Bakuchiol: the natural alternative to retinol explained

Bakuchiol: the natural alternative to retinol explained

In the quest for younger-looking skin, retinoids have been the gold standard for decades. These vitamin A-derived topicals are one of the best-studied anti-aging ingredients on the market. Retinoids include retinol, retinoic acid, and several other related substances. They boost the production of collagen, promote cell turnover, smooth uneven skin tone, and fade dark spots. However, using retinol products has its downsides - it can be harsh on the skin, causing dryness, burning, stinging, peeling, and sun sensitivity. Since a number of retinol users have reported skin irritation due to having sensitive skin, skincare companies have been looking to create natural retinol alternatives to serve the sensitive population.


One of those natural alternatives is bakuchiol. Bakuchiol is a fascinating skincare ingredient extracted from the seeds of the Psoralea Corylifolia plant. It is native to India and China and has been used for centuries in Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine. Its original use couldn't be farther away from skin care. It is prescribed for the treatment of kidney-yang deficiency, enuresis and urinary frequency, chills, the pain in the waist and knees (anti-inflammatory properties), and diarrhea (antibacterial properties).


Maeve Bakuchiol Serum 

The active ingredient bakuchiol is said to promote healthy skin aging, active against blemished and impure skin, and balances the natural regulation of sebum production. Despite having no structural resemblance to retinol, Bakuchiol was found to have retinol functionality through retinol-like regulation of gene expression. More importantly, it is gentler on the skin. So you get the perks of smoother, brighter skin without the pitfalls such as redness and irritation.


What are the active ingredients in Maeve Bakuchiol Serum? 

I created a lightweight serum that anyone can add to their skincare routine. It is a serum for all skin types, perfect for people looking for a natural retinol alternative for skin firmness, more even skin tone, acne-prone, boosting collagen production, and erasing the appearance of fine lines. To achieve this, I added a number of effective plant-based ingredients, such as hyaluronic acid, vitamin B5, and vitamin E.


Why should you switch from a retinol product to bakuchiol?

Picking the right skincare is a personal choice. While I go to lengths to ensure each and every ingredient in everything I eat, use in my household, and put on my skin is non-toxic, you may not. But chances are, if you are on my website, you care about it just as much. That said, there are many retinol creams on the market that deliver amazing results with natural ingredients. So if you are the lucky few whose skin isn't bothered by retinol, then I don't see why you need to switch. However, if you have naturally thin and dry skin and retinol creams sting a little when you put them on, then bakuchiol may be a good alternative for you.


However, if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, it is recommended that you switch to a retinol alternative. This is because retinol is a form of Vitamin A, and it plays a vital role in fetal development, which means high levels of retinol may interfere with this miraculous development. 


There are many bakuchiol products on the market. How do you know which one is the right one for you? 

I always pick products based on their ingredients. The more natural it is, the better. When it comes to Bakuchiol, the percentage matters. Go with something that's 1% or 2%. More doesn't always mean it's better, and since it doesn't have any potential side effects, you can start with 1%, unlike with retinol.

Formulation really is the key. Do you have a cream that you currently love and don't want to skip using it? Then adding a lightweight serum like our formulation gives you the option to add it as a base layer under your favorite moisturizer.


If you're switching from a retinol cream to a bakuchiol cream, how do you choose a comparable alternative, and how to make the switch? 

Retinol comes in multiple strengths; the most common are 1%, 0.5%, 0.3%, and 0.25". If your products don't specify the percentage of retinol on the label, it usually means the concentration is weaker than 0.25%, which may not give you the full benefits.

How to make the switch really depends on where you are on your retinol journey. If you had just started using retinol and realized it's not for you, then waiting until you'd given your skin a chance to rebound is a good idea. For example, if you notice redness and peeling, then go back to a most basic routine of cleansing and basic moisturizer before adding nothing else to your skincare routine. Once you feel that your skin is back to its neutral state, then add a bakuchiol cream 1x a day.

If you are at a point where you are applying retinol nightly, then you can start the switch by alternating bakuchiol and retinol every other day. Then slowly phase out of retinol by using it less and less, until it's completely out of your system.


How to apply Maeve Bakuchiol Serum

As a lightweight serum, or "Essence," it can be added to your favorite moisturizer as a base layer. I love using it before applying our face oil. After I cleanser my face, I put a few drops of the Bakuchiol Essence on my fingertips and gently press it onto my skin. Then I use the same application method with Maeve "Rejuvenate + Glow" Facial Oil. Last, I spray on the "Activator," or rose facial mist, and use a jade guasha tool to help my skin to soak it all in.


The science 

Although you can find thousands of clinical trials covering topical retinoids, a number of clinical trials have studied Bakuchiol in comparison to its pharmaceutical cousin. Most notably, the British Journal of Dermatology found it to be just as effective in erasing the appearance of wrinkles and improving skin texture as retinol. This was prospective (participants followed over time, and data was collected as circumstances changed), randomized (assigned by chance to separate groups and given different treatments), and double-blind (neither the participants nor the researcher knew the assigned treatment to a group).


Methods: This 12-week study asked 44 patients to apply either Bakuchiol 0.5% cream twice daily or retinol 0.5% cream daily. A facial photograph and analytical system were used to obtain and analyze high-resolution photographs of patients at 0, 4, 8, and 12 weeks. Patients also completed tolerability assessment questions to review side effects. During study visits, a board-certified dermatologist, blinded to study group assignments, graded pigmentation and redness.

Results: Bakuchiol and retinol both significantly decreased wrinkle surface area and hyperpigmentation, with no statistical difference between the compounds. The retinol users reported more facial skin scaling and stinging.