Looking for a Retinol Alternative? Bakuchiol Might Be Just as Good, If Not Better

From aging to acne – Vitamin A derivatives are known for just about everything these days. These powerful active ingredients, like retinol and retinoids, are prized in the beauty industry for combating skin issues of all kinds.

But if you’ve done research on retinol, you’ve probably learned there can be unfortunate side effects. Since the routine use of retinol can lead to unwanted outcomes, you may be looking for another solution. 

So if you’re on the search for a retinol alternative, look no further. This show-stopping ingredient is here to replace all your retinol and retinoids. 

And it’s called Bakuchiol. (Pronounced “buh – koo – chee – owl.”)

First: What Is the Difference Between Retinols and Retinoids? 

This is usually everyone’s first question: Wait, what’s the difference between retinol and retinoids? Since all these terms are often used interchangeably, let’s clear the air: 

They're all forms of Vitamin A, but they are not the same thing.

  • “Retinoids” is an umbrella term that refers to any chemical derived from Vitamin A
  • “Retinol” is a specific type of retinoid that’s less intense than other retinoids

What You Need to Know About Retinoids

Retinoids are products that accelerate skin cell division (aka how new cells are made). Retinoids are powerful actives because they rewrite how your skin cells work.1

Impressive right?

Retinoids target skin issues by thickening the top layer of skin for a more youthful and even-toned look. It’s why people love retinoid products.

In simplest terms, retinoids reverse the natural aging process by preventing the outer layer of your skin from breaking down with age. 

In terms of more specific “results,” here’s what many experience with a retinoid:

  • Unclogged pores
  • Reduced appearance of sun damage
  • Fewer flare-ups with inflammation
  • Minimized shedding associated with psoriasis 

But on the flip side, retinoids can cause side effects like:

  • Flaking
  • Redness
  • Irritation
  • Burning 
  • Sun sensitivity
  • Compromising the skin barrier 

If you’re feeling stumped, these brand names of prescription retinoids might ring a bell:

→ Tazorac
→ Differin
→ Atralin
→ Retin-A Micro
→ Ziana
→ Tretinoin (the generic form)

For good reason, these stronger versions are only available in prescription form. But you can also find non-prescription retinoids at your local drugstore or skincare store. These products go by "retinols." Let's dive into those next.

What You Need to Know About Retinol

A retinol product is essentially a weaker version of a retinoid. It’s not as potent and its chemical makeup (and how it interacts with your skin) is different than a retinoid. 

Here’s how Skin Inc. described retinol products:2

“Retinol decreases melanin synthesis while also aiding in skin cell proliferation, leading to even skin tone and texture.” 

Dermatologists usually recommend retinol for dry or sensitive skin types. Many traditional skincare companies you’re familiar with will offer a retinol serum, gel, or cream.

Some people prefer this less intense option because it comes with fewer and/or less severe side effects. The downside is that it may take longer for your skin to show results.

Our Thoughts From a Holistic Perspective 

Retinols and retinoids are not always bad, and the side effects can be minimal for some. Like many things, it’s about doing your research and understanding which Vitamin A derivatives are best for your skin. (Maybe we’ll cover a deep dive on this soon. ;))

If you do go the retinol route, keep in mind:

  • Retinols need to be paired with nutrient-dense nourishment for the skin to counteract more severe side effects.
  • Formulation is important – some are made with clean ingredients, and others are not. So we recommend doing your research before buying a retinol product.

Some may find that all these products are too harsh for their skin, or just want to try something a little less intense. 

This is exactly why we’re so excited to introduce a retinol alternative: Bakuchiol.

You might be surprised to learn that Backuchiol, derived from a common wild plant, has been touted as the best natural alternative to retinol. 

Here’s why.

Why Bakuchiol Is an Excellent Natural Alternative to Retinol

Buckle in because Bakuchiol is an incredibly potent plant with some surprising medicinal superpowers – and not just for your skin. 

What Is Bakuchiol?

Bakuchiol comes from a wild plant called babchi that’s native to India (mostly). Babchi seeds contain a natural version of Vitamin A that's gentle yet powerful. The secret weapon behind Bakuchiol's effectiveness? It's bioactivity.

This means Bakuchiol can partner with your biology to create lasting change. Yep, you read that right. In fact, this seemingly common plant contains nearly 100 bioactive compounds.3 No wonder this little plant is so effective for skin regeneration.

Here are the most notable properties of Bakuchiol:4  

  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Antibiotic
  • Antifibrotic
  • Anticancer

As you might have guessed, these are all amazing properties for protecting the skin and safely (and naturally) nudging cell turnover for youthful skin.

At Primally Pure, we love using nature-derived actives in our products, whether plant-based or responsibly-sourced animal fats.

It’s why you’ll find Bakuchiol in our best-selling Plumping Mask, Plumping Serum and Plumping Cream.

Bakuchiol History

Bakuchiol, even if it’s new to us, has been around for centuries. It’s been commonly used in Ayurvedic and Traditional Chinese Medicine since ancient times. 

These cultures were deeply connected to nature’s healing capabilities. They knew that this active natural ingredient held impressive medicinal properties – especially for skin diseases.5  

They used Bakuchiol to treat ailments like:6

  • Inflammation
  • Eczema
  • Leprosy
  • Psoriasis
  • Leukoderma
  • Alopecia

It was not until the 2000’s that Bakuchiol started being widely used in skin care products for topical applications.

