Allergic To Retinol? Meet Its Plant-Based Alternative, Bakuchiol

We asked an expert everything you wanted to know about bakuchiol and whether it really is as effective as retinol.

Published On Apr 05, 2023 | Updated On Mar 06, 2024


Retinol came, it conquered, and in doing so, it also left many with irritation and increased sensitivity. There’s no doubt that retinol is a powerful ingredient to include in your skincare routine and it’s truly an all-rounder when it comes to taking care of your skin woes. Unfortunately, it’s not made for all skin types.

Swoop in bakuchiol, a plant-based natural alternative to retinol that mimics all the benefits, sans the irritation and dryness. So what exactly is this much-talked-about skincare ingredient and does it come with any side effects too? Dr Varshini Reddy, cosmetic dermatologist and founder of The Glow Clinic, breaks it down for us.


“Bakuchiol or Bakuchi is a plant-based ingredient isolated from the seeds of the babchi plant,” explains Dr Reddy. Although it rose to fame only recently, Dr Reddy says that the plant has been used for many centuries in Indian and traditional Chinese medicine, thanks to its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties that help soothe and heal the skin and other ailments. Spilling into skincare, bakuchiol’s role is similar to that of retinol and hosts a multitude of anti-ageing properties.

“One of the primary reasons bakuchiol has come into the spotlight is due to its functional similarity to alter gene expression, just like retinol,” describes Dr Reddy. Simply put, retinol is a vitamin A derivative that triggers the production of collagen in your skin and also speeds up skin cell renewal. Bakuchiol mirrors the same function by boosting skin cell regeneration and collagen production, in turn impacting skin ageing and overall skin health.

The only difference is that retinol can be extremely strong on the skin, often resulting in extreme dryness, irritation, and photosensitivity. Bakuchiol, on the other hand, is a milder (but equally powerful) version that doesn’t cause irritation, isn’t photosensitive and is also suitable for sensitive skin types.

  1. Reduces the appearance of skin ageing such as wrinkles and fine lines.
  2. Since it is a hydrator, it doesn’t dry out the skin.
  3. It boosts skin cell renewal and collagen production, which often results in brighter and plumper looking skin.
  4. It helps fade away dark spots or hyperpigmentation, leaving you with a more even-toned complexion.
  5. Since bakuchiol is known for its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, it is able to heal and soothe irritation and inflammation like acne.

The buzz around the ingredient has been so strong, that a lot of people have dropped their retinol for bakuchiol. According to Dr Reddy though, it’s not an exact replacement the way it’s made out to be. “It does have similar properties and functions, and is a great alternative for those who are sensitive to retinol and for beginners. Bakuchiol and retinol, however, are structurally different,” she contests.

“Retinol is more of an active ingredient and shouldn’t be ruled out as it has its own benefits. Bakuchiol, on the contrary, is from a plant family, so you don’t have the unwanted effects of retinol. Plus, it possesses additional soothing properties too.” Like most ingredients, bakuchiol too takes time to show proper efficacy. There are no reported side effects and it is a very safe ingredient to include in your skincare routine.


You can find bakuchiol in skincare products like face serums, moisturisers, eye creams, and even face oils. The good thing about it is that it pairs well with most other skincare ingredients. “Bakuchiol is not photosensitive and can be worn both in the morning and evening. It can be layered with other actives too,” says Dr Reddy. Due to its natural composition, pairing bakuchiol with exfoliators or toners that contain active ingredients won’t cause irritation. Dr Reddy recommends using bakuchiol for a minimum of six to eight weeks to properly understand its effects on your skin. Although bakuchiol isn’t photosensitive, it is a must to wear sunscreen during the daytime.


If you are looking to dive into the world of anti-ageing skincare, bakuchiol is definitely a great place to start. The skin-friendly, non-irritating, and super hydrating compositing of the ingredient is the perfect addition to your routine, especially if you’re also dealing with inflammations and breakouts. Plus, if you have sensitive skin that goes red at the drop of a hat, bakuchiol will be your saviour too.

  • 82°E Bakuchiol Slip
  • Daughter Earth Serum Absolut
  • Dr Sheth’s Bakuchiol & Peptide Serum
  • Inde Wild 1.0% Bakuchiol Tripeptide Complex & Squalane
  • AMINU Life Bio Retinol Cream
  • Dot & Key PHA + Bakuchiol Daily Peel

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