Bakuchiol has quickly become a darling of the clean beauty world – deemed “a natural alternative to retinol,” marketers have gone wild over it. For what it’s worth, bakuchiol does not have many scientific studies backing its efficacy like retinoids do.
First things first, although bakuchiol is a less-irritating alternative to retinol, that doesn’t mean retinol is irritating to everyone. I think we all know by now that I adore the Cell Resurrection Recovery Serum by African Botanics (my detailed post on safer retinol formulations is here) which works great for me on a nightly basis, but it’s always good to have some gentler options to mix things up.
Enter bakuchiol. I’ve had the chance to spend a good amount of time testing all of the following bakuchiol-based products and will share according to categories that I’m asked about most frequently in terms of skincare. But let’s take a brief dive into bakuchiol first!
WHAT IS BAKUCHIOL
In a nutshell, bakuchiol is a less-irritating natural alternative to retinol. This gentle, vegan ingredient is a chemical compound with antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial properties extracted from bakuchi plant seeds. While there is no structural resemblance to retinol, it has been shown to function in a similar way, increasing cell turnover (thereby stimulating collagen production) and diminishing signs of aging such as fine lines, wrinkles, skin laxity, and overall photodamage. However, unlike retinol (for some), bakuchiol has no harsh side effects on the skin and is a more gentle alternative. Studies have also shown bakuchiol’s abilities to reduce acne by fighting inflammation, hyperpigmentation, and roughness.
Bakuchiol has long been used in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine, and a recent study published in the British Journal of Dermatology found that not only did bakuchiol work as well as retinol when it came to addressing signs of aging but that it was clearly less irritating.
Good enough reason to give bakuchiol a shot, right?
Let’s take a look at some great products and then we’ll finish up with my Top 3 and Best All-Around Bakuchiol Products!
BEST SENSORIAL EXPERIENCE
Alpyn Calming Midnight Mask, $68 – This lovely nighttime treatment is perfect for those of you who want a skin experience before hitting the sack. It’s the epitome of calm – this sleeping mask is super unique in that it contains antioxidant-packed melatonin and valerian, both of which aid in sleep. (Valerian is great for easing anxiety as well.)
Other notable ingredients are wildcrafted dandelion, which detoxifies and refines skin texture, bakuchiol (duh), and hyaluronic acid which delivers long-lasting, weightless hydration.
I find this mask soaks in completely, locking in moisture and making my skin feel super smooth. I pick up on hints of lavender and bergamot in the scent, which has a lovely overall profile, but if you are sensitive to scent, you might check out the unscented/minimal scent options I list below.
IF A MINIMAL SCENT PROFILE IS YOUR JAM
Herbivore Bakuchiol Serum, $54 – I love this serum for many reasons; it has virtually no scent (I tend to go for subtly-scented products) and besides bakuchiol, contains exfoliating polyhydroxy acids and natural botanicals to improve skin texture. This jelly-textured, water-based serum provides hydration and leaves skin feeling soft and smooth.
It feels slightly tacky immediately after applying but soaks in quickly thereafter leaving no dewiness, just really plump and soft skin. It’s the perfect serum to apply before moisturizer and plays very well with oils and creams. I can’t imagine this not working for all skin types – it’s recommended for dry, mature, sensitive, blemish-prone, combination, and normal skin.
AO Reverse Longitude PM Serum Shot, $95 – This antioxidant-infused nighttime facial treatment is also good for all skin types and has a ton of active ingredients. Retinal (Retinaldehyde) helps to renew and regenerate skin cells and super-antioxidant Astaxanthin Red Algae protects the Retinal from oxidation and degradation, while UV stabilizing the product. Of course, there’s bakuchiol in there and when combined with Retinal, it boosts its effectiveness. All the ingredients are cold-processed into the formulation to retain the raw power of every active.
This serum has a slightly detectable scent, is goldenrod yellow in color, has a serum-like consistency, and leaves the skin feeling hydrated and moisturized, but not too dewy.
FOR THOSE ON A BUDGET
Bybi Beauty Bakuchiol Booster, $17, – What bang for your buck! Delivers 1% bakuchiol in a squalane oil booster that can be mixed with your existing moisturizers, serums, or balms for a potent night-time boost. I’m a huge fan of squalane oil and love how dewy and hydrated my skin feels after applying this. While many serums mentioned in this post need to be followed by a moisturizer, this one leaves my skin feeling supple enough that I could go without another step.
It has great slip (perfect to use while I Gua Sha) and leaves the skin very dewy and moisturized. It also has a barely-detectable scent. And $17?! So good.
NIGHT CREAM LOVERS
Beautycounter Countertime Tetrapeptide Supreme Cream, $89 – This night cream is EVERYTHING. Supremely rich and deeply hydrating, this cream supports elasticity and visibly firms while minimizing the look of fine lines and wrinkles with, you guessed it, BAKUCHIOL. It’s been clinically proven to provide long-lasting hydration, increase skin elasticity, increase skin’s plumpness, and visibly increase skin firmness. I’m all in.
