serum skincare
Switch to a gentle anti-ageing regimen that doesn't cause flaking, dryness and breakouts by incorporating Nature's retinol. Image Credit: Shutterstock

What if you could have all the benefits of retinol without the dreadful side effects? Retinol is the star multi-action ingredient no one can get enough of. From acne and fine lines to texture and hyperpigmentation, the vitamin A derivative has been proven to reverse all. Yet, many struggle to keep retinol in their rotation.

People embarking on a retinol journey know that they will most likely experience painful purging, peeling and heightened sun sensitivity. Some successfully build their skin's tolerance, while others find that they're better off without it. This is where the rise of bakuchiol, Nature's retinol, comes in.

Is bakuchiol better than retinol?

A fairly new ingredient in the skincare industry, bakuchiol has been proposed as an alternative to retinol for being gentler on the skin. Its roots, however, date back to ayurvedic medicine.

"Bakuchiol is derived from a plant called babchi, which is used orally and topically in ayurveda for treating vitiligo and psoriasis. When its anti-ageing properties were also discovered, it started getting incorporated into skincare," explained Dr Aashim Singh Kukreja, a specialist dermatologist with Medcare Medical Centre in Dubai.

Our dermatology expert says that it's not a highly studied ingredient, but so far, what we do know is that bakuchiol has properties similar to retinol. "It helps in skin cell turnover and collagen stimulation, and has anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and antioxidant properties," she added. This means it can tackle signs of ageing, dark spots and acne eruptions.

Bakuchiol-only products are also deemed safe in pregnancy, as long as they don't contain retinol. Image Credit: Shutterstock

With bakuchiol, you don't have to pay a hefty price to get younger-looking skin. The botanical ingredient is "very mild" and non-irritating, making it an ideal retinol alternative for sensitive skin types who are in search of anti-ageing skincare. There is a catch, however.

"Because it's so mild, bakuchiol may not offer results as good and fast as retinol, though the mechanism of action is similar [to retinol]. It works slowly. There are different concentrations available from one to 15 per cent, depending on the patient's requirement," said Dr Kukreja.

How do I use bakuchiol?

While there are no usage precautions with bakuchiol, our expert talks about ingredients that work with and against its effects.

"Moisturisers that have squalene or hyaluronic acid will work better with bakuchiol. But, don't combine it with exfoliating agents like glycolic acid, as these will reduce its efficacy. Apply the bakuchiol product once daily in the day or night, and if you're using it in the daytime, then follow it up with a sunscreen," advised Dr Kukreja.

Some anti-ageing products take it a step further and combine both retinol and bakuchiol in one formula. Are these safe to use? Dr Kukreja says that as long as your skin isn't sensitive to retinol, this combination shouldn't cause any irritation.

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Get your daily dose of gentle 'retinol' with the best-rated bakuchiol moisturisers and serums below, including our expert's picks. Sign up for Amazon Prime membership to get free, fast delivery, and check out other discounted items from Amazon's health and beauty section.

1. Best Overall: By Wishtrend Vitamin A-mazing Bakuchiol Night Cream

Korean skincare quickly hopped onto the bakuchiol trend, given how the ingredient is vegan and non-irritating for all skin types. By Wishtrend combines concentrations of 300 ppm retinal (acts faster than retinol) and 10,000 ppm bakuchiol in this fragrance-free night cream, and the formidable duo fights skin texture, improves elasticity and tightens sagging skin on the neck and chin. The Vitamin A-mazing Night Cream also contains moisturising agents like hyaluronic acid, Centella asiatica, niacinamide and ceramide to keep your skin plump and hydrated throughout your sleep. Start with a lower application frequency of two times a week since it still contains a retinol derivative. Happy reviewers report back shrinking pores, smooth texture and moisturised skin, great for retinol beginners. Those with oily skin, however, would benefit from less product.

