Bakuchiol in Skincare: The Natural Alternative to Retinol

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When it comes to skincare, some tend to have a love-hate relationship with retinol, especially those with sensitive skin. Good thing is, there’s a new trending plant-based alternative called the bakuchiol. It is gentle, lightweight, vegan, and can also do the wonders of retinol without harming your skin. Sounds great, right?

Bakuchiol is a gentle, plant-based new option to retinol, the long-time gold standard ingredient in skincare products. It’s is a plant extract specifically from the leaves and seeds of the babchi plant (Psoralea corylifolia). Before we jump on the bakuchiol bandwagon, we need to know exactly what bakuchiol is, and what it does. More than anything, we need to know why it is threatening retinol’s hold on the skincare market. We can start by understanding retinol.

What is Retinol?

Retinol is an active form of Vitamin A that is essential to the process of skin regeneration. It is also an antioxidant that protects the skin from harmful free radicals. Studies have shown that retinol when applied topically, can boost collagen growth, strengthen the foundation of the skin, lessen fine lines and wrinkles, and even treat acne.

  • Cell turnover clears up acne, blackheads, and whiteheads by unclogging pores. It also prevents new breakouts by keeping the pores from clogging in the first place. Since cell turnover gently removes the outer layers of the skin, the result is fresh, new skin without dark spots.
  • Collagen is a protein that keeps skin smooth, taut and firm. As we age, collagen production decreases and sun damage causes collagen and elastin to break down in our skin. Because retinol stimulates types 1 and 7 collagen, it smooths out wrinkles and fine lines, firms up sagging skin to improve skin tone and texture.


With retinol doing all that, why would bakuchiol make such a buzz?

Side Effects of Retinol

  • Retinol is extremely potent, which is why it works so well. However, it can also cause dryness, irritation, redness, inflammation, and peeling.
  • Cell turnover can be so intense that the skin sheds more than desired. The skin may feel very sensitive and easily irritated.
  • Retinol makes skin more sensitive to the sun. There is an increased risk of sunburn, so you should wear a moisturizer with sunscreen every day and reapply throughout the day.
  • Your skin may get worse before it gets better. In the first few weeks of using a retinol product, there may be a flare in your acne.


Bakuchiol in Skincare – The Gentler Alternative


As is often the case, this “new discovery” is thousands of years old. Bakuchiol is extracted from the leaves and seeds of the Psoralea corylifolia (aka babchi) plant that has been used since ancient times in Indian and Chinese medicines for its anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antioxidant properties.

It has only been studied in the last several years for skincare. In the skincare industry, bakuchiol has been active since the 1970s. However, the industry refrained from using it because of the lack of clinical studies regarding its effectiveness and possible side effects. Then, in 2014, the International Journal of Cosmetic Science published research with the findings that the bakuchiol has a similar gene expression with that of retinol. In short, it can be used as an anti-aging compound. And when formulated as a skincare product? Researchers found that after 12 weeks of application, there is a “significant improvement in lines and wrinkles, pigmentation, elasticity, and firmness. And an overall reduction in photo-damage was observed, without usual retinol therapy-associated undesirable effects”.

Another study was published by the British Academy of Dermatology in 2018. The said study compared bakuchiol and retinol in a double-blind clinical trial on human subjects for 12 weeks. The 44 participants of the study were grouped into two. One group received a product with bakuchiol while the other received retinol. The dermatologist and participants themselves all witnessed and experienced significant improvements in the wrinkles, redness, and hyperpigmentation. The difference is that members who received bakuchiol had minimal scaling and flaking compared to the retinol group.

In a nutshell

The major reason is that it works without the harsh side effects of retinol.

  • Bakuchiol is suitable for all skin types. It is gentle enough to use on the most sensitive skin, including skin afflicted with rosacea or inflamed acne.
  • Bakuchiol actually makes the skin less sensitive to the sun’s harmful rays—However, this does NOT mean that you can skip the sunscreen!

Other Advantages of Bakuchiol in Skincare

  • Use retinol only at bedtime. And you must be careful not to mix with certain other products. Not so with bakuchiol! You can use it both in the morning and evening, and it works well with other ingredients. That makes it much easier to include in an established skincare routine.
  • Unlike retinol that can contain animal byproducts, bakuchiol is natural and plant-based. That means that it is vegan and cruelly free. It is also free of parabens, petroleum and synthetic fragrances.

As with any new skin product, start off gradually until you determine that your skin is compatible with bakuchiol. At Eternal Dermatology, our new “Rejuvenate serum” contains both Retinol and Bakuchiol, with Vitamins C and E. In this stable formula, the soothing bakuchiol enhances the activity of the retinol while also reducing irritation. As both of these key ingredients work by different mechanisms, the results are impressive!

How to apply bakuchiol?

If you decide to switch, how then should you use bakuchiol? To apply it, use it the same way you used a topical retinoid. Since it is a new ingredient, we advise that you also do a patch test first to check if it will trigger an allergic reaction. Although in general, bakuchiol is safe for all types of skin.

With retinol, you would typically be advised not to overload it on your skin. You should also avoid using many products with retinol considering its effects. However, that is not the case with bakuchiol. You can multiply the benefits of the ingredient if used in low levels of various products.  Try a cleanser, a serum, and a moisturizer with bakuchiol formulated in them. Simply put, the more products with bakuchiol, the better.

Ideally, you should immediately observe skin plumping as well as improvement in the brightness and radiance of your skin. Then, after four to 12 weeks, you will be able to see some reduction of fine lines and wrinkles. You would also see your skin tone evening and the texture feeling smoother and firmer. Again, the amount of bakuchiol plays a significant role in this but you have to be patient as well and expect that it works in due time.

For more information, call 301-679-5772 or book an appointment online to schedule a consultation. Dr. Ife Rodney  is a board-certified dermatologist and dermatopathologist with expertise in skincare, anti-aging and skin rejuvenation for all skin types. Eternal Dermatology is conveniently located in Fulton, MD, and serves Clarksville, Columbia, Ellicott City, Laurel, Bowie, Silver Spring,  and PG, Montgomery, and Howard County, Maryland.




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