Bakuchiol vs. retinol – is bakuchiol really as good as retinol? I know you've got so many questions my friend. And I’m here with answers for you.

Bakuchiol vs Retinol: Is It As Effective? 5 Shock Facts You Must Know

In Anti-Ageing & Protective Skincare by Cheryl Woodman MChemLeave a Comment

Bakuchiol vs. retinol – I know you’ve got so many questions my friend.

Is bakuchiol really as good as retinol?

Is retinol stronger than bakuchiol?

Can a phyto-retinol be as effective as retinol?

And what the heck is bakuchiol? Phyto-retinol and – argh – how do I choose the best anti-ageing serum for me?

Because I so get it. That’s what you want eh. Results. Anti-ageing results. You want younger, healthier, happier skin for life and you simply want to know can a bakuchiol serum help you feel like awesomesauce in your skin forever?

You’re in exactly the right place my friend because right here, right now I have 5 hidden, powerful and surprising bakuchiol vs retinol facts putting big awesome answers to these big awesome questions.

Oh and psst – make sure you keep reading to bakuchiol vs retinol fact #3 – because if you’re choosing to use a bakuchiol serum you absolutely must be aware of this shock news.

And it’s ridiculously shocking.

I’m so excited for you to get your eyes on my science-supported bakuchiol vs retinol review. Come take my hand beautiful…

Bakuchiol vs. retinol – is bakuchiol really as good as retinol? I know you've got so many questions my friend. And I’m here with answers for you. #honestyforyourskin #antiagingskincare #antiageingskincare

#1. Bakuchiol vs retinol vs retinoid

What the heck?

It can all get so confusing eh. You want an anti-ageing serum that works and you hear retinol’s the real-deal. It helps reverse fine lines and wrinkles like Fast and Furious in rewind.

I want me some of that. 

But then you hear… bakuchiol, retinoid, phyto-retinol.

And it’s like you’re suddenly plunging onto page 70 of 700 on ASOS – I just want a going out-out dress, yikes – how many are there!? 

Before you decide if bakuchiol is the one for you, we must get intimate first 😉

We need to know who this dude is before we choose it for your anti-ageing arsenel.

And here’s the deal. 

Bakuchiol is a plant extract.

Retinol is a form of vitamin A.

Retinoids are a family of active ingredients able to open doors to your body’s vitamin A receptors – the anti-ageing ones (!)

Bakuchiol has been found to ‘activate a similar gene profile’ to retinoids (psst – that includes retinol).

But bakuchiol hasn’t been found to bind with vitamin A receptors in your skin – and so it’s technically not a retinoid or a phyto-retinol – if we’re being technical about it 😉 and because I’m your scientist friend, I must be :). Instead what bakuchiol is, is a retinoid alternative or you could even call it a retinol alternative.


Bakuchiol vs. retinol – the bottom line – yes my friend bakuchiol has been found to turn on genes in your skin associated with anti-ageing and anti-acne. Wahoo. But is bakuchiol as effective as retinol?

#2. Bakuchiol Turns on Anti-Ageing Genes – just like retinol

Bakuchiol got super famous in 2018 because of an exciting bakuchiol vs retinol study published in the British Journal of Dermatology.

A study which shows us;

  • Bakuchiol and retinol both even and brighten skin tone
  • After 12 weeks of use bakuchiol and retinol both significantly decreased wrinkles and fine lines – exciting eh! (psst -get my 5 best anti-ageing actives cheatsheet for free here)
  • At 12 weeks bakuchiol decreased wrinkles by an average of 19% and retinol by an average of 23%

Must know: this difference between bakuchiol and retinol isn’t what us scientists call ‘significant’ – meaning because of the sample size (and study design), this 4% difference between bakuchiol vs retinol could just be a ‘tolerance’ in the measurements/down to chance and not an actual ‘significant’ difference.

  • And the bonus – bakuchiol is sensitive and respectful to skin – unlike retinol which can cause stinging and burning


This clip from the 2018 study is super important to help us answer the question – is bakuchiol really as good as retinol?

…both compounds induce highly similar gene expression in human skin. This includes genes involved in the cellular uptake of endogenous retinol, the activation of retinol in the skin and the production of extracellular matrix proteins that provide epidermal support and integrity.Br J Dermatol. 2019 Feb;180(2):289-296

Oooeee eh – what science-gook.

Don’t worry my friend, I’ve got my de-gooking wand switched on. And here’s what those 2 sentences are telling us;

  1. Bakuchiol isn’t a retinoid but it’s activating very similar genes in your skin – psst – genes tell your body to do things – like for example anti-age
  2. Bakuchiol is telling your body to take up/eat more of its own natural retinol (yes your body already has its own stockpile)
  3. Oh and bonus – our bakuchiol baby’s also encouraging your skin to make wrinkle defying collagen – wahoo

Bakuchiol vs retinol – the bottom line – bakuchiol has been shown to be just as effective at anti-ageing your skin as retinol.

