Bakuchiol – Your Complete Guide to the Retinol Alternative

Retinol, a derivative of vitamin A, is one of the most highly studied skincare ingredients on the market. It promises an increase in skin firmness, an evening of skin tone, and a boost in collagen, and it delivers. However, retinol is not for everyone, particularly those with sensitive skin, so what can you use instead? Introducing bakuchiol.

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What is bakuchiol, what are the benefits, what are the risks, and can it compare with retinoids? Is there even any research or studies to back it up? Here is your complete guide to bakuchiol, with everything you need to know about the popular skincare ingredient. 

What is Bakuchiol

Bakuchiol is an extract from “babchi” seeds, Psoralea corylifolia. It is a plant that grows in India and has been a staple in Chinese and Indian medicine for years. It has been used to treat many skin disorders like eczema, psoriasis, and vitiligo. This ingredient is one small component of the babchi plant, and it can be extracted with a purity of 99%, making it relatively safe for skincare products. 

This plant seems to have properties that stimulate collagen production, similar to the effects of retinoids. There have been reported fewer side effects with the use of bakuchiol than with retinol.

This ingredient can be found in many skincare products, such as serums, moisturizers, creams, and essences. It is usually formulated with other good ingredients that can boost its effects, like seaweed extract or rosehip. Is there any science behind this skincare product though?

Science-Based Information

Studies are promising, but limited. A small study of 44 individuals found that bakuchiol performed just as well as retinol. Bakuchiol use had less irritation, burning, and negative side effects. However, this study was small, with 7 individuals even dropping out.

Other studies combined bakuchiol with melatonin and vitamin C derivatives, which made it difficult for skin improvements to be solely due to the use of bakuchiol. 


One potential benefit is increasing collagen in the skin. The study also found an improvement in skin tone, a decrease in fine lines and wrinkles, improvement in elasticity, increased firmness, and reduced photosensitivity. Again, this was a small study, but the results are promising.

Bakuchiol does reduce inflammation and hyperpigmentation in the skin. This study found an improvement after 12 weeks of using this ingredient. Bakuchiol tends to decrease melanin, which makes it work to even out skin tone.

Many studies have found that it reduces acne by way of its antibacterial properties and even works as a natural antioxidant, meaning it can protect you from free radical damage during the day.


Bakuchiol oil seems to be safe to use for individuals with sensitive skin. Though it is not completely backed by science, the existing research seems promising. Remember to look for products that have the extract, bakuchiol. Avoid any other ingredient or derivative from this plant. 

Any other part of the babchi plant, like oils and extracts, can contain impurities that cause skin sensitivity and can be really dangerous to the skin barrier.

Bakuchiol vs Retinol

Many of the studies compared these two ingredients. Retinol was applied once a day while bakuchiol was applied twice a day. Note, that retinol is not applied twice to reduce sign effects. Plus, due to how unstable retinol is during the day, it was only applied in nighttime routines. Both groups had an increase in collagen, but the retinol group had more side effects such as dry skin, irritation, stinging, and peeling skin.

While bakuchiol seems to be promising, much of the research is very limited. Other studies have only been performed on skin cells, so there is no way of knowing if the results of those studies translate to humans. Retinoids, on the other hand, have been extensively studied in humans since the 1980s.


At the end of the day, if you want something with research and science behind it, choose retinol, but be prepared to deal with dryness, irritation, and other side effects. The retinoid, retinal, seems to have fewer side effects with good results, so that might be an ingredient to look for. Also, look for encapsulated, or slow-release formulas with hydrating and moisturizing ingredients to further reduce side effects. 


If you want sensitive skin and want a natural product, use bakuchiol. At the very least, it does have antimicrobial and antioxidant properties that will do good for the skin. Bakuchiol would be a good option for you if retinoids do not work out for you. Maybe retinoids had too many side effects, maybe they didn’t treat acne, etc. 

Bacuhiol would also be a good option for people who want to use an anti-aging product during the day, and a retinoid at night. This way, you are doubling down on good skincare, avoiding side effects, and still getting good results. 

How to Add it to Your Skincare Routine

Here is how to safely add bakuchiol. Just do it! Bakuchiol is very well tolerated by skin, even sensitive skin, so as long as the other ingredients in a product are good, there should be no issues. It is good for oily, dry, and combo skin. 

Remember to patch-test any new skincare product you are using. Start with low amounts of product, and increase the strength or quantity of the product as you go. Make sure the bakuchiol is in a formulation that sinks deep into the skin, like a serum. This will ensure you are getting the most out of the ingredients. Use it in the morning, at night, or both. Since it is well tolerated, it will not cause sensitivity or irritation. 

You can also pair this ingredient with other good active ingredients, like a vitamin C serum or a retinoid. Try to avoid it with exfoliating acids though, as this is one of the ways irritation can occur.

The Takeaway

Bakuchiol is a natural product said to replace retinoids in a skincare routine, boosting collagen, increasing skin firmness/elasticity, and even reducing acne and hyperpigmentation. In reality, the research behind it is lacking. Bakuchiol will probably deliver good results, but there needs to be more studies done. At the very least, we cannot currently claim it is as effective as retinoid products.

Remember that health comes from within, so eat well when you can, exercise daily, and take care of your mental health. Our daily habits become the building blocks needed for emotional, mental, and physical health. Try to take care of your gut health too! Learn everything you need to know about gut microbiota today for free here.

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