The 15 Best Bakuchiol Serums to Keep Your Skin Firm, Smooth, and Even

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Can’t tolerate retinol? This plant-based alternative just might be your skin’s savior.

<p>InStyle / Reese Herrington</p>

InStyle / Reese Herrington

If you ask any derm what they’d recommend for better skin, we’re willing to bet that after touting the importance of SPF, they’d suggest using retinol. Retinol is the only ingredient that’s clinically proven to correct the signs of aging, and it’s also great at clearing up acne. But as revered as retinol may be, there are some caveats to the ingredient: You can’t use it while pregnant, it might not be a good match for deep complexions, and it can be very sensitizing to the skin.

For some people, it may be worth powering through these problematic aspects of retinol. But those downsides will deter or preclude plenty of the population from using it. There’s still another option, though: Bakuchiol. This plant-based retinol alternative actually offers the same exact benefits (and then some!), but without the same risks.

Here, with the help of skin experts, we’re breaking down all you need to know about the ingredient, plus we curated some of the best bakuchiol serums on the market to help you firm, smooth, clarify, and brighten your skin. Keep reading to find your perfect plant-based match.

Related: The 15 Best Over-the-Counter Retinol Formulas of 2023, Tested and Reviewed

Best Overall : Paula's Choice Clinical 0.3% Retinol + 2% Bakuchiol Treatment

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What We Love: This well-researched formula is packed with heavy-hitting ingredients.

What We Don’t Love: It’s powerful, so it could irritate sensitive skin.

We love and trust Paula’s Choice hardworking formulas, and this milky treatment is one of their most innovative and potent. In fact, the active ingredients we mentioned below are only a fraction of the comprehensively studied (and clinically proven to be effective) goodies in the bottle. Of course, the star here is bakuchiol, which is in the highest over-the-counter concentration we’ve seen, clocking in at two percent. You’ll also find traditional retinol to get a double dose of those skin-renewing benefits. Additionally, there are firming peptides, brightening licorice root extracts, and plenty of skin soothers and hydrators, including ceramides, sodium hyaluronate, and oat kernel extract, to name a few.

That said, this is not a product designed for retinoid newbies. Even though bakuchiol is gentler than traditional retinol, the inclusion of the latter at 0.3 percent makes this treatment very strong. If your skin has never acclimated to retinol or is prone to reactivity, you may experience not only a purge period, but significant dryness as well as irritation. However, if you’re a power user of active ingredient-based skincare formulas, give this product a try. Because of all those clinically-backed ingredients, you’re bound to see a transformation in your skin once you add this potent treatment to your regular routine.

Price at time of publish: $62

Active Ingredients: Retinol, bakuchiol, peptides|Bakuchiol Concentration: 2%|Size: 1 fl oz

Best Budget: The Inkey List Bakuchiol Retinol Alternative Moisturizer

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What We Love: This formula features one percent bakuchiol at a very wallet-friendly price.

What We Don’t Love: If you have dry skin, this moisturizer may not be rich enough for you, especially in winter.

We appreciate transparency in skincare formulas, and it’s even more delightful when we find it from an affordable brand. “This is a great option if you want to try all of the hype of bakuchiol without breaking the bank,” agrees Melinda Small, a product development consultant. This moisturizer from The Inkey List boasts one percent bakuchiol to help smooth out fine lines and wrinkles, plus nourishing (yet non-greasy) squalane and sacha inchi oil, which impart lightweight hydration for added skin-plumping benefits. It goes on nicely as a pre-makeup step, too, acting almost as a primer, leaving a velvety base upon application that won’t interfere with your foundation.

Keep in mind that this formula acts like a lightweight veil of moisture rather than a thicker coat of cream, so if you’re looking for something heavy for nighttime or winter use, this may not suit your needs. However, if you want a lighter summer moisturizer or are prone to oily skin, you’ll love this product.

Price at time of publish: $13

Active Ingredients: Bakuchiol, squalane, sacha inchi oil|Bakuchiol Concentration: 1%|Size: 1 fl oz

Best Splurge: Naturopathica Holy Basil Retinol Ageless Night Oil

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What We Love: This formula uses exclusively plant-based ingredients to help revitalize skin.

