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bakuchiol face oil philosophia botanica

Before we start talking about retinol and bakuchiol  (pronounced bah-koo-chee-all), we should ask what the difference is between Babchi ( INCI name Psoralea Corylifolia Seed Oil)  and Bakuchiol.

Bakuchiol is extracted directly from the babchi seed, and it is an active chemical component of Babchi, and it is a retinoid alternative or you could even call it a retinol alternative.The plant, Psoralea corylifolia, has been used for centuries in both traditional Chinese and  Ayurvedic medicine. Bakuchiol is therefore a concentrated active ingredient derived from Psoralea corylifolia (babchi seeds) and is different to the whole oil which is also available on the market as bakuchi (or babchi) oil.

Babchi oil is a product of the Bakuchi seed oil and it is produced by cold-pressing the babchi seeds, just like other seed oils.

Babchi oil does contain Bakuchiol, but in order to isolate the pure chemical, a different chemical process is needed.

As a formulator, I can tell you that there is one primary manufacturer and leading supplier of Bakuchiol globally, which uses a unique method to extract the Bakuchiol molecule (99%). This allows an exact concentration, i.e. 1%, to be added to face products. 

Brands can claim their formula "contains Bakuchiol" even if it doesn't contain the pure and concentrated form. For a bakuchiol cosmetic formula to be as effective as retinol, you’re best to look for ‘bakuchiol’ on the ingredients list rather than babchi extract or psoralea corylifolia extract on the ingredients list. Many (sadly too many! Please learn to read your labels!) companies work with the Psoralea corylifolia plant, but pure Bakuchiol is not what they produce. As scientist Cheryl Woodman MChem states, 'Some Bakuchiol Serums Don’t Contain Bakuchiol, and are therefore not in any way likely to be as effective as retinol.'

In terms of efficacy, you would need quite a lot of Babchi oil to obtain the same efficacy as pure Bakuchiol at 1% in a facial cosmetic formula! But the biggest concern is the amount of Psoralenes and Isopsoralenes ranging from 989 to 4,768 ppm. Psoralens are naturally found in babchi seeds, but they are highly phototoxic for the skin.  Using a non-standardized crude oil containing such by-products, or unknown phytochemicals can have deleterious effects and should not be recommended as a “more natural alternative” to pure Bakuchiol. 


By law, finished products using these crude oils or dry powder should report the latin name of the plant on the full labelling and not Bakuchiol.



What exactly is bakuchiol?   

Bakuchiol is a powerful antioxidant. And like retinol helps to reduce fine lines and wrinkles. Unlike retinol though, it has no adverse side effects on skin. And because it’s entirely unrelated to vitamin A, it’s safe for pregnant women and those breastfeeding. 

Vitamin A derivatives are very effective in treating signs of ageing in skin. Retinol is the only over the counter option, but dermatologists can recommend stronger vitamin derivatives like tretinoin, adapalene, isotretinoin and tazorac, which not only have more drastic benefits, but also equally drastic side effects, and therefore must be prescribed and monitored under expert supervision. Bakuchiol’s effects might mimic that of retinol but it cannot be compared to tretinoin, adapalene, isotretinoin or tazorac.

Bakuchiol has a few extra benefits over retinoids that are worth mentioning:

It is a potent antioxidant
It is anti-inflammatory, which might be beneficial for acne and similar skin concerns and might help in reducing the side effects of application.
It is photostable, which is why it is safe to use in the mornings, Retinoids do react with UV-light, so their use should be limited to night time.
It is always vegan. Some retinoids might come from animal sources.

What is Retinol?

Retinol is a type of retinoid, which is made from vitamin A, and which plays a key role in helping cells regenerate.

What Are Retinoids?

Retinoids, which belong to the same family as retinol were first introduced in 1971 as a treatment for acne, psoriasis, wrinkles and other signs of aging, and some cancers, according to the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology.The first retinoid on the market was tretinoin topical (Retin-A), according to according to Harvard Health Publishing. Initially, it was used to treat acne, but it was later found to promote cell turnover and fade pigmentation spots on the skin.Retinol and retinoids are now prized for their anti-aging benefits. 

Retinoids vs. Retinols: What’s the Difference?


Retinoids and retinols are both part of the vitamin A family, but their intensities differ. Retinols are basically a weaker form of retinoids, which is why they’re over-the-counter. Retinoids, on the other hand, are available at higher concentrations, mostly by prescription.

Finally, Is Bakuchiol Better Than Retinol? 

Retinoids have been defined as a family of naturally occurring compounds composed of Vitamin A (retinols) & its derivatives. Retinol stimulates cellular activity and strengthens the protective barriers of the skin to avoid loss of moisture and collagen promoting tissues. Bakuchiol expresses similar gene expression such as improvement in fine lines, wrinkles, elasticity, firmness and reduction in photo damage without the risks involved with usage of Retinoids. 

Bakuchiol works best when paired with a variety of emollients. The combination of these two particularly help in reversal of UV exposure damage and improve the skin’s texture.

As suggested by scientist and skin expert Cheryl Woodman MChem, this means when you add bakuchiol into your skincare routine then you can:


Add it into AM or PM or AM and PM with no issues. On the contrary 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 while it is 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.

Have YOU tried Bakuckiol? You will find the purest form of this wonderful ingredient in the following products.

Bakuckiol Skincare:


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