BAKUCHIOL RETINOL ALTERNATIVE ANTI-AGING SERUMS FROM THE INKEY LIST, HERBIVORE & MORE!
Every once in a while a new skincare ingredient comes on the scene and everyone goes insane. Me included.
The flavor of the month this time around?
Bakuchiol [buh-koo-chi-all] !
Would you like one scoop or two? Waffle cone or sugar cone? Any toppings on your Bakuchiol??
I first heard of the proclaimed “retinol alternative” about a year ago when the first product on the Bakuchiol crazy train launched. The Ole Henriksen Goodnight Glow Retin-ALT Sleeping Crème was touted as “an all-in-one skin-perfecting night cream made with a natural retinol alternative to deeply hydrate and target fine lines, wrinkles, and dark spots.”
I’m a sucker and bought it. Little did I know at the time that I had a major skincare trend in the palm of my hand. I really didn’t appreciate what was coming, thinking of the Ole Henriksen product as a gimmicky one-off with a super catchy name. (I’m also a sucker for a great product name!)
Around that same time — September 2018 to be exact — an article in Allure magazine entitled, What Is Bakuchiol? Experts Explain the Benefits of the Natural Alternative to Retinol declared this:
“Good news for those with sensitive skin: Finally, skin-care formulas are starting to include a less-irritating, natural alternative to retinol. Known as bakuchiol, the gentle, vegan ingredient is about to blow up the skin-care world.”
“Are you sensitive to retinol? I may have discovered a way for you to enjoy retinol-like results without the irritation — from spa-brand OLE HENRIKSEN! Now comes the *really unique* Goodnight Glow Retin-ALT Sleeping Cream. What makes Goodnight Glow so unique is the new retinol alternative the formula employs to achieve retinol-like results. For those who have a sensitivity to retinol, this product just may be a godsend.”
Oddly, I was somewhat unfazed by the product. I used it maybe half a dozen times and, relatively unimpressed, gave it to my mother.
So, where does Bakuchiol come from and how does it work like Retinol?
Let’s go straight to my skincare muse, Paula Begoun for the answer:
“Bakuchiol is a natural antioxidant and anti-aging ingredient found in the seeds and leaves of the plant Psoralea corylifolia [babchi plant] Ongoing in vitro (Petri dish) and in vivo (on skin) research has shown that bakuchiol seems to have skin-restoring ability when applied twice daily, and that it may also have a brightening effect on skin. Research has also shown this plant ingredient has soothing and anti-wrinkle properties as well as helping to visibly improve skin color and tone.
“Science has revealed that bakuchiol interacts with many of the same areas in skin as retinol, sometimes by taking the same pathway, other times by going a different route but still leading to the same results, such as diminished wrinkles, improved elasticity, and smoother skin. In either case, we’re confident that bakuchiol is a promising, beneficial ingredient whose actions can complement and enhance what retinol does for skin.”
One of the studies that Ms. Begoun was referring to was a 12-week study published in the British Journal of Dermatology in February, 2019. You can read a summary of the research study here.
The study was conducted by researchers at U.S. universities in California, Michigan, Florida and Pennsylvania for the purpose of comparing “the efficacy and side effects of bakuchiol with the commonly‐used anti‐ageing ingredient retinol. 44 volunteers were asked to apply either bakuchiol 0.5% cream twice daily, or retinol 0.5% cream daily, to facial skin for 12 weeks.”
Results of the university study showed that Bakuchiol decreased the appearance of wrinkles and age spots as effectively as Retinol; however, Bakuchiol was found to be far gentler on skin without the irritation common to Retinol use — scaling, redness, stinging, and sun sensitivity.
So Bakuchiol is unlikely to be the fly-by-night trend that my first experience with it would indicate. Since then, a number of indie brands have introduced Bakuchiol products, including serums, facial oils, lotions and even single-use pads.
Let’s have a look at five of the Bakuchiol products widely available today. I’ve classified the Bakuchiol Five as the Best, the Most Versatile, the Worst, the Simplest and the Weirdest…
The Best: Herbivore Bakuchiol Retinol Alternative Smoothing Serum
I’m starting with the best of the best here! If you’re like me you approach Retinol products with a bit of fear in you. And that’s no way to live. Skincare shouldn’t increase your anxiety; it should calm you and make you feel that a little selfcare goes a long way. My fear of Retinol is why I was so intrigued by the Herbivore Bakuchiol Retinol Alternative Serum — which I’ve determined to be the best of the Bakuchiol Five.
