You may have heard of bakuchiol as a “plant alternative” to retinoids. People have argued that bakuchiol is less sensitizing and better for skin, and recently, a lot of skincare companies have quickly jumped on this claim. So, let’s talk about the facts. Apart from claims, bakuchiol is actually photostable meaning it doesn’t degrade under the sun. Some data suggest bakuchiol helps with wrinkles, fine lines, and perhaps even acne. But although a popular ingredient, there has been some information circulating about bakuchiol potentially causing breast cancer, being an endocrine disruptor, and a hormone mimicker. So, what is really true?
As for the breast cancer claims, bakuchiol has been tested at a low dose and a high dose. The high doses were actually shown to ward off cancer-causing cells. However, at a low dose, bakuchiol was shown to promote this breast cancer growth. However, those tests were done in tumors or cancerous cells. When we put this on our skin, the situation is much different. Dr. Whitney Bowe, MD shared some data and evidence that bakuchiol doesn’t get past the skin. So, when it comes to breast cancer, there’s really nothing to worry about.
In regards to bakuchiol being pregnancy safe, we don’t have enough data to state whether it is or isn’t. That’s why you should always speak with a derm. We know that right now, retinoids aren’t safe during pregnancy. And while bakuchiol is different and a plant antioxidant alternative purported to give similar results, bakuchiol is still perceived as a relatively new ingredient, and we need more data. Even though it’s actually been used for thousands of years within ancient Indian medicine and even Chinese medicine, there is a small amount of clinical data and studies to support its efficacy. More simply, we haven’t tested it as much.
For one, bakuchiol is an ingredient that comes from certain plants rather than something synthetic or pharmaceutical. It was used in wound healing in India, and its usually harvested from the plant psoralea corylifolia. While natural, bakuchiol products have also raised sustainability and environmental concerns. This plant is grown in specific areas of India and Asia, and higher market demand for bakuchiol has necessitated a greater supply. However, some companies may be exploiting workers, exploiting the environment, or adulterating formulas to keep production costs low and profits high, especially if there is not enough of it naturally available.
In turn, companies end up stating that their products have higher amounts of bakuchiol than they truly do. Some bakuchiol products may not be effective or have too low of a concentration. That’s why we’re going to talk about the bakuchiol products that truly work. Although we don’t have a ton of data or clinical trials on bakuchiol, we do know that it’s an amazing antioxidant, and more studies have been coming out demonstrating it as helpful for wrinkles.
Similar to retinoids, it may be able to cause this effect on skin. It may also help with hyperpigmentation, fine lines, and wrinkles. Even when compared to adapalene and retinoids, bakuchiol showed benefits in acne patients. Take into account though - bakuchiol is not the same as a retinoid. There are some differences. For example, bakuchiol does not cause desquamation to happen. Likewise, it doesn’t speed up skin cell turnover the same way that retinoids do, but on the other hand, the speedup of cell turnover is exactly what makes some retinoids quite irritating for people. For that reason, bakuchiol is perceived as a gentler alternative to retinoids
But as we mentioned before, many brands are slapping “bakuchiol” on their products when in reality, the ingredient is not doing much in the formula. For example, some formulas have such a low concentration of bakuchiol that it doesn’t actually help.
Bakuchiol has been shown to be the most effective in a concentration of 0.5% to 2%. And as mentioned before, there are also some amazing options on the market with phenomenal formulas and concentrations. Here are some bakuchiol formulas that are effective and additionally include other actives.
Paula's Choice Retinol and Bakuchiol -$56
This formula is .3% retinol and 2% bakuchiol. It also has peptides and vitamin C. Bakuchiol is photostable meaning it’s okay to use in the sun while retinol can be degraded by sunlight. Fortunately, this product contains both ingredients, bringing together the best of both worlds. So, if you’re skeptical about bakuchiol or looking for something cost-effective, this works very well. It’s a nice formula that you can use during the day although it’s probably best used at night. This formula is a yellowy color which is indicative of a nice retinoid, and the peptides and vitamin C in this formula give it those antiaging benefits.
This soaks into the skin very well like a serum, and Cassandra recommends this serum for oily to combination skin types. If you’re dry, she would recommend a thicker option.
Ole Henriksen Transform Plus -$58
Speaking of dry skin, this one is great and also works well for mature skin. It has AHAs such as glycolic acid, and it is a sleeping cream making it more moisturizing. As an added benefit, the AHAs give the skin a nice, refreshed glow. If you have dry skin or you’re struggling with your skin in the winter, you could even put it under a more occlusive moisturizer and use it as an exfoliating agent. Also, note that it does have fragrance.
Paula's Choice Discoloration Serum -$48
For hyperpigmentation, this serum has tranexamic acid and bakuchiol. Tranexamic acid has been shown to stop hyperpigmentation. The ingredients stops the melanocytes from producing as much melanin pigment, and therefore, inhibits more pigment from traveling to the top layer of the skin. Given that, tranexamic acid is fantastic for dark spots and hyperpigmentation. If you want something that isn’t a retinoid because it’s too irritating, this is a great combo that works and has proper levels of bakuchiol to back it up.
Dr. Sam's Flawless Brightly Serum - $59
Now, what if you have oily skin or acne, and you don’t want something that will break you more? This formula from Dr. Sam has ingredients that truly support the skin. You can use Dr. Sam’s Brightly Serum during the day and at night. This serum has bakuchiol as well as niacinamide. It also has ingredients normally found in moisturizers such as caprylic triglycerides. The serum is very lightweight and applies luxuriously. As Dr. Sam is a cosmetic chemist, many of her products are made this way, and they’re geared towards adults who have breakouts. You could put this on under moisturizer, but if you’re oily and super greasy, this would actually be enough. Another great aspect of this serum is niacinamide. Niacinamide helps with oil regulation. So, if you do have rosacea or acne, this could help.
Bybi Bakuchiol Booster .5 fl./oz. -$9.99
This is a budget option, and you’re supposed to use it as a booster or “a product to add with others.” It’s just a nice skincare oil so ultimately, you can use it alone. It has the two main ingredients of squalane and bakuchiol. The squalene is olive-derived making this booster a great way to seel in a skincare routine. If you have sensitive skin, it’s a lightweight shield that you can put underneath a sunscreen.
Cover photo cred" Sugar spice and thirty nice