Everything You Need To Know About BAKUCHIOL, The Plant-Based Alternative To Botox And Retinol

It’s been called “herbal Botox” and a “natural retinol” — but does it actually work?

Bakuchiol (pronounced “buh-KOO-chee-all”) is a “naturally occurring antioxidant found in the seeds of Psoralea Corylifolia, a plant found in Eastern Asia,” explains Jesse Werner, founder of Whish, one of the first brands to incorporate the ingredient into its product offerings.

I’ve heard bakuchiol described as a “natural version of retinol” or an “herbal Botox,” so editors asked Werner if there was any truth to those claims. His answer made my highly-sensitive skin positively tingle with anticipation: “Clinical studies have confirmed that bakuchiol is a true retinol-like functional compound without the negative effects of retinol.” In other words, bakuchiol is a potential game-changer for those who struggle with sensitive or reactive skin and aren’t confident in the risk-to-reward ratio of retinol.

First, a quick refresher on retinol: A member of the retinoid family, which includes all vitamin A derivatives, it’s considered a Holy Grail ingredient for all things anti-aging and anti-acne; but even though it’s derived from natural vitamin A, the majority of retinoids are synthesized in some way. Retinol is commonly found in over-the-counter anti-aging products, and can be prescribed in higher concentrations by a dermatologist.

When applied to the skin, retinol “interacts with special retinoic acid receptors” and “initiates a biochemical cascade that leads to activation of certain genes that control collagen production, and reduction of the release of inflammatory mediators,” says Dr. Neil Sadick of Sadick Dermatology in New York City. The result? Smoother, clearer, younger-looking skin.

Oh, and potentially a whole lot of irritation. 

Nearly all retinol users go through something called retinization: a period of about four weeks when redness, inflammation, dryness and even peeling occur while the skin adjusts to the medication. Dermatologists largely recognize this phase as temporary and safe, which is why retinol is so popular. But for some skin types, the “it-gets-worse-before-it-gets-better” functionality of retinol often ends at “it-gets-worse”. In addition to retinization, a small percentage of retinol users contract a red, scaly, itchy rash known as retinoid dermatitis.

While naturally derived ingredients aren’t always less-irritating than synthetics, the notion that bakuchiol may be a less-harsh anti-aging option is certainly an appealing one. “We were looking for the most effective ingredients to prevent and repair wrinkles, sagging skin and overall skin health. We kept coming back to retinol,” remembers Werner. “However, retinol is not natural, it’s very harsh on the skin, and it is very unstable. We searched the globe for an effective and natural retinol-like ingredient and we finally found bakuchiol.”

Bakuchiol doesn’t function in quite the same way that retinol does, but here’s the amazing thing: It offers similar results. “In one third party, 12-week clinical study, the conclusion was that retinol and bakuchiol do not have close structural similarities, yet they exhibit a similar gene expression profile especially on key anti-aging genes and proteins, which is remarkable,” explains Werner. In layman’s terms, bakuchiol visibly reduces fine lines, wrinkles and acne, and is considered a functional analog of retinol.

What’s more, the ingredient actually has some advantages over retinol, aside from simply being a natural alternative. Dr. Sadick confirms that it can be used “without any harsh side effects like irritation, flakiness and redness.” It also has photostability on its side; ulike retinol, which can break down and become less effective, it remains active even in direct sunlight.

It should be noted that bakuchi seed powder, sometimes called babchi seed powder, isn’t the same thing as bakuchiol – bakuchiol is the “compound extracted from the seeds using a solvent,” says cosmetic chemist Perry Romanowski, who adds that “there’s not likely to be a downside to adding bakuchi powder to a facial mask.” He notes that “no topical treatment would compare to Botox,” but can’t deny that bakuchiol has all the makings of a natural alternative to retinol. 

Bakhuchiol is actually becoming much more common at beauty retailers of late. The ingredient first started popping up in skin-care formulations back in 2014, and its popularity has only grown since then, though it’s remained somewhat under the radar and is still far from ubiquitous. If you’re curious to try out the natural alternative to retinol for yourself — and honestly, you should be — scroll through the gallery below to see some of fan-favorite formulas.

