Bakuchiol, The Natural Retinol Alternative

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What is Bakuchiol

Initially discovered for its medicinal properties, Bakuchiol is a plant-based extract first used for its antioxidant properties. The natural extract is derived from a plant called Psoralea Corylifolia plant.

Bakuchiol is found in the oil in the flowering plant's leaves and seeds. When it was first discovered centuries ago, it was used for cuts, soothing redness, and calming rashes or skin disorders such as those we now know as eczema and psoriasis.Plant-Based Retinol from Bakuchiol

The potent extract was also widely used in ancient Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine for its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial benefits. Then, as modern science developed, it was rediscovered as a plant-based and non-irritating alternative to topical Retinol.

As a result, you can now find skincare products, including serums, cleansers, creams, and even moisturizers containing varying concentrations of Bakuchiol at retail stores ranging from Sephora and Ulta Beauty to Whole Foods or your local health shop.

Bakuchiol is also available in its purest form to add to trusted products, combined with a bulk base, or added to homemade formulas.

What Does It Do?

Bakuchiol's rising popularity is because, when used topically, it produces many of the same benefits that a traditional Retinol product delivers without causing the skin irritation that deters many people from using Retinol.

Benefits include:

  • Reducing discoloration and hyperpigmentation from environmental exposure
  • Softening fine lines and wrinkles
  • Restoring firmness
  • Smoothing skin texture
  • Soothing sensitive or irritated skin

The natural retinol alternative, or bio-retinol, works by increasing the speed of cell turnover on the skin's surface to reveal fresh skin and a smoother overall appearance.

It simultaneously pushes the skin-strengthening collagen protein toward the skin's surface to create a youthful, plump outer layer.

A critical difference between Retinol products and Bakuchiol is the presence of inflammatory side effects. Retinol products derived from Vitamin A can cause dryness, redness, and even itching or peeling.

Many people with sensitive skin or an irregular skincare routine cannot tolerate Retinol products because of this adverse effect.

On the other hand, Bakuchiol has the opposite effect due to its anti-inflammatory, soothing properties.

What is a Bio-Retinol?

Because of the rising popularity of natural skincare and the growing number of people who can't tolerate the adverse effects of Retinol, a new category of resurfacing treatments has come to the surface. Bio-retinol is full of plant-based skincare compounds, such as Bakuchiol. All of these have similar benefits as Retinol without creating irritation and redness.

The primary difference between bio-retinol and traditional Retinol is the source from which they are derived. Bio-retinol is typically plant-based oils and extracts, while traditional Retinol is a man-made compound derived from Vitamin A (and often comes from animals).

Generally, bio-retinol is less harsh and more tolerable for sensitive skin types, making it a popular retinol alternative and more appealing to a natural or vegan community.

Bakuchiol vs. Retinol

Bakuchiol and retinol are both celebrated in the skincare industry for their anti-aging properties, but they come from entirely different backgrounds and have distinct characteristics. Here's a breakdown of the two:

1. Origin:

  • Bakuchiol: Derived from the seeds and leaves of the Babchi plant (Psoralea corylifolia), bakuchiol is a natural, vegan ingredient often referred to as a "plant-based retinol."
  • Retinol: A synthetic derivative of vitamin A, retinol has been used in skincare for several decades and is known for its potent anti-aging effects.

2. Mechanism of Action:

  • Bakuchiol: While bakuchiol has been shown to target similar anti-aging pathways as retinol, the exact mechanism remains less well-defined. However, it has demonstrated an ability to decrease the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and improve skin elasticity, pigmentation, and overall radiance.
  • Retinol: Retinol promotes skin cell turnover and boosts collagen production, leading to smoother, firmer skin. It also works to unclog pores, making it effective against acne.

3. Side Effects:

  • Bakuchiol: Typically gentler on the skin, bakuchiol is less likely to cause redness, irritation, or dryness, making it suitable for those with sensitive skin or those who find retinol too harsh.
  • Retinol: Common side effects of retinol include redness, peeling, and dryness, especially when first introduced. It's often recommended to start with lower concentrations and gradually increase.

4. Usage:

  • Bakuchiol: Since it's gentler, bakuchiol can be used both day and night. It's also considered safe to use during pregnancy but always consult with a healthcare professional first.
  • Retinol: Typically applied in the evening because it can make the skin more sensitive to sunlight. Using SPF during the day is crucial when incorporating retinol into a skincare routine. Retinol is generally advised against during pregnancy.

5. Compatibility:

  • Bakuchiol: Known to be compatible with various other skincare ingredients without causing reactions.
  • Retinol: Certain ingredients, like alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) and vitamin C, may irritate the skin when used with retinol.

6. Availability:

  • Bakuchiol: It is still relatively new in the skincare industry, but its popularity is increasing, and it's being incorporated into more products.
  • Retinol: Widely available and found in a range of products, from over-the-counter creams to prescription-strength formulations.

While bakuchiol and retinol offer anti-aging benefits, they cater to different skincare needs and preferences. Those looking for a natural alternative or have sensitive skin might gravitate towards bakuchiol, while those who seek a tried-and-true anti-aging powerhouse might opt for retinol. As with all skincare ingredients, it's essential to patch test and consult with a dermatologist or skincare professional to find the best fit for individual skin concerns and needs.

