Moth bean. What? Yeah. You read that right. Vigna aconitifolia is also known as moth bean, and it’s being touted as a hot new all-natural retinol alternative.
Just what does a drought-resistant legume, the Vigna aconitifolia, have to do with your skin?
Are You Sensitive to Retinol?
Retinol, retinyl palmitate, and other vitamin A derivatives can be powerfully potent ingredients that are often included in your skin care regimen. And for good reason! Retinol boasts the ability to thwart the signs of skin aging, and help to reduce signs like fine lines, wrinkles, and age spots that have already started rearing their ugly heads. It can also help to improve the condition of acne-prone skin.
But there are side effects to retinol, most notably skin sensitivity, especially in the face of the glowing sun. As a result, people sometimes choose to skip this ingredient in their routines during the summer months, or select a microencapsulated (slow-release) or soothing ingredient-filled retinol formulation if their skin is sensitive.
What Is Moth Bean?
A relatively new ingredient to cosmeceuticals, early studies show Vigna aconitifolia could have the ability to strengthen the skin’s structure and increase cellular renewal. It can act as an antioxidant that can protect your skin from free radicals and UV damage, being proven to be just as effective in skincare products as synthetic retinoids, but without the negative side effects that you typically get with other vitamin A products. That means it’s safe to use during the day, even when exposed to UV light.
You’ll see it listed in some products as Vigna aconitifolia, moth bean, matki, dew bean, or mat bean.
What Can Moth Bean Actually Do For Your Skin Compared to Retinol?
This botanical extract is shown in studies to have the ability to penetrate into your deeper skin layers, working to boost collagen production and cellular renewal at the molecular level, much like how retinol does, but because it isn’t really retinol, you can safely use it during the day and not worry about side effects of sun exposure other than your natural need for protection.
Here’s the catch: Retinyl palmitate is about 50 times weaker than retinol, because it’s retinol bound to fatty palmitic acid. But studies don’t compare retinol and Vigna aconitifolia. Studies instead compare Vigna aconitifolia and retinyl palmitate. Research found that topical applications of VA actually accelerated skin cell turnover more effectively than the topical retinyl palmitate, Sure, but given how weak RP is, are we actually excited about this?!
I conclude VA is probably weaker than retinol but certainly stronger than retinyl palmitate, because the differences in studies are more dramatic between retinol and retinyl palmitate than retinyl palmitate and VA. But without studies directly comparing VA and retinol yet, I can’t know for sure.
What Else Can Moth Bean Do For Your Skin?
In addition, Vigna acentifolia contains the phenolic compounds caffeic acid, cinnamic acid, ferulic acid, and kaempefrol, which are powerful antioxidants that can protect your skin from free radicals and UV damage and give a big boost of anti-aging benefits. It can stimulate dermal collagen synthesis, adding to its anti-wrinkle properties.
As an anti-acne treatment, moth bean extract works to support epidermal cellular renewal, slightly exfoliating the top layer of skin. This helps to clear pores, reduce their size, and smooth out the skin’s surface to improve its texture (I would compare this in efficacy to a mild benzoic acid, as a point of reference).
After just a few months of daily use, moth bean extract can help your skin to look refreshed, youthful, glowing, and smooth.
Once again comparing VA to synthetic retinyl palmitate, moth bean extract has demonstrated a higher potency in skin renewal in peer-reviewed studies, as well as a higher level of stability in cosmetic formulations. That means it can preserve its properties longer, even when it comes into contact with air and light.
That said, VA has not been directly compared to retinol or prescription retinoids. I would estimate VA is more potent than retinyl palmitate (from the studies) and less potent than retinol (because the difference between retinyl palmitate and retinol seems to be more significant than the difference between retinyl palmitate and VA in studies).
Even so, VA is certainly a better ingredient than most natural extracts to seek out when browsing the ingredients list! Vigna aconitifolia is one of the better skincare ingredients I’ve found offered by natural and organic companies, but more research needs to be done before I consider it to be the next lactic acid or vitamin C.