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Should You Be Using Bakuchiol in Your Skin Care Routine?

This alternative to retinol may be easier on sensitive skin

close up of the bakuchiol plant

If you’re interested in skin care, you’ve likely heard of retinol and all its benefits, including anti-aging effects and helping clear up acne. But a new ingredient may be able to one-up this popular skin-clearing ingredient.

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Bakuchiol is a plant-based extract that’s been making its way into more people’s skin care routines. Its claim to fame? Bakuchiol has properties similar to retinol, without causing issues to sensitive skin.

Dermatologist Shilpi Khetarpal, MD, dives into what bakuchiol is, how it’s different from retinol and what else to know before giving it a try.

What is bakuchiol?

Bakuchiol extract comes from the Babchi plant, known for its purple blossoms and its use in Chinese and Indian medicine. The extract can be found in daily moisturizers, serums and creams.

“Bakuchiol is often used as a gentler alternative to retinol. It may help your skin look smoother and reduce the appearance of wrinkles,” explains Dr. Khetarpal. “Some folks like it because it’s considered milder on the skin than other ingredients.”

Bakuchiol vs. retinol

So, how does retinol bakuchiol measure up to retinol?

First, a quick recap. Retinol — a form of vitamin A — helps improve your skin’s elasticity and thickness. Over time, retinol can help your skin’s overall texture and appearance.

While it has many positive qualities, retinol can also cause side effects for people with sensitive skin. “It’s been known to cause dry, irritated skin, as well as itching or burning for some,” points out Dr. Khetarpal.

Bakuchiol functions like retinol to help:

  • Reduce signs of wrinkles and fine lines.
  • Improve skin laxity.
  • Diminish sun damage and dark spots.
  • Give your skin a fresh glow.
  • Prevent clogged pores.
  • Provide antioxidant properties.

In short, bakuchiol may be able to give you all the benefits of retinol without the irritating side effects. While bakuchiol measures up pretty well against over-the-counter retinol, further research is needed to see how it compares to prescription retinoids that tackle more serious skin issues.

Benefits of bakuchiol

Along with giving you most of the benefits of retinol, Bakuchiol offers several other benefits, including:

Gentler on skin

Compared to some other skin care ingredients like retinol, bakuchiol is considered gentler on the skin. This means it may be more suitable for people with skin sensitivities like rosacea or eczema.

A 2019 study shows that bakuchiol works as well as retinol when it comes to addressing signs of aging. The study also found the ingredient was less likely to cause adverse effects like itching, redness and irritation compared to retinol.

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Doesn’t increase sun sensitivity

Retinol also slows down the production of melanin, which may increase your risk of sun damage or sunburn. This is why it’s advised to not use retinol during the daytime.

Bakuchiol, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to thin the outer layer of your skin — one reason why retinol increases sun sensitivity. But you should still wear sunscreen whether you’re using bakuchiol or retinol.

May be safer for people who are pregnant

Another concern over retinol and retinoid products is how they can affect pregnant people. While the risk of topical retinoids causing birth defects is low, you should always talk to your healthcare provider before using it if you are pregnant, as there is a small risk of side effects.

As bakuchiol is a gentler alternative to retinol, it’s been suggested that it’s less of a risk factor for pregnancy. However, more research is needed on bakuchiol’s safety during pregnancy before this claim can be substantiated. It’s also best to talk to your healthcare provider before using bakuchiol if you are pregnant.

Are there any side effects of bakuchiol?

Bakuchiol is generally considered safe for most people and tends to have fewer known risks or side effects compared to retinol. But it’s also going to depend on your skin care routine and your personal experience with retinol-based products.

Before trying bakuchiol, there are a few things to consider:

  • Skin sensitivity: While bakuchiol is often well-tolerated, some individuals might still experience skin irritation or allergic reactions. Always consult a healthcare provider if you’re not sure about how an ingredient may interact with your skin.
  • Interactions: If you’re using other active skin care products or have specific skin conditions, it’s a good idea to consult with a dermatologist or healthcare provider.
  • Purity and quality: If you have sensitive skin or specific concerns, consulting a dermatologist before incorporating new skin care ingredients is, again, a good idea.

How to use bakuchiol

Bakuchiol can be worked into your daily skin care routine quite easily. Follow these simple steps when working bakuchiol into your routine:

  • Apply bakuchiol once or twice a day.
  • If using it twice a day, apply it once in the morning and once in the evening.
  • If you’re using a bakuchiol serum, use it before your nightly or morning moisturizer.
  • If you’re using a bakuchiol-based cream, apply it after any other serums.

Bakuchiol and vitamin C can be used together, and they may even complement each other’s benefits when used in a skin care routine. Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that can help brighten and even out your skin tone, as well as protect against environmental damage.

The bottom line

If you’ve got sensitive skin, bakuchiol may be a good alternative to retinol. It may help address signs of aging, like fine lines and wrinkles, as well as improve your skin’s tone and texture. While it’s considered to be a safe skin care product, be sure to talk to a healthcare provider if you’re worried about possible side effects.

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