Bakuchiol: The New Natural Retinol Your Skin Needs

Bakuchiol (pronounced buh-koo-chee-all) is an anti-ageing active that is making waves in the skincare world and is showing very promising results in skin care science. Bakuchiol has been described by beauty publications as “retinol’s gentle sister”, a natural, less-irritating, and vegan alternative to retinol that works equally strong magic.

The word ‘anti-ageing’ is one of the biggest and most loaded skincare terms in our world today. In a society that places so much value on a youthful appearance, claims surrounding anti-ageing ingredients in skincare are all around us. Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, the natural ageing process that we all experience cannot be prevented or reversed. At some point, we will all become aware of changes to our skin that are associated with the ageing process such as fine lines, wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, thinning, loss of tone, textural irregularities , and uneven pigmentation. The rate of these changes will depend on many factors such as genetics, environment, skincare habits, diet, occupation, lifestyle factors, medical conditions, etc. The choice over whether to address any skin-related ageing changes is entirely up to you, and by no means necessary, however incorporating proven active anti-ageing ingredients in your skin care regime can help to slow down premature ageing and keep your skin looking and feeling its healthy best.

ageing skin

 

What is Bakuchiol?

Bakuchiol is a natural extract from the seeds of the Babchi plant (Psoralea corylifolia). The Babchi plant is native to India and Sri Lanka, and is highly valued for its medicinal properties. It has been used in Indian and Chinese traditional medicine to treat a variety of diseases, with positive effects on eczema, rosacea, acne, and other skin conditions. Bakuchiol is a potent antioxidant that has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties that can help to calm and heal skin. It can visibly reduce skin discolourations from environmental exposure, and has a pronounced soothing effect on skin. Bakuchiol has also been shown to significantly reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, which is why you’re seeing it more and more in skincare products.

Babchi plant (Psoralea corylifolia)

 

How does Bakuchiol benefit skin?

Bakuchiol works in a similar way to retinol, by triggering the pathways that increase skin cell turnover, making way for the production of new skin cells underneath. This process slows the breakdown of collagen, and stimulates its production, helping to thicken the deeper layer of skin where wrinkles start. This works to reduce fine lines, improve skin texture, increase skin firmness, regulate oil production, and reduce pore size, resulting in a smoother, healthier looking complexion. 

Bakuchiol vs Retinol

BakuchiolRetinol
Natural - derived from plantsSynthetic - made in a lab
Visibly reduces fine lines and wrinklesVisibly reduces fine lines and wrinkles
Improves skin tone and elasticityImproves skin tone and elasticity
Reduces effects of sun damageReduces effects of sun damage
Suitable for sensitive skinIrritating to sensitive skin
Can be used morning and nightUse only at night - causes sun sensitivity
Suitable for acne-prone skinNot suitable for acne-prone skin
Suitable for vegans - plant-derivedMay not be suitable for vegans
Safe to use with other skincare activesNot safe to use with other skincare actives

Retinol

Retinol (Vitamin A) has been a favourite anti-ageing active in the beauty industry for years and to many people its popularity is justified. However, it is also well-known to cause severe irritation to the skin of many. Redness, stinging and flaky skin are a few of the side effects in those that are sensitive to retinol. Retinol also increases the sensitivity of your skin to the sun which is dangerous in countries with high rates of skin cancer like New Zealand and Australia. Retinol also comes with a warning to pregnant and breastfeeding women, which is concerning. Even people without sensitive skin often react to retinol when first used. Remember, if you are looking for natural skincare, retinol is NOT a natural ingredient. It is often produced from animal products, and it may be tested on animals. If cruelty-free skincare (i.e. skincare that is not tested on animals) is important to you then make sure you know where the retinol in your product comes from.

