Updated: Dec 28, 2020
When talking about anti-aging skincare, retinoids will most definitely be mentioned. Retinoids, or topical vitamin A with derivatives (retinol and retinoic acid), are well known for the ability to reduce fine lines or wrinkles, and fading hyperpigmentation caused by acne. However, a lot of skincare enthusiast reports irritation when using such active ingredients.
Retinoids are a class of natural compounds consisting of several derivatives such as retinol, the corresponding aldehyde and acid (retinoic acid). Beside other benefits like anti-inflammatory effect, they are radical scavengers, targeting free radicals formed by UV exposure and exerting antioxidant activity important to prevent photo ageing. For skincare purposes, retinol or retinoic acid are involved; however, this latter is for prescription use only. After application on the skin, retinol penetrates up to the keratinocytes, which are the highest populated cells on the outer side of our skin. Here it has the ability to regulate epithelial cell growth and the dead skin cell layer to shed, which is important to preserve the natural barrier function of our skin. Retinoids also protect against the degradation of collagen, (which is) responsible of a healthy, supple and youthful look.1
Photo by Mukund Kumar on Shutterstock
Although retinoids have many applications as antioxidants, they are not free from generating skin allergic reactions. For this reason, there is an interest in looking for new products with anti-photo ageing activity and bakuchiol could be a good choice.
Bakuchiol is a meroterpene phenol from babchi plant (Psoralea corylifolia) that has a long tradition in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine to cure various skin diseases among other applications. Despite the great number of studies about bakuchiol biological activity, there is nothing clear concerning its mechanism of action in helping you maintain youthful skin. Even though bakuchiol and retinoids belong to two different chemical classes of natural compounds, it seems that bakuchiol can act as a functional analog of retinol. This similarity was confirmed by the side-by-side comparison of the modulation of individual genes, as well as on the protein level by ELISA and histochemistry.2 In addition, both bakuchiol and retinol have the ability to stimulate the production of the same collagen type (type I, type III, and type IV).
Photo by Chaudhuri, R. K.; Bojanowski, K. Bakuchiol: A Retinol-like Functional Compound Revealed by Gene Expression Profiling and Clinically Proven to Have Anti-Aging Effects
A double-blind randomized clinical study compared the performance between bakuchiol and retinol to reduce common signs of facial ageing as wrinkles, pigmentation, and redness level, by evaluating the patient’s facial photographs computerized analysis in 12 weeks. Questionnaires had been given during each visit to assess if the patients experienced any itching, burning, or stinging sensations. Patients using bakuchiol were asked to apply 0.5% cream twice daily and for retinol to apply 0.5% once a day. After 12 weeks, both bakuchiol and retinol, as significant change, were able to decrease wrinkle surface area and hyperpigmentation up to 20% and 59% (respectively) with no evident difference between the two. The retinol group, however, reported to experience more scaling which is a sign of irritation, compared to bakuchiol. There are also reports of more itching, burning and stinging in the retinol group but not significant enough.3
retinoid but it is important to underline that in this study patients used the bakuchiol cream twice as more as the retinol cream
Although the between bakuchiol and retinol cream are not done in the same exact dose, we can conclude from the study that bakuchiol does show promises to have the same effectivity/to be as effective as retinol cream. We can also say that bakuchiol may have fewer side effects than retinol. Bakuchiol is a promising alternative for retinoids due to its ability to help improve signs of ageing but with higher tolerability.
(1) Zasada, M.; Budzisz, E. Retinoids: Active Molecules Influencing Skin Structure Formation in Cosmetic and Dermatological Treatments. Postep. Dermatologii i Alergol. 2019, 36 (4), 392–397. https://doi.org/10.5114/ada.2019.87443.
(2) Dhaliwal, S.; Rybak, I.; Ellis, S. R.; Notay, M.; Trivedi, M.; Burney, W.; Vaughn, A. R.; Nguyen, M.; Reiter, P.; Bosanac, S.; et al. Prospective, Randomized, Double-Blind Assessment of Topical Bakuchiol and Retinol for Facial Photoageing. Br. J. Dermatol. 2019, 180 (2), 289–296. https://doi.org/10.1111/bjd.16918.17.
(3) Chaudhuri, R. K.; Bojanowski, K. Bakuchiol: A Retinol-like Functional Compound Revealed by Gene Expression Profiling and Clinically Proven to Have Anti-Aging Effects. Int. J. Cosmet. Sci. 2014, 36 (3), 221–230. https://doi.org/10.1111/ics.121
5. https://labmuffin.com/bakuchiol-better-than-retinol/ (3 May 2020)