Whenever a new skincare ingredient starts to gain popularity, people either embrace it too quickly or disregard it completely. The same thing happened with bakuchiol. As an ingredient, bakuchiol is used in skincare mainly for anti-aging purposes. People who were quick to embrace it loved it for its gentle makeup. People who did not care much for it claimed that it’s new and “the data is limited”. However, the data, though limited, is too promising to ignore. And at some point, the question of if bakuchiol is better than retinol becomes completely irrelevant. Because as you’ll see, the existing benefits sometimes outweigh the potential drawbacks. That’s why this ingredient needs your attention. And hey, a retinol-like ingredient that does not cause a face-wide inflammation? Why wouldn’t you get excited?
Before diving in, a few reminders first. Bakuchiol is a cosmetic ingredient. You’re more likely to hear about it from Sephora employees than your dermatologist. It’s new and it’s yet to make a name for itself.
The core information on bakuchiol comes from a pilot study published in 2014. What comes next is usually in line with the first findings. But when this is the case, some questions simply don’t have any answers.
For example, anyone who has an ounce of information about active ingredients knows that you should not mix retinol with other actives. But there are no easy answers when it comes to bakuchiol.
Though some studies shine a light on how one would use it in a skincare routine, it’s not a bright one for sure. So some things will not be as clear-cut as you wish them to be.
And we’ll have to make our own deductions too. Other than that, say hello to a hot new ingredient right from the mature nature’s bosom.
Find below everything you need to know, and everything that is available, on what bakuchiol is, its benefits, and how to use it.
What is Bakuchiol?
Bakuchiol is a botanical compound commonly derived from a plant named Psoralea Corylifolia aka babchi (1). It’s a phenolic compound just like green tea. And phenolic compounds, by default, have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and even anti-bacterial properties.
You’d be right if you assumed these apply to bakuchiol as well. Because of these benefits, bakuchiol is touted to be a retinol alternative. As it’s a plant-based ingredient, it’s also commonly known as vegan retinol or nature’s retinol.
What Are The Benefits of Bakuchiol?
Below are some of the most important benefits of bakuchiol for your skin (2).
- Bakuchiol is an anti-aging skincare ingredient. It stimulates collagen production (type 1, 3, 4).
- Thanks to its antioxidant benefits, bakuchiol helps to reduce wrinkles and sun damage and improves skin firmness.
- Bakuchiol reduces the look of dark spots, and improves the skin tone, resulting in a more even-looking complexion.
- It’s a gentle skincare active and (usually) does not burn, sting, or irritate the skin. This may be because of its anti-inflammatory and soothing effects.
- Even though it’s suitable for all skin types, bakuchiol is exceptionally helpful for people with sensitive skin or rosacea who can’t tolerate retinol.
- Bakuchiol is also helpful in reducing acne and also increases the effects of other anti-acne ingredients. For example, bakuchiol is more effective in treating acne when combined with salicylic acid rather than salicylic acid alone.
- It’s also a stabilizer of retinol, meaning that it can be formulated together with retinol to make the product more stable and less irritating, allowing the skin to be more tolerant to high concentration retinol products.
How Is Bakuchiol Different Than Retinol?
Available studies emphasize the fact that bakuchiol and retinol have different structures but they act in a similar way, resulting in similar benefits for the skin.
I’ve mentioned an article published in 2014. And according to the article, bakuchiol even seems to be superior to retinol in some areas (3).
For example, even though both retinol and bakuchiol target wrinkles, bakuchiol does not bring about skin irritation, which is incredibly common with retinol.
Additionally, bakuchiol is stable and easy to formulate, which means that your products won’t go bad easily. Retinol, on the other hand, usually requires special UV protectant packaging to avoid oxidation.
Because bakuchiol is photostable, you can safely use it during the day. For retinol, the jury is still out on whether you can use it during the day or not.
As for the question of whether bakuchiol is better than retinol or not, it’s too early to say.
Is Bakuchiol Good For All Skin Types?
Yes, bakuchiol is suitable for all skin types. It’s a non-irritating plant extract that is tolerable for normal, oily, dry, and sensitive skin types. As it doesn’t cause peeling, dry skin types will find it helpful.
As it’s anti-inflammatory, oily and acne-prone skin types can use it too. Needless to say, bakuchiol is gold for people with rosacea and sensitive skin.
How To Use Bakuchiol?