Ole Henriksen Glow Cycle Retin-ALT Power Serum

An all-in-one skin-perfecting day serum made with a natural retinol alternative that targets fine lines, wrinkles, pores, and dark spots, while instantly brightening.  

Buy at Sephora $58

Biossance Squalane & Phyto-Retinol Serum

A serum with backuchiol, a plant-derived retinol alternative, that targets the look of fine lines, wrinkles, and sun damage and works on sensitive skin. 

Buy at Sephora $72

REN Bio Retinoid Anti-Ageing Cream

REN Clean Skincare’s Bio Retinoid™ Anti-Ageing Cream minimizes the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles for firmer skin. Its bio extracts moisturize your skin and help repair damaged cells. Rich in antioxidants that protect from free radicals, the formula leaves your skin looking younger and smoother.

Buy at Dermstore $69

Alpyn Beauty PlantGenius Melt Moisturizer

Alpyn Beauty PlantGenius Melt Moisturizer contains PlantGenius, a proprietary complex of wildcrafted and hand-cultivated botanicals grown at elevation in the mountains surrounding Jackson Hole, Wyoming. This all natural, super-hydrator melts into skin leaving a fresh, velvety finish. Ceramides and squalane help fortify the moisture barrier; vitamin C helps brighten and support skin against environmental stressors; a non-irritating bio-available retinol diminishes the appearance of fine lines. Wild actives nourish with essential vitamins and fatty acids. 

Buy at Credo Beauty $60

Strivectin S.T.A.R. Light Retinol Night Oil

First of its kind, ultra-lightweight oil corrects the look of fine lines, wrinkles, uneven skin tone & texture. This advanced formula combines three separate but synergistic Retinol technologies, including naturally-derived Biomimetic Retinol – which mimics skin’s natural processes to better receive the benefits of Retinol ¿ with nourishing Squalane Oil and patented NIA-114 technology to limit sensitivity. Plant-derived Squalane & Chia Seed oils moisturize and replenished skin with essential fatty acids. Astaxanthin & Pro-anthocyanidins, two of the most powerful antioxidants, soothe and protect dry skin.

Buy at ULTA $99

FASHIONISTA article

Looking for the Best Face Wash? 17 Vogue Editors Weigh In on Their Favorites

Many would say washing your face is the most important part of a skin-care routine. Now the quest to find the best face wash is even more imperative: Our vital, necessary use of face masks has led to an uptick in maskne and other irritations.

From dermatologist Carlos A. Charles’s perspective, it’s most important to find a cleanser that removes buildup, dirt, makeup, and other unwanted particles from the face without damaging the skin’s protective barrier. The founder and medical director of Derma di Colore recommends three go-to cleansers to clients: Jurlique Revitalizing Cleansing Gel because it “thoroughly cleanses the skin and leaves it feeling fresh without overdrying or stripping the skin,” and does so without parabens, polyethylene glycols, or artificial fragrances and colors; Ren Evercalm Gentle Cleansing Gel, as it cleans without being rough on the skin; and, lastly, CeraVe’s Hydrating Cleanser. “It removes impurities from the skin delicately and works well for those with the most sensitive skin. Also, it’s a good choice when starting a prescription-strength acne or anti-aging regimen,” Charles notes.

CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser

Buy at Dermstore $15

Jurlique Revitalizing Cleansing Gel

Buy on Amazon $34

REN Clean Skincare Evercalm Gentle Cleansing Gel

Buy on their website $32

And while doctors certainly know best, everyone’s skin is different (and cleansers tend to elicit strong feelings), so we asked Vogue staffers to share their favorites in the hopes of making your search for the best face wash a little bit easier.

Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cleanser

Buy at Nordstrom $22

“I got this cleanser as a gift three years ago and haven’t gone back to whatever I used to use since! I have combination skin, so the biggest thing for me was to find a cleanser that doesn’t strip my face too harshly, which this one definitely doesn’t. It’s gentle, and leaves my skin feeling clean and naturally moist.”

RMS Beauty Raw Coconut Cream

Buy at Nordstrom $18

“I love oil cleansers, and RMS’s raw coconut cream is one I always go back to. It doesn’t strip your skin like a traditional face wash, so I don’t feel like I need to immediately layer on serums and moisturizers after I rinse it off. I’ve been trying to simplify my routine as much as possible during quarantine, so this has been key!”

