Meet Bakuchiol: Nature's Alternative to Retinol, Sans Irritation

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Bakuchiol is being touted as the new, natural alternative to retinol. But since retinol is the gold standard anti-aging ingredient, able to tackle everything from wrinkles and blemishes to skin tone and texture, is bakuchiol really worthy of the hype? Let’s take a closer look.

What is Bakuchiol?

Bakuchiol is 100% plant-derived, found in the seeds and leaves of the Psoralea Corylifolia plant found in Eastern Asia. Scientists have known for awhile that this plant extract can have retinol-like effects on the skin: a French study published back in 2014 wrote, "We propose that bakuchiol can function as an anti-aging compound through retinol-like regulation of gene expression." So, while it appears to be the new kid on the beauty ingredient block, it has actually had some scientific weight behind it for quite awhile. “In that 2014 study, bakuchiol was formulated into a finished skincare product and was tested in a clinical case study by twice‐a‐day facial application," explains dermatologist Sarah Shah. "The results showed that 12 weeks of treatment showed significant improvement in lines and wrinkles, pigmentation, elasticity, firmness and overall reduction in photo‐damage."

Bakuchiol vs. Retinol

Now, notice that we’ve said it has a retinol-like effect. That's because it doesn’t work in the same way as retinol, but the effect it has on the skin is comparable. “Retinol and bakuchiol are not structurally similar," says Shah. "In fact, bakuchiol bears more structural resemblance to [the antioxidant] resveratrol. However, they are very similar in functionality. When confirmed side by side in a lab study, they were shown to upregulate the same proteins and types of collagen in the skin.”

The benefit of bakuchiol over retinol is that, while retinol is heralded as a wonder ingredient, it can irritate the skin for those who are sensitive, with most people having to acclimate to it by increasing frequency and percentage slowly over time. Bakuchiol, on the other hand, has none of the side effects that can put many off trying retinol.

“Bakuchiol has actually been used as a skincare ingredient for many years for anti-inflammatory and antioxidant purposes,” reveals David Delport, Global Brand Ambassador and Head of Education for REN Clean Skincare. “It stimulates cell renewal in the epidermis for a smooth surface, giving a retinol result without the irritation.”