What We Don’t Love: The pump can be a little messy.

If you want an indulgent, holistic way to add bakuchiol into your skincare routine, look no further than this oil from Naturopathica. The silky formula contains both retinol and bakuchiol to create a one percent retinoid blend, rejuvenating skin while causing minimal to no irritation. We think that in addition to non-sensitizing bakuchiol, this calming formula has adaptogenic ingredients to thank for that. This includes one of the signature ingredients, holy basil, which reduces signs of stress in the skin as well as combats free radical damage. There are also a dozen different plant oils to help condition and soften skin while leaving it absolutely luminous.

While this product is definitely worth the splurge, we’ll note that the packaging leaves something to be desired — it’s in a pump rather than a dropper-style bottle, and the packaging can dispense too much oil too quickly if you’re not prepared. Pump it into a cupped palm so you don’t lose any product.

Price at time of publish: $134

Active Ingredients: Retinol, bakuchiol, holy basil|Bakuchiol Concentration: 1% (with retinol)|Size: 1 fl oz

Best for Wrinkles: Tula Wrinkle Treatment Drops Retinol Alternative Serum

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What We Love: There are three retinol alternative ingredients in this formula.

What We Don’t Love: The texture is a little greasy, so you may want to save this serum for evening use.

While bakuchiol gets all the credit for its retinol-mimicking abilities, it’s actually not the only plant extract that does so — alfalfa sprout and stevia also offer these properties, and all three of these hardworking wrinkle-fighting ingredients are in this Tula product. You’ll also find probiotic extracts to help soothe and balance skin, plus firming prebiotics and conditioning squalane.

Just a few drops go a long way and spread evenly across the face and neck to deliver comprehensive anti-aging benefits, leaving skin glowy and soft. The formula features a dry oil texture, which we like, but if you’re hoping to use this formula during the day, you may want to reconsider as not all skin types will drink in the serum. If you were to apply makeup over it, this could cause a slip-and-slide effect with your foundation. However, we love it as a nourishing night treatment, either solo or layered under an intensive moisturizing cream.

Price at time of publish: $68

Active Ingredients: Bakuchiol, alfalfa sprouts, squalane, stevia|Bakuchiol Concentration: Not disclosed|Size: 0.98 fl oz

Best for Sensitive Skin: Avène RetrinAL Advanced Correcting Serum

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What We Love: This formula is extra soothing to counteract any potential sensitization.

What We Don’t Love: We wish the serum was in a pump instead of a dropper bottle.

Even though bakuchiol isn’t nearly as irritating as retinol, sensitive skin types could still experience some reactivity when being introduced to the ingredient. To counteract irritation, this formula from Avène contains the brand’s signature ingredient, thermal spring water, which is clinically proven (by over 100 studies!) to calm and soothe the skin. It also contains niacinamide, which you can think of as the Robin to bakuchiol's Batman.

“Bakuchiol and niacinamide are a great anti-aging combo, as niacinamide is anti-inflammatory and will help with tolerance, and has anti-pigment effects, helping to even out skin tone while bakuchiol increases firmness,” says Dr. Kiran Mian, a board-certified dermatologist based in New York City. Additional ingredients like hyaluronic acid and vitamin E boost hydration levels while preventing free radical damage.

The bottle features a twist-up dropper mechanism that automatically fills the dropper with the serum upon opening the bottle. However, it’s not always effective and may not grab enough serum, which can be a little frustrating. We’d prefer a pump, but that hasn’t deterred us from using this elegant formula.

Price at time of publish: $78

Active Ingredients: Bakuchiol, niacinamide, thermal spring water|Bakuchiol Concentration: Not disclosed|Size: 1 fl oz

Best Night Treatment: Isdin Isdinceutics Melatonik Restorative Night Serum

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What We Love: The unexpected blend of ingredients work fabulously together.

What We Don’t Love: It features a strong floral scent.

