Bakuchiol: The Retinol Alternative You Need To Know About



What Is Bakuchiol?

Bakuchiol is the latest skincare active ingredient to make a splash. Bakuchiol is touted as a gentle, vegan alternative to retinol products, helping to reduce the signs of aging and help support the treatment of acne and congested skin. 

Bakuchiol is derived from the seeds and leaves of the Psoralea corylifolia plant, native to Eastern Asia. It actually has been used in ayurvedic practices or traditional indian medicine for quite some time. 

The main benefit of bakuchiol that is often advertised is that it is less irritating and sensitizing than traditional retinol products. However, despite the implication that bakuchiol is a natural identical to retinol, having a similar structure and therefore function, bakuchiol is actually a very different molecule. While some of the benefits of bakuchiol match up with retinol, on the molecular level they are very different. 


the good:Bakuchiol is a naturally-derived ingredient that has similar benefits to retinol. It is considered to be gentler and milder than retinol and as it is derived from plant-based sources, is a vegan alternative.

the not so good:Bakuchiol is not as well studied as other retinol products and may vary in the strength of the potential benefits.

Who is it for? All skin types except those that have an identified allergy to it.

Synergetic ingredients: Works well with most ingredients

Keep an eye on:Keep an eye out for more research on this ingredient.

What Are The Benefits of Retinol?

Retinols work by encouraging skin cell turnover- in other words, think of it as a deep exfoliation. Here’s why it matters. Up until the age of around 30, our skin cells turn over about every 28 days. This process slows down as we age, which can lead to dry, dull skin as well as clogged pores – which can all exacerbate the look of fine lines.

 Applying retinol may help speed up the skin cell turnover, which helps skin look fresh and smooth. Thanks to the boost in skin cell turnover, the products also help to fade the look of dark spots and hyperpigmentation. Without dead skin cells blocking pores, pores may also look smaller.

The main negative side effect with retinol products is that they can often cause irritation or sensitivity, making them tricky to use. This is where bakuchiol may be useful.

What Are The Benefits of Bakuchiol?

As a naturally-occuring ingredient and a relatively new kid on the block, there isn’t a wealth of peer reviewed research that has been conducted on bakuchiol. However, there have been a few studies that have indicated the potential benefits of the ingredient. 

Similar to retinol, bakuchiol may help to reduce some of the visible signs of aging such as pigmentation, wrinkles and fine lines. 

One of the studies looked at the benefits to collagen production that bakuchiol may provide. The study suggested that bakuchiol has a similar effect on collagen production as retinol. However the study was conducted on synthetic skin. 

A follow up study was also conducted on living skin or people. This study which used bakuchiol 0.5% twice a day saw improvements in the appearance of wrinkles, fine lines, dryness and elasticity. 

Similar results were seen in a 2018 study that determined that 0.5% bakuchiol was actually just as effective when used once a day, compared to twice a day. Who doesn’t like a simplified skincare routine. 

The benefits of retinol to the skin, helping with acne, aging and hyperpigmentation is well known and the research seems to suggest that bakuchiol may stack up against retinol. However there is limited research into  how it compares with other retinoids such as tretinoin. Tretinoin is 20 times more potent than retinol and considered to be a gold standard treatment for acne and aging. 

Does Bakuchiol Help Acne?

Most of the research that has been undertaken has focused on the anti-aging benefits of the ingredient. There has been little research into its benefits to acne-prone skin. Having said that, given that the benefits of retinol to acne skin has a similar mechanism to its benefits to aging skin, this benefit is probably not far off in the research. 

Things To Consider: Bakuchiol 

The first thing to consider if you are thinking about bringing bakuchiol into your skincare routine is that it may not be as beneficial as other retinol or retinoid products. This means that the benefits may not be as quick or as shocking as other treatments. However, if you have previously tried retinol or retinoids and has issues with sensitivity then bakuchiol may be a good option to try. 

The second thing to consider is that, like any ingredient it can cause allergies. It is also, as a naturally-derived ingredient, more complex and thus, more likely to cause an allergic reaction, however an allergic reaction is rare. If you feel you may be having a reaction to the ingredient, wash it off and see your doctor or dermatologist. 

The third thing to consider is environmental. Naturally-derived ingredients, particualrly when they become popular, can put undue stress on the environment. This can be seen in needing land cleared for harvesting, transportation of the ingredient, processing and can affect the rights and workplace of workers when there is a high demand for the ingredient. 

Can You Use Bakuchiol and Retinol Together?

You probably shouldnt. Given that the two ingredients have similar benefits to the skin you are likely to cause irritation and sensitivity if you use the two together. It would also be unnecessary. 

Is Bakuchiol Safe? 

There has been limited research into the safety of bakuchiol however, it is considered safe in its current uses and concentrations. Currently the Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel has not evaluated bakuchiol for its safety and efficacy. 

Keep in mind that more research is needed into this new and promising ingredient to fully understand its benefits and safety profile.

Chaudhuri RK, Bojanowski K. Bakuchiol: a retinol-like functional compound revealed by gene expression profiling and clinically proven to have anti-aging effects. Int J Cosmet Sci. 2014 Jun;36(3):221-30.



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