Fresh Soy Face Cleanser

Buy at Sephora $38

“I love this lightweight, fresh-scented gel cleanser. Not only is it gentle enough to use every day on my skin, but it leaves it feeling hydrated and refreshed each and every time. Plus, its compact size makes it easy to pack during weekend getaways.”

Naturopathica Aloe Cleansing Gel 

Buy at Dermstore $38

“When I told Follain founder Tara Foley that I hadn’t yet found the right natural face wash, she steered me toward Naturopathica’s Aloe Cleansing Gel. I now use it every night, and it leaves my face feeling clear without any of the tightness or dryness that I’ve experienced with other cleansers. I also find I don’t need to use much for it to be effectively cleansing and hydrating, which means the five-ounce bottle has lasted me many months (a win on the less-waste front).”

Grown Alchemist Hydra-Restore Cream Cleanser

Buy at ULTA $49

“There are many reasons why I love this face wash: It’s gentle and hydrating on my sensitive skin, it looks pretty on my countertop, and it smells good too.”

Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser

Buy at Bed Bath & Beyond $11

“For a splurge, I love to indulge in a cream face wash from Biologique Recherche or Joëlle Ciocco. But really, in my opinion, there is nothing better than a bottle of Cetaphil—it’s plain and simple.”

Neutrogena Hydro Boost Hydrating Facial Cleansing Gel

Buy at ULTA $12

“I’m a drugstore enthusiast when it comes to basic facial care. My skin is very sensitive and I found that this is one of the only cleansers that truly caters to my skin type. Because it’s hypoallergenic, I felt confident in giving it a chance, and I haven’t looked back since. My face is always left feeling refreshed and under control.”

Eve Lom Cleanser

Buy at Dermstore $135

“I am sorry to inform you that this Eve Lom Cleanser is worth every penny. Never in my life would I think I’d be someone to pay $80 on a facial cleanser, but I am. Because of the price, I use it sparingly, but it always makes my skin look and feel much better. I love the ritual of putting it on and taking it off by using a muslin cloth that’s been soaked in warm water. Plus, you can’t beat that clean smell.” 

Philosophy Purity Made Simple Cleanser

Buy at ULTA $25

“I’ve used this face wash since high school—thank you to my local Sephora for the introduction! Despite trying posh, highbrow cleansers and drugstore staples, I’ve found that the Philosophy wash is the only one that leaves my skin feeling and looking fresh.”

Neutrogena The Transparent Facial Bar

Buy on Amazon $5

“I use Neutrogena’s Transparent Facial Bar. It’s like a tried-and-true wardrobe classic but for cleansers, maybe comparable to the turtleneck of skin-washing regimes. I’ve been using it since high school. The crisp bar, which comes in a hue of honey, lasts forever, and is under $5. How can you go wrong?”

Naturopathica Manuka Honey Cleansing Balm

Buy at Dermstore $62

“My favorite face wash is more of a balm. Made from manuka honey, this Naturopathica cleaner cleans effectively and without drying out my face. You can also apply it with a little brush that feels supernice on the face and, I think, gives me a little extra exfoliation bang for my buck. This is definitely a hero product for me and one of the most natural but effective cleansers I’ve found in my clean beauty searches. Plus, it smells so amazing you almost don’t want to wash it off.”

Avène Gentle Milk Cleanser 

Buy at Dermstore $20

“I am very picky about face washes because I have extremely sensitive skin (eczema, rosacea, you name it!), and this has been my favorite cleanser for a year now. Once something lasts in my skin-care routine for more than a few months, it’s going to stay there forever. I love the consistency of this cleanser; it’s gel-like but not sticky, and so soothing, always leaving my skin feeling so clean!”

Lesse Refining Cleanser

Buy at CAP Beauty $55

“I swear by Eve Lom’s cleanser (a classic for a reason!), but for an extra-deep clean I always go to Lesse’s all-natural scrub, which contains ultrafine apricot granules to gentlyexfoliate the skin—a must after long beach days (and lots of sunscreen). Plus, the charcoal-blue-colored formula is just about as pretty as they come.”

