Bakuchiol For Skin: Nature’s Retinol Alternative

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Is Bakuchiol Better Than Retinol?

Bakuchiol is a natural retinol alternative that promises skin transformation without the negative-side effects of retinol.

But let’s begin with a quick back story.

It was 2016 and I was sitting across the table from a senior beauty editor of a well-known magazine. We were discussing the current issues with conventional skincare products and how many contained harmful ingredient. I began explaining the benefits of using high-quality, well-formulated natural skincare.

However, her response to my innocent enthusiasm was: “I don’t care if it burns my skin, I just want it to work.”

I did everything in my power to keep my jaw from dropping. All I kept thinking was “millions of readers depend on you for skin care guidance, and that’s your stance on “caring” for skin?” Really?

That was the moment when I realized that the healthy beauty movement was up against more than just large conglomerates creating harmful personal care products. We were up against more than half a century of marketing and hundreds of millions of advertising dollars. And a message of “beauty is pain” that had been deeply engrained, even into the minds of so called industry insiders and experts.

It took me some time to figure out what she meant by “burn”. However, it was when I began learning about retinol that I finally understood. Retinol is known as a “superstar” ingredient that has a long history of marketing and hype (circa 1950’s). Our dermatologist may recommend retinol when we start complaining about fine lines, wrinkles and age spots. Unfortunately, this well-known ingredient also has a dark side. Ask around and you’ll hear horror stories that include thinning skin, peeling, redness and sunburns. A quick google search on the safety and side-effects of retinol and you can see why we’re not big fans. We firmly believe that your skincare products should NOT compromise your health or skin barrier. Because today, in 2020, we have healthier, safer options available to us.

Introducing Bakuchiol, a natural retinol alternative, without the irritation, photosensitivity and health concerns associated with traditional retinol products.


What Is Bakuchiol?

Bakuchiol, pronounced “buh-koo-chee-all”, is a meroterpene isolated from the seeds of the Babchi plant, also known as Psoralea Corylifolia. The babchi plant has been used for centuries in Ayurvedic and Traditional Chinese medicine for its various health benefits. However, the seeds are of most interest as they contain significant medicinal properties beneficial to the skin.


What Is The Difference Between Bakuchiol and Retinol?

Bakuchiol is derived from the Babchi plant and has a different chemical structure than retinol. Though structurally different, it is considered a true retinol alternative because clinical studies show that it functions similarly to retinol when applied to the skin. The upside is that Bakuchiol does not cause the same negative side-effects as retinol. Some of retinol’s most common side-effects include redness, irritation, dryness, and peeling.

One of the most concerning side-effects of retinol is that it causes photosensitivity, which means that skin becomes sensitive to sunlight and more susceptible to sunburn and sun damage. SPF can help protect you from UV-damage, however, many people do not use sunscreen in their daily routine or simply forget to, making them at risk of skin damage when using a strong treatment like retinol.


Clinical Data With Impressive Results:

A 12 week clinical study applying 0.5% Bakuchiol topically demonstrated a significant reduction in multiple signs of aging; reducing the look of fine lines and wrinkles, as well as improving skin tone, elasticity and firmness. The study also confirmed that there are no irritating or photosensitizing effects to skin when using Bakuchiol.


Bakuchiol Skin Benefits: 5 Reasons We Love It

1. Has a retinol-like effect on skin, reducing wrinkle depth and skin roughness.
2. Acts as a broad-spectrum antioxidant, protecting skin from environmental damage.
3. Stimulates collagen which improves skin firmness/elasticity.
4. Contains antibacterial properties that help with managing acne and breakouts.
5. Visibly improves the overall look of skin without negative side-effects.


Bakuchiol Serum


Bakuchiol And Babchi Oil Are Not The Same. Buyer Beware!

There is only one manufacturer of cosmetic-grade Bakuchiol. Home-made extracts, babchi oil and oil-infusions made from babchi seeds are not the same as Bakuchiol – nor are they safe for your skin. Bakuchiol is is obtained through a monomolecular extraction from the babchi seeds, where only one molecule is extracted, creating Bakuchiol with over 99% purity. Bakuchiol has to be purified to remove phototoxic phytocompounds to make it safe for skincare application. This pure form of Bakuchiol is also the one used in clinical studies to demonstrate its retinol-like benefits.

However, a quick google search will show you that there are all sorts of extracts being sold as “Babchi Oil” or DIY blogs telling you how to create your own extract. This is not safe for you or your skin and it surely will not have the same positive effect as the cosmetic-grade Bakuchiol.


1% Is The Maximum Recommended. More Is Not Always Better.

Speaking of safety, the maximum recommended percentage of Bakuchiol in a facial care product is 1%, a standard set by the manufacturer.