#3. Some Bakuchiol Serums Don’t Contain Bakuchiol

And are therefore not in any way likely to be as effective as retinol.

I know… it’s shocking right.

Earlier this year, there was a surprise study on 9 bakuchiol serums.

Think of this study like a secret shopper – you know those undercover agents who go into stores and test out your customer service skills? My first ever job was at Debenhams and we were forever being warned motivated by the potential of a secret shopper to be your very next customer.

Well, this secret shopper, bakuchiol-study surprise tests for the amount of bakuchiol in each of these 9 serums.

8 out of 9 pass with gold stars, green ticks and graduation speeches.

One fails miserably.

Didn’t even ‘try’ to revise for its test.

This lazy-bum 😉 bakuchiol serum follows one of my pet hates in skincare – it claims to contain bakuchiol but does not name bakuchiol on its ingredients list.

Instead, this serum – Herbivores Bakuchiol Retinol Alternative Serum – names and uses another plant extract that can contain amounts of bakuchiol.

It’s called babchi extract – psst – you’ll find this babchi extract called psoralea corylifolia extract on the ingredients list.

Most of the time – there’s a big issue with doing things this way because when you don’t use the concentrated active ingredient itself;

  1. You don’t know how much bakuchiol is in a serum
  2. Usually, there’s not a lot (!)

And double plus – big science alert – ever noticed how olive oil floats on top of a homemade balsamic-olive oil dressing? Well, that’s because oils hate water so they repel each other.

Guess what – bakuchiol also hates water.

Oh and psst – babchi extract is water-based!

So there’s a real science-mind-bend here – bakuchiol shouldn’t be present in babchi extract in big amounts because naturally, they hate to mix.


Guess what our surprise secret shoppers found;

The water-based Herbivore Bakuchiol Serum contained only 2.27 ppm of Bakuchiol when 1% has been claimed by the brand on social media. This does not indicate a stability issue but rather the use of a water-based extract from the Psoralea Corylifolia plant (as indicated on the INCI list), which cannot contain a hydrophobic substance such as Bakuchiol.

2.27 ppm. 2.27 parts per million. Meaning for every one million molecules there are just over 2 molecules of bakuchiol. They’re swimming in an ocean. Lost at sea.

It’s like having a white chocolate bar claiming it contains cocoa. Sure there’s probably 2.27ppm contamination – but it’s not even enough for you to see the brown cocoa goodness.

Bakuchiol vs retinol – the bottom line – for a bakuchiol serum to be as effective as retinol you’re best to look for ‘bakuchiol’ on the ingredients list.

#4. Bakuchiol Is Easier to Use Than Retinol

Oh yes it is. Think of retinol like a toddler – demanding, unpredictable and sometimes drives you crazy (even though their cuteness makes you melt inside).

Bakuchiol on the other hand is fully grown. Independent, confident, capable of feeding itself 😉

This means when you add bakuchiol into your anti-ageing skincare routine (psst -grab my free list of 5 best anti-ageing actives here to check if you’re using them) then you can;

  • Add it into AM or PM or AM and PM with no issues – psst – retinol can only be used in PM
  • You can use bakuchiol every day because it’s gentler to your skin
  • You can use bakuchiol during pregnancy and after – psst – it’s not recommended to use retinol during pregnancy
  • As bakuchiol is oil-based and therefore doesn’t have a pH level, there’s not usually a need to pause after exfoliating acids/low pH steps in your skincare routine – this makes mixing and layering your skincare routine uber easy

Bakuchiol vs retinol – the bottom line – bakuchiol can be just as effective as retinol and is way easier to use.

#5. Bakuchiol Is Best As An Entry Level Anti-Ageing Active/Retinoid Alternative

If you’re just starting to add in effective anti-ageing actives to power up your skincare routine then I love bakuchiol for you my friend.

However, if you’re past the first signs of ageing then I love retinol or a retinoid for you.

Because, here’s the deal – bakuchiol is just not that well-proven. 

Science studies proving bakuchiol’s benefits are like one pancake struggling to fill up a gigantically sized silver plater. Yummy but lonely.

Retinol’s pancake stack’s threatening to topple over the sides of your silver platter. There are hundreds of science studies proving the anti-ageing benefits of retinoids.

Bakuchiol vs retinol – the bottom line – while bakuchiol has been shown just as effective as retinol for anti-ageing skin, bakuchiol is not as well proven as retinol.

So my friend, tell me in the comments below – which is for you? Bakuchiol or retinol? Oh and will you use that big green sharing button below to forward this blog to the last friend you gossiped about skincare with? She needs the savvy on bakuchiol vs. retinol fact #3 🙂