Dermalogica Clearing Skin Wash

Buy at Dermstore $62

“There are very few constants in my skin-care routine, but the one product I will always go back to is Dermalogica’s Clearing Skin Wash. I can try other cleansers, but this is the one that I repeatedly purchase and always have on hand (I own the largest possible size and keep travel versions at my parents’ house just in case). My skin tends to be oily, but this saves me from needing a thousand blotting papers.”

Tatcha The Rice Wash Skin-Softening Cleanser

Buy at Sephora $35

“Tatcha was the first skin-care brand I splurged on growing up; the brand’s infamous inclusion of milky rice water brings an extra boost of moisture to my otherwise dry, and at times, flaky skin. The gentle texture combined with ingredients like hyaluronic acid and Okinawa algae (known to plump and lock in moisture), leaves my skin feeling supple and bouncy every morning.”

Epi Logic True Calm Rosehip Gel Cleanser

Buy at Brooklyn Face & Eye $40

“All I can say is God bless Chaneve Jeanniton and every product in the Epi.Logic line! Chaneve created this face wash to soothe sensitive skin, and since using it, I never have to worry about my skin getting irritated while washing my face in the morning!”

Chantecaille Pure Rosewater

Buy at Nordstrom $32-74

“This is not necessarily a face wash, but I’ve been loving Chantecaille’s rosewater spray. It leaves me looking dewy and is naturally perfumed with a faint floribunda smell. Plus, it comes in the prettiest packaging designed by tastemaker extraordinaire John Derian. I spritz my face liberally each night with it so it might as well be a wash!”

VOGUE article

These Toners Will Do So Much More Than Even Out Your Skin Tone

It’s time to pick up and prioritise an oft-overlooked yet powerful beauty product: toner. If you haven’t already worked one into your daily skincare routine, we’re here to tell you you’re missing out. Not only can the right toner help to tackle acne, eczema and rosacea, it can improve the appearance of dark marks and hyperpigmentation or non-uniform skin (often caused or exacerbated by hormonal imbalances), as well as signs of excess sun exposure.

Below, five of Miss Vogue’s favourite facial toners for evening out the skin tone, and reducing stubborn hyperpigmentation.

Ole Henriksen Glow2OH™ Dark Spot Toner

Packed with skin-brightening ingredients, this powerhouse toner will slough away dead skin, giving you that fresh-from-a-facial glow. As it contains anti-bacterial and blemish-reducing witch hazel, this toner is a great pick for those with acne-prone skin. When used consistently, you should see a significant reduction in spots, as well as the dark marks they tend to leave in their wake.

The GlowPot Refreshing Orange and Aloe Toner

This revitalising toner is perfect for skin in need of some TLC. The gentle-yet-effective ingredients work in unison to bring the life back to dull skin. Aloe vera, widely known for its powerful anti-inflammatory properties, will accelerate the production of new skin cells, which in turn helps to heal acne scarring and reduce the appearance of marks. The vitamin C-rich orange peel essential oil is another great, skin-brightening ingredient that will help to boost the luminosity in your skin.

Alpha H Liquid Gold

This highly-rated toner is a staple product for those in the know. A number of factors have contributed to its popularity: the tried-and-tested ingredients proven to work on uneven skin; the fact it’s suitable for all skin types; and its ability to address a number of different skin issues in one go. The 15 per cent glycolic acid acts as a mild exfoliant, while natural liquorice root soothes irritation and brightens dark marks.

Boots Traditional Glycerin and Rosewater

This one is a classic. If you are on the lookout for a gentle toner containing a small number of ingredients that simply work, this is the one to try. Containing traditional ingredients used for centuries, this toner will help to even skin tone, lock in moisture and refresh a tired complexion. The key ingredient, rosewater, will help to control excess oil production, which in turn minimises acne-causing sebum and hyperpigmentation. On top of all that, it’s a bargain.

REN Ready Steady Glow Daily AHA Tonic

This Ren toner has won over beauty buffs for all sorts of reasons: it brightens, micro-exfoliates, hydrates, tightens and evens out the skin. Really being consistent with this toner will give you lasting results. Its new, greener bottle is also made from 100 per cent post-consumer recycled plastic — a big plus.

VOGUE article