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How Bakuchiol, aka Plant-Based Retinol, Benefits Your Skin

Bakuchiol is in a class of its own when it comes to renewing the skin in a natural and gentle way.
Fact-checked by Ana Vasilescu.

If you’re someone who has tried retinol and found it to be too harsh on your skin, you’re not alone. But the good news is that there are a handful of dermatologist-approved retinol alternatives that have similar effects without irritation and flakiness. One of these is bakuchiol — a nature-derived ingredient that has taken the beauty world by storm. Not only does it pack a punch with its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antibacterial properties, but it also provides the same skin-renewing benefits as retinol but in a more delicate way. From understanding its benefits to how to incorporate it into your skincare routine, we’ve got all the need-to-know information on bakuchiol so you can get the best out of it.

What is bakuchiol?

Bakuchiol is a natural extract derived from the Psoralea corylifolia plant, also called the babchi plant. It’s mostly known as plant-based or botanical retinol and has recently gotten more popular in the beauty world, particularly for its less irritating nature. According to studies, it targets the same cellular pathways and works through similar receptors targeted by retinol.[1] More precisely, bakuchiol is an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-aging agent that promotes skin renewal by stimulating cell turnover — just like retinol but gentler. This means that while it acts more delicate on the skin, bakuchiol also provides all other benefits of vitamin A, such as minimizing fine lines and wrinkles, promoting an even-looking tone, speeding up healing, and more. 

Benefits of bakuchiol for skin 

This is how using topical products with bakuchiol can improve your skin:

Boosts cell turnover

Cell turnover is the constant process of shedding off dead cells and replacing them with younger ones. With age, this process becomes less and less effective, leading to a buildup of dead cells on the skin’s surface. This in turn makes the complexion appear dull, less radiant, and with more visible aging signs. Fortunately, you can speed up cell turnover and keep your skin smooth, bright, and youthful by using products with bakuchiol. Like retinol, bakuchiol helps remove old cells and promote the growth of healthy ones to unveil the best version of your skin.[1]

Enhances skin firmness

As we get older and spend more time in the sun, our skin becomes thinner, less elastic, and more prone to wrinkles, uneven tone, and textural flaws. Thanks to its antioxidant capacity and ability to encourage cell turnover, bakuchiol is an effective preventative treatment for these negative effects of aging and sun damage. Besides, bakuchiol stimulates collagen production, helping maintain skin structure, firmness, and elasticity.[2]

Reduces fine lines and wrinkles

Bakuchiol is a go-to for reducing fine lines and wrinkles since it speeds up cell turnover and promotes collagen. At the same time, bakuchiol defends against premature wrinkles caused by UV damage while preventing photoaging. According to research, the daily use of a cream containing 0.5% bakuchiol has the same effects on aging signs as 0.5% retinol but with considerably fewer side effects.[1] More precisely, after 12 weeks, bakuchiol reduced fine wrinkles by 19% while retinol by 23.2%.

Evens skin tone and fades dark spots

If you’re dealing with dark spots and uneven skin tone, bakuchiol will definitely come in handy. As it accelerates cell renewal, it eliminates the pigmented and darkened cells from the surface. With regular use, it can leave your skin looking brighter and more even-toned. Moreover, as a potent antioxidant, bakuchiol prevents the apparition of new dark patches and discoloration caused by sun damage. Surprisingly, it appears to be more effective than retinol in this matter. During a clinical trial, bakuchiol reduced hyperpigmentation in 59% of cases while retinol in only 44%.[1]

Reduces acne

A recent clinical study from 2021 adds weight to the potential of bakuchiol in treating mild to moderate acne. During the trial, a 0.5% bakuchiol cream was found effective in reducing both inflammatory and non-inflammatory lesions in as little as 12 weeks. This means you can count on bakuchiol to clear your skin of blackheads and whiteheads. Responsible for this are the antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. Also, bakuchiol reduces the chances of bacteria and dead cells blocking the pores.

Is bakuchiol safe?

Bakuchiol is a gentle and safe ingredient that all skin types can use without worrying about irritation. It’s effective and well-tolerated even in people with problematic skin — though there could still be a chance of sensitivity.[3] Although it’s unlikely, bakuchiol can still cause redness, stinging, or dryness, especially when using it for the first time or in high concentrations. One way to mitigate these adverse effects is to ease into it slowly and ensure that your skin tolerates it. It’s also recommended to perform a patch test before applying the bakuchiol product to your entire face.

How to use bakuchiol

Bakuchiol can be used twice daily in the morning and night, preferably in a serum or moisturizer. Aside from the long list of skin benefits, what makes it even better is how versatile bakuchiol is. Unlike retinol which might cause irritations when mixed with other products, bakuchiol is a versatile ingredient that pairs nicely with other skincare actives. This means you can use it with your favorite ingredients such as vitamin C, lactic acid, niacinamide, and hyaluronic acid. You can even use bakuchiol with retinol by alternating their use (bakuchiol in the morning and retinol at night) to double the restorative and renewing benefits.

However, glycolic acid degrades bakuchiol formulation, so remember not to use these two in tandem.

Summary

Healthy and radiant skin is the goal of any skincare enthusiast, and with the whole host of benefits delivered by bakuchiol, you can easily achieve that. Even though it’s not as researched as retinol, this plant-based compound is showing promising results in clinical studies and is slowly overtaking the glory of retinoids in the dermatological field. Much gentler than its counterpart, bakuchiol is an ingredient that everyone can use, including those with problematic skin. In other words, it’s a great alternative to have at hand when you can’t tolerate the powerful retinol.


Sources

At Women’s Concepts, we’re committed to providing you with trustworthy, transparent, and accurate information about anything related to your skin health. Besides having a close relationship with dermatologists and experts in the field, we use an established editorial process to ensure we’re giving you the best possible information. All statements and claims we make have clear and legit references.

  1. Dhaliwal S, Rybak I, Ellis SR, Notay M, Trivedi M, Burney W, Vaughn AR, Nguyen M, Reiter P, Bosanac S, Yan H, Foolad N, Sivamani RK. Prospective, randomized, double-blind assessment of topical bakuchiol and retinol for facial photoageing. Br J Dermatol. 2019 Feb;180(2):289-296.
  2. 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. doi: 10.1111/ics.12117. Epub 2014 Mar 6. PMID: 24471735.
  3. Draelos ZD, Gunt H, Zeichner J, Levy S. Clinical Evaluation of a Nature-Based Bakuchiol Anti-Aging Moisturizer for Sensitive Skin. J Drugs Dermatol. 2020 Dec 1;19(12):1181-1183. doi: 10.36849/JDD.2020.5522. PMID: 33346506.
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