While you might be more familiar with a vitamin C serum as part of a daytime regimen, it’s in this night formula for a reason — the ingredient helps repair skin damage caused by free radicals, which you’re subjected to all day. Here, it’s also combined with bakuchiol for added firming and skin-renewing benefits, as well as melatonin. No, applying this serum won’t make you sleepy — when applied topically, melatonin helps wake up your body’s own antioxidant properties, kicking the natural regeneration processes that occur in your skin overnight into high gear.

Scent preferences are highly personal, but if you’re someone who prefers more mildly fragranced products, keep in mind that this formula has a strong floral aroma. In some cases, fragrance can irritate sensitive skin or trigger the formation of blemishes in acne-prone complexions, so those skin types may want to patch test before using this formula on their entire face.

Price at time of publish: $165

Active Ingredients: Bakuchiol, melatonin, vitamin C|Bakuchiol Concentration: Not disclosed|Size: 1 fl oz

Best for Uneven Skin Tone: Herbivore Botanicals Bakuchiol Retinol Alternative Smoothing Serum

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What We Love: This serum contains a gentle resurfacing ingredient to help the actives better penetrate the skin.

What We Don’t Love: The formula can feel sticky on the skin.

When treating uneven skin tone, you want to combat it at both the surface layers and deeper tissues of the skin. This ingredient blends bakuchiol (which helps stimulate collagen production and cellular turnover from the bottom up) with polyhydroxy acid, a mild skin exfoliant that helps slough away dead skin cells. By doing so, the serum does double duty on fading discoloration. Both Small and Dr. Mian recommend this product due to its blend of plant extracts, including adaptogens turmeric and tremella mushroom. The latter powerfully boosts skin hydration levels as it can hold 500 times its weight in water — and it even has hyperpigmentation-fighting qualities!

Though we love the jelly texture of this serum, we do want to note that it never fully dries down, especially if you apply plenty of it. We recommend applying it on a lazy weekend day when you don’t plan on wearing makeup, or before bed under your favorite moisturizer.

Price at time of publish: $56

Active Ingredients: Babchi extract, polyhydroxy acid, tremella mushroom|Bakuchiol Concentration: Not disclosed|Size: 1 fl oz

Best with SPF: Supergoop! Daily Dose Bioretinol + Mineral SPF

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What We Love: This is a very rare SPF that contains bakuchiol.

What We Don’t Love: It has an oil-like feel, so it’s best for drier skin types, especially during cold months.

We love that this Supergoop! formula not only protects skin from future damage, but corrects past skin sins. The one percent bakuchiol helps firm skin, smoothing away the look of fine lines and wrinkles while l-carnosine, a strengthening peptide, boosts collagen levels for a tauter look. There’s also soothing antioxidant green tea. The SPF 40 is entirely mineral, making this a lovely alternative to chemical sunscreens — and while so many mineral SPFs can leave a chalky cast behind, this one doesn’t, thanks to a subtle tint provided by antioxidant English oak bark extract.

While those who enjoy serums with oil textures will love this SPF — it gives the skin a gorgeous glow! — you may find that it is a bit slippery on oily skin types, especially in summer weather. If this sounds like you, consider saving this heavier sunscreen formula for the winter months.

Price at time of publish: $46

Active Ingredients: Bakuchiol, l-carnosine, green tea extract|Bakuchiol Concentration: 1%|Size: 1 fl oz

Best for Eyes: Ole Henriksen Wrinkle Blur Bakuchiol Eye Gel Creme

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What We Love: This eye treatment feels great as soon as you put it on.

What We Don’t Love: It may not be moisturizing enough for thirsty skin.

If it’s important that the products in your skincare lineup be aesthetically pleasing, you’ll love the mesmerizing lavender ribbons in this eye treatment from Ole Henriksen. Those ribbons feature the star ingredient, bakuchiol, to help even and smooth the area around the eye. You’ll also find orchid stem cells in this formula, which provide added anti-aging benefits, and firming peptides, to deliver comprehensive skin-smoothing support to the delicate skin around the eye. The treatment absorbs quickly, feels cooling on contact, and features a very subtle shimmer to help reflect light, improving the appearance of dark circles before you even put your makeup on.

