Love what retinol does for your skin but also hate what retinol does to you skin?
I refer to the fact that there is probably nothing better than this Vitamin-A derivative to fade the look of acne and hyperpigmentation, signs of premature ageing (think fine lines and wrinkles), and visibly reduce the appearance of mammoth pores.
But retinol also makes skin dry out, flake, peel, go red and get scratchy.
Enter bakuchiol: Retinol’s calmer, more natural, less angsty sibling.
Exactly what is bakuchiol?
Bakuchiol (pronounced ba-coochy-ol) is a 100% natural ingredient extracted from seeds of the bakuchi or babchi plant (scientifically known as Psoralea Corylifolia) that’s native to Eastern Asia.
A bakuchiol product works by boosting collagen production and increasing cellular turnover to brighten the complexion, sort out an uneven skin tone, steps up skin firmness and increase elasticity.
It also refines and reduces the look of enlarged pores, improves skin texture, plumps up the skin, smoothes it texture and helps diminish the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines.
Bakuchiol vs Retinol
And it does all this with an additional benefit: All studies on this plant-based ingredient have shown that bakuchiol doesn’t have any of the downside of retinol products, like the dryness, skin irritation and inflammation.
Scientists have known about bakuchiol’s retinol-like properties for a while now.
In fact, the molecule was first isolated as far back as 1973, and has undergone successful clinical studies for several benefits, including being an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anti-bacterial.
A leading French study, published in 2014, further concluded that: “… bakuchiol can function as an anti-aging compound through retinol-like regulation of gene expression.”
Another 12-week study published in The British Journal of Dermatology pitched retinol and bakuchiol against each other, with results showing that the latter offered “significant improvement in lines and wrinkles, pigmentation, elasticity, firmness and overall reduction in photo-damage.” Sans irritation, skin sensitivity and redness that are often associated with retinol.
Why am I seeing bakuchiol serums everywhere now?
So, why is it that bakuchiol serums and creams are hitting the mainstream only now when scientists have been aware of this ingredient’s skin-boosting potential for some time?
Largely because we are now increasingly seeking gentler and more natural approaches to skincare, which has forced the beauty industry to sit up and take notice.
Also, as our beauty routine gets more saturated, bakuchiol eliminates the headache of trying to pair retinols with other ingredients.
For example, retinol doesn’t play nice with certain ingredients like Vitamin C, AHAs and benzoyl peroxide.
However, you can easily use these with a bakuchiol serum without any fear that you’re doing damage or rendering one of your products useless.
And as a bonus: This natural alternative to retinol is vegan.
Who should be using a bakuchiol serum? Or mask?
Anyone who is concerned with acne-prone, hyperpigmented, dull or ageing skin will find a bakuchiol serum, mask, cream or oil to be a good addition to their skincare routine.
However, it’s particularly good for those with dry skin or sensitive skin as it presents less risk of a reaction than retinol.
How should I use bakuchiol in my skincare routine?
While retinol can take some getting used to and needs to be used in incremental doses, bakuchiol is much kinder to skin.
And, unlike retinol, you can use bakuchiol serum during both nighttime and daytime as it doesn’t lead to sun sensitivity.
According to research, the benefits of bakuchiol are at their peak in concentrations between 0.5-2%. Current skincare products usually top out at 1% nowadays.
When percentages are not listed, your best bet is to look for it within the first five ingredients.
Which are the best bakuchiol products?
You are in luck. Today, this plant-based retinol alternative has become a skincare gold standard (are you surprised?) and can be found in all textures, ranging from oils to creams. These are the top expert-approved picks:
Ole Henriksen Wrinkle Blur Bakuchiol Eye Gel Crème
While there are brands that use retinol in eye creams, this area is really too fragile to handle such a potent active. I have experimented with it in the past but the potential side effects (think peeling, stinging and redness) are not worth the results.
Ole Henriksen bypasses these side effects by substituting retinol for the much gentler bakuchiol and adding in soothing ingredients like peptides and orchid stem cells to brighten the under-eye area and smooth away fine lines sans any irritation. Win-win!
Biossance Squalane + Phyto-Retinol Serum
Unlike what the name may suggest, Biossance’s lightweight bakuchiol serum does not contain any traditional retinol. The “photo-retinol” actually refers to bakuchiol, which is combined with hyaluronic acid and niacinamide in a squalene oil base.
The perfect combination to brighten the complexion, fade dark spots for a more even skin tone, smooth out fine lines and wrinkles, restore elasticity and calm inflammation.
Oskia Super 16
A fast-absorbing bakuchiol serum that blends 16 powerful extracts, including hyaluronic acid, vitamins A, C and E with OSKIA’s unique Moisturising Complex.
Result? This serum improves elasticity, boosts production of collagen, improves cellular turnover, increases hydration, and floods the skin with antioxidants to improve the appearance of premature ageing, sun damage and inflammation without irritation.
Omorovicza Miracle Facial Oil
Prefer an oil but sans the greasiness?
This one is enriched with plant-derived ingredients like rosehip and sweet almond oils, which work well with bakuchiol’s benefits to repair skin cells, boost collagen, bust wrinkles and leave the complexion feeling super-smooth and supple.
Paula’s Choice 0.3% Retinol + 2% Bakuchiol Treatment
Want the power of bakuchiol but don’t want to quit the retinol, either?
Paula’s Choice combines both into this potent bakuchiol serum, thereby doubling up on the skin smoothing, wrinkle busting powers.
This overnight serum also contains power doses of Vitamin C (brightening the complexion and busting free radicals) and peptides (skin strengthening).
This is also one of the few bakuchiol formulations that puts out the percentage of actives up-front!
Ole Henriksen Goodnight Glow Bakuchiol Sleeping Crème
A rich night cream formulated with a powerful concentration of bakuchiol, AHAs and edelweiss stem cell to fight all major signs of aging, including the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, loss of skin elasticity and dark spots — all while providing a massive dose of hydration to the skin.
Ranavat Eternal Reign Renewing Bakuchi Crème
As a modern purveyor of ancient Ayurvedic formulations, it’s not surprising that Ranavat has one of the most effective bakuchiol products in the industry.
In this rich cream, it’s used along with ahwagandha, saffron, lotus flower, cardamom, amla, geranium and liquorice extracts to hydrate, repair and renew the skin. So, say goodbye to dryness, fine lines and hyperpigmentation in one scoop.