Does retinol irritate skin? Try this natural alternative

You may not have heard of it (or be certain how to pronounce it), but bakuchiol is currently making waves in the skincare world for its collagen-boosting prowess. Essentially, it serves as a miraculous alternative to traditional retinol, minus the usual stinging, irritation, and redness associated with retinoids. Bakuchiol has its roots in therapeutic practices with a long history in Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine. Today, it is hailed in Western skincare research as a natural retinol substitute.

What is Bakuchiol, and How Does it Work?

Bakuchiol is a compound naturally found in the seeds and leaves of the Psoralea corylifolia plant in the Indian subcontinent. It stimulates collagen production, maintaining skin strength and integrity while reducing fine lines and wrinkles. Proven to significantly diminish UV-induced skin damage such as excessive pigmentation, it is derived from bakuchiol seed oil. With its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, it acts as a retinol analogue in skincare, mimicking retinol’s effects like cell renewal, combating dark spots, and densifying the skin.

Having been utilized for years in skincare for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant purposes, bakuchiol has undergone thorough scientific scrutiny. While its chemical composition differs from retinol, its impact on the skin is remarkably similar, stimulating retinol receptors responsible for synthesizing type 1 collagen in the dermis. It also prompts cell renewal in the epidermis, ensuring a smooth surface and retinol-like effects without irritation.

Bakuchiol vs. Retinol – Which is Better?

Although bakuchiol has a distinct chemical structure from retinol, it appears to act on similar cellular pathways and gene targets, such as upregulating collagen. A study published in the British Journal of Dermatology in 2018 suggested that bakuchiol is comparable to retinol in improving signs of skin aging, with better tolerance. In a 12-week study,44 participants applied 0.5% bakuchiol cream twice daily or 0.5% retinol cream every night. Researchers found that both bakuchiol and retinol had similar effects on wrinkles and pigmentation, but former led to reduced scaling, stinging, burning, and itching.

Its impact on skin health is particularly noteworthy when compared to vitamin A, renowned as the gold standard ingredient for collagen remodeling, exfoliation, skin strengthening, and fading excessive pigmentation. Bakuchiol provides a promising alternative, especially for individuals with a cautious approach to potent ingredients like vitamin A, which can cause inflammation or post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation with excessive use.

Ideal Skin Types for Bakuchiol and How to Use It

Bakuchiol’s magic lies in its suitability for all skin types: dry, sensitive, oily, and combination. For those seeking anti-aging effects without irritation, it serves as a gentle solution. It can be used alongside serums and creams containing vitamin C and acids. Moreover, it doesn’t sensitize your skin to light, making it safe for morning use. However, ensure you maintain SPF, as inadequate protection from UV exposure significantly accelerates skin aging and increases the risk of skin cancer.

Unlike retinol, which is not recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding women, bakuchiol comes without such warnings.

Lisa Franklin, skincare expert, facial care therapist, and founder of LF Pro-Effect Skincare, advises against  with acid-based peels to avoid potential overstimulation and reactions.

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