Not only is retinol one of my favorite skincare ingredients, but it has been used and loved by many for decades. This is one of the few reliable over-the-counter ingredients with actual anti-aging street cred. “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. Not only is retinol a powerful anti-aging ingredient, it promotes collagen production, encourages cell turnover, reduces wrinkles and dark spots, and even fights acne. But for all the positives, there can be some challenges that come with regular use of retinol. “The downside to retinol is that it can cause irritation of the skin, limiting its use,” Zeichner says.
Companies have been pumping out retinol alternatives to combat this, but none have ever come close to being as effective as retinol. But many skincare professionals are excited about a plant-based retinol alternative that could change the game. Bakuchiol has been popping up all over the place as of late, with manufacturers saying it’s a plant-based dupe for retinol without any of the negative side effects. One of those products is the Bakuchiol Retinol Alternative Smoothing Serum from Herbivore. What’s different here than other retinol alternatives that have come before it is that there are both clinical studies and anecdotal evidence support these claims.
What is Bakuchiol?
Bakuchiol is derived from the seeds of the Psoralea corylifolia or (“babchi” plant) and has been a mainstay in Eastern cultures and medicine like Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine for centuries. “Bakuchi (as it’s known in Ayurveda) has been used to treat leukoderma or vitiligo, hyperpigmentation, skin rashes, and a host of other skin conditions,” Michelle Ranavat, the founder of Ayurveda-inspired beauty brand Ranavat Botanics, tells The Cut. She says that she learned about this ingredient in 2016 at an Ayurvedic conference in Kolkata, India while researching ingredients for a brightening face mask.
Is it Really a Plant-Based Alternative to Retinol?
According to some dermatologists and clinical studies, signs point to yes! “Bakuchiol is just as effective as retinol in stimulating collagen production,” Dr. Dendy Engelman, a board-certified dermatologic surgeon and New York-based celebrity dermatologist, tells The Cut. In one clinical case study, Bakuchiol was added to a skincare product and tested through a twice-a-day facial application. “The results showed that, after 12 weeks of treatment, significant improvement in lines and wrinkles, pigmentation, elasticity, firmness, and overall reduction in photo-damage was observed.”
Dr. Engelman continues telling The Cut that bakuchiol’s antibacterial properties make it a great option for people who are prone to acne and have oily skin. “There are instances where you should avoid specific products when using a retinol, such as exfoliators, toners, and benzoyl peroxide, as they can cause irritation. However, due to bakuchiol’s natural composition, it’s safe to use with other products in your skin-care regimen,” she says.
“I’ve created skincare product prototypes using bakuchiol and I personally think it is a great natural alternative to retinol, especially for those with sensitive or dry skin prone to retinol irritation,” says Rhonda M. Davis, a cosmetic chemist for Alquemie Product Development Group.
Thoughts on Herbivore Bakuchiol Serum
So if bakuchiol has been used for years in Eastern medicine and is proven to be effective, where has it been all these years? Well, technically it has been in the “mainstream” since the 1970s but was not used widely. After recent research highlighting bakuchiol’s effectiveness was publicized, companies picked up on it and started formulating products with it and advertising them all over the place. That is where the bakuchiol serum from Herbivore comes in.
Herbivore Bakuchiol Retinol Alternative Smoothing Serum is the latest product to launch from popular plant-based skincare company Herbivore. There is a high concentration of bakuchiol in this product, and it is paired with polyhydroxy acids for light exfoliation. It is a very beautiful purple oil that is stored in a glass bottle and comes with a dropper for application. But it does not have the traditional feel you associate with oil; it has a slightly thicker, more jelly-like consistency. It absorbs quickly into the skin without leaving a greasy residue so you can wear it under makeup. Unlike retinol, bakuchiol does not make your skin sensitive to the sun so you can wear it in the daytime.
Overall, I enjoyed this product. It was easy to use, and early research is exciting! However, as a longtime retinol user and lover, I won’t be giving it up anytime soon. But if you’re someone who is more on the sensitive side, or prefers to use plant-based products, I see no harm in giving this one a try!