7 Facts About Bakuchiol To Know Before You Buy


Bakuchiol (pronounced buh-KOO-chee-ol)  is one of the most exciting natural skincare ingredients around. This comprehensive guide will tell you everything you need to know before you buy or try a Bakuchiol product for your face care regimen.

 

Because of the way the pure Bakuchiol oil is extracted directly from the babchi seed, it's an ingredient that has some controversy. The reason for the controversy? Brands can claim their product "contains Bakuchiol" even if it doesn't contain the purified and concentrated version of it. 


This article is the definitive buyer's guide for Bakuchiol products. Read on to make sure you know what to look for before you buy.


What is Bakuchiol?

The chemical, Bakuchiol, was first identified by G. Mehta, U. Ramdas Nayak, and S. Dev in 1966 at the National Chemistry Laboratory in Poona, India. It was named after the Bakuchi plant. The chemical has since been isolated from other plants, but not in as high a quantity.


The plant, Psoralea corylifolia, has been used for centuries in both traditional Chinese and Indian Ayurvedic medicine. As a result, the plant and seeds have many names depending on the country of origin and dialect spoken; for example, Babchi, Bakuchi, Babechi, Bavanchi, Bu Gu Zhi, Ku Tzu, Cot Chu. 

This article describes the use in Ayurvedic medicine in much greater detail. The Psoralea corylifolia plant has beautiful purple flowers and a delicate fragrance.

Psoralea corylifolia flower, Bakuchi plant and flower


In cosmetics, Bakuchiol began to be used in North America and Europe in 2007 when it was brought to market by Sytheon. As a result, there is a growing demand for Bakuchiol products in the booming natural skincare market. 


So why all the hype?


In the quest to produce natural products, the use of active ingredients often falls flat. Clinical studies on ingredients don't always hold true in the final products. The reason could be because the ingredients are formulated incorrectly, they get deactivated, or bias played into the original clinical studies (effectiveness sells!).


When something natural has measurable effects in the skincare world, especially repeatedly, it gains A LOT of attention. 


If you want to start using Bakuchiol products, this is what you need to know: 


#1: Bakuchiol Manufacturers


The primary manufacturer of Bakuchiol is Sytheon. They use a unique method to extract just the Bakuchiol molecule (>99%). This allows an exact concentration, i.e. 1%, to be added to face products. While Sytheon doesn't make the final cosmetic products, they are the leading supplier for brands that use the specific ingredient.


Other companies work with the Psoralea corylifolia plant, but pure Bakuchiol is not what they produce (more on that below). 


#2: Sustainable Babchi Seed Harvesting


The Psoralea corylifolia plant is not endangered (though some other Psoralea plants are on the list). It grows wild and is wild-harvested, not farmed. To maintain biodiversity and sustainability, companies that manufacture products using babchi seeds must follow guidelines to avoid overharvesting and not contribute to agricultural exploitation.


Sytheon has published an informative website about their product and processes. In addition, they work closely with the Indian Government to ensure sustainability is maintained.


Bakuchiol is vegan, and the product produced by Sytheon is cruelty-free. 


#3: