How Does Skincare Wonder Bakuchiol Stack Up Against Traditional Retinol?

Clean beauty, the movement to use more natural ingredients in beauty products, is quickly rising in popularity. Many of the reasons for its rise include the use of non-toxic ingredients to protect the health of your skin and to pursue more eco-friendly options for the planet (via MYSA). Many plant-based products are making their way into the limelight, as they bring a myriad of benefits to your skin without the use of harsh or irritating ingredients, especially for those with sensitive skin.

The latest ingredient to enter the market is bakuchiol, which is meant to work similarly to retinol. Retinol is an over-the-counter type of retinoid and is derived from vitamin A in an effort to tackle fine lines, wrinkles, enlarged pores, and acne. However, retinol can be irritating to some people's skin, leading to dryness, redness, peeling, or itchiness (via Healthline). This is why many people and dermatologists themselves are excited about the new natural "retinol dupe" known as bakuchiol.

What is bakuchiol?

Bakuchiol is a natural extract that comes from the seeds of Psoralea corylifolia, known as the babchi plant, originally used in Ayurveda and Eastern medicinal practices. The best part about backuchiol is that it offers similar benefits to retinol without all the irritating side effects. "Much like a retinol, bakuchiol triggers the genetic pathway in skin cells to create several types of collagen that are useful in skin health and anti-aging," dermatologist Rachel Nazarian, M.D., tells Byrdie.

This hydrating ingredient can help reduce wrinkles, even skin tones, boost collagen and skin firmness, and soothe skin, much like many of retinol's effects. In a study published in the British Journal of Dermatology, these effects of bakuchiol were compared to those of retinol. The randomized, double-blind approach study found that both bakuchiol and retinol "significantly decreased wrinkle surface area and hyperpigmentation, with no statistical difference between the compounds." However, it was the retinol users that reported stinging and scaling of the skin in the study. Because of this, bakuchiol is quickly becoming known and used as a safer alternative to retinol.

How to use bakuchiol

Bakuchiol is generally safe to use every day and can be used through products like moisturizers, serums, creams, oils, or facial peels and masks. "Bakuchi (as it's known in Ayurveda) has been used to treat leukoderma or vitiligo, hyperpigmentation, skin rashes and a host of other skin conditions," founder of Ayurvedic beauty brand Ranavat Botanics Michelle Ranavat tells The Cut. "I was working on a brightening mask and I was looking for ingredients that helped create an even complexion. Bakuchi really stood out." 

Furthermore, when you're looking for products with bakuchiol in them, be sure to find ones with enough in them for the best results. Rhonda M. Davis, a cosmetic chemist for Alquemie Product Development Group, tells The Cut that you should read the ingredient list to get a better idea of how much bakuchiol the product contains. Typically, a higher percentage of bakuchiol will present itself if it is listed before the preservatives, like phenoxyethanol, potassium sorbate, or ethylhexylglycerin, in the ingredients list. If it's listed after the preservatives, Davis warns that this means it only contains a small percentage of bakuchiol, which won't be as effective for your skin.

According to Everyday Health, you should also look at other active ingredients that may be combined with bakuchiol in a product. For example, some products still use retinol with it for stronger effects. Other products, like moisturizers, combine the natural ingredient with squalene for those moisturizing results. When choosing which bakuchiol-based product to use, keep in mind which of its other ingredients may best suit your skin needs.