Let’s talk about Bakuchiol. It's a phytochemical obtained from the seeds of the Psoralea Corylifolia plant, a.k.a. the Babchi plant, and it happens to function in much the same way as retinol. It's natural, safe, gentle, and most importantly effective, making it an Essentialist star ingredient. Being vegan, it has the added bonus of being cruelty free which retinol often is not, as it’s mainly derived from animal sources.
For all their differences in origin and structure, it’s surprising that the activities of bakuchiol mimic those of retinol; increasing cell turnover, stimulating collagen production, diminishing skin laxity, photo-damage, and visible signs of aging. Long used in Ayurvedic medicine it also boasts antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial properties which are all key for healthy skin. It’s no secret that retinol is revered as an anti-aging hero, but there is real downside for those with sensitive skin. Flaking, redness, scaling, photosensitivity, and general irritation are all problematic side effects and it makes sense that a gentler alternative is being sought.
The British Association of Dermatologists conducted a study and found that “bakuchiol and retinol both significantly decreased wrinkle surface area and hyperpigmentation, with no statistical difference between the compounds." It's important to note that "the retinol users reported more facial skin scaling and stinging.” They concluded that bakuchiol is not only better tolerated than retinol but, it's also comparable in its ability to improve the effects of photo-aging. If bakuchiol can deliver the same results, without the sensitivities and side-effects that most people experience with retinoid use, then we see only upside.
Another study of bakuchiol concluded that “after 12 weeks treatment, significant improvement in lines and wrinkles, pigmentation, elasticity, firmness and overall reduction in photo-damage was observed, without usual retinol therapy-associated undesirable effects.” In technical science speak “retinol-like functionality was further confirmed for the upregulation of types I and IV collagen in DNA microarray study and also show stimulation of type III collagen in the mature fibroblast model.” Bakuchiol functions at the cellular level and can affect real structural change. If that doesn't silence the critics then nothing will!
We know there hasn't been an overwhelming number of studies on bakuchiol to date, however, the research conducted so far is more than promising. Based on what we know, all signs point to bakuchiol as the new anti-aging hero. It's in our Daily Renewal Facial Oil instead of a retinoid because we're keenly aware that harsher ingredients are not always better. That being said, if you're loyal to retinol you may still incorporate bakuchiol into your routine, the two ingredients can be used together. So take this as good news if you’ve had issues with retinol, are looking for a cleaner, safer alternative, or just want to step up your anti-aging game, bakuchiol delivers results.
Photo from thecuriouscoconut.com.