While you may have heard of the famous ingredient, retinol, bakuchiol is a lesser-known natural alternative that has been gaining popularity in recent years. Both compounds effectively treat various skin conditions, such as wrinkles, fine lines, and dark spots.

Let’s explore the key differences between Bakuchiol and Retinol for the skin.

What is the Difference Between Retinol and Bakuchiol?

There isn’t much difference between bakuchiol and retinol other than their origins. They both reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and make skin look younger.

Retinol is a type of Vitamin A used in skincare products for decades and is considered the gold standard for anti-aging. It works by promoting collagen formation and increasing cell turnover. However, retinoids can also be drying and irritating to the skin.

Bakuchiol, on the other hand, is a plant-based compound derived from the seeds of the Babchi (Psoralea corylifolia) plant, which is native to India. It’s often called the natural alternative to retinol. Although retinol induces several anti-aging benefits in the skin, bakuchiol duplicates these actions functionally without triggering the stimulation of genes that contribute to skin irritation.

It also helps improve various skin conditions like fine lines and acne. It also has similar anti-aging benefits to retinoids without dryness and irritation, making it an excellent alternative for those sensitive to retinol and retinoids.

Bakuchiol vs Retinol for Acne

Retinol is commonly used to treat acne because it helps unclog pores and decrease sebum production. It has been clinically proven and is considered one of the most effective treatments for mild to severe acne. [2]

Retinol also prevents the buildup of dead skin cells, leading to acne flare-ups. Eliminating acne and minimizing breakouts may help minimize the appearance of acne scars.

On the other hand, bakuchiol is new, yet a study proves it is also effective, at concentrations of 0.5%, in treating mild to moderate acne. [3] It also has anti-inflammatory properties that can help soothe the skin and reduce redness and swelling associated with acne. It offers the same results as retinol with little to no side effects. [4]

Can You Use Bakuchiol and Retinol Together?

You can use Bakuchiol and Retinol together as they offer different benefits. Bakuchiol can also be used together with retinoids to boost their efficacy. Using retinol and bakuchiol together produces the best results to achieve a radiant, youthful appearance on the skin.

Retinol may irritate the skin, so bakuchiol is a good alternative if you have a delicate complexion. But if your skin isn’t very sensitive to retinol, you might want to try using both together.

Additionally, bakuchiol also aids in stabilizing retinol and other skincare components like linoleic acid and caprylic triglyceride commonly found in retinol treatments. Retinol is notoriously unstable and degrades quickly when exposed to light. Bakuchiol also helps improve retinol’s efficacy.

Furthermore, the soothing effects of bakuchiol help increase the skin’s tolerance to retinol. When used together, this dynamic pair can work wonders on wrinkles, dark spots, and sagging skin. Using both may also provide advantages to retinol without the associated irritation, redness, and flaking.

Bakuchiol and Retinol Benefits 

1. Lighten Acne Marks and Even Out Skin Tone

Both ingredients help lighten acne marks by increasing cell turnover. [5] This helps to fade marks by revealing newer skin cells that have not been damaged by acne, improving skin tone.

2. Reduce Fine Lines and Wrinkles

Bakuchiol and retinol help reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. They do this by stimulating collagen production and increasing cell turnover. This helps to thicken the skin, which makes wrinkles less visible.

As a result, sun spots, wrinkles, fine lines, and even the size of the pores will all be less noticeable. The skin’s texture will be resurfaced, resulting in a more smooth and even-toned appearance.

3. Reduce Large Pores

Acne and dead skin can block pores, making them look larger and more visible. Retinol, used topically, reduces the appearance of large pores by stimulating the production of new skin cells. This results in the thickening of the skin and prevents future pore blockage.

4. Manage Psoriasis

Psoriasis is an inflammatory skin disease characterized by an overproduction of new skin cells. The accumulation of new cells results in a reddish-pink rash with a thick, scaly appearance. When applied topically, retinol inhibits the overproduction of skin cells and reduces inflammation, which may alleviate the rash. However, retinol can exacerbate skin irritation. Thus, topical steroids are often recommended alongside retinol by dermatologists.

