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 numerous benefits. However, the seeds are of most interest as they contain significant medicinal properties. Bakuchiol is a cosmetic ingredient that’s considered a true natural retinol alternative, without the irritation, photosensitivity or general concerns associated with traditional retinol products.
Is Bakuchiol Better Than Retinol?
If you’re looking for a gentle and/or natural alternative to retinol, then the short answer is yes.
Bakuchiol offers similar skin benefits 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 formulas using questionable ingredients. I began explaining the benefits of using high-quality, well-formulated natural skincare. Her response to my enthusiasm was not what I expected. She said “I don’t care if it burns my skin, I just want it to work.”
My jaw almost dropped. As we continued our conversation, one thought kept running through my mind. “Millions of readers depend on you for skin care guidance and that’s your stance on “caring” for skin. Really?” This was the moment I realized that the healthy beauty movement was up against more than just large conglomerates. It was up against more than half a century of marketing. And the message of “beauty is pain” had been deeply engrained, even into the minds of so-called industry insiders and experts.
A few years laters, when I began learning about retinol, I finally understood what she meant by “burn”. Retinol is touted as a must-have ingredient and has a long history of marketing and hype (circa 1950’s). Unfortunately, this well-known ingredient also has a dark side known as retinol irritation.
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, sun-sensitivity 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 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 photosensitizing treatment like retinol.
Bakuchiol Clinical Studies
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 showed that bakuchiol and retinol performed similarly in terms of photoaging (59% reduction in the appearance of hyperpigmentation). The study also confirmed that there are no irritating or photosensitizing effects to skin.
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Bakuchiol Skin Benefits: 5 Reasons We Love It
1. Has a retinol-like effect on skin, visibly reducing wrinkle depth and skin roughness.
2. Acts as a broad-spectrum antioxidant, fighting visible signs of aging caused by environmental stressors.
3. Support collagen-depleted skin by visibly promoting a firmer-looking complexion.
4. Contains antibacterial properties that help to reduce the appearance of acne and occasional breakouts.
5. Visibly improves the overall look of skin without negative side-effects.
Bakuchiol And Babchi Oil Are Not The Same. Buyer Beware!
There is only one manufacturer of cosmetic-grade bakuchiol. Babchi oil, psoralea corylifolia seed extract and oil-infusions made from babchi seeds are not the same as bakuchiol – nor are they safe for your skin. Pure bakuchiol is obtained through a monomolecular extraction of babchi seeds, where only one molecule is extracted, creating bakuchiol with over 99% purity. It must be purified to remove photo-toxic phytocompounds to make it safe for skincare application. This pure form of bakuchiol is used in clinical studies to demonstrate its skin benefits, not the dubious extracts listed above.
However, a quick google search will show you that there are all sorts of products using ineffective extracts being sold as “bakuchiol” and DIY blogs telling you how to create your own. This is not safe for you or your skin and it surely will not have the same positive effect as pure bakuchiol.
Sytheon, the manufacturer of real bakuchiol, released a study that evaluated the bakuchiol content of 9 commercial skincare products on the market. It revealed that a product containing psoralea corylifolia seed extract does not have enough bakuchiol for it to have any skin benefits. Furthermore, these non-purified extracts are “undefined materials with high levels of photosensitizers unsuitable for cosmetic purpose”. Not something you want in your skincare. The study can be found here.
1% Is The Maximum Recommended. More Is Not 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.
What Are The Downsides To Bakuchiol?
Patience my friend. Bakuchiol does not deliver visibly dramatic results overnight, which is actually better for the health of your skin.
The effects of bakuchiol get better with time. So, a little bit of patience and consistency is all it takes for your skin to reap the numerous 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 in search for a gentle and/or natural product that targets visible signs of aging. If you’re looking to incorporate a natural product that will improve the look of fine lines, wrinkles, loss of firmness and overall radiance, this transformative ingredient is a great option.
Bakuchiol is recommended for most skin types. It’s an ideal alternative for sensitive skin that is not able to tolerate retinol’s side-effect. 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 to capture a piece of the pie. This rush floods the market with low-quality, often poorly formulated options. Consumers end up weeding through these not-so great formulations and potentially purchasing a disappointing product. As always, we recommend shopping for your skin needs, not pretty packaging, scents or lowest price. Here are a few things to look for when searching for the best bakuchiol serum.
The Best Bakuchiol Serums Contain:
1. Cosmetic-grade Pure Bakuchiol (look for “bakuchiol” on INCI list)
2. Complimentary active ingredients such as Vitamin E and Astaxanthin
3. 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 Do Not Want In Your Bakuchiol Serum
1. Babchi oil, babchi extract or psoralea corylifolia seed extract
2. Fragrance, photosensitizing essential oils and dyes (hello skin irritation)
3. 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. However, we recommend incorporating it into your evening routine, when skin has switched over from defense to repair mode.
Bakuchiol can be confidently used in tandem with other treatments, such as acids and vitamin C. 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 Bakuchiol Questions Answered
Does Bakuchiol Minimize Dark Spots And Hyperpigmentation?
Bakuchiol reduces the appearance of uneven skin tone and dark spots, 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.
Does Bakuchiol Help With Acne?
Bakuchiol contains anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial proprieties. One clinical study conducted demonstrated that 1% bakuchiol applied twice daily reduced acne by 57% after only 6 weeks.
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.
Is Bakuchiol Suitable For Sensitive Skin?
Bakuchiol is a very promising retinol alternative for sensitive skin. Studies show that it’s less irritating than retinol, however, we recommend patch testing to ensure skin compatibility. We offer samples for this reason.
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.
Is Bakuchuol Vegan?
Bakuchiol is vegan. It’s sourced from the seeds of the psoralea corylifolia plant.
The Bottom Line
If you’re still on the fence about bakuchiol being a better option than retinol, you may just have to experience it for yourself to find out. It boils down to your personal preferences for skincare as well as the unique needs of your skin. What we can say with confidence is that it’s a promising option for those looking for a gentle and/or natural alternative to retinol, one that delivers similar benefits without the negative side-effects.
And don’t forget, not all bakuchiol products are safe for skincare application nor deliver the results demonstrated in clinical studies, especially if they do not contain purified bakuchiol. Read your labels.
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Disclaimer: This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of such advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Neither Root Science nor the publisher of this content takes responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any skincare, nutrition, supplement or lifestyle program. The views and products expressed are not intended to treat, cure or prevent any disease.
Image Sources: Liquid Macro Abstract via Susan Wilkinson