To begin with, I love that Herbivore’s formulas are all clean. I honestly believe that clean beauty isn’t just a trend either — any more than organic and natural skincare were just trends. In time, clean formulas will be the standard. As with anxiety, your skincare shouldn’t be introducing toxins into your skin either!
Declared by the Zoe Report as “The Sensitive-Skin Product You’ve Been Waiting For,” Herbivore’s Bakuchiol serum is the most potent of all the Bakuchiol formulas that I’ve come across — with a 4% concentration of the babchi plant extract. Bakuchiol Retinol Alternative Serum is super lightweight and super easy to layer. In fact, it absorbs so quickly, I often don’t wait more than a minute or so before applying what’s next — usually a Vitamin B or Niacinamide serum. I’m kind of in the habit now of applying them in A-B-C order, that is Vitamin A (Retinol/Bakuciol), Vitamin B (Niacinamide) and Vitamin C. Easy to remember and perfectly uncomplicated for a PM regimen!
I have been using this on off and now for more than six weeks — on nights when I haven’t been testing one of the other Bakuchiol products. I have experienced no irritation whatsoever. And it’s one of those products that I’ve become so fond of that I miss it when I’m not using it!
Is it a replacement for the most potent forms of retinoids like Tretinoin or higher concentrations of Retinol? I wouldn’t say so — at least not the strongest forms. If you love your Retinol treatment, stick with it. But if you’re not a fan of anxiety-inducing skincare, have a look at Bakuchiol — and particularly this clean, 100% percent natural, plant-based retinol alternative from Herbivore. While it’s the best Bakuchiol product I’ve tried, it’s also the most expensive at $54 for 1 oz. | 30 mL.
The Most Versatile: The Inkey List Bakuchiol Cream
Two of my Bakuchiol pick-ups are more lotion than serum. That’s the case with the Bakuchiol moisturizer from one of my fave indie brands, The Inkey List — the most versatile of the group.
Sure, this one is more of a moisturizer than the others with a high level of Squalane (ingredient #2) and even something called Plukenetia Volubilis Seed Oil, or Sacha Inchi oil. Sacha inchi nut oil is extracted from the seeds and fruit of the Plukenetia volubilis, or pracaxi — a tree native to the Amazon region. This oddly sounding oil is purported to fight depression, reduce cholesterol levels, prevent heart disease and aid in diabetes management. Rich in Omega 3, I imagine it functions like so many non-fragrant plant oils — oils like Argan, Marula, Jojoba and Almond — nourishing the skin with perhaps some antioxidant benefits tossed in for good measure.
The Bakuchiol level in Inkey’s vegan formula is at 1% — the industry standard. It’s light, silky and quite comfortable on the skin. Though not considered 100% clean like the Herbivore serum, it is free of sulfates SLS and SLES, parabens, formaldehydes, formaldehyde-releasing agents, phthalates, mineral oil, retinyl palmitate, oxybenzone, coal tar, hydroquinone, triclosan, and triclocarban — and contains less than one percent of synthetic fragrances.
While it’s super comfortable on the skin, it’s also comfortable on the wallet at just $9.99 for 1 oz. | 30 mL. Inkey’s option is a great place to start if you’re a Bakuchiol novice!
**WATCH MY VIDEO REVIEW OF THESE BAKUCHIOL RETINOL ALTERNATIVE ANTI-AGING SERUMS ON MY YOUTUBE CHANNEL HERE.**
The Worst: Revolution Skincare 1% Bakuchiol Serum
I literally just heard of London-based Revolution Skincare about a month ago. Like Inkey and Deciem’s The Ordinary, they’re what I call a democratically priced skincare brand with prices ranging from an $8 Niacinamide serum to a $14 multi-peptide serum. Revolution has some really intriguing products in the mix — like the quite odd Glycolic and Aloe Essence Spray. Can someone please tell me how you prevent the Glycolic Acid from getting in your eyes?! Someone. Anyone? I can’t seem to get my head around that one.
A quick peek at the INCI and I see that the formula contains at most one percent Glycolic Acid — around the same amount as it has fragrance and Phenoxyethanol — a preservative that can aggravate the skin and isn’t permitted above a one-percent level in a skincare formula. I have this product in my stash and I’m afraid to even try it. Seemingly less dangerous and sensitizing is the brand’s Aloe Vera and Water Lily Soothing Face Mask. I’ll probably give that one a try.