It’s worth noting that wrinkles around the eye may need added moisture to improve their appearance, and if your skin is very dry, this lightweight treatment will not provide intensive nourishment, but rather a subtle splash of hydration. While we might not grab this one all winter, we love reaching for it in summer — that cooling sensation is an added bonus on hot, sticky days.

Price at time of publish: $52

Active Ingredients: Bakuchiol, orchid stem cell, peptides|Bakuchiol Concentration: Not disclosed|Size: 0.5 fl oz

Best for Beginners: Beekman 1802 Dream Booster Bakuchiol Better Aging Serum

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What We Love: All the ingredients in this serum are gentle and plant-based.

What We Don’t Love: It's a little sticky on skin until it completely absorbs and sometimes our hair gets stuck.

Firmer and more even texture and tone are what you’ll get from this skin-loving formula. In addition to gentle yet powerful bakuchiol, this serum from Beekman 1802 features conditioning antioxidants jojoba oil and squalane, which stave off the free radical damage caused by pollutants that accelerate skin aging. It also has skin-brightening ingredients like turmeric and vitamin C-rich eggplant extract. Furthermore, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the minor but satisfying detail of the formula’s pretty purple color.

Of all the face formulas on this list, this product’s bottle is the most petite, which is a little frustrating until you realize you only need to use one to two drops of this serum to get a full nightly treatment. You’re also able to use it as a booster by mixing those drops into your favorite moisturizer to make it even more power-packed.

Price at time of publish: $28

Active Ingredients: Bakuchiol, algae extract, squalane|Bakuchiol Concentration: Not disclosed|Size: 0.5 fl oz

Best Moisturizer: Alpyn Beauty PlantGenius Melt Moisturizer

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What We Love: The texture of this moisturizer is incredibly luxe and satisfying.

What We Don’t Love: You’ll have to massage the formula in fully to get it to completely absorb.

Silky, skin-quenching, plumping, and semi-matte — this moisturizer from Alpyn Beauty leaves skin looking healthy and feeling pampered right off the bat. It gets its skin-quenching properties from hyaluronic acid, which holds 1,000 times its weight in water to push hydration into skin. Small loves that this ingredient holds the second spot on the ingredient list, as that means there’s a high concentration of it in the formula. There’s also conditioning ceramides, which help repair the skin’s moisture barrier to help it stay more moisturized with or without moisturizer. “It’s great for dry skin as it soothes the skin and locks in moisture while bakuchiol and vitamin C can work to smooth the appearance of fine lines and brighten skin over time,” adds Small.

This formula lies absolutely beautifully on both bare skin and under makeup thanks to its non-sticky feel and velvety finish, but you will have to put in a bit of work to get it there. It’s not a gel texture, but more of a whipped cream that requires a bit of massaging to get it to fully absorb into the skin.

Price at time of publish: $60

Active Ingredients: Bakuchiol, hyaluronic acid, ceramides|Bakuchiol Concentration: Not disclosed|Size: 1.7 oz

Best for Hyperpigmentation : Live Tinted Superhue Hyperpigmentation Serum Stick

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What We Love: The unexpected product format is easy to use on the go.

What We Don’t Love: The generous concentration of bakuchiol in the formula may be too much for sensitive or reactive skin.

Designed specifically to combat hyperpigmentation, this formula is absolutely packed with hardworking ingredients to clear up discoloration. “It combines bakuchiol with niacinamide and vitamin C to brighten, smooth texture, address the look of fine lines and wrinkles and to tackle the look of dark spots and scarring,” says Small. It also has brightening licorice root, resurfacing glycolic acid, clarifying willow bark extract, and hydrating hyaluronic acid. Suffice to say, this little stick is a serious powerhouse, and it’s easy to stash the balm-to-serum formula in your bag for midday spot treatments.

If you have easily irritated skin, we recommend patch testing this product before committing to more widespread application. A retinol alternative, alpha-hydroxy acid, beta-hydroxy acid, and vitamin C all in one formula could be sensitizing on very delicate complexions. It’s also on the richer side and can take a while to absorb, so be aware of this when spot-treating on the go.

