Retinol A Little Too Rough For Your Skin? Try Bakuchiol Instead

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I’ve been slathering my skin with retinol creams and potions for as long as I can remember. 

It’s been hailed as THE skin cream, lauded by both dermatology and beauty experts as a helpful healer for acne and for its anti-aging facial skin benefits. 

But what if your skin is sensitive to retinol?

Say hello to bakuchiol, your new beauty buddy.


What Is Bakuchiol?

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“Bakuchiol is a type of antioxidant compound called a meroterpene phenol, and it’s most abundantly found in the seeds and leaves of the babchi plant (Psoralea corylifolia), which is native to India and has a long history of use in the area,” according to

The National Library of Medicine defines it as “a retinol-like functional compound revealed by gene expression profiling and clinically proven to have anti-aging effects.”

In layman’s terms, it works like retinol, but isn’t as harsh to sensitive skin. 

If retinol-containing products irritate your skin, causing redness, peeling or itching, bakuchiol is a natural alternative that has all the benefits but none of the bothersome side effects.

Does It Really Work?

In one 12-week, double-blind study published in the British Journal of Dermatology, half of the participants were assigned to use a topical treatment containing 0.5 percent retinol, and the other half were assigned to use one containing 0.5 percent bakuchiol. 

“Researchers found that both groups experienced significant but equal improvements in lines, wrinkles, pigmentation, elasticity, and skin firmness with an overall reduction in photo-aging. 

“The bakuchiol group, however, experienced less dryness, scaling, and irritation.”

A win-win, although more studies need to be done, as research shows Bakuchiol is not quite as effective as its predecessor. 

But the results look promising.

How It Works

“Although it has no structural resemblance to retinoids, bakuchiol has been shown to function similarly to traditional retinols by targeting similar cellular pathways — activating signals that play a role in the skin’s ability to combat oxidative stress, fight free radicals, and reduce dark spots,” says holistic dermatologist Keira Barr, M.D.

 “This results in skin with smoother texture, less hyperpigmentation, improved elasticity, and fewer wrinkles.”

Who Should Use Bakuchiol

Barr says that “anyone looking to even out skin tone or texture, minimize fine lines and wrinkles, and boost their glow factor should feel free to give bakuchiol a try — and, it’s safe to use while pregnant or breastfeeding, unlike retinol.

“Bakuchiol is well-tolerated without the irritation of retinols, so it’s suitable for all skin types, but may be especially helpful in those with sensitive skin,” she added. 

“And, because bakuchiol provides anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, it may be beneficial for those with oily or acne-prone skin as well.”

If you’re looking for products with this gentle alternative, these are a few highly-rated picks:


Board-certified dermatologist and mindbodygreen Collective member Whitney Bowe, M.D., shared what she thought in a recent TikTok comparing the two.

In the video, she poses the question, “between bakuchiol and retinol, what is better for hyperpigmentation and wrinkles?”

“There is one study — and it’s a good study — that shows if you use bakuchiol once a day and use retinol once a day for three months, you can actually see comparable results between the two groups,” says Bowe. “But that’s only one study.”

Choosing Which One Is Right For You

Ultimately, you have nothing to lose by trying a kinder, gentler, not to mention more natural product like bakuchiol for your skin. 

Unless you’re looking to lose unwanted side effects of using a harsher version, that is.


Does retinol irritate your skin? Have you tried bakuchiol yet, and, if not, will you add it to your beauty regimen? Tell us in the comments!

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