Over the last year bakuchiol has been a rising star in the skincare world, but what is it? Perhaps more importantly, is it going to replace retinol in skincare fridges around the world?
How do you pronounce bakuchiol?
I don’t often start my skincare blogs with questions on pronunciation, but I feel like it is warranted this time — it is pronounced ‘bah-coochy-ol’.
Where does it come from?
Bakuchiol is a compound found naturally in the seeds and leaves of the Indian plant Psoralea corylifolia. It is derived from bakuchi seed oil, which has been used in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine throughout history, but is fairly new to the western skincare scene.
Is it ethical to purchase bakuchiol?
In short, it seems as if the answer is no. This is because the plant it comes from, Psoralea corylifolia, is endangered and the ever-growing popularity in skincare — resulting in more and more products containing it — is a threat to its survival.
The problem with this is not only the preservation of the environment but also taking it away from the communities who have used it for centuries in plant-based medicines. More than 80% of the world population in less developed countries depends on traditional plant-based medicines for their primary healthcare needs, and bakuchiol is one such plant.
What is bakuchiol?
It is a natural, vegan skincare ingredient being touted as the “natural alternative to retinol” — and it has even more skincare benefits. Applying just 0.5% over six weeks can lead to improved wrinkle depth, fine lines, pigmentation, elasticity and firmness of the skin. The same study also found it to be more effective at preventing and treating spots than 25 salicylic acid.
One of the reasons people are so excited about bakuchiol is that, unlike retinol, it doesn’t cause irritation and sensitivity. In fact it is known to be a soothing ingredient, as well as being anti-inflammatory and antioxidant.
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Is bakuchiol as effective as retinol?
This is a complicated question to answer. So, let’s go slowy:
Studies have found the two to be equally as effective — especially for wrinkles, collagen production and treating pigmentation. However, in these studies, bakuchiol is applied twice a day and retinol just once a day. This suggests retinol is more effective as it is needed less frequently for the same result. HOWEVER, many people don’t use retinol everyday due to sensitivity, so may not be able to get the full benefits. Do you see why it is so complicated?
One thing that is really exciting, is that people of colour can find retinol causes inflammation and PIH (post-inflammatory pigmentation). So for those who experience this, bakuchiol is undoubtedly a good replacement.
Can you use bakuchiol and retinol together?
Yes! So this might be the solution to deciding what to use – use both! When paired together, it can stablise retinol and make it effective for longer. In fact, because it is calming it might enable your skin to tolerate higher levels or retinol so create a much more advanced effect.
This also means you could use bakuchiol in the morning and retinol at night.
Can you use it when pregnant?
So far, research suggests you can. Which is great for skincare junkies who will be missing retinol, which is not advisable to use when pregnant.
However research is fairly recent and nowhere near as extensive as retinol, so there are some sources who won’t commit to a definite yes. I’d recommend doing more research and maybe consulting a doctor.
What skin type is it good for?
All of them! It isn’t likely to irritate or cause photosensitivity, so it’s great for all skin types. I would still always recommend using a broad-spectrum SPF — skin always needs protection, regardless of what products we’re using. In fact not using SPF will speed up ageing which is the opposite of what you want if you’re using bakuchiol.
Can you use bakuchiol with acids?
Yes. It can be used alongside AHA, BHA and PHA, as well as ascorbic acid (aka vitamin C). The only thing I would be wary of is using it alongside acidic or enzyme peels, as this could overstimulate the skin. Generally you should only use gentle ingredients after such treatments.
When should you start using it in your skincare routine?
There’s no set rule on this. If you’re after anti-ageing skincare, but you’re under 25, I find it is usually a waste of money. For most people, your skin is still turning over at good speed and producing lots of collagen and elastin, so leave it to it!
However, it is also great for spots and acne as well so if that is a concern then go for it.