bakuchiol vs retinol

If you can’t use retinoids, are you doomed to wrinkles forever?

Retinoids (think retinol, Tretinoin, & co) are the darlings of the anti-aging skincare world. They smooth out wrinkles, fade away dark spots, and even boost collagen…

…But, there’s a price to pay. They’re drying, irritating, and a total no-no during pregnancy (they cause birth defects in animals).

Enter Bakuchiol. Dubbed “the natural alternative to retinol”, it promises to do everything retinol does – without the nasty side effects.

Is Bakuchiol really better than retinol or is it just marketing hype? Let’s find out:

Bakuchiol VS Retinoids: What Are They?

Retinoids is a catch-all terms for all forms of Vitamin A. The most famous members include:

  • Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate (Granactive Retinoid)
  • Retinaldehyde
  • Retinol
  • Retinyl Palmitate
  • Tretinoin (prescription-only)

Bakuchiol, on the other hand, comes from the leaves and seeds of babchi (Psoralea corylifoliaplant, native to India. It’s been used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine and it’s now making its debut in skincare products, too.

Related: What Form Of Retinoid Is Right For You?


Struggling to put together an anti-aging skincare routine that fights wrinkles and gives your skin a youthful glow? Download your FREE “Best Anti-Aging Skincare Routine” cheat sheet below to get started (it includes product recommendations + right order application):


Is Bakuchiol As Effective As Retinol At Slowing Down Premature Aging?

A 2018 study published in the British Journal Of Dermatology shows that Bakuchiol has some powerful anti-aging properties.

Researchers asked 44 people to apply either a 0.5% Bakuchiol cream twice a day or a 5% retinol cream once a day on their faces for 12 weeks. They then used a mix of computer analysis and dermatologist’s grading to measure the results.

Both Bakuchiol and retinol reduced wrinkle surface area and hyperpigmentation. Impressive, isn’t it?

Until you realise retinol does all this when used ONCE a day, while Bakuchiol requires TWO applications a day. Not quite the powerful natural alternative it’s made out to be, is it?

Still, if there are no side effects, a double application is worth it, right?

People who used retinol DID experience more peeling and stinging. But Bakuchiol wasn’t entirely without side effects. It caused more redness than retinol.

Related: Retinol Side Effects And How To Deal With Them

Do Bakuchiol And Retinol Work In The Same Way?

Bakuchiol and retinol give you similar results. Does that mean they work the same? Yes and no.

Both Bakuchiol and retinol produce similar gene expression in the skin that can improve photodamage and boost collagen production.

But, there are differences, too:

  • Bakuchiol doesn’t act via retinoic acid receptors (those retinoids use).
  • Bakuchiol is better than retinol at slowing down the activity of two matrix metalloprotease enzymes (MMP-1 and MMP-12) that break down collagen and elastin (the proteins that keep skin firm and elastic).

What does all this sciencey jargon mean? Bakuchiol and retinol gives you similar results using different methods. Which one is better? We don’t know yet.

Related: 8 Proven Ways To Make The Most Of Retinol (Even If You Have Sensitive Skin)

the inkey list retinol

Is Bakuchiol Better Than Retinol?

Bakuchiol gives you similar results as retinol, but you CAN’T compare the two.

For starters, retinol must be converted into Retinoic Acid (Tretinoin) for it to work its magic. That’s what really reduces those pesky wrinkles and fades away dark spots.

There’s a ton of research, over more than two decades, that proves Retinoic Acid works. But we have very little proof that Bakuchiol is an anti-aging powerhouse.

No matter how impressive, one study is still one study. I need way more than that to convince me to make the switch.

Plus, the fact that marketers are comparing Bakuchiol to the weaker retinol rather than the all-powerful Retinoic Acid – and even then it takes a double dose to achieve the same results – makes me think Bakuchiol isn’t as powerful as they’re making it out to be.

If we had several studies showing Bakuchiol works as well – if not better! – than Tretnoin, then I’d be impressed enough to switch. Just saying.

Related: The Beginner’s Guide To Tretinoin: How To Get Started And Avoid Peelings And Irritation

boots ingredients bakuchiol review

Should You Switch From Retinol To Bakuchiol?

If your skin can take retinol (or another retinoid), stick to that. You should switch to Bakuchiol only if:

  • You’re pregnant/breastfeeding: Unlike retinoids, Bakuchiol is safe both for mom and baby during these precious months.
  • You have sensitive skin that can’t tolerate retinoids at all: Bakuchiol may not be as powerful as retinoids, but it can still help you fight premature aging without trigging a flare-up.

Related: What Skincare Ingredients Should You Avoid During Pregnancy?

What Are The Best Skincare Products With Bakuchiol?

The Bottom Line

Bakuchiol is a promising ingredient, but it’s not the miracle alternative to retinol it’s touted to be. Unless you’re pregnant or have super sensitive skin, stick to the tried and tested retinol for now.