Bakuchiol – Vegan Retinol – What is all the hype about?
Over the years, retinol has been touted as the holy grail anti-aging treatment by almost every dermatologist and skin care expert…it is often recommended as the “must-have” active ingredient in your skin care routine. Every pharmaceutical and skincare company worth their while has a retinol-containing product in the range, and often multiple formulations. No wonder then, you might be forgiven for thinking you’re doing something wrong if you’re not using a retinol as a part of your bedtime skin care routine.
But there is not enough awareness about the correct and safe technique of using retinol. Thus, many people complain of side effects such as skin sensitivity, redness, peeling, and photosensitivity after they start using retinol products. And once these side effects do develop, they stop using the product, thus throwing their entire anti-aging routine for a toss.
This is where Bakuchiol comes in. Bakuchiol is a new, vegan product on the market and has been talked about a lot over the past few years.
If you could have a product that offered all the anti-aging benefits of retinol, without the irritant potential, wouldn’t you want to try it as well?
So, what is Bakuchiol?
Bakuchiol is a plant-based ingredient, which was first isolated in India in 1966, from the Indian Babchi plant (psoralea corylifolia). The scientific name is derived from the Sanskrit name of the plant, Bakuchi. This substance has been used in ancient Indian Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine since decades for a variety of conditions.
While this product was first developed for its potential anti-cancer benefits, it is now proven to work with topical application in skin cells. It mediates anti-aging effects by modulating gene expression in the skin cells. The mechanism of action is similar to that of retinol, although structurally both the molecules are quite different.
When can Bakuchiol be used?
Bakuchiol can be used to prevent aging in the skin. It also reduces acne, works on fine lines, and corrects pigmentation.
One of the biggest advantages of bakuchiol is that it is safe for use during pregnancy and lactation, while retinol remains a big no for women during these periods.
Additionally, bakuchiol can also be used during the daytime, and is not known to cause any adverse reactions when the skin is exposed to the sun after using bakuchiol.
Thus, for people suffering from sensitive skin, contact dermatitis, rosacea, and other such conditions, bakuchiol may well be the only anti-aging alternative available.
Possible side effects
Bakuchiol is a natural, plant-based derivative, and side effects have been found to be limited. Retinol very often causes dryness and scaling of the skin in majority of the users, which does not occur with bakuchiol.
However, it may lead to redness in rare instances, and it is always advisable to perform a patch test for 7 days on your skin, especially if you have sensitive skin, before you start using any new product.
What does the scientific community say?
While most scientists and dermatologists acknowledge that bakuchiol could be a wonderful retinol alternative, and the drug has a lot of potential, there is a lack of well-designed and long-term scientific data to study its effects in a measurable and reproducible manner. The few studies conducted until now have been very small scale, and poorly designed; thus, they do not count for much.
Until better trials can be conducted to study the effects of bakuchiol, your dermatologist may very well continue to prescribe retinol and retinoic acid derivatives, as these compounds are backed by a huge amount of scientific data.
Should you try bakuchiol?
Well, if you have dry, sensitive, or red skin, and are looking for an anti-aging product, you should definitely try bakuchiol (after patch testing). It is best to consult a dermatologist and formulate a skin care routine which would suit your skin type.
However, if you are already using a retinol or retinoic acid as part of your skin care regimen which works quite well for you, there is absolutely no need to change things up, because retinol is still the better proven anti-aging molecule of the two.
Additionally, it is always better to consult a dermatologist before trying any new skin care products, and to make sure you are using the right products for your skin type!
- Bituminaria bituminosa II. Shutterstock/Simone Morris https://www.shutterstock.com/g/SimoneMorris
- Bottle of Bakuchiol. Photo by Libby Saylor on Unsplash
1. Cosmetic commentary: Is bakuchiol the new “skincare hero”? – Spierings – 2020 – Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology – Wiley Online Library
2. Bakuchiol: a retinol‐like functional compound revealed by gene expression profiling and clinically proven to have anti‐aging effects – Chaudhuri – 2014 – International Journal of Cosmetic Science – Wiley Online Library
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Dr Aayushi Shah is a practising dermatologist from India, currently based in the UK. She has 5 publications has authored chapters covering a wide range of topics, including chronic urticaria, psoriasis, and skin moisturisers. She also works as a Medical Editor, and enjoys blogging in her free time.