Rambutan is being touted as a sensitive skin-friendly alternative to retinol. Here’s everything you need to know…

When it comes to skincare, most dermatologists and experts agree that retinol is the gold standard for delivering visible results. Because retinoids (the class of compounds that include both retinol and retinal) are a form of vitamin A – which works brilliantly to improve skin cell turnover and reduce the breakdown of collagen.

But these potent ingredients do come with some side effects. Many of these (like drier skin) are short lived and worth powering through to see the benefits at the end – but if you’ve got more sensitive skin, you might not get along with retinol. Which is where rambutan comes in. While rambutan is not a retinoid (so don’t expect the same exact results), there is research to suggest that it is a potent ingredient in its own right to help brighten and boost your skin’s appearance. 

What is rambutan?

Rambutan is tropical fruit, related to lychees and logans, that’s native to Malaysia. It’s packed with fibre, vitamin C and copper and is increasingly being extracted and used in skincare. 

“Although only the flesh of the fruit is edible, it is the leaves, peel and seeds that have a high content of phenols – a powerful source of antioxidants with skin brightening and anti-ageing effects,” explains Dr Eirini Merika, consultant dermatologist at the upcoming Montrose London clinic. “Therefore rambutan extract [derived from the peel, leaves and seeds] can help strengthen skin, boost collagen and improve elasticity and firmness, which helps to decrease the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. This is why it is often compared to retinol.”

Rambutan is considered a gentler alternative to retinol which is why you’ll often find it in formulas targeting more sensitive areas – like eye creams. “It’s particularly beneficial for people with dry and sensitive skin, who are more likely to react to the side effects of retinol,” says Dr Merika. Plus it can be worn in daylight without increasing sensitivity.

As with all skincare, new products should be applied on a small part of the skin first before applying to the entire face to ensure there are no reactions but Dr Merika says rambutan is a fairly easy ingredient to work into your routine. “It can generally be used with most skin products as part of a balanced skin routine, although harsh exfoliants and topical retinols are best avoided.”

Intrigued by rambutan’s claims? Keep scrolling for nine formulas that contain the powerhouse ingredient…

  • Honest Beauty Honestly Pure Retinol Serum

    Packed with three different weights of hydrating hyaluronic acid, this nourishing formula is great for dousing skin in moisture while spurring on collagen production. Rambutan peel extract ensures your skin stays perfectly plumped while kiwi seed oil works to support skin health and lock in essential moisture.

    Shop Honest Beauty Honestly Pure Retinol Serum at Boots, £35

    buy now

  • Fresh Black Tea Anti-Ageing Ceramide Moisturiser

    This new retinol-like moisturiser is packed with an exclusive blend of black tea and rambutan leaf extract that helps to smooth the look of lines, firm the skin and provide a healthy glow to the complexion.

    Shop Fresh Black Tea Anti-Ageing Ceramide Moisturiser at Space NK, £84

    buy now

  • The Nue Co Skin Filter Serum

    This plant-based serum is formulated with a whole host of retinol alternatives to encourage similar results – without the side effects. Bakuchiol and rambutan help smooth the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, while kakadu plum helps even out skin tone and texture. Then there’s a blend of brightening AHAs and a dose of hydrating hyaluronic acid – in short, it ticks a lot of boxes when it comes to healthy-looking, firm skin. 

    Shop The Nue Co Skin Filter Serum at Cult Beauty, £55

    buy now

  • Indie Lee Retinol Alternative Cream

    A great gentler alternative to retinol, this plumping serum is formulated using rambutan to promote collagen production, improve the skin’s elasticity and reduce the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines over time. Plant-based squalane also helps nourish and soothe skin for a softer finish. 

    Shop Indie Lee Retinol Alternative Cream at Oh My Cream, £67

    buy now

  • Youth To The People Triple Peptide and Cactus Oasis Serum

    Formulated to encourage firm, bouncy-looking skin that’s packed with hydration – this soothing serum is a sure-fire winner for those with dehydrated skin. It’s powered by three peptides – hyaluronic acid, organic cactus and rambutan peel – to provide plumping hydration and smoother-looking skin.

    Shop Youth to the People Triple Peptide and Cactus Oasis Serum at Cult Beauty, £52

    buy now

  • Holifrog OWEL Multi-Peptide Eye Cream

    Blending together peptides and botanical extracts (including rambutan peel extract) this nourishing eye cream helps to support elasticity and firmness, smooth wrinkles, strengthen the skin barrier and retain moisture around the delicate eye area. 

    Shop Holifrog OWEL Multi-Peptide Eye Cream at Cult Beauty, £49

    buy now

  • Dr Dennis Gross Skincare Advanced Retinol + Ferulic Overnight Wrinkle Treatment

    An advanced skincare tonic, this pack-a-punch serum isn’t playing around. Formulated with both retinol and rambutan, it helps to visibly firm, reduce the look of wrinkles and restore hydration overnight. Niacinamide is then added to further strengthen the skin’s moisture barrier while evening primrose extract helps improve texture and elasticity.

    Shop Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Advanced Retinol + Ferulic Overnight Wrinkle Treatment at Cult Beauty, £86

    buy now

  • StriVectin Advanced Retinol Multi-Correct Eye Cream

    Designed to target the eye area, this potent formula contains an optimised surface release retinol to help efficient conversion into skin’s surface as well as rambutan, which is used to help strengthen elasticity and boost firmness. 

    Shop StriVectin Advanced Retinol Multi-Correct Eye Cream at Sephora, £62

    buy now

  • Dermalogica Neck Fit Contour Serum

    Designed to help lift and tighten the appearance of the neck and décolletage, this targeted serum contains rambutan to encourage collagen production and smooth fine lines. Polysaccharides then help to strengthen the skin’s moisture barrier while griffonia seed extract provides antioxidant defence against free radicals.

    Shop Dermalogica Neck Fit Contour Serum at Cult Beauty, £89

    buy now

Images: courtesy of brands

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