Even for those familiar with the beauty world, the battle of bakuchiol vs. retinol is a title that probably hasn’t hit your feeds yet. As a beauty writer, I like to think of myself as someone who has my finger on the pulse of the beauty world. I wasn’t surprised when Kim Kardashian’s new skincare line turned out to be a nine-step routine, nor was I shocked that it was formulated with help from revered esthetician Joanna Czech. Not even Hailey Bieber’s glazed donut obsession could shake me.
But I honestly didn’t know on a recent call with Dr. Elyse Love when a subject came: bakuchiol versus retinol. Now well into my thirties, I’m an expert in the rejuvenating art of retinoids, but what about bakuchiol? (A fun little word that’s pronounced buh-koo-chee-ol.)
Featured Image by michelle nash.
To learn all about bakuchiol versus retinol, I reached out to one of my favorite sources, board-certified dermatologist Dr. Elizabeth Geddes-Bruce. Ahead, we answer all your burning questions about bakuchiol and offer some top products to get you started.
First of all, what is bakuchiol?
The herbal skincare ingredient is a powerful antioxidant it has been proven to improve skin tone, minimize the appearance of fine lines, and increase skin firmness – the three things that happen to be retinol’s most popular anti-aging effects.
In recent years, bakuchiol has steadily grown in popularity as a herbal alternative to retinol, appearing in a variety of established skincare lines.
Why is bakuchiol gaining popularity now?
Although the soothing ingredient has its roots in traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine, it didn’t start to gain widespread popularity until a 2018 study focused on bakuchiol versus retinol. Conclusion: The efficacy of bakuchiol against photoaging was comparable to that of retinol.
“The study showed that bakuchiol triggered the same genes as retinol when applied to a skin model,” says Dr. Geddes-Bruce. “This then led to studies in humans comparing bakuchiol to retinol and finding similar improvements in wrinkles and dark spots. These studies, along with claims of easier tolerance – retinols can be really irritating and difficult to use consistently – have led to the recent growth in popularity of bakuchiol.
Should I switch from retinol to bakuchiol?
Although they are both powerful antioxidants, there is one major distinction between bakuchiol and retinol: it is calming. While retinol has earned a reputation for being a bit harsh (inspired by the common phrase “If you peel, it works!”), the soothing properties of bakuchiol make it much more palatable for sensitive skin. Additionally, while doctors warn against using retinol before sun exposure, evidence has shown that bakuchiol can make the skin less sensitive to sunlight.
As for whether you should completely switch to bakuchiol, it might be a bit too early to tell for most skin types.
“There isn’t enough data yet to make that claim, although what’s out there so far is promising,” says Dr. Geddes-Bruce. “I would only recommend making the switch if you’ve had trouble incorporating a retinol into your regular regimen, which is often the case for people with sensitive skin. Otherwise, retinols (and retinoids like tretinoin) are still the gold standard. “
It should be noted that another benefit of the bakuchiol boom is learning how well it works with retinol. Together, the hardworking duo can be tolerated by more sensitive skin types than when retinol is used alone.
How to incorporate bakuchiol products into your skincare routine?
According to Dr. Geddes-Bruce, most studies suggest that it is best to apply skincare containing bakuchiol to the face twice a day for a period of at least twelve weeks.
“How it fits into your personal regimen depends on how it’s formulated,” she adds. “So if you have a number of hot topics, it’s best to consult an expert for advice.”
7 Soothing (Yet Effective!) Bakuchiol Skin Care Products
Ready to dive into the soothing, collagen-triggering world of bakuchiol? The following creams and serums (whether the ingredient works as an alternative or companion to retinol) are a great way to start.