What’s the deal with Bakuchiol?

Touted to be the natural alternative to retinol, bakuchiol seems to be the new wonder skincare ingredient.

It was BYBI’s Bakuchiol Booster that was my first introduction to the ingredient, a couple of years back I think now. It fitted quite seamlessly into my routine – a couple of drops into whatever I was using at night – an oil or serum or sometimes I used it in its own. I didn’t notice anything straight away, but a few weeks in I had a revelation; after some sleepless nights, my skin should have looked tired, however it was looking surprisingly good. I thought about what I was using and realised it was the bakuchiol, it was definitely making my skin a better version of itself.

photographer Polly Hanrahan and a little skin work by me for BYBI

Bakuchiol is becoming known for its ability to rejuvenate skin; it can help with skin tone, firmness, elasticity and help to soften fine lines. It it said to boost cell turnover and thus collagen too. These are very similar to the properties of retinol, however bakuchiol comes without the irritation. Retinol although known to be one of the best anti-agers in skincare, can be drying (it is also used to control excess sebum) and can cause sun sensitivity. Therefore many skins cannot tolerate it, or indeed don’t want to try. Bakuchiol steps in nicely here, and is becoming known as nature’s alternative to retinol. Retinol comes from Vitamin A so of course can be found in nature, however the potent retinols that we find within skincare are usually synthetic. 

Where does bakuchiol come from?

Bakuchiol comes from the seeds of the Psoralea Corylifolia plant, commonly known as Babchi. The plant isn’t actually a new find; Ayurvedic and Traditional Chinese Medicine have been using it for years. Every part of the plant is useful, and it can treat a wide variety of skin conditions. Babchi grows in the wild in India and it is these plants that are harvested. 

Is it sustainable?

I recently wrote a column for Natural Products about bakuchiol and sustainability. There are concerns that it is becoming endangered because of its popularity. Here is a snippet of it –

“However with an increasing pressure for higher yields and no commercial crops, is this new found fame causing problems? It seems the supply might not be able to keep up with demand, and there are reports of the plant now being endangered. Therefore, using this wonder natural ingredient might not be as good for the planet as it is for our skin, and the synthetic retinol might be the more sustainable choice.

Natural does not mean sustainable. We’ve seen this before with Sandalwood and Frankincense being prime examples. Their popularity caused them to be exploited, which led to them becoming endangered species. Sustainable beauty is a whole entity on its own, unfortunately it becomes entangled with so many other buzz words in the natural beauty world. This often leads to confusion and the misconception that all natural beauty is sustainable beauty.

I asked some natural brands I know and trust about their sourcing of bakuchiol. All knew the concerns with the ingredient but assured me they were working closely with their suppliers. BYBI spoke about spreading sustainable harvesting practices amongst the collectors to ensure continuous existence of the crop in the wild, continued investment in research in productive utilisation of raw materials and working with local agriculture institutes to develop cultivation practices. After extensive research Ilody skincare (and others) believe bakuchiol is not listed as an endangered species on CITES and the Indian Government allows its exportation.”

It can be hard to know exactly what is going on when it comes to things like this (or anything really!!, but by asking questions to the brands we can start to hopefully piece things together, and make informed choices about what to use and buy. If brands don’t respond then perhaps they’re not the brands we should be buying from anyway. I’m happy to keep using bakuchiol from the brands that I trust, but of course we and the brands need to keep an eye on the situation and if it changes then we must change our choices too.

BYBI bakuchiol
photographer Polly Hanrahan and a little skin work by me for BYBI

Some of my favourites

Some of my favourite products include BYBI’s booster of course. I’ve used ilody’s Seres Boosted Collagen Serum and loved it – I used it as my night time serum and felt it really boosted my skin. I’m currently using Biossance’s Squalane +Phyto-Retinol Serum which is really nice – it is almost like a lightweight cream rather than a serum. It also contains hyaluronic acid and squalane. It contains no retinol despite the name which can be confusing, a few brands have done similar things like this, which I know upsets a few people in the skincare world, which is fair as they don’t contain retinol. Also just to say this serum does contain sodium acrylates copolymer which is a synthetic acrylic based polymer.

I feel like these weren’t dramatic overnight results but with continued use, they just make my skin more resilient and generally fresher looking.

I personally haven’t used lots of different retinols but I have heard lots of good and bad things about them. There are lots of varying strengths on the market, all giving different results – of course individual skins will react differently too. Some are so strong they are prescription only. (I’ve got a post touching on them here) I think because there are so many variants of retinol it is quite hard to compare it to bakuchiol, however I do think that bakuchiol is a really great addition to any routine if you are looking to brighten and refresh your skin. Especially if you are sensitive or want to keep your skincare gentle.

Another product I love with bakuchiol is Elan Skincare’s Face Cleanser. This is such a beautiful oil to cleanse with and it really leaves my skin feeling nourished. I know you’re washing the cleanser off, but take the time to really massage it into your skin (you massage this oil into a wet skin) and your skin will for sure will reap the benefits of the ingredient properties.

Are you a fan of bakuchiol? What are your favourite products?

Adding this on here – I posted this on Instagram and got some really interesting comments about the sourcing of bakuchiol x

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