bottles of oil to help demonstrate Bakuchiol-vs.-Retinol arugument

Bakuchiol vs. Retinol

Retinol has been the anti-aging superstar ingredient of the skincare industry for years, known for its ability to defend the skin from the signs of aging. Unfortunately, certain retinol products can have downsides including questionable sourcing and potentially losing effectiveness with long-term use.

That is where bakuchiol comes in, recently gaining attention for its just-as-effective skin-boosting benefits that are not only gentler but also more sustainable. So which one is better? Let us find out! 


Bakuchiol is a phytochemical extracted from the Psoralea corylifolia plant, which is native to India and often goes by the name “Babchi.”  Although it’s been used in both Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine for years, bakuchiol only recently gained popularity in the Western World (1). Early studies have shown that although bakuchiol has a different chemical structure than topical retinoids, it works on similar pathways in the body that affect skin health. With the ability to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, balance hyperpigmentation, and improve skin texture, bakuchiol is being touted as a natural alternative to retinol (2). On top of being plant-based and vegan friendly (some retinoids are sourced from animal bi-products), bakuchiol is also more gentle on sensitive skin. 


Bakuchiol’s benefits stem from its extensive antioxidant content, including terpenoid compounds that have been shown to affect the same genetic pathways influenced by retinoids. These pathways support skin texture, tone, and strength by influencing the rate of skin cell proliferation, regeneration, and collagen production. The British Journal of Dermatology outlined a randomized, clinical-control trial that tested the efficacy of topical bakuchiol and retinol creams in 44 participants over 12-weeks. Results of the study showed that daily application of bakuchiol had similar effects to retinol in its ability to reduce wrinkle surface area and skin hyperpigmentation with no statistically significant differences between the two. In addition, bakuchiol was found to have no adverse effects such as those associated with retinol use, including skin stinging and facial scaling (3). 

Compared to retinol, bakuchiol does not affect the rate of oil production, meaning that daily use is less likely to cause dryness and irritation. Bakuchiol also doesn’t increase skin photosensitivity but instead, may actually decrease its sensitivity to the sun’s rays. Its gentle nature makes it suitable for all skin types, and can even be used twice daily as part of your morning and evening skincare routine (4). 


Retinol is a vitamin A derivative and a member of the retinoid family, which includes prescription-strength Retin-A and Differin, as well as weaker over-the-counter retinoids like retinol and retinaldehyde. Unlike prescription-strength retinoids, retinol needs to be converted into retinaldehyde, making it the weakest of all retinoids but available to consumers in a variety of skincare products. 

Structurally speaking, they are different in their chemical composition as well as source. While bakuchiol is plant-based and vegan, harvested from the seeds and leaves of the babchi plant, retinol is often synthetic or derived from animal sources such as eggs. Functionally speaking, both bakuchiol and retinol work in similar ways to support healthy aging, skin texture, and skin tone. Some of the major benefits of both bakuchiol and retinol products include: 

BALANCE SKIN TONE: A 2019 study found that not only did a 0.5% bakuchiol cream perform just as well as a 0.5% retinol cream in increasing the rate of skin-cell turnover, diminishment of dark spots, and hyperpigmentation, but it also had virtually none of the side-effects associated with retinol products, including stinging, redness, and scaling (5). 

SLOW SIGNS OF AGING: A 2014 study found that bakuchiol is also just as effective as retinol at stimulating gene expression that influences the production of type I, II, and IV collagen in skin cells, which helps reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles while improving skin elasticity and firmness (6).

PREVENT PIMPLES:  Retinol is also commonly used for those with acne-prone skin, but since it can cause redness and irritation, may exacerbate it in some individuals. With its anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties, bakuchiol not only helps reduce the activity of the enzyme 5-alpha-reductase, which is responsible for increasing oil production that leads to clogged pores but has been shown to decrease the growth of the bacteria (Cutibacterium acnes) responsible for some cases of acne (7). 


There are currently no known studies that show negative side effects from the topical application of bakuchiol; participants in the aforementioned studies reporting virtually none of the redness, irritation, or increased photosensitivity that retinol application caused. In addition, unlike the pregnancy hazards related to retinol, which ranks high for concerns regarding its safety and toxicity, bakuchiol is maternity-safe and can be used by pregnant and breastfeeding women (8)! 


The decision to use either retinol or bakuchiol comes down to the individual’s wants and needs, including skin concerns, ingredient/sourcing opinions, and whether or not you are pregnant or breastfeeding. A major benefit of bakuchiol is that it is far less likely to cause unwanted side effects such as skin irritation and dryness. Unlike retinol, which can cause severe irritation and sensitivity when combined with other skincare ingredients such as alpha-hydroxy acid and vitamin C, bakuchiol is safe to mix and match! 

One downside of bakuchiol is that it doesn’t have as much research behind it as retinol, which has been studied and tested since 1984. Aside from that, bakuchiol is a great option for those who have not had much success with retinol, suffer from sensitive skin, are pregnant/breastfeeding, or those looking for an all-natural, vegan retinol alternative. 


The natural skin care industry has seen a recent surge of bakuchiol-based skincare products, including bakuchiol serums, creams, lotions, and balms. Despite bakuchiol being naturally sourced and vegan, some manufacturers may include additional ingredients that detract from its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, including phthalates, synthetic fragrances and ingredients, polyethylene glycol, and parabens. 

LuckyVitamin sells several high-quality bakuchiol products to suit your skincare needs. For those looking for a clean, gluten-free formula that was clinically tested for its ability to enhance skin’s youthful appearance, reduce fine lines and wrinkles, and improve skin texture over the span of just four weeks, we love Andalou Naturals (安达露) new line of bakuchiol products, which includes cream, eye balm, and serum. If you are looking to soothe and rejuvenate your skin, Acure’s new Dual-Phase Bakuchiol Serum combines the antioxidant-rich essences of eggplant, turmeric, and holy-basil with a bakuchiol-infused serum that delivers supreme anti-aging support.  


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