Price at time of publish: $34

Active Ingredients: Bakuchiol, vitamin C, niacinamide|Bakuchiol Concentration: 1%|Size: 0.5 oz

Best Hydrating: Byroe Peony Tea Glow Oil

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What We Love: The silky oil absorbs quickly and leaves skin instantly luminous.

What We Don’t Love: We wish it didn’t contain fragrance.

This gorgeous formula from Byroe not only features our hero ingredient bakuchiol to help firm and smooth, but three forms of hyaluronic acid, one of the most powerful hydrators in the skincare arsenal, to keep skin moist, plump, and dewy. It also features peony tea, a known skin soother, and glutathione. If you have dark marks and hyperpigmentation, glutathione should be on your radar — it helps fade discoloration and evens tone, leaving skin looking smooth and flawless. This is all blended into an elegant oil base, which includes jojoba, camellia, and moringa oils.

We’re big fans of this formula and how it absorbs easily into skin — it smooths away any signs of dryness and makes for a lovely canvas for makeup — we do wish the formula didn’t contain artificial fragrance. While it’s not a dealbreaker for plenty of people, including ourselves, it can sensitize easily irritated skin types.

Price at time of publish: $50

Active Ingredients: Bakuchiol, peony tea, glutathione|Bakuchiol Concentration: Not disclosed|Size: 1.01 fl oz

Best for Dullness: Versed Press Restart Gentle Retinol Serum

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What We Love: This formula contains true retinol and two retinol alternatives.

What We Don’t Love: If you have sensitive skin, start slowly.

We’re super impressed by this formula from Versed, which is upfront about its percentage of bakuchiol (0.05 percent) as well as the concentrations of the other active ingredients in this formula, which includes fellow plant-based retinol alternative arophira (one percent) and encapsulated retinol (0.03 percent). These ingredients, along with sodium hyaluronate, chlorophyll, and rosehip seed oil all work together to help transform uneven skin texture and tone, leaving skin looking firmer, smoother, and brighter with fewer dark spots and less noticeable pores.

This formula boasts a lot of powerful ingredients at significant concentrations, and while encapsulated retinol tends to be less sensitizing than typical iterations of the ingredient, it can still cause irritation. We recommend starting slowly when integrating this serum into your routine. This will help your skin acclimate to the potent formula and minimize your risk of skin sensitivity and dryness.

Price at time of publish: $22

Active Ingredients: Bakuchiol, retinol, arophira|Bakuchiol Concentration: 0.05%|Size: 1 fl oz

Best Oil: Instytutum Powerful RetinOil

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What We Love: A little of this treatment oil goes a long way.

What We Don’t Love: It may be too heavy on oily skin and during hot summer months.

Beverly Hills-based board-certified dermatologist Dr. Ava Shamban is a fan of this luxurious formula, which combines bakuchiol and granactive retinoid with a host of other hard-working ingredients. “Blended with algae and a range of key essential oils and raspberry stem cells, it is a multi-tasker with cell turnover, hydrating, soothing, and smoothing benefits,” she says. It helps firm, smooth, brighten, and hydrate — and even improves the appearance of enlarged pores. You only need a few drops to cover your entire face and neck with the nourishing blend of 15 different oils, which features a sophisticated (not stuffy!) jasmine scent for an added boost of luxury.

This formula is intensely rich and nourishing, and is especially ideal for those with mature skin. While it absorbs easily, it may still feel on the heavy side, particularly in warmer weather. Try using it exclusively at night, or save it for the winter months — when you can make it even more nourishing by blending it with your favorite moisturizer.

Price at time of publish: $139

Active Ingredients: Bakuchiol, retinol, evening primrose oil|Bakuchiol Concentration: Not disclosed|Size: 1 fl oz

What to Keep in Mind

Your Skin Type

While you’d be hard-pressed to find a skincare expert that doesn’t recommend retinol — it’s often referred to as “the gold standard” and is a celebrated "do-it-all ingredient” — it isn’t an option for everyone. We know that oral retinoids like Accutane must be avoided during pregnancy to avoid birth defects, and studies advise against using topical forms of the ingredient to err on the side of caution. Retinoids are also recognized for being irritating to the skin. This can be especially risky in melanated skin types — irritation can trigger inflammation, which can result in post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. Though vitamin A can fight discoloration, this side effect can make using traditional retinoids a game of Russian roulette for those with deep skin tones.