This is truly a delight to apply as a last-step moisturizer, but it’s so much more than that. In fact, on nights when I’m not feeling up for an entire routine, I’ll wash my face followed by this cream. Since it has bakuchiol in it, I’m still getting my daily dose of skin rejuvenation.
Beautycounter Tetrapeptide Radiance Serum, $79 – I’m a huge fan of how products from the same brand work synergistically with one another so I would be remiss not to mention this serum. Bakuchiol, peptides, amino acids, Swiss Alpine rose…this serum has it all and is magical when paired with the Supreme Cream. Just like the cream, it’s been clinically proven to increase skin elasticity, improve skin barrier function, visibly increase skin firmness, increase skin’s luminosity/radiance, and decrease the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
I can speak to both of these Beautycounter products in terms of the above skin improvements. It was Beautycounter that introduced me to bakuchiol about 7 months ago and I have been a fan ever since.
BLUE TANSY LOVERS
Bluh Alchemy Botanic Retinol, $140 – This probably seems like an odd category, but the scent of Blue Tansy definitely has a cult following and this Botanic Retinol by Bluh Alchemy definitely has that scent profile.
This serum happens to be this month’s Beauty Heroes Discovery so you can read my thoughts about it here!
BEST FOR COMBO/ACNE-PRONE SKIN
Graydon Green Cream, $46 – Infused with two plant-based retinols, this nourishing superfood-packed cream has a light, gel-like texture to gently clear congested skin, help alleviate the appearance of acne scars, restore bounce, and reveal smoother brighter skin. This is an excellent choice as a moisturizer for combination and/or acne-prone skin because the light texture soaks in completely and doesn’t leave a residue at all. Yet it still completely hydrates the skin – it’s formulated with a skin-friendly pH value of 4.5-5.5.
MY TOP THREE PICKS
Drumroll, please! These three products are definitely at the top of my list.
Maya Chia The Straight A Advanced Gentle Retinol Treatment, $125 – Okay, folks. Let’s get down to business. As many of you are aware, the combination of African Botanics Cell Recovery Serum and Fleurs D’Afrique has been my ride-or-die evening combo for over a year. They. Are. Amazing. They are also expensive.
Nothing has come close to this combo until I tried The Straight A.
Can we talk about the ingredients for a second? Encapsulated retinol (a safe derivative of Vitamin A without BHT), bakuchiol, moth bean extract, shelf-stable Vitamin C, Vitamin E, nutrient-dense botanicals such as chia seed and Buriti oil, and a complex expressly targeted to increase Sirtuin activity, which are proteins that regulate key biological pathways in our cells.
What the what? Yeah. ALL OF THE INGREDIENTS. (This does have retinol as well as bakuchiol, so keep that in mind. But it’s super gentle on my skin.)
You can expect your skin to feel moisturized, nourished, and look bright and plump. Reduced hyperpigmentation is something else I noticed as well as a visible reduction in the appearance of my fine lines and wrinkles. Color me impressed.
Plus, the scent profile is lovely. Rose is the note I notice the most and the scent is definitely subtle enough for my sensitive nose. (The scent reminds me of MUN Aknari Serum if you are familiar.)
Has The Straight A completely replaced my nightly African Botanics lineup? No, but I am definitely working this serum into the rotation throughout the week which is more than I can say for almost everything else I’ve tried. (Side note: one of my favorites, The Supercritical Oil is a great last-step after The Straight A for added hydration.)
Well, I’m pretty sure I don’t want to utter the word “bakuchiol” for at least a month. Oh, did you know that you can look up specific product ingredients at Credo Beauty’s Product Finder? You choose a category and then are able to include or exclude ingredients from the search. It’s super helpful!
I hope this post was helpful for you…as always, hit me up with any questions in the comments section!
Sara Gae WatersFebruary 6, 2020 at 2:42 pm
This was super interesting!!!!
Judee LonnemoFebruary 6, 2020 at 4:01 pm
Very insightful. Thanks for the research!
Danelle SergentFebruary 6, 2020 at 7:15 pm
Does the BYBI play well with other oils like the plum oil?
whoorlFebruary 6, 2020 at 7:51 pm
The base of the BYBI is squalane oil so it isn’t really even necessary to put another oil on afterward, at least in my case.
Danelle SergentFebruary 8, 2020 at 6:06 pm
Do you experience any dryness with the African botanical cell recovery? Wanted to also ask about foundations you are currently using. Is the Vapor velvet foundation ok for someone with dry skin?
whoorlFebruary 9, 2020 at 11:10 am
No dryness with Cell Recovery but you obviously want to use a moisturizer afterward. I use the Fleurs D’Afrique.
If you have really dry skin, I would recommend the Vapour Luminous Foundation: http://shrsl.com/1pkj3 or the Soft Focus foundation which I wrote about here: https://whoorl.com/2018/10/best-organic-foundations-women-over-40/
DanelleFebruary 11, 2020 at 11:23 am