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Is bakuchiol really a retinol alternative?

In short, yes! Despite the fact Bak has been getting a lil flack recently (sad face), with some decrying its similarity to retinol and denouncing claims that it’s a viable alternative, if you don’t want to use retinol but want to use ingredients with similar benefits and properties then bakuchiol is an retinol alternative.

In the same way that oat or almond milk is considered an alternative to dairy milk, because of its benefits, function and place within your routine, bakuchiol can be considered a natural alternative to retinol. This doesn’t mean that they’re the same and it certainly doesn’t mean that one is better than the other, it’s simply that depending on your skin, you might find you’re more suited to bakuchiol than you are retinol and vice versa. 

So why choose bakuchiol over retinol?

The main reason people choose bakuchiol over retinol is down to skin sensitivity and intolerance to retinol, which is exactly why we created Bakuchiol Booster. Retinol (Vitamin A) is an amazing ingredient and medical grade retinoids in particular can work wonders on acne, hyperpigmentation and wrinkles. But despite it’s spot busting, collagen boosting, cellular turnover increasing abilities, for people with sensitive skin the side effects can out-way the benefits. Retinol is a seriously powerful ingredient and for some, particularly those with sensitive skin, they find that it causes irritation, redness and extreme dryness that leads to peeling and flaking. For some people, these negative side effects will dissipate overtime but for others, it can simply be too much to bear. Not to mention the fact that you cannot use retinol whilst pregnant or nursing - so you can understand why lots of people are on the hunt for a gentler, retinol alternative AKA bakuchiol. 

Derived from the babchi plant, bakuchiol is also inherently vegan whereas SOME retinoids are derived from egg yolk and fish liver oil, so if you’re after vegan and cruelty-free skincare, you might prefer to use bakuchiol.

It's also worth noting that bakuchiol isn't some new, fad ingredient that's come out of nowhere. Sure it may have only hit the western mainstream market recently, but bakuchiol has been used for centuries in both Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine and skincare and for good reason.

How bakuchiol compares to retinol:

Like retinol, bakuchiol increases collagen & cellular production which in turn helps reduce the appearance of wrinkles and mild pigmentation, as well as smoothing skin and improving overall skin texture. In fact, a 2018 study by the British Journal of Dermatology found that the main difference between retinol and bakuchiol was that bakuchiol didn’t cause skin irritation such as redness, stinging or peeling. Unlike retinol, Bakuchiol Booster is also suitable for those who are pregnant or nursing and doesn’t cause photosensitivity - though you should obviously be wearing sunscreen anyway.

Although it is far more gentle than retinol, bakuchiol does still pack a punch so we would always recommend patch testing any new products before using. You can find our recommendations on how to correctly patch test here.


Yes, bakuchiol is an alternative to retinol. No, they’re not the same. No, one isn’t better than the other.

Try Bakuchiol Booster if:

- You’ve tried retinol before and it didn’t work for you
- You have sensitive skin
- You want to start your anti-aging journey but want to err on the side of caution
- You’re pregnant but still want the collagen boosting benefits of retinol                  - You want a powerful boost for your skin but don’t want any negative side effects

Written by Saoirse, Senior Social & Content Executive