However, there are many products trying to one-up each other by going above this recommendation, without any regard to the safety-risk this poses to the consumer.

This creates an “apply at your own risk” scenario and increases the chances of a negative reaction. We do not subscribe to the business model of putting marketing before skin safety.


This Seems Too Good To Be True. What Are The Downsides To Bakuchiol?

Patience my friend. Bakuchiol does not deliver dramatic visible results overnight, which is actually better for the health of your skin.

The effects of Bakuchiol on the skin improve over time. So a little bit of patience and consistency is all it takes for your skin to reap the benefits.

Clinical studies show visible improvements in fine lines, wrinkles, skin tone and elasticity starting at week 4, but most significant at week 12.


Is Bakuchiol Right For My Skin?

Bakuchiol is a wonderful option for anyone concerned with signs of aging. If you’re looking to incorporate a natural product that will dramatically improve the look of fine lines, wrinkles, loss of firmness, elasticity and overall radiance, Bakuchiol is for you.

Bakuchiol is recommended for most skin types. Bakuchiol is great for sensitive skin that is not able to tolerate retinol. It’s also ideal for anyone looking for a healthier alternative, without the negative side-effects of retinol. If you find that your skin is finicky or reactive to most products, we recommend patch testing to ensure skin compatibility. Everyone is unique in their response to skincare products, no matter how gentle or natural a formula is.


How To Choose The Best Bakuchiol Serum

Whenever a cosmetic ingredient becomes trendy, brands will rush to launch a product as quickly as possible. This floods the market and dilutes the quality of options available. Consumers end up weeding through not-so great formulations and potentially purchasing a disappointing product. As always, we recommend shopping for your skin needs, not pretty packaging and scents. Here are a few things to look for when searching for the best bakuchiol serum.


The Best Bakuchiol Serums Contain:

Cosmetic-grade Bakuchiol
Complimentary active ingredients such as Vitamin E and Astaxanthin
Stable, oil-based formula that’s properly packaged in a light-blocking glass bottle with a pump. Light and air degrade skincare products. Steer clear of droppers and clear bottles when purchasing any skincare product.

What You Don’t Want In Your Bakuchiol Serum

Babchi Oil
Fragrance and dyes (hello skin irritation)
Parabens, petrochemicals i.e mineral oil or ingredients with PEG in name


How To Use Bakuchiol:

Unlike retinol, Bakuchiol can be used during the day without concern for photosensitivity, which can lead to sunburn. However, we recommend incorporating it into your evening routine, when skin has switched over from defense to repair mode.

Bakuchiol can be safely used in tandem with other treatments, such as acids, as it plays well with most skincare ingredients. However, skin reactions are more likely to occur when you overload your face with too many active ingredients. We always recommend airing on the side of “less is more” when it comes to the delicate skin on your face.


Your Top 5 Bakuchiol Questions Answered:


1. Does Bakuchiol minimize dark spots and hyperpigmentation?

Yes. Bakuchiol significantly reduces UV-induced skin damage such as hyperpigmentation, comparable to the effects of retinol. Two clinical studies in 2014 and 2018 demonstrated a significant reduction in pigmentation using .5% bakuchiol over a 12 week period.


2. Does Bakuchiol help with acne?

Bakuchiol contains anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial proprieties that make it a great option for managing acne. One clinical study conducted demonstrated that 1% bakuchiol applied twice daily reduced acne by 57% after only 6 weeks.


3. Is Bakuchiol safe to use during pregnancy?

At this time there is not enough data available that indicates whether or not it is safe to use during pregnancy. As always, we recommend checking with your doctor when pregnant or nursing.


4. Is Bakuchiol suitable for sensitive skin?

Bakuchiol is a very promising retinol alternative for sensitive skin. Studies show that bakuchiol is less irritating than retinol, however, we recommend patch testing to ensure skin compatibility. We offer samples for this reason.


5. How long before I see results from a Bakuchiol serum?

Based on the data from numerous clinical studies, on average, the skin will begin to show visible signs of improvement after 12 weeks of use.


The Bottom Line

Is bakuchiol better than retinol? You’ll just have to try it out for yourself to answer that question. But what we can say for sure is that it is a gentle, healthy alternative to retinol.

And remember, not all Bakuchiol products are safe for skincare application, especially if they do not contain cosmetic-grade Bakuchiol. Read your labels.


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Your skin protects you, and at the end of the day, you too should protect your skin.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this blog are based on personal opinion and experience accumulated over the numerous years of being in the natural skin care industry. The intent of this site is to present information and advice based on personal opinion and experience, and may differ with the experience of those reading this blog. The views and products expressed are not intended to treat, cure or prevent any disease.

Image Sources: Pink Abstract Texture via Karolina Grabowska

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