Revolution is an interesting brand, for sure. But I’m here for their 1% Bakuchiol Serum. At $13 for a 1 oz. airless pump, ironically, there’s not much more here than air. In fact, I consider this the worst of the Bakuchiol bunch.
It’s simply awful.
The whole formula is nearly all base, texture enhancers, preservatives — even, ahem, colored dyes Ci 17200 (Red 33), Ci 42090 (Blue 1)! There are literally only two actives in the entire formula — the Bakuchiol and antioxidant Grape Seed Oil. Normally, the inclusion of Grape Seed Oil would thrill me — but when it’s literally the only really great thing about a formula, it makes me want to cry.
Say something nice, right? Okay, I love the color!
The babchi flowers of the plant from which Bakuchiol is derived are, in fact, purplish. So while I wish it were the case that the cool periwinkle blue tint of the Revolution 1% Bakuchiol Serum was derived from the naturally hued extract of the plant, the level of Bakuchiol is too low to be the reason the formula has the color it does.
It’s such a rookie mistake to fake it with synthetic dyes. Bye, Felicia!
The Simplest: BYBI Beauty Bakuchiol Booster
Up next is the Bakuchiol Booster from UK-based indie brand BYBI Beauty — the simplest of the five. First, I had to Google the derivation of “BYBI” and found that it stands for By Beauty Insiders. That’s kinda cool! BYBI was founded in 2017 by “two beauty bloggers, trained formulators and skincare experts who create products based on what we want and what we know doesn’t yet exist.”
And do you know what didn’t yet exist? The BYBI Beauty Bakuchiol Booster! Comprised of just two ingredients, it’s earned its place as the simplest of the Bakuchiol products I tried. Bakuchiol Booster contains one percent Bakuchiol and 99% Squalane. Boom! And because I love Squalane — a bio-compatible ingredient already found in our skin — I love this facial oil. It’s light, silky, nourishing, and a pleasure to use.
Like all of the brand’s products, Bakuchiol Booster is 100% natural, vegan and cruelty-free. But what I may love even more is BYBI’s genuine commitment to sustainability. They dub themselves as “sustainable skincare made in the U.K.” The brand’s 15-product range is comprised of intriguing products like sustainably-sourced Mega Mist Hyaluronic Acid Facial Spray, a CBD Booster infused with both Hemp Seed Oil and Cannabidiol, and Babe Balm — a 100% natural, vegan multipurpose balm and an “all-round dry skin saviour”.
But I’m smitten with the Bakuchiol Booster! I love its rich, silky texture and have been using it as a facial oil, meaning I apply it in the PM as the last step in my skincare routine. I have actually used it in conjunction with a Retinol treatment — and have even paired it with the Herbivore Bakuchiol serum. Honestly, it’s the perfect opportunity to layer a Bakuchiol product into any skincare regimen!
The Weirdest: Indeed Labs Bakuchiol Reface Pads
Lastly is perhaps the most unique — make it the weirdest — of the five Bakuchiol products I’ve put to the test over the last few weeks. The Indeed Labs Bakuchiol Reface Pads are individually soaked, single-use pads that Indeed says, “are a natural and gentle alternative to retinol that can be used day and night!”
I was first introduced to Canada-based Indeed Laboratories by renowned aesthetician and big-time beauty blogger Caroline Hirons. The brand’s Mineral Booster serum is a fave of hers and I’ve used the product based upon her enthusiastic endorsement. It’s quite well-formulated and powered by a multi-mineral complex of zinc, copper, and magnesium. Minerals are already found in the skin and help to regulate water flow between skin cells to disperse hydration more evenly.
So I was obviously enthusiastic to try Indeed’s answer to the flavor of the month — and kinda fascinated by the fact that they chose to put out a Bakuchiol soaked pad. At $30 for a jar of 30 pads, I have to question if they’re worth a dollar a pad.
But to be honest, I’m not sure I even understand the reasoning behind them. It’s not as though the brand is an authority in pad-soaked skin care. They have one other pad product in something called noAcid Pads Non-Acid Based Exfoliator. It’s a probiotic treatment that also confuses me. Why probiotic pads?
It’s as if someone at Indeed said, “okay there are like 87 brands coming out with Bakuchiol products. How are we going to differentiate ourselves? Oh! How about offering Bakuchiol pads! That’ll seem different. Plus, we already have the components from the noAcid Pads!”
Genius, or just really weird? (I’m on the side of weird!)