Bakuchiol and Retinol Side Effects

The common side effects of retinol are dryness, redness, and itchiness. It’s recommended to start with a lower concentration and increase it gradually as your skin gets used to it to reduce the side effects of retinol. Using a moisturizer and sunscreen is also essential, as retinol can make your skin more sensitive to the sun.

As bakuchiol is relatively new, little is known about its long-term side effects. Bakuchiol may also cause these side effects, but they are usually milder as it is likely to irritate the skin less. However, it is generally considered safe for most people to use. [6]

Bakuchiol vs. Retinol: Pregnancy and Safety

Although a study suggests that using retinol topically during pregnancy does not increase the risk of malformations in the developing fetus, some take extra care by avoiding retinoids altogether. [1] There are also few studies on the effects of topical retinol during pregnancy. However, oral medications that contain retinol are not recommended during pregnancy.

As such, some use bakuchiol as an alternative. However, while bakuchiol is gentler on the skin, there is little to no research on its safety during pregnancy, so it should also be used with caution. 

Bottomline: Bakuchiol vs. Retinol

While both Bakuchiol and Retinol offer anti-aging benefits, bakuchiol is a better option because it does not irritate the skin, unlike its sister compound, retinol. However, more studies are needed to say that bakuchiol is more effective than retinol. In the meantime, bakuchiol is a good option to explore for those seeking the anti-aging benefits of retinoids without irritation.

Disclaimer: This article is only a guide. It does not substitute the advice given by your own healthcare professional. Before making any health-related decision, consult your healthcare professional.

Editorial References And Fact-Checking

  • Bozzo P, Chua-Gocheco A, Einarson A. Safety of skin care products during pregnancy. Can Fam Physician. 2011 Jun;57(6):665-7. PMID: 21673209; PMCID: PMC3114665.
  • Leyden J, Stein-Gold L, Weiss J. Why Topical Retinoids Are Mainstay of Therapy for Acne. Dermatol Ther (Heidelb). 2017 Sep;7(3):293-304. doi: 10.1007/s13555-017-0185-2. Epub 2017 Jun 5. PMID: 28585191; PMCID: PMC5574737.
  • Brownell L, Geen S, E Y, Lee WL. A Clinical Study Evaluating the Efficacy of Topical Bakuchiol (UP256) Cream on Facial Acne. J Drugs Dermatol. 2021 Mar 1;20(3):307-310. doi: 10.36849/JDD.5655. PMID: 33683079.
  • Lim HS, Kim YJ, Kim BY, Jeong SJ. Bakuchiol Suppresses Inflammatory Responses Via the Downregulation of the p38 MAPK/ERK Signaling Pathway. Int J Mol Sci. 2019 Jul 22;20(14):3574. doi: 10.3390/ijms20143574. PMID: 31336605; PMCID: PMC6678636.
  • Zasada M, Budzisz E, Erkiert-Polguj A. A Clinical Anti-Ageing Comparative Study of 0.3 and 0.5% Retinol Serums: A Clinically Controlled Trial. Skin Pharmacol Physiol. 2020;33(2):102-116. doi: 10.1159/000508168. Epub 2020 May 19. PMID: 32428912.
  • Dhaliwal S, Rybak I, Ellis SR, Notay M, Trivedi M, Burney W, Vaughn AR, Nguyen M, Reiter P, Bosanac S, Yan H, Foolad N, Sivamani RK. Prospective, randomized, double-blind assessment of topical bakuchiol and retinol for facial photoageing. Br J Dermatol. 2019 Feb;180(2):289-296. doi: 10.1111/bjd.16918. Epub 2018 Sep 21. PMID: 29947134.

Shaira is a licensed pharmacist (Bachelor of Pharmacy) and an experienced content writer. She enjoys inspiring and informing her readers through research-backed, comprehensive health content. Shaira draws from her personal experience working with real-life patients in a hospital setting and is currently pursuing her passion in writing.