For every “pro” that comes along with using retinoids, there are also some pretty notable “cons.” Yes, these vitamin A derivatives can give you mirror-finish skin with fewer fine lines and wrinkles, but they can also leave your complexion red, flaky, and irritated. And don’t get us wrong: We love our retinoids (and understand why dermatologists so frequently call the ingredient “the gold standard of skin care”), but for some, they’re simply not worth the discomfort and hassle.
The good news for those who have written off retinol entirely, though, is that these days there’s a slew of equally effective (and far less irritating) natural alternatives making their way into our skin-care products of late. The most recent one to catch our eye? Rambutan, a tropical, Southeast Asian fruit that delivers the same skin-resurfacing “pros” of retinoids with none of the frustrating “cons.”
The benefits of rambutan in skin care
1. Promotes collagen and elastin production
If a retinoid’s smoothing effect is what you’re after, you’ll be glad to know that rambutan can do the job, too. “Rambutan leaves are rich in corilagin and have been shown to stimulate the production of collagen and elastin,” says Hadley King, MD, a board-certified dermatologist based in New York. Rambutan has been shown to improve skin firmness and elasticity, as well as decrease the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles—just like retinol. Although rambutan can lessen the appearance of fine lines everywhere, Dr. King notes that the ingredient is most effective on the “crow’s feet” lines around the eyes.
2. Provides antioxidant protection
Fruits tend to contain many antioxidants, and luckily, rambutan isn’t any different.“The peel, pulp, and seed are rich in sugars, tannins, and flavonoids, which have antioxidant properties,” says Dr. King. She notes that rambutan also contains other antioxidants like vitamin C and manganese, which work in tandem to protect the skin against the free radical damage from environmental stressors that leads to visible signs of aging.
3. Can be used at any time, by anyone
“Retinoids can cause redness, flakiness, and overall skin irritation,” says Erin Kleinberg, founder of SIDIA, a skin-care brand that uses rambutan in its products. She explains that retinoids are typically a nighttime-only option because they make the skin more sensitive to UV damage. In contrast, rambutan can be used both morning and night since it isn’t as sensitizing.
Dr. King adds that rambutan is similar to bakuchiol, the current reigning natural retinol alternative ingredient, since “both are considered gentler alternatives to retinol because they stimulate the production of collagen without as much irritation as can be seen with retinol.”
The limitations of rambutan in skin care
Retinoids are powerhouses, and different people use them for different things—and that includes acne. But while retinol has been shown to effectively diminish all types of acne (blackheads, whiteheads, cysts, etc.), the same can’t be said for rambutan. While it offers A+ anti-aging benefits, Dr. King confirms it likely won’t do much to keep breakouts at bay.
The final verdict
“Rambutan would be interesting for retinol-sensitive skin in patients who want an anti-aging and pore minimizing benefits,” says Loretta Ciraldo, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in Florida and the founder of Dr. Loretta Skincare, “It also can be a go-to for the very young who seek more preventative than corrective benefits for anti-wrinkle, skin smoothing, and brightening.”
Shop rambutan skin care
Dr. Dennis Gross Overnight Wrinkle Treatment — $85.00
With a proprietary Phyto-Retinol Blend that includes both rambutan *and* bakuchiol, this overnight cream is no joke when it comes to diminishing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. If sunspots are also a concern of yours, this cream contains niacinamide to brighten the complexion, plus ferulic acid to amp up the antioxidant protection.
Alpyn Beauty Wild Nettle & Niacinamide Firming Serum — $58.00
If a trip to Jackson Hole, Wyoming isn’t on your travel itinerary anytime soon, let the beauty secrets of the area come to you. Kendra Butler moved out to Jackson Hole before founding Alpyn Beauty, and she fell in love with using nature’s resources to care for herself in all facets—including her beauty routine. This formula contains rambutan to plump fine lines and wrinkles, niacinamide to brighten the complexion, and nettle extract, which hydrates the skin and offers anti-inflammatory benefits.
Fieldtrip Wandermist Hydrating Facial Spray — $16.00
Using a facial spray is one of the key ways to boost hydration levels when that 2 p.m. dehydration strikes. This spray has aloe to soothe your skin, while glycerin locks in moisture and rambutan plumps your complexion.
Olos Youth Enhancing Revitalizing Toner — $32.00
If you spend ample amounts of time in front of a screen (who doesn’t these days?), you’ll want to check out this blue light-protecting toner. It uses aloe to soothe the skin, rambutan to accelerate collagen and elastin production, and nasturtium extract to provide blue light protection.
Holifrog OWEL Multi-Peptide Eye Cream — $56.00
Since rambutan works exceptionally well around the eyes, it’s only natural that the ingredient would find its way into an eye cream. Along with fine line-diminishing rambutan, this eye cream also contains omega 3-, 6-, and 9-rich white lupine seed oil to plump the undereye, as well as Acetyl Hexapeptide-8, a neurotransmitter-inhibiting peptide that targets expression wrinkles similar to the way Botox does.
Indie Lee Retinol Alternative Cream — $72.00
If you’re a skinimalist looking for one product that can act as your anti-aging serum and moisturizer at once, you’ll want to get a load of this retinol alternative cream. It’s packed with rambutan and paracress extract to increase elasticity, while squalane and orange milk tree extract further plumps the skin and increases moisture retention.
SIDIA The Hand Care Duo — $67.00
Other than the face and neck, the hands show some of the first signs of aging, so why not bring some of that skin care love to the hands? This duo contains an exfoliating wash with rambutan inside to smooth out any fine lines or wrinkles. In contrast, this duo’s hand cream adds both hydration and moisture with cactus flower extract, aloe vera, avocado butter, and shea butter. This duo smells amazing, looks luxurious, and, best of all, is like a daily facial for your hands.
Want to be the first to hear about the latest (and greatest) SHOP product drops, custom collections, discounts, and more? Sign up to have the intel delivered straight to your inbox.
Our editors independently select these products. Making a purchase through our links may earn Well+Good a commission.