Research Behind Bakuchiol’s Impactful Medicinal Properties

Okay, before we get into the skin benefits, let’s give some context to just how important this active ingredient was in ancient cultures. 

Multiple studies showed that Bakuchiol is effective in:7

  • Protecting from organ damage in the heart and liver
  • Preventing the growth of cancer cells
  • Minimizing bone loss with estrogen-like effects

Pretty crazy, right?

On top of those major benefits, Bakuchiol has also been found to be safe and non-irritating.6 This means you can use it for longer periods of time than mainstream retinoids. Plus Bakuchiol was found to be comparable to retinol in several categories, including its impact on photoaging.8

Bakuchiol’s unique and potent properties bring healing, especially when applied topically. If you know a little bit about how reluctant the beauty world is to admit a natural alternative is just as effective, then you know how much of a win this is. 

Let’s look more at how Bakuchiol can function as a retinol alternative to maintain (or restore) youthful, plump skin.

The 7 Main Benefits of Bakuchiol as a Retinol Alternative

You know we wouldn’t leave you without a full round-up of all the benefits of this retinol alternative. But first, here’s a quick overview of what Bakuchiol can do for your skin.

  • Creates a more even skin tone
  • Softens fine lines and wrinkles
  • Helps with acne + inflammation 
  • Enhances hyaluronic acid production
  • Boosts collagen + elastin production

On top of those basics (pretty impressive for basics, right?) here’s why Bakuchiol is the best retinol alternative:

1. Provides protection against oxidative stress

Yep, Bakuchiol keeps your skin protected from environmental stressors.6
Bakuchiol can help prevent and repair premature aging and glycation in your skin.

2. Slows skin aging by preserving skin collagen7

Incredible, right? Using a product with Bakuchiol has the ability to slow fine lines and wrinkles from forming.

Anything that creates collagen and elastin keeps skin looking youthful – so that’s a winner in our book. 

3. It induces similar gene expression to retinoids9

This one sounds sciency, but it’s actually pretty simple. Similar to how lasers can activate/re-write gene expression, Bakuchiol can provide a gene “reset” that creates lasting anti-aging results.

4. Gently stimulates cell turnover

Because Bakuchiol is a less invasive option, your skin is able to generate cell turnover instinctively. Retinols, on the other hand, create a chemically-forced process.10 As a retinol alternative, Bakuchiol supports the skin internally to boost its natural healing functions and cycles.

Our skin is intuitive if we support it with the right nutrients. 

5. Inhibits melanin production for a clearer, more even skin tone11

Who doesn’t want a more even skin tone and clearer complexion, right? Melanin is what gives your skin pigment. Bakuchiol has the ability (similar to retinol and retinoid products) to prevent excess melanin from forming. 

6. Doesn’t make you sensitive to sun exposure

Can we get some praise hands from our sun lovers? This is a HUGE benefit if you enjoy spending time outside, especially in the summer months. Bakuchiol is gentle enough to use during the day with sun exposure AND at night for an extra boost.

7. Safe for use in pregnancy

Of course, this isn’t always the case for everyone, but in most cases, it’s a safe retinol alternative to use during pregnancy. (If you have specific concerns or questions, you should definitely consult your doctor first.) 

Generally speaking, Bakuchiol has none of the concerns and side effects of traditional retinoid products. To us, this is the biggest and most important benefit of this retinol alternative: it is much more tolerable by all skin types.

Jump on the Bakuchiol Train!

Bakuchiol fits perfectly with our values and it’s gentle enough for any skin state. So you can have peace of mind and no unexpected side effects or irritation! Traditional retinoids, while not all bad, can be overly sensitizing to the skin. So it's a massive relief to find such a beautiful + effective alternative – sourced from nature!

Making the leap with a new ingredient can be intimidating, but Bakuchiol is truly an all-star retinol alternative. It serves up ALL the benefits with none of the risks of a retinoid product.

If you’re curious and want to try the magic of Bakuchiol yourself, check out our Plumping Mask, Plumping Serum and Plumping Cream. It’s bolstered with Bakuchiol and Rosehip Seed Oil for a serious Vitamin A dose for your skin. With a soothing herbal fragrant note, we love these products for an instant plumping effect that will leave your skin silky smooth, and hydrated.



  1. Healthline | The Lowdown on Retinoids vs. Retinol
  2. Skin Inc. | Retinol Sandwiching is TikTok's Latest Influential Trend
  3. Skin Inc. | Jar Deconstructed: Bakuchiol
  4. Research Open | Cytotoxic Meroterpenes: A Review
  5. Bakuchiol.net | Origins
  6. Wiley Online Library | Psoralea Corylifolia L: Ethnobotanical, Biological, and Chemical Aspects: A Review
  7. Science Direct | Bakuchiol: A Newly Discovered Warrior Against Organ Damage
  8. National Library of Medicine | Prospective, Randomized, Double-Blind Assessment of Topical Bakuchiol and Retinol for Facial Photoageing
  9. Cosmetics & Toiletries | Could Bakuchiol Be Retinol's Match?
  10. Bakuchiol.net | 5 Bakuchiol Statements That Are Actually Wrong
  11. Cosmetics & Toiletries | Bakuchiol to Stabilize Retinol and Polyunsaturated Lipids

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