A Natural Alternative to Retinol Finally Exists — and It's About to Be in Skin Care Everywhere

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. Here's why.

Retinol has earned its reputation as an enduring favorite ingredient in skin-care products — you can find the vitamin A derivative in just about every variation, including moisturizers, eye creams, and even a hydrating toner.

"Topical retinol is perhaps the best-studied ingredient we have on the market to help stimulate collagen, strengthen the skin foundation, and minimize the appearance of lines and wrinkles," Joshua Zeichner, director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, tells Allure. It's also a great for clearing up acne.

But for all the powerful benefits of the vitamin A derivative, it can be tricky to use for those with sensitive skin. "The downside to retinol is that it can cause irritation of the skin, limiting its use," Zeichner says. Until recently, the only alternative to the red, dry, irritated skin sometimes caused by retinol has been to overdose on moisturizer. But a trendy new plant-based alternative is changing that.

The downside to retinol is that it can cause irritation of the skin, limiting its use.

Enter, bakuchiol, a plant extract that offers the same skin benefits of a retinol, without the irksome side effects. "Bakuchiol is an ingredient derived from the psoralea corylifolia plant," aka the "babchi" plant, Perry Romanowski, a cosmetic chemist, tells Allure.

The plant has a long and impressive skin-care resume, starting with its use in traditional Ayurvedic medicine. Modern science has taken an interest, too. "Bakuchiol has been shown to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, as well as antibacterial properties," Sejal Shah, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City, tells Allure.

That's exciting news for your skin-care routine, says Shah. "Bakuchiol functions similar to a retinol, increasing cell turnover thereby stimulating collagen production and diminishing signs of aging such as fine lines, wrinkles, skin laxity, and overall photodamage," she says.

Bakuchiol has been shown to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, as well as antibacterial properties.

A recent study published in the British Journal of Dermatology found that not only did bakuchiol work as well as a retinol when it came to addressing signs of aging, but that it was also was less irritating. A natural, non-irritating alternative to retinol that's just as powerful? Yes, please. (As a bonus, bakuchiol is also a vegan alternative to retinols, as some forms of it are derived from animal products.)

So, why haven't you heard of bakuchiol before? The natural ingredient started to go mainstream in the skin-care world in the 1970s, Shah says, but it was only until recent research highlighted bakuchiol's effectiveness that it started to gain industry steam. For proof, look no further than recent product launches. Earlier this month, Ole Henriksen dropped a bakuchiol-based "retin-ALT" line of products, including the Transform Plus Glow Cycle Retin-ALT Power Serum and the Transform Plus Goodnight Glow Retin-ALT Sleeping Crème.

And out this September is the Strivectin S.T.A.R. Light Retinol Night Oil, which is a lightweight, dry oil made of bakuchiol, along with hydrating squalane and antioxidant-packed chia seed oils, to nourish skin. Not new, but still worth mentioning, is the Omorovicza Miracle Facial Oil, a silky elixir formulated with the superstar ingredient, plus an array of hydrating oils, including sea buckthorn berry, rosehip, and sweet almond.

To work bakuchiol into your skin-care routine, you can use it just like you would a topical retinoid, Zeichner says. "As these products help repair the skin and stimulate collagen, I typically recommend using them in the evening before bed in the form of a serum or night cream," he says. He recommends Biossance Squalane + Phyto-Retinoid Serum, which delivers an ultra-hydrating boost of bakuchiol.

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