Bakuchiol vs Retinol - Which one is best for you?

Bakuchiol vs Retinol - Which one is best for you?

Most skincare buffs have heard of retinol in some capacity from a dermatologist or blog, but most people have never heard of bakuchiol. Or, maybe you haven’t heard of either!

Whatever your knowledge, we’ll cover the basics of both bakuchiol and retinol and then cover the differences so you can pick and choose the ingredient that works best for your needs.

What is Bakuchiol?

Bakuchiol (ba-koo-chee-ol) is a potent antioxidant that comes from the Psoralea corylifolia plant (also known as bakuchi), but don’t ask us to pronounce that. It is typically pressed from the babchi seeds of the plant but can also be found in the livers of certain fish, though it is rare to see the non-vegan version on the market.

It is gaining immense traction in the vegan skincare world as a concentrated active ingredient that purges the skin from the inside out, removing toxins and free radicals. However, it has yet to reach mainstream beauty products as it is harder to source than its counterpart, retinol.

Bakuchiol is considered to be a mild alternative to retinol which can be irritating and damaging to sensitive skin types. Before we talk too much about this, let’s take a look at what retinol actually is.

What is Retinol?

Retinol, also known as Vitamin A, is a fat-soluble vitamin that is found in a large portion of anti-aging and anti-acne skincare products. It is an anti-bacterial that kills acne-causing germs and also boosts the production of collagen for a plumper, smoother look that many mature women and men enjoy.

Plus, this boost of collagen reduces dark spots and scarring for those with acne-prone skin.

While this sounds all good and great, retinol has quite a few downsides. For starters, retinol can only be derived from animal products like milk, butter, liver, and fish. While carotenoids (a compound found in retinol) can be found in leafy vegetables and are great antioxidants against free radicals, they simply don’t exhibit the same results as their animal-derived counterpart.

Additionally, retinol is not recommended for people with sensitive skin. Vitamin A causes mild to moderate irritation or even severe in rare cases and should not be used every day as a result. Plus, this ingredient decreases the skin’s natural ability to ward off harmful UVA and UVB rays which leads to sun damage and burns.

The last major downside of retinol is that it decreases the natural production of sebum to the degree that results in dry, flaky, unsightly skin if not used correctly.

Cons of Bakuchiol vs. Retinol

Bakuchiol is difficult to find in skincare products. When it is available, it often comes at a premium since it is more expensive to source and produce the ingredient, not to mention it’s practically impossible to find it at an in-person store.

While there isn’t much research on this, it overall isn’t recommended that bakuchiol products be used with skincare that contains benzoyl peroxide or drying toners/exfoliators. 

We’re putting this on the cons list, but it’s technically a good thing. Bakuchiol causes something called “skin purging,” which basically means the expulsion of toxins, dead skin cells, and more. The reason this might be considered a bad thing is because it looks like a collection of breakouts across the face that could last for up to three weeks. However, this means it’s working!

The biggest con of bakuchiol is simply that there isn’t a whole lot of research on it yet, but what is out there is extremely promising.

Cons of Retinol vs. Bakuchiol

Retinol simply has a ton of potential side effects, and you really never know what you’re going to get until you start using it.

Retinol breaks down into certain compounds that quickly absorb UVA rays, which are the UV rays that cause premature aging. Because of this, your skin will become more sensitive to sunlight, specifically to UVA rays. However, a quick fix is to simply use sunscreen with a higher PA level.

Additionally, it is an ingredient with diminishing marginal return, which means that the longer you use it, the less it works for your skin. This is extremely damaging to those who need to use it on a frequent basis, and over-the-counter skin care products can only safely go to a certain retinol percentage.

Lastly, retinol can cause an allergic reaction in certain individuals that leaves the skin looking and feeling dry, flaky, or even scaly in extreme situations. Some women also experience more skin inflammation and redness when they first start using retinol.

Pros of Bakuchiol vs. Retinol

Recent research shows that bakuchiol is just as potent and effective as retinol without as many negative side effects. This is a huge win for the anti-aging community. This ‘vegan retinol’ didn’t yield absolutely no irritation but significantly less irritation than the group that was given retinol.

Additionally, it’s vegan and cruelty-free in almost every situation!

Bakuchiol also has immense antioxidant properties and is an anti-inflammatory that is soothing to those with sensitive and/or acne-prone skin. What’s not to love?

Pros of Retinol vs. Bakuchiol

The only known benefit of retinol over bakuchiol is the fact that it is much easier to find (both in-person and online) and is overall cheaper. There is also more research surrounding retinol, but all of it agrees that it is a great anti-aging ingredient for a short amount of time and with a lot of potential side effects.


At nuorganic, we know it’s important for you to find the right products perfect for your skin. Whether it be retinol or bakuchiol, discovering the serum or cream that works best for your skin is crucial! If you’re interested in learning more about the effects of different products, you can see our additional blogs. 

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