2. Best Anti-Ageing Treatment: Paula's Choice Clinical 0.3% Retinol + 2% Bakuchiol Treatment

You already have a moisturiser you swear by, in which case a treatment-only product would fit better in your skincare routine. Paula's Choice has a cream-based serum that goes on before moisturiser, and it contains two per cent bakuchiol and a lower concentration of retinol – together, the brand claims that retinol will work more effectively and for longer. The cream is further infused with firming peptides, ceramide and sodium hyaluronate to support collagen-depleted skin. Those who usually experience redness and flaking with vitamin A say that their skin adapted to the treatment quickly with no irritation. Other reviewers with an oily T-zone notice controlled sebum production and fewer blackheads on the nose. It works slowly but surely, they add.

3. Best Serum with Retinol: Some By Mi Retinol Intense Reactivating Serum

If your skin tolerates retinol and its derivatives well, then the Some By Mi Retinol Intense Serum is worth looking into. This reactivating serum harnesses the efficacy of three anti-ageing powerhouses – 0.1 per cent retinol, 1 ppm retinal and 5,000 ppm bakuchiol – to boost elasticity and reduce signs of ageing. This potent trio is made mild and non-irritant with the help of calming panthenol, moisturising ceramide and antioxidant truecica complex that forms a protective barrier. People who’ve been on prescription tretinoin find the serum a better non-comedogenic option that doesn’t cause any reactions. Even without the recommended ‘sandwich method’ for retinol application, the serum goes on mildly. They add that it’s great for dark spots and textured skin.

4. Best Facial Oil: Good Molecules Bakuchiol Oil For Dry Skin

Dry skin types with a preference for facial oils can find a bakuchiol concentration by Good Molecules. Made up of only three ingredients, this oil blend is excellent for increasing cellular turnover with one per cent bakuchiol, supported by chia and rosehip seed oils that combat any dryness with high amounts of polyunsaturated fats and omega 3. There’s no added fragrance, so the formula’s natural scent can come across as odd, say reviews, otherwise it can be mixed with a moisturiser to mask the smell. The brand’s more popular Gentle Retinol Cream with bakuchiol could be used in rotation with the oil in the AM or PM.

5. Best Eye Cream: Haruharu Wonder Black Rice Bakuchiol Eye Cream

Another viral bakuchiol product comes from Korean brand Haruharu Wonder's popular Black Rice range. If you loved the Black Rice toner, then try this bakuchiol eye cream that still features fermented black rice, bamboo shoot bark extract and 5,000 ppm of bakuchiol, so you're getting a lightweight cream that's rich in antioxidants and vitamins to nourish the delicate skin around the eyes. Not only does it help reduce crow's feet and fine lines, it also gets rid of dark circles. Results are slow to show but reviewers do notice a brightening effect and how their eyes seem less puffy. 

6. Best Retinol-Free Serum: Herbivore Bakuchiol Natural Retinol Alternative Serum

For a true retinol-free serum, you have an option in Herbivore's bakuchiol product. This is a lightweight, jelly-like formula that contains babchi extract, tremella mushroom for hydration and antioxidant blueberry stem cells. It even includes polyhydroxy acid (PHA) to gently exfoliate the skin and increase the product's absorption rate. Mums in the reviews who couldn't use retinol when pregnant vouch for the serum and say they've seen great results with a noticeable glow, while those with acne note how quickly their active cystic pimples shrank and stopped new breakouts in their tracks.

7. Best Retinol-Free Cream: Farm Rx Bakuchiol Cream 

This is the only retinol-free daily moisturiser on our list. Clean beauty Korean brand Farm Rx offers a bakuchiol cream that's made from 92 per cent natural ingredients and is 100 per cent vegan. Its main ingredient bakuchiol works in conjunction with a blend of botanicals that are slowly cold-brewed to extract antioxidants for peak efficacy. Your skin will additionally benefit from panthenol, ceramide, olive oil-derived squalene and hyaluronic acid. Reviewers describe it as a thick moisturiser that's more suitable for the PM, even though the cream can be used both during the day and night. It does feature shea butter, which might be less favourable on oily skin.

Our recommendations are independently chosen by Gulf News editors. If you decide to shop through links on our website, we may earn an affiliate commission, as we are part of Amazon Services LLC Associates Program.