Enter bakuchiol: “Generally, bakuchiol can be used on any type of skin,” says Dr. Shamban. While it’s best to check with your doctor regarding your skincare routine when pregnant or breastfeeding (more on this shortly), bakuchiol “is especially useful for those with sensitive skin as it is gentler than retinol,” says Dr. Shamban. Adds Small: “Bakuchiol was traditionally used in part due to its soothing and healing properties.”

That means if you have inflammatory and reactive acne, rosacea, or just highly sensitive skin, bakuchiol can be a good option for you. Those with deeper skin can also rejoice: “Any skin tone can use bakuchiol, as it does not have an effect on pigmentation,” says Dr. Mian.

That said, you’ll still want to consider the compatibility of your chosen bakuchiol formula with your skin type — for example, oily skin types will want to look for a lightweight treatment like Herbivore Bakuchiol Retinol Alternative Smoothing Serum, which adds a splash of hydration rather than a heavy dose of moisture. Similarly, if you’re very prone to dryness, you may benefit best from a rich oil like Naturopathica Holy Basil Retinol Ageless Night Oil, which will sink deeply into skin to nourish it, leaving it healthy and radiant.

Unfortunately, it’s hard to find formulas that disclose the included concentration of bakuchiol, but a few products do exist. That said, Small notes that studies show bakuchiol is most effective with a concentration of at least 0.5 percent. Dr. Shamban adds that you can look for a formulation of up to two percent bakuchiol for maximum efficacy. “Exceeding two percent may be too much for some skin, which is why we always recommend that a patient spot tests to ensure their skin will not have any reaction to the product,” she says. The Inkey List Bakuchiol Moisturizer features a bakuchiol concentration of one percent — squarely in the middle — for efficient treatment.

If you’re looking for an even stronger anti-aging outcome from your bakuchiol formula, you can also seek out a product with a hybrid formula, combining a true retinol with bakuchiol, like Paula's Choice Clinical 0.3% Retinol + 2% Bakuchiol Treatment or Versed Press Restart Gentle Retinol Serum. You’ll just want to keep in mind that skincare products formulated with both will not only boost your results, but also the likelihood of sensitivity, so be sure to slowly ease this into your regimen. Going full speed ahead is essentially an invitation for irritation and the “retinol uglies” to enter your life.

If you’re unfamiliar, your skin may go through a purging period when you start to use retinol (hence “retinol uglies”), and even though bakuchiol is far more gentle, you're not out of the woods completely. “Bakuchiol, like retinol, causes an increase in skin cell turnover,” explains Dr. Mian. “If you have whiteheads and blackheads, that can often mean a 'purge' when you're first starting out.”

However, because bakuchiol (like retinol) also fights acne, these blemishes will eventually go away as the skin adjusts to the ingredient. “This purge period is usually much more mild than that of retinol and only at the very beginning, if at all,” says Dr. Shamban. As mentioned, starting slow will reduce these effects. Adds Dr. Mian: “Because bakuchiol is a more gentle molecule, you may be able to increase usage and build tolerance faster than retinol.”

Hydrating + Nourishing Ingredients

Plant-based retinols like bakuchiol function similarly to true retinoids in that they trigger your skin’s natural collagen production processes to repair skin from the inside out, which in turn promotes cellular turnover. While bakuchiol has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties and is less sensitizing to the skin than retinol, it’s still a good idea to support the strength of your skin’s moisture barrier when using an anti-aging active, as it’s your moisture barrier that keeps your skin functioning at its peak.

When supporting your skin barrier, you’ll want to look for humectants, says Dr. Shamban. The most common one you’ll see in skincare is hyaluronic acid, which can hold 1,000 times its weight in water to draw ambient moisture into the skin. This ingredient is paired with bakuchiol in Byroe Peony Tea Glow Oil and Alpyn Beauty PlantGenius Melt Moisturizer. Emollients like ceramides and squalane are also important — these ingredients help seal moisture into the skin to prevent water from escaping (which results in dehydrated skin). You’ll find them in products like Tula Wrinkle Treatment Drops Retinol Alternative Serum.

