What is bakuchiol?

Meet the all-natural complement to retinol

What is Bakuchiol?

An ancient seed gives way to a modern breakthrough

Deep in the forests of Asia grows a small, flowering plant called the babchi plant. For centuries, experts in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine harvested the seeds of the babchi plant for their astounding ability to treat skin diseases and other ailments. Today, scientists have isolated one key compound from within the babchi seed that is responsible for its powerful effects: bakuchiol. Find it in serums, creams, masks, and more—bakuchiol is quickly becoming the wunderkind of the skincare sphere. But what is bakuchiol, really? 

Is bakuchiol an all natural retinol?

Often touted as the “all-natural alternative to retinol,” bakuchiol is, in fact, not a retinol at all. Retinol is derived from Vitamin A, an organic molecule that naturally occurs in animal and dairy products. In reality, this naturally occurring retinol is too unstable to be included in beauty products with a longer shelf life. Therefore, the retinol you will find in your beauty cabinet is most often synthetic.

Unlike retinol, bakuchiol is 100% plant-derived, and from one plant only: the babchi seed. In addition to being vegan, it is a very potent antioxidant that visibly minimizes fine lines, pigmentation and other effects of environmental damage. The naturally soothing properties reduce redness and bolster the skin barrier, while simultaneously stimulating cell turnover. Like retinol, bakuchiol works deep down in your skin, even influencing your skin’s DNA over time. But unlike retinol, it is so gentle that it rarely contributes to adverse side effects like redness, peeling, or stinging. Even the most sensitive skin types can reap the benefits of bakuchiol without the frustrating acclimation period most retinol users have to endure.

Where does bakuchiol come from?

As we have already mentioned, bakuchiol comes from the babchi seed, whose scientific name is Psoralea corylifolia. This plant is native to China, India, and other parts of Asia and the Middle East.

Bakuchiol itself was first isolated from the babchi seed in 1966, but it wasn’t until 2007 that it broke onto the beauty market under the trade name Sytenol A. More recently, a 2019 study from the British Journal of Dermatology compared the effectiveness of bakuchiol against retinol directly, which may have played a role in its recent resurgence in popularity. 

In the study, 44 participants applied a topical treatment twice daily. Some applied 0.5% retinol, while the rest used 0.5% bakuchiol. In the end, both groups had significantly reduced wrinkles and hyperpigmentation. However, the bakuchiol group had fewer adverse effects like skin coarseness, scaling, or stinging. While more research is always beneficial, the findings are clear: bakuchiol is here to stay.

How should I use bakuchiol?

Instead of thinking of bakuchiol as the alternative to retinol, think of it as a complement—something that can be used together, rather than choosing one or the other. Bakuchiol is anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial, which helps diminish the unwanted side effects of aggressive retinol—or allow you to bypass them altogether. The two products work in tandem to help achieve the same effect: a complexion that’s smooth in texture, even in tone, and glowing from the inside out.

If you’re looking for a high-performing option that delivers results, try Bakuchiol Boost from Dr. Julia Berkei. This rich balm includes 1% bakuchiol to ward off hyperpigmentation, smooth out fine lines, and leave your skin visibly brighter.  The bakuchiol stimulates collagen production, while non-comedogenic macadamia oil is loaded with nourishing fatty acids to hydrate even the driest skin. Learn more about Bakuchiol Boost, or explore the rest of Dr. Berkei’s products for more information.