Okay, so pads it is. What about the formula that soaks the aforementioned pads? Well, a close look at the INCI list and I’m confident that Indeed formulated them with what’s likely that same one-percent concentration of Bakuchiol. The most interesting thing about the formula is ingredient #2 — Niacinamide. Also known as Vitamin B3, Niacinamide is a fantastic active with multiple, pro-skin health benefits, including the ability to improve the appearance of enlarged pores, uneven skin tone, fine lines, dullness — and to strengthen a weakened skin barrier. There is an excellent article about the powerful benefits of Niacinamide on the Paula’s Choice website here.
But this isn’t supposed to be a Niacinamide treatment. Yet it is! Hey, Indeed, why not just call it Bakuchiol + Niacinamide Reface Brightening Pads? As a combo Niacinamide and Bakuchiol treatment, I think these are a bit misunderstood, unclear — and could very well be an unsung skincare hero.
Okay, guys. That’s my deep-dive into the Bakuchiol market. There are several other products out there, including the overpriced $72 Biossance Squalane + Phyto-Retinol Serum and the hard-to-get Garden of Wisdom Super Bakuchiol Serum. *shrugs*
It’s all so exciting and there’s lots more to come!
**WATCH MY VIDEO REVIEW OF THESE BAKUCHIOL RETINOL ALTERNATIVE ANTI-AGING SERUMS ON MY YOUTUBE CHANNEL HERE.**
The Ingredient List of the Herbivore Bakuchiol Retinol Alternative Smoothing Serum:
Water, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Water, Glycerin, Bakuchiol, Water (and) Amethyst Extract, Leuconostoc / Radish Root Ferment Filtrate, Glycerin (and) Vaccinium Myrtillus Fruit/ Leaf Extract, Vaccinium Angustifolium (Blueberry) Fruit Extract, Populus tremuloides Bark Extract, Glucono Delta Lactone (PHAs), Sodium Phytate, Tremella Fuciformis (Silver Ear Mushroom) Extract, Eclipta Prostrata Extract, Melia Azadirachta Leaf Extract, Moringa Oleifera Seed Oil, Melia Azadirachta Leaf Extract, Melia Azadirachta Flower Extract, Amino Esters-1 (ex Mimosa Tenuiflora), Coccinia Indica Fruit Extract, Solanum Melongena (Eggplant) Fruit Extract, Aloe Barbadensis Flower Extract, Ocimum Sanctum Leaf Extract, Ocimum Basilicum (Basil) Flower/Leaf Extract, Curcuma Longa (Turmeric) Root Extract, Corallina Ocinalis Extract, Melia Azadirachta Flower Extract (and) Coccinia Indica Fruit Extract (and) Aqua (Water).
The Ingredient List of the The Inkey List Bakuchiol Cream:
Water (Aqua), Squalane, Glycerin, Propanediol, Plukenetia Volubilis Seed Oil (Sacha Inchi oil), Dicaprylyl Carbonate, Bakuchiol, Phenoxyethanol, Sodium Caproyl Prolinate, Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer, Carbomer, Sodium Hydroxide, Ethylhexylglycerin, Sodium Stearoyl Glutamate, Polysorbate 60, Phytic Acid, Glyceryl Polyacrylate, Sorbitan Isostearate, Tocopherol.
The Ingredient List of the Revolution Skincare 1% Bakuchiol Serum:
Aqua (Water, Eau), Propanediol, Isopropyl Myristate, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Vitis Vinifera Seed Oil, Bakuchiol, Phenoxyethanol, Polyacrylamide, Xanthan Gum, C13-14 Isoparaffin, Titanium Dioxide, Laureth-7, Ethylhexylglycerin, Ci 17200 (Red 33), Ci 42090 (Blue 1).
The Ingredient List of the Indeed Labs Bakuchiol Reface Pads:
Aqua (Water), Niacinamide, Caprylyl/Capryl Glucoside, Bakuchiol, Hydroxyacetophenone, Phenoxyethanol, Allantoin, Heptyl Glucoside, Sodium Benzoate, Sodium Cocoyl Glutamate, Ethylhexylglycerin, Citric Acid, Glyceryl Caprylate, Polyglyceryl-6 Oleate, Disodium Edta, Sodium Hydroxide, Sodium Surfactin, Heptanol.
The Ingredient List of the BYBI Beauty Bakuchiol Booster:
Squalane (Olive), Bakuchiol.