingredient can often pose a challenge given it increases sun sensitivity making skin particularly prone to burning. If you are constantly experiencing these issues, why not consider an alternative to retinol, like Bidens Pilosa, especially as summer is fast approaching!

What is Retinol?

Retinol is a type of retinoid, which is a derivative of vitamin A derivative. It can be found in products like serums and moisturisers at different concentrations and is popular due to its numerous benefits for the skin including anti-ageing, clearing up acne, and promoting collagen production.

It is one of the most clinically tested ingredients and most skin types can find a retinol that works for them. However, some individuals can have trouble tolerating it on the skin due to its instability. It can be very irritating to the skin, causing redness, dryness, and flaky skin.

What can cause retinol Sensitivity

Skin Sensitivity from retinol

Retinol has the potential to trigger skin sensitivity and irritation, especially among individuals who possess inherently sensitive skin types. When retinol comes into contact with the skin, it can lead to manifestations such as redness, dryness, itchiness, or flakiness. This heightened sensitivity might arise from either a weakened skin barrier or an elevated threshold of sensitivity towards the active ingredient.

Overuse or Incorrect Usage of retinol

A gradual approach is crucial when incorporating retinol into your skincare regimen. Applying an excessive amount of retinol prematurely can overwhelm your skin's tolerance and potentially lead to redness, dryness, and irritation.

High Concentrations of retinol

High concentrations of retinol can lead to heightened skin sensitivity in certain individuals. Using more potent formulations might result in elevated skin irritation and a greater sense of discomfort. It is advised to commence with a lower concentration and modify usage based on individual tolerance levels.

Concurrent use of retinol with active ingredients

Blending retinol with other active ingredients like alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), salicylic acid, or benzoyl peroxide can elevate the likelihood of skin irritation due to their potential to enhance skin sensitivity. These ingredients often work by exfoliating or promoting cell turnover, which can lead to increased skin vulnerability. When used together, the combined effect may amplify this exfoliation process, potentially causing redness, dryness, or discomfort.

Who should avoid retinol-based products?

It’s important to note that there are cases in which retinol flat out should be avoided. For some, their skin never fully acclimates to retinol, and the irritation persists.

Pregnant or Breastfeeding Individuals

pregnant or breastfeeding individuals should avoid retinol

Retinol and other retinoids are generally not recommended for use during pregnancy or while breastfeeding. High doses of vitamin A, which retinol is derived from, have been associated with potential harm to the developing foetus.

Individuals with compromised skin

Compromised skin avoid retinol

For those with compromised skin barriers, like sensitivities, eczema, rosacea, dermatitis, or sunburn, caution is warranted with retinol. Its potent cell turnover and collagen-boosting effects, while beneficial for many, can exacerbate irritation and redness in sensitive skin.

Bidens Pilosa as a natural retinol alternative

Bidens Pilosa as a retinol alternative

What is Bidens Pilosa?

Bidens Pilosa, belonging to the Asteraceae plant family, serves as a noteworthy natural retinol alternative, originating from South America. Commonly known as Spanish Needle or Blackjack due to its distinctive black seeds, this plant-derived solution offers a unique approach to skincare.

Bidens Pilosa in skincare

Distinguished as a bio-retinol, Bidens Pilosa operates similarly to traditional retinol in anti-ageing applications yet stands apart by not containing vitamin A or sharing its chemical structure. This distinction grants the advantage of anti-ageing benefits without the skin sensitivity often associated with retinol usage.

Scientific research has substantiated the efficacy of Bidens Pilosa through a series of comprehensive tests. In vitro studies have showcased its ability to enhance essential skin components, with findings including an increase in collagen and a notable improvement in functional elastin. It was also shown to reduce inflammation and protect the skin from environmental aggressors.

How does Bidens Pilosa Work on the skin?

Bidens Pilosa extract harnesses the power of phytanic acid, activating the same skin receptor as retinol. Derived from plant-based phytol, found in the plant's green parts, phytol transforms into phytanic acid upon oxidation, displaying a strong affinity for retinoic acid receptor sites on skin cells. This activation prompts enhanced elastin and collagen production, leading to firmer skin, diminished inflammation, and reduced pigmentation.

How Bidens Pilosa Works on the skin

The Benefits of Bidens Pilosa

Optimal for those who cannot tolerate retinol:

This is a good natural alternative, particularly individuals with sensitive skin conditions such as rosacea or eczema. Bidens Pilosa’s efficacy lies in its gentle approach, stimulating the same receptors as retinol without the potential irritation or inflammation. It is also suitable for those who are pregnant and breast feeding (but you should always consult a medical professional prior to using new products during these periods of time).

Bidens Pilosa increases Collagen and Elastin production

A 2015 study that applied Bidens Pilosa showed that the skin environment was enhanced, and that the integrity of collagen and elastin fibres was supported. This could help in the maintenance of collagen and elastin as we age, which decreases as we get older.

The elastin and collagen synthesis helps contribute to a firmer, more resilient skin which can address concerns to do with loss of elasticity.

Bidens Pilosa has antioxidant properties

Studies have shown that it can boost the skin’s natural supply of antioxidant enzymes superoxide dismutase, protecting the skin from free radicals and environmental stressors. It also helps to strengthen the skin’s barrier, soothe the skin, and regulate oil control.

Bidens Pilosa does not cause photosensitivity

Bidens Pilosa is not thought to cause photosensitivity. This means that it can be used in both morning and evening skincare routines as it will not cause skin to react harshly to sun exposure. However, it is important to note that SPF should always be applied to protect the skin from photodamage.

What are some Alternatives to Retinol Based Products?

This cream utilises Bidens Pilosa as well as Red Algae Extract and Olive Leaf to deliver visibly firmer and more supple looking skin in just 28 days! The use of red algae extract with olive leaf extract helps prevent loss of firmness whilst protecting the skin from free radical damage caused by environmental stressors.


  • Retinol is not an ingredient which everyone can tolerate well due to its instability on the skin causing irritation and redness.
  • Bidens Pilosa is a plant-derived compound which displays a strong affinity for retinoic acid receptor sites on the skin to boost elastin and collagen production.
  • Bidens Pilosa offers a gentle alternative to retinol whilst soothing, strengthening and firming the skin without risks of photosensitivity.

FAQs about Bidens Pilosa

What is a safe amount of Bidens Pilosa?

Given that research is limited, many of the studies have been carried out on animals and so further research into human dosage levels is required. The recommended usage level is between 1 and 2%.

Can Bidens Pilosa be used with other ingredients?

Yes, Bidens Pilosa can be used with other skincare ingredients such as ceramides and niacinamide to even skin tone, help with pigmentation, firm, and smooth the skin. It is important to consult with a dermatologist about mixing certain skincare ingredients together to ensure compatibility and minimise risk of adverse reactions.


bidens pilosa retinol alternative

By Saarah Mengrani, Msc Biotechnology