All you need to know about bakuchiol – the retinol alternative for sensitive skin

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No matter how often you say it, bakuchiol isn’t a word that exactly trips off the tongue. But it’s definitely an ingredient you want in your skincare arsenal.

When it comes to improving the look of wrinkles and slack skin, retinol is a firm favourite with dermatologists. And yet this silver bullet – which stimulates cell turnover and boosts collagen production, smoothes skin and fades dark spots – lives under a cloud of controversy due to the irritation and redness it often brings with it.

So it’s not surprising that skincare companies have set their sights on finding a gentler option that delivers the same skin benefits, just minus the sting. And they’ve found just the thing with bakuchiol, which is being championed as the new natural retinol alternative.

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Bakuchiol is a natural, gentler alternative to retinol
(Image: Getty)
What is bakuchiol and how does it work?

Pronounced ‘back-ooh-chee-all,’ and extracted from the seeds of the Indian babchi plant, its roots lie in Indian Ayurvedic medicine for soothing inflammation and healing cuts.

In skincare, bakuchiol is said to stimulate collagen production and minimise sensitivity.

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Bakuchiol combats fine lines and loss of firmness in the skin
(Image: Getty)

“All importantly, bakuchiol is also a potent antioxidant and helps fight signs of ageing, such as fine lines and loss of firmness, by targeting free radicals from pollution and other environmental stressors,” says Paula Begoun, skin expert and founder of Paula’s Choice.

But what bakuchiol is most renowned for is as a “retinoid analogue”. This means “it mimics the effects of retinol such as increasing the turnover of skin cells and significantly improves lines, pigmentation, elasticity, firmness and photo-damage but without the peeling, dryness and sensitivity,” says Rebecca Hopkins, co-founder of Balance Me, whose Bakuchiol Smoothing Serum is a bestseller.

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You’ll find a travel size version of Balance Me’s Bakuchiol Smoothing Serum in this month’s OK! Beauty Box
(Image: Megan Bramley/OK!)

Bakuchiol vs retinol – what’s better?

If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding you’ll definitely want to make the switch to bakuchiol as, unlike retinol, it’s completely safe to use.

Same goes for those with darker skin tones who are wary of powerful ingredients such a vitamin A, which can cause inflammation and hyperpigmentation.

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Bakuchiol is great for those with sensitive skin and rosacea
(Image: Getty)

Otherwise, it depends on your skin type. If your skin is sensitive or prone to rosacea, then this gentler alternative ticks all the right boxes.

A 2018 study published in the British Journal of Dermatology shows that bakuchiol is just as effective as retinol at improving the signs of ageing. Over 12 weeks, 44 patients were asked to apply either a 0.5 per cent bakuchiol cream twice daily or a 0.5 per cent retinol cream every night.

The study’s authors found that “bakuchiol and retinol both significantly decreased wrinkle surface area and hyperpigmentation, with no statistical difference,” noting that bakuchiol “is better tolerated than retinol.

How should you use it?

It doesn’t have to be an either or approach; you can combine bakuchiol with retinol, says Begoun. “When paired with retinol, bakuchiol can help stabilise it and keep it effective for longer.

“Another benefit of using products that contain both is that bakuchiol’s calming abilities may enable skin to tolerate retinol in higher amounts.”

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As a stand-alone product, bakuchiol can be easily integrated into your daily skincare routine and is especially well-suited to sensitive skin.

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Experts advise to use the product morning and night after cleansing
(Image: Getty)

“Use AM and PM after cleansing,” recommends Hopkins. “Bakuchiol can be used in conjunction with other serums like vitamin C but it should be applied last.

“And while bakuchiol doesn’t make skin more photosensitive like retinol does, we would nevertheless recommend the use of an SPF over the top during the day.”

If you want to try the trend for less, a good place to start is with Balance Me, whose fans include Lisa Snowdon.

You can now snap up a 7ml travel size of Balance Me Bakuchiol Smoothing Serum in our Summer Saviours OK! Beauty Box here. The box costs just £9 for new sign ups, and you’ll also receive five other gorgeous products, with a total box value of over £70!

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This month’s OK! Beauty Box is worth over £70
(Image: Megan Bramley/OK!)

*Discount code redeemable against one-month rolling subscriptions to new customers only. OK! Beauty Box subscription is then £15 per month thereafter.





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