Niacinamide is another ingredient to consider pairing with bakuchiol. According to Dr. Shamban, this form of vitamin B helps calm visible redness and supports moisture levels within the skin. It can also brighten discoloration and control oil production, helping to fade dark spots and shrink enlarged pores, respectively (supporting your goals of using bakuchiol!). Find it paired with the retinol alternative in Avène RetrinAL Advanced Correcting Serum.

Your Questions, Answered

What is bakuchiol?

Bakuchiol is an extract derived from the seeds of the psoralea corylifolia plant. “This plant is native to India and has long been used in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicinal practices,” says Small. Studies show that it functions as a retinol alternative, promoting collagen production that improves the appearance of lines and wrinkles, pigmentation, elasticity, firmness, and sun damage over time. It also helps clear up acne and post-blemish dark spots. “It is antibacterial, is soothing and may reduce irritation and redness,” says Dr. Shamban.

Is bakuchiol better than retinol?

That depends entirely on your skin’s type and reactivity levels. “​While retinol is an ingredient that is known to be effective, it may have undesirable and harsh consequences such as ​dryness, peeling, redness and even stinging, especially if you have sensitive or reactive skin,” says Small.

Bakuchiol offers the same results, but without those effects: “It functions similar to a retinoid, but with less irritation or redness,” says Dr. Shamban. Another benefit of this plant-based alternative is that you can use it whenever you like. While retinol-based formulas can’t be applied in the daytime, “bakuchiol can be used in the mornings, as UV does not destabilize it,” says Dr. Mian.

However, if you’re looking for the same results as a prescription-strength retinoid, you’re not going to get them from bakuchiol — its strength is closer to that of an over-the-counter retinol. Adds Dr. Mian: “If your retinoid is working fine for you, there’s no need to switch.”

Can I use bakuchiol while pregnant?

We know that it’s unsafe to use retinol when pregnant or breastfeeding, as they affect DNA and gene expression that can be harmful to a developing fetus or baby, says Dr. Mian. Bakuchiol is considered to be a safer option, though there is limited data proving this fact.

“Studies have been done on bacteria cells showing that none of the harmful effects we see in retinoids were present, [but] not many studies on bakuchiol have been done in pregnant women,” says Dr. Mian.

Limited amounts of the ingredient are absorbed into the bloodstream when applied topically, but it’s better to be safe than sorry — talk to your GP, OB-GYN, and dermatologist before integrating a new skincare ingredient into your routine if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding.

What ingredients should I not use with bakuchiol?

Because bakuchiol is generally regarded as non-sensitizing, it pairs well with the majority of active skincare ingredients, including vitamin C — which most experts typically advise against combining with traditional retinol. “Unlike retinol, bakuchiol can be used with vitamin C as it does not cause instability of the molecules,” explains Dr. Mian.

However, you may want to skip out on using bakuchiol with exfoliants like alpha- and beta-hydroxy acids, says Small. “You don’t want to over-exfoliate,” she warns.

Like you would if using typical retinol, she recommends slowly working bakuchiol into your exfoliating routine as your skin acclimates to your new regimen. However, if your skin can tolerate multiple exfoliants simultaneously, consider trying a bakuchiol formula that incorporates a variety of actives to get powerful results, like Live Tinted Superhue Hyperpigmentation Serum Stick.

Why Shop With Us

Emily Orofino is a beauty writer, editor, and consultant with more than a decade of experience in the industry. Despite committing to it for several months, her skin could not tolerate prescription retinoids and she has been testing alternative anti-aging formulas ever since. For this piece, she interviewed board-certified dermatologists Dr. Ava Shamban and Dr. Kiran Mian and product development consultant Melinda Small.

Related: The 13 Best Retinol Body Lotions of 2023 That Hydrate and Exfoliate for Healthy, Radiant Skin

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