Retinol has long ruled the skin care game when it comes to brightening and smoothing the complexion, but now bakuchiol is drawing comparisons to the vitamin A derivative. The best part? The natural, plant-based skin care ingredient doesn’t dry out or irritate the skin like retinol, so it’s safe to use for those with sensitive skin (and even encouraged by dermatologists).
What is bakuchiol?
“Bakuchiol is extracted from the leaves and seeds of the babchi plant (psoralea corylifolia) which grows on the Indian subcontinent and has been historically used in Chinese and Ayurvedic healing treatments,” explains Dr. Robert Schwarcz, an oculofacial plastic surgeon and founder of skin care brand Orvos Skin Science. He notes that its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties are calming and restorative for the skin.
Since it is sourced from the babchi plant, it is often labeled as a vegan or natural alternative to retinol. But according to experts, it’s not accurate to call it a vegan or natural retinol — read on to discover why.
Bakuchiol vs retinol
Dr. Shereen Idriss, founder of Idriss Dermatology in New York City and creator of the #pillowtalkderm series on Instagram, explains that bakuchiol “behaves on the skin in a similar way to retinol, which is very well established and a skin care superstar, but chemically, they are not similar at all, so it is not correct to say that bakuchiol is the ‘natural retinol.”
Into the nitty-gritty of the chemistry, Idriss explains that retinol and bakuchiol similarly boost collagen production and down regulate MNPS, “which is basically a matrix of metalloproteinase and the enzyme that attacks collagen in our skin.” In other words, they both modify the way the skin produces collagen, which results in plumper, brighter skin and reduced fine lines and wrinkles.
Like retinol, you’ll find bakuchiol in a wide range of skin care products, from moisturizers to eye creams to face oils and more.
Starting your bakuchiol skin care routine
Bakuchiol can be used on its own, or for those who can tolerate retinol, it can be paired with the anti-aging ingredient — and the experts say it’s even a good idea to do so. “Bakuchiol can help stabilize retinol, which can be very unstable and hard to formulate,” Idriss says.
“Using bakuchiol and retinol at the same time can help you achieve a healthier, fresher-looking complexion,” says Amy Peterson, medical aesthetician and founder of Miami medspa Skincare by Amy Peterson. “Using the two in conjunction helps with the prevention of wrinkles, and stimulates collagen production.”
If you use retinol and bakuchiol in your routine, Peterson suggests using a bakuchiol product during the day, since it won’t sensitize your skin to the sun, and a retinol product at night. And if you alternate days when you use retinol products, you can use bakuchiol on the days you don’t apply retinol to continue receiving the collagen-boosting benefits.
As with most products, consistency is key, and Peterson says you’ll start seeing the visible results of using bakuchiol after six to 12 weeks of regularly using bakuchiol skin care.
From targeted eye creams to everyday moisturizers, find 14 bakuchiol products worth trying below.
Best bakuchiol skin care products
OleHenriksen Glow Cycle Retin-ALT Power Serum
$60 at Sephora
This AHA and bakuchiol powered day serum from OleHenriksen is one of Idriss’ picks. The gentle glycolic and lactic acids refine the skin, while the bakuchiol reduces fine lines, wrinkles and other signs of aging. Due to the AHAs, you’ll want to be sure to wear SPF during the day.
Orvos Skin Care Satin Eye Gel Cream
$110 at Orvos Skin Care
For a targeted treatment, Schwarcz recommends this eye cream from his own line, which treats dark circles and fine lines and features a cooling massage applicator. Along with natural extracts from green tea, coffee arabica seed and kakadu plum, bakuchiol is a main ingredient. “Bakuchiol targets dullness and uneven texture, while green tea extra helps calm irritation, soothe redness and de-puff with natural caffeine,” Schwarcz says.
Pangea Organics Super Antioxidant Glow Oil
$58 at Pangea Organics
This plant-powered face oil features six active antioxidants and oils — including bakuchiol, sqaulane and rosehip oil — to lock in hydration and soothe the skin.
Graydon Phyto Clear
$46 at Credo
This lightweight gel cream moisturizer doubles up on plant-based retinol alternatives, mixing bakuchiol with moth bean extract, which similarly targets fine lines and wrinkles by boosting collagen and cell renewal.
Indeed Labs Bakuchiol Reface Pads
$19.99 at Amazon
A favorite of Idriss, these pads make it easy to incorporate bakuchiol into your skin care routine. Simply swipe one over your face after cleansing and carry on with your normal regimen.
Paula’s Choice 0.3% Retinol + 2% Bakuchiol Treatment
$56 $44.80 at Paula’s Choice
For those that can tolerate retinol, the anti-aging ingredient is paired with bakuchiol in this lotion to increase collagen and decrease the look of wrinkles.
Mukti Organics Age Defiance Day Serum
$100 at Heyday
Antioxidants and peptides plump the skin while bakuchiol works its anti-aging powers for smoother, more supple skin. It is suggested to use this bakuchiol serum during the day, and a retinol treatment at night to maximize results.
Live Tinted Superhue
$34 at Ulta
Containing 5% niacinamide for evening out skin tone, 1% bakuchiol to boost firmness and 1% THD vitamin C to treat dark spots, this balm-to-serum stick can help improve hyperpigmentation.
Furtuna Skin Nightly Renewal Cream
$285 at Furtuna Skin
Formulated to work best while you sleep, which is the time when your skin’s cell turnover is most active, this night cream combines bakuchiol with ashwagandha and ceramides to help the skin repair and rebalance.
BYBI Beauty 1% Bakuchiol + Olive Squalane Oil Booster
$10 at Credo
An affordable option, this booster serum can be mixed with moisturizer or other skin care to add bakuchiol’s skin refining benefits.
Beautycounter Countertime Tripeptide Radiance Serum
$87 at Beautycounter
With over 3,000 5-star reviews, this serum is a cocktail of skin-saving ingredients like glycerin, tripeptide, squalane and amino acids. For an added boost, bakuchiol is joined with Swiss Alpine rose, which aids in defending the skin against free radicals.
Carter + Jane The Everything Oil Sleep Repair Mask
$98 at Carter + Jane
This oil-based sleep repair mask features bakuchiol, organic Moroccan prickly pear seed oil, Turkish pomegranate seed oil and Bulgarian lavender oil to nourish and plump the skin.
Herbivore Moon Fruit 1% Bakuchiol + Peptides Retinol Alternative Serum
$60 at Sephora
Bakuchiol and peptides plump the skin and improve the look of wrinkles without the irritation of retinol in this plant-based serum.
Avène RetrinAL Advanced Correcting Serum
$78 at Avène
Hyaluronic acid and niacinamide help plump and brighten the skin alongside bakuchiol’s anti-aging properties in this daily serum.