Bakuchiol

Despite its use in traditional medicine, bakuchiol is a relatively new ingredient in modern skincare. Research has shown positive results so far and bakuchiol is now becoming widely accepted as being a good natural alternative to retinol in skincare products. Here are some good reasons why you should consider including bakuchiol in your skincare routine:

1) SUITABLE FOR SENSITIVE SKIN

Bakuchiol, unlike retinol, has been shown to be suitable for sensitive skin and is generally well tolerated. A study published in the Journal of Drugs on Dermatology in 2020, examined the tolerability, efficacy, and protective effects of a natural skincare product containing bakuchiol. Sixty women between 40 – 65 years of age with sensitive skin and mild to moderate photo-damaged skin were monitored for four weeks using the skincare product twice daily. The results concluded that the bakuchiol skincare product was well tolerated and effective with significant improvements in visual and tactile smoothness, clarity, radiance, overall appearance, and anti-aging. There was also a significant improvement in skin moisture content.

2) SUITABLE FOR ACNE-PRONE SKIN

Bakuchiol has excellent antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, making it an effective option for eliminating acne-causing bacteria and reducing swelling in acne-prone skin. Bakuchiol also helps to regulate the skins natural oil production, which in turn helps to settle acne.

3) SUITABLE FOR USE DAY AND NIGHT

Unlike retinol which causes sun sensitivity and can only be applied at night, bakuchiol has no such effect and can be applied as part of your morning and evening skincare routine. As with any skincare routine, a sunscreen with suitable SPF should be applied as the last step of your morning skincare routine.

4) SUITABLE FOR VEGANS

Bakuchiol is a natural plant-derived ingredient, devoid of animal products, making it suitable for everyone, including vegans.

5) CAN BE USED ALONGSIDE OTHER ACTIVE INGREDIENTS

Due to bakuchiol’s natural composition, it is considered safe to use with other active ingredients and products in your skincare routine. This is in stark contrast to retinol which can cause skin irritation when used in conjunction with specific skincare actives.

* Pregnancy

Although bakuchiol has been claimed by many brands to be safe for use during pregnancy, there is no strong evidence to back this up as most cosmetics are not actually tested on pregnant women for ethical reasons. Bakuchiol is still a relatively new product and although it has the potential to be safe during pregnancy and breastfeeding, until research studies can prove its safety it is probably best to check with your doctor before using, or avoid.

What does the research on Bakuchiol show us?

A study published in the International Journal of Cosmetic Science in 2014 compared the activity of bakuchiol on a group of women, aged 40 to 65 years. The women applied a bakuchiol skincare product twice daily and were monitored for twelve weeks to assess the presence of fine lines and wrinkles, roughness, dryness, skin tone, elasticity, and firmness of their skin. The results concluded that there was a significant decrease in wrinkle depth by 20%, a significant improvement in pigmentation, elasticity, and firmness, and an overall reduction in photo-damage. All these improvements were without the unfavorable reactions usually seen with the use of retinol.

Another study published in The British Journal of Dermatology in 2019, showed that bakuchiol is just as effective as retinol at targeting fine lines, wrinkles, and uneven skin tone, however it is also less irritating to skin. In a randomized, double-blind study 44 patients were asked to apply either bakuchiol 0·5% cream twice daily or retinol 0·5% cream daily. After 12 weeks, it was shown that bakuchiol was just as effective as retinol in significantly decreasing wrinkle surface area and hyperpigmentation, with no statistical difference between the compounds. The retinol users however, reported more facial skin scaling and stinging. The study demonstrated that bakuchiol is comparable with retinol in its ability to improve photoageing and is better tolerated than retinol.

How and when should I use Bakuchiol?

Bakuchiol can be applied topically as a serum or a moisturiser. Apply once or twice a day, depending on your skins hydration needs, followed by a suitable SPF sunscreen in the morning. Studies have shown concentrations of bakuchiol between 0.5-2% to be most effective, with 1% being optimal for maximising skin benefits. While bakuchiol is generally non-irritating, it is possible for anyone to react to any ingredient, so it is advised to perform a patch test before use.

To conclude…

In conclusion, bakuchiol has more than proven its worth as an effective anti-ageing ingredient in skincare. It allows those who prefer to use natural skincare to enjoy the dermatological benefits of a proven anti-ageing ingredient that is suitable for even the most sensitive of skin types. With all the benefits of retinol, but without the nasty side effects, this natural wonder is the ingredient of choice for those who value healthy, youthful looking skin.

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