If you're already curious about bakuchiol, it's almost certainly because you're deep in a search for an alternative to retinol. Retinol is a miracle worker when it comes to smoothing fine lines, boosting collagen production, clearing up blemishes, preventing breakouts. But not everyone is keen on retinol: It can do a red, peeling number on sensitive skin. Not to mention, many consumers prefer all-natural or vegan formulas, which is a box retinol cannot check.
So what’s a good alternative if you’re retinol averse? There are numerous ways to build an anti-aging regimen, but one ingredient stands out for being the best skin-smoothing alternative to retinol: It’s bakuchiol (pronounced buh-COO-chee-ol), it is relatively new to skincare formulas, but has strong roots in traditional eastern medicine—and it appears to actually work.
Baku-who? And why should I be adding it to my skincare regime?
We hear you! We are here with answers and more.
Bakuchiol is the new buzz word in the skincare community and has been hailed as the natural replacement for retinol.
Now, why should you be replacing retinol?
There’s a lot to love about retinol, which has soared to cult skincare status in the last few years; namely its skin-smoothing, brightening, collagen-stimulating prowess and its ability to treat acne.
Coveted as the “be-all, end-all” in anti-ageing, the vitamin A-derivative is proven to speed up our skin cells’ turnover. In turn? Fine lines are reduced, pigmentation blitzed and blackheads and whiteheads both minimised. In their place, expect plumpness, radiance and a more even skin tone and texture.
But like all good things, it comes with its side effects. Mainly, redness, flaking, irritation, and inflammation, especially in sensitive skin types.
So what if there were a kinder alternative to retinol? An ingredient that can do all this and more, packing just as powerful a punch, but without the pesky side effects?
Derived from the seeds and leaves of the ‘babchi’ plant (officially the psoralea corylifolia plant), bakuchiol has been a mainstay in traditional Ayurvedic and Chinese skin-healing treatments for centuries.
It has long been loved for its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties – the same characteristics that have led scientists to take a closer look at it in recent years.
While it doesn’t have the same make-up as retinol (it doesn’t come from vitamin A) studies have revealed bakuchiol’s effect on the skin is remarkably similar - it has been shown to act on the same genes in the skin to stimulate collagen production and increase cell turnover, therefore diminishing signs of aging such as fine lines, wrinkles, skin laxity, and overall photodamage, as well as helping to treat acne.
But the important part is - studies have also indicated bakuchiol has less to none of the side effects seen from the use of retinol, such as redness, irritation, flaky skin or increased sensitivity to the sun.
How do Retinoids work?
Retinoic Acid works through specific receptors in the cell that trigger an increase in gene expression and increased production of collagen Type I, III and IV as well as aquaporin 3 expression. Translated that means that your skin's firmness and elasticity increase, while your wrinkles and fine lines decrease.
On top of that it speeds up cell turnover, which leads to younger-looking, more even skin and less hyperpigmentation.
Both Retinol and Retinaldehyde are precursors of Retinoic Acid that are slowly transformed into Retinoic Acid in the skin, which is why they act slower and are weaker in terms of effects and side effects. You can buy those as OTC products, while Retinoic Acid usually is prescription only.
All retinoids can lead to retinol dermatitis, a period of inflammation, dryness and flaking skin, typically occurring within the first four weeks of treatment. That can be prevented by using lower concentrations, slowly building up a tolerance or using the products less frequently than once a day. Some people though never tolerate retinoids.
How does Bakuchiol work?
As stated above, Bakuchiol has no structural resemblance with Retinoic Acid, which means that the Bakuchiol molecule can’t fit into the Retinoic Acid receptor. It has the means to stimulate the receptor nonetheless, leasing to the same effects in terms of unregulated gene expression with all the before mentioned benefits.
Studies on Bakuchiol vs Retinol
The mechanism of how Bakuchiol works have been shown as early as 2014 in an in vitro study. In vitro means that the results were not obtained on living people, but on cells in cell cultures in the petri dish. Studies like that give important information but are not always easy to transfer to a living, breathing human being.
In 2018, an in vivo study was published, comparing a group of people applying Retinol to their face twice daily for 12 weeks to a group of people that applied Bakuchiol to their face twice daily for 12 weeks.
A board-certified dermatologist graded the skin's firmness and elasticity as a marker of increased collagen production as well as hyperpigmentation and wrinkle depth after the course of the 12 weeks, not knowing which ingredient the person had used.
Results of the study
The results were indeed promising: The study found no significant difference in the efficacy of Bakuchiol vs Retinol. It did however find significantly less irritation reported in the Bakuchiol group.
Other studies since then have backed up this conclusion, such as this 2019 study that concluded bakuchiol is comparable with retinol in its ability to improve photoaging and is better tolerated than retinol. Bakuchiol is promising as a more tolerable alternative to retinol.
Benefits of bakuchiol
Bakuchiol has a few extra benefits over retinoids that are worth mentioning:
- It is a potent antioxidant
- It is anti-inflammatory, which might be beneficial for acne and similar skin concerns and might help in reducing the side effects of application
- It is photostable, which is why it is safe to use in the mornings, Retinoids do react with UV light, so their use should be limited to nighttime.
- It is always vegan. Some retinoids might come from animal sources.
Bakuchiol is a great retinol alternative for everyone that is sensitive to retinol side effects.
For vegans and people that can’t tolerate retinoid products though, Bakuchiol can be a great alternative indeed.
Recommendations for bakuchiol products
This is why we have introduced it to the GoodieCo ranks, in the form of the all-new Bounce, the 1% Bakuchiol Booster.
(Psst, did you know 1% bakuchiol is the highest concentration you can have in skincare? Only the very best for you!).
Bounce contains only 4 ingredients: Cold pressed Babchi seeds (Bakuchiol), Pure Kakadu Plum Oil, Organic cold-pressed Sunflower Oil, and Organic Fragonia Essential Oil (Agonia fragrans).
If you know anything about us, we like to keep things pure, simple and powerful around here!
Our purest, most potent oil to date, it only takes a single drop of this blend to release its full power.
Bounce is part of our fresh range, The Ageless Routine, which is a stand-alone nighttime routine designed to restore and rejuvenate aging skin. It has been two years in the making!
As always, our products are hand-blended and poured – made weekly and sold in small batches to ensure the integrity of the all-natural products. Glass containers to ensure no plastic leaching or micro-plastics exposure.
Made in Australia. No Palm Oil or Palm Oil Derivates. No Parabens. Non-Toxic. Cruelty-free. SLS Free.