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  • Brooke Walter

Bakuchi-what?: Breaking down Bakuchiol

Unless you’ve been hiding under the proverbial skincare rock, you’ve probably seen Bakuchiol serums popping up left and right over the past year. Touted as the “gentle retinol alternative”, Bakuchiol has quickly gained popularity due to its claims that its like retinol without the side effects.


The question is….is it really? And at what percentage in the formula? There has been recent controversy surrounding the Herbivore Botanicals eponymous Bakuchiol serum because it contains such small amounts of the actual ingredient. This led me to question what percentage makes the serum effective as well as if the product claims truly live up to the hype.

In one clinical study, results showed that a .5% Bakuchiol serum had similar results to a .5% retinol serum in reducing fine lines as well as hyperpigmentation over the course of 4 weeks. However, this study ignored the fact that it was used twice a day versus the retinol only in the evening. Also keep in mind this is NOT compared to prescription strength, tretinoin!


One of my biggest gripes about the skincare market is false advertising and misinformation. Companies purposefully mislead consumers with descriptions like “phyto-retinol” and “gentle retinol” when marketing a Bakuchiol product. Regardless of whether the serums accomplish similar results or not, Bakuchiol IS NOT retinol and shouldn’t be advertised as such! This is a pervasive issue across so many product categories, but I find it particularly problematic with “hot” ingredients that quickly start trending. Companies take advantages of the piqued public interest to market their products in the best possibly way, often without the data backing the claims.


From my personal experience, since I already have acclimated to .05% tretinoin, I don’t see the need to reach for a gentler alternative when I don’t have the retinoid side effects that prevent many from trying this “gold standard” for anti aging. With a wealth of scientific research behind them retinoids don’t have the same questions surrounding their performance and percentages. It really is more of a “science” than a guessing game, so I’m sticking with what I know and love!



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