Retinol may have cemented its status as the gold standard for improving skin, but if you have reactive and sensitive skin, it’s likely to cause stinging, redness and further irritation. This is where bakuchiol, a botanical extract from the babchi plant, which is native to India, comes in.
Used in traditional Ayurvedic and Chinese healing methods, bakuchiol (say bah- koo-chee-ol), is known to calm and soothe skin with its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties.
On its own, bakuchiol has been found to show similar results to retinol in reducing hyperpigmentation and wrinkles. In fact, the British Association of Dermatologists conducted a 12-week double- blind study in 2018, where participants applied either bakuchiol or retinol at 0.5 per cent strength. Neither the participants nor researchers knew which ingredient the former received. While both groups of participants reported less wrinkles and hyperpigmentation, those who used retinol experienced more scaling and stinging.
RETINOL VS BAKUCHIOL
Just how different are the two? Retinol is a synthetic derivative of vitamin A. As a potent antioxidant, it neutralises free radicals and boosts production of collagen. It also treats acne-prone skin by controlling oil production and minimising pores.
However, it is not without its downsides. For one, it isn’t recommended for pregnant and breastfeeding women. People with skin conditions like eczema and rosacea are also advised against it. Plus, retinol is rendered less effective in the sun, so it’s mostly only for night use. Certain ingredients such as vitamin C, AHAs and BHAs can also make retinol less effective and way more irritating.
Bakuchiol, on the other hand, is a plant-based antioxidant. Like retinol, it has been found to reduce wrinkles and enhance skin’s firmness. It has also been found to work better than star brightening ingredient, arbutin, at inhibiting melanin production.
The best part? Since bakuchiol is traditionally used to calm and soothe skin, it is less likely to cause irritation compared to retinol. With the exception of glycolic acid, bakuchiol can also be easily layered with other ingredients such as squalane and BHAs. Plus, it doesn’t lose its effectiveness under the sun.
WHAT EXPERTS SAY
Bakuchiol may be a runaway success for many companies searching for a plant-based retinol alternative, but not all are on board just yet.
Dermatologist Dr Kong Yan Ling of DS Skin & Wellness Clinic has her reservations. “It’s difficult to conclude that bakuchiol is clinically superior to retinol as there is inadequate research data to support this claim.”
That said, she recognises that, “bakuchiol may be an alternative for patients with sensitive skin who might not be able to tolerate irritation that can occur with retinol.” Dr Kong also says that patients who prefer cruelty-free products, or are vegan, may consider bakuchiol.
Dermatologist at TWL Specialist Skin and Laser Centre and #HerWorldTribe member Dr Teo Wan Lin agrees: “It does seem to compare favourably with retinol. Being a plant extract, bakuchiol has also been shown to activate a specific nuclear factor, erythroid-2, that helps reverse skin damage.”
As a rule of thumb, as with all active ingredients, introduce it slowly to your routine.
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