Is Bakuchiol the Best Natural Alternative to Retinol?

Although most experts agree that Bakuchiol is the best natural alternative for Retinol, other products are also dubbed a natural replacement for the skincare powerhouse ingredient. The most popular are rosehip oil, carrot seed oil, and cacay oil.

All three of these popular skincare ingredients are frequently compared to Retinol because they contain varying amounts of Vitamin A.

  • Rosehip Oil: Known for its smoothing, soothing, and brightening effects. It contains Vitamin A, moisturizing compounds Vitamin E and lycopene, and the antioxidant Beta carotene.
  • Carrot Seed Oil: An essential oil known for its detoxifying effects and, like Rosehip Oil, also contains Vitamin A and antioxidants. Since it's an essential oil, it must be combined with a carrier oil before topical use.
  • Caycay Oil: Contains almost three times more Vitamin A than Rosehip Oil and also contains anti-inflammatory Vitamin F. Known for smoothing skin texture.

Though all three skin-smoothing natural retinol alternatives have their own benefits, none compare to Bakuchiol in their likeness to Retinol.

Its unique variety of benefits, especially the ability to slough off outer layers of skin, reduce imperfections, and uncover a renewed complexion, makes Bakuchiol the best natural alternative to Retinol.

How to Use Bakuchiol

Now that Bakuchiol is widely appreciated in the skincare community, many products containing varying concentrations of Bakuchiol are available. The most popular Bakuchiol products are serums, facial oils, night moisturizers, or eye creams. Because of its rising popularity, you will likely find the natural retinol alternative at your favorite beauty store.

In terms of day-to-day use, a licensed esthetician, Anna Arnone, always recommends starting slowly with a new ingredient. "With any new addition to your skincare routine, I recommend first incorporating it into your nighttime routine every other day so that you can observe any allergic reactions or side effects you may have."

Although you should only use some potent ingredients in the evening to prevent UV damage, Arnone says Bakuchiol is acceptable during sunlight hours. "With Bakuchiol, you can gradually increase your use over time until you're using it both morning and night."

Another excellent option for Bakuchiol use is to purchase the ingredient in its pure form and add it into a gentle moisturizer, facial serum, or bulk base of your choice to create your own blend.

We recommend adding a concentration of 3-15% of our Bakuchiol Serum Booster for best results, as a concentration any lower than 3% may be too mild.

Knowing where to start with so many options cannot be easy. Reference our chart below of popular products containing the powerhouse bio-retinol to help find the perfect blend for you.

5 Benefits of Bakuchiol for Sensitive Skin

  1. Gentler Alternative to Retinol: Bakuchiol delivers many of the same anti-aging benefits as retinol, such as reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles without the harsh side effects. This makes it especially beneficial for those with sensitive skin who may find retinol too irritating.

  2. Reduces Redness and Inflammation: Bakuchiol has anti-inflammatory properties, which can help calm the skin and reduce redness. For sensitive skin types prone to inflammation, this can result in a more even-toned complexion.

  3. Enhances Skin Hydration: Some studies suggest that bakuchiol can increase skin hydration, making it beneficial for sensitive skin types that often lean towards dryness. Well-hydrated skin can also lead to a reduced appearance of fine lines and a more plump, youthful complexion.

  4. Improves Skin Elasticity and Firmness: Bakuchiol helps boost collagen production, a vital protein for maintaining skin's elasticity and firmness. Sensitive skin, when subjected to external stressors, can lose its elasticity faster, making bakuchiol a beneficial ingredient for such skin types.

  5. Non-Photosensitizing: Unlike retinol, which can make skin more sensitive to the sun, bakuchiol doesn't increase photosensitivity. This means that those with sensitive skin can use it without the heightened risk of sunburn or sun damage, though sunscreen is always recommended as part of a daily skincare routine.

Bakuchiol offers a gentler approach to anti-aging and skin health, making it a prized ingredient for those with sensitive skin. Always patch-test any new product to ensure it suits your skin type.

Where Can I Buy Bakuchiol?

  1. Skin Perfection's Bakuchiol Serum Booster
  2. INKEY List Bakuchiol Retinol Alternative Moisturizer
  3. REN Bio Retinoid Anti-Aging Cream
  4. Acure Radically Rejuvenating Dual-Phase Bakuchiol Serum
  5. Ole Henriksen Goodnight Glow Retin-ALT Sleeping Crème
  6. Biossance Squalane + Phyto-Retinol Serum
  7. Paula's Choice Clinical 0.3% Retinol + 2% Bakuchiol Treatment
  8. Kate Somerville Dermal Quench Liquid Lift + Retinol
  9. Advanced Resurfacing Treatment


Rekstis, Emily. "Bakuchiol, the Retinol Alternative That Helps Your Skin Bounce Ba." Healthline, Healthline Media, 8 Mar. 2019,

"Bakuchiol - Truth in Aging." Honest Reviews of Anti-Aging Skin Care and Beauty Products,

"Bakuchiol: A Retinol-like Functional Compound Revealed by Gene Expression Profiling and Clinically Proven to Have Anti-Aging Effects." International Journal of Cosmetic Science, U.S. National Library of Medicine,