We’ve established that bakuchiol is as gentle as it gets. And based on the clinical study where the test subjects used bakuchiol twice daily, we can assume that a twice-daily application shouldn’t be a problem.
However, people who are interested in bakuchiol are usually the ones with sensitive skin, which is wildly unpredictable. So even though it’s safe to use once or twice daily, it’s always best to play it safe and start using it every other day at first.
Remember that bakuchiol does not cause photosensitivity aka sensitivity to sunlight. So your skin will not be extra sensitive. While retinol requires regular use of sunscreen, that’s not the case with bakuchiol.
That being said, wear sunscreen for your skin’s sake. Just know that it won’t throw a hissy fit at the mere sight of the sun.
What Can You Mix and Not Mix with Bakuchiol?
This is where we run short on sources. Again, there is not enough information on the ingredient to the point where we can safely say that we can combine it with this and that.
In an article published in 2011, the author says that bakuchiol is safe to be formulated with salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide (4). But this recommendation is for formulators, and not necessarily for us. So I don’t think it’s safe to say that you can combine it with whatever you like.
And when I say combine, I mean layering a bakuchiol product on the skin and then layering another product with an active ingredient on top of it.
So even though bakuchiol is a gentle ingredient, you should still avoid mixing it with other active ingredients like exfoliants and retinol. If you want to layer, it’s better to get a product that contains the two.
On the other hand, we can take a different path and start from the ingredients we know to be safe. For example, ingredients like hyaluronic acid, green tea, squalane, ceramides are commonly used together with retinol without any side effects.
Not to be presumptuous or anything but if something can be used with retinol, it can very well be used with bakuchiol. So just like it is with the other actives, you can combine bakuchiol with a hyaluronic acid serum or a moisturizer made with ceramides or other emollients.
What Percentage of Bakuchiol Should You Use?
All sources included in this article utilize bakuchiol in concentrations ranging between 0.5% and 1%. And that’s usually the amount we see in mainstream bakuchiol products.
As bakuchiol’s benefits were confirmed in these concentrations, we can say that you can use bakuchiol formulated in this range to achieve the best results.
Is Bakuchiol Pregnancy-Safe?
Several beauty magazines quote dermatologists and say that bakuchiol is safe to use during pregnancy. I did not find anything in the literature confirming that. One would assume that it’s safe given that it’s simply an innocent plant extract. But I wouldn’t take a magazine’s word for it.
It’s frustrating knowing that your skincare is limited during pregnancy when your concerns are even elevated. But you can never be too safe. Consult your healthcare provider before using it if you’re pregnant, trying to get pregnant, or breastfeeding.
Here’s the takeaway, if you’re using retinol without any problems, there is no need for you to switch to bakuchiol. Why fix something that isn’t broken? After all, the science behind bakuchiol is nowhere near the one behind retinol.
On the other hand, if your skin simply doesn’t get along with retinol or exfoliants, definitely give bakuchiol a chance in your skincare routine. It doesn’t matter if it’s equally effective as retinol. It’s gentle! So it takes a few more weeks to kick in, so what?
Read Next: The Best Bakuchiol Skincare Products
- Dhaliwal, S., Rybak, I., Ellis, S. R., Notay, M., Trivedi, M., Burney, W., Vaughn, A. R., Nguyen, M., Reiter, P., Bosanac, S., Yan, H., Foolad, N., & Sivamani, R. K. (2019). Prospective, randomized, double-blind assessment of topical bakuchiol and retinol for facial photoageing. The British journal of dermatology, 180(2), 289–296. https://doi.org/10.1111/bjd.16918
- Sivamani, R., Jagdeo, J. R., Elsner, P., & Maibach, H. I. (2015). Bakuchiol: A retinol-like functional compound, modulating multiple retinol and non-retinol targets [E-book]. In Cosmeceuticals and Active Cosmetics (3rd ed., pp. 1–18). CRC Press. https://doi.org/10.1201/b18895
- Chaudhuri, R.K. and Bojanowski, K. (2014), Bakuchiol: a retinol-like functional compound revealed by gene expression profiling and clinically proven to have anti-aging effects. Int J Cosmet Sci, 36: 221-230. https://doi.org/10.1111/ics.12117
- Chaudhuri, Ratan & Marchio, Francois. (2011). Bakuchiol in the management of acne-affected Skin. Cosmetics and Toiletries. 126. 502-510.