But they’re not without their fair share of side effects.
“While retinoids are often hailed as the gold standard of anti-aging topical therapy, they can very often cause irritation ― dryness, redness, peeling, and sun-sensitivity,” said Dr. Julie Karen, a board-certified dermatologist Complete Skin MD in New York City and fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology. These symptoms can be even more prevalent for individuals who have sensitive skin or conditions like eczema or rosacea.
This is where bakuchiol, a new, less irritating plant-based alternative can be of use.
“Bakuchiol is a natural alternative to retinoids that is derived from a seed. [It] has anti-aging benefits that mimic those of retinoids, butlacks the potentially irritating effects,” Karen said.
She explained that, like retinoids, bakuchiol can promote cell turnover, which prompts improvements in skin’s smoothness, texture and tone, plus the appearance of fine lines.
Dr. Paul M. Friedman, a board-certified dermatologist and director of Dermatology & Laser Surgery Center in Houston, said that in addition to Bakuchiol’s retinol-like functionality, it also has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-acne and antibacterial properties.
He explained that another difference between bakuchiol and retinoids is how they can be used. Retinoids must be introduced slowly with a gradual increase in application in order to allow skin to acclimate, build tolerance and prevent irritation. They also cannot be applied at least a week before laser treatments or prior to sun exposure due to their tendency to increase burning. Bakuchiol, on the other hand, is photostable, meaning it can be used any time of the day without sensitizing the skin to sun. It’s also safe to use during pregnancy or breastfeeding.
“It also does not require dose escalation and is more effective at inhibiting matrix metalloprotease compared to retinol, which is the enzyme that attacks collagen in our skin,” Friedman said.
Dr. Loretta Ciraldo, a Miami-based board-certified dermatologist and founder of Loretta Skincare, pointed out that because bakuchiol is a newer ingredient, there isn’t as much research supporting its efficacy in comparison to retinoids like retinol and tretinoin.
“Retinol has been put through a 12-week study that showed it causes increase in collagen production, and a clinical trial showing lessening of lines and wrinkles. The only way to prove the claim that Bakuchiol is as effective or gentler than retinol would be with a double blind or half-face study showing that it gives similar results to retinol,” said said. “However, to date there is just one study.”
If you experience excessive burning, flaking and redness with retinoids or just want to try something new, read on to the list below to see what bakuchiol products these dermatologists recommended, plus a few we found on our own.
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A tri-action lightweight cream that’s good for loss of firmness
Unlike most of the contenders on this list, the Paula’s Choice Clinical Retinol and Bakuchiol Serum does still contain 0.3% retinol. However, according to Ciraldo, because it uses the addition of 3% bakuchiol to boost the retinol’s efficacy, it can also mitigate the symptoms of irritation that can occur when retinol is used on its own. “It can be a good way to introduce both ingredients to the skin,” she said.
This fast-absorbing serum has a lotion-like texture and is also formulated with peptides that support collagen production to improve the look of firmness while delivering multi-level support and nourishment to the skin.
An omega-filled bakuchiol moisturizer at a great price point
Ciraldo suggested the Inkey List’s bakuchiol moisturizer because it’s less than $15, it performs well and it can be a good way to try this ingredient to see how well your skin benefits from and tolerates it.
This lightweight cream has been formulated with 1% Bakuchiol to target the appearance of fine lines and loss of elasticity, as well as hydrating squalane and nourishing Sacha Inchi oil, which is a plant-derived oil rich in omega-3. This can be used morning or night after water-based or lightweight serums, but before heavy creams.
A luxury intensive night treatment with a time-release formula
“My favorite product that contains Bakuchiol is Revision DEJ Night. This product pairs Bakuchiol with a microencapsulated retinol to create a delayed release which minimizes irritation. I have found this product to be efficacious and well tolerated by patients with various skin types and skin conditions when applied with proper dose escalation,” Friedman told HuffPost.
In addition to bakuchiol, the Revision DEJ Night contains two skin-plumping peptides, a blend of 13 different antioxidants to help defend the skin against the aging effects of environmental stressors, and a potent prebiotic that enhances the skin’s ability to diversify its microbiome. The result is firmer, hydrated skin with a more refined texture and greater density.
A reparative night serum that boosts skin’s antioxidant defenses
“The product I recommend most commonly to my patients is Isdin Melatonik,” Karen said.
This three-in-one serum works by stimulating the skin’s natural antioxidant defenses to fight premature signs of aging caused by environmental stressors such as UV exposure and pollution. A combination of collagen-supporting bakuchiol, vitamin C and melatonin help to repair the effects of oxidative stress in the skin by improving elasticity, reducing the appearance of fine lines and brightening a dull complexion. The brand, which specializes in pharmaceutical skin care, suggests this be used only at night on clean, dry skin for the most efficacy.
A jelly-like serum with adaptogens and multi-tasking peptides
This fast-absorbing, jelly-like serum has a lightweight feel and is made with 1% bakuchiol to smooth fine lines, even skin texture and fight premature signs of aging. It also contains multi-tasking plant-derived peptides which work to help firm the skin while schisandra berry extract, a clinically tested adaptogen, can also help to tighten and firm. The addition of glycerin and jojoba seed oil also make Herbivore’s Mood Fruit serum a good choice for overly dry skin.
A pore-minimizing and skin-refining serum with a blend of oils
Beekman 1806 is known for their gentle yet effective approach to skin care that’s specifically formulated for delicate or sensitive skin. The Dream Booster, which has a weightless finish, uses a blend of seed oils, leaf extracts and squalane to deeply nourish skin while supplementing the Bakuchiol. The result is a smoother and more refined skin texture, a minimized appearance of pores and a reduction of redness. Because there are no traditional retinoids present in this formula, it’s safe to use while pregnant.
A brightening and elasticity-boosting serum with squalane
In addition to bakuchiol, Biossance’s Squalane+Phyto-Retinol serum contains plumping hyaluronic acid to draw in moisture and niacinamide, which can reduce dullness and even skin tone. The heavy dose of squalane has anti-inflammatory properties and can deeply hydrate and soften skin texture, making this a great option for skin that is prone to dryness or hyper-sensitivity. The brand is also dedicated to sustainable packaging and formulations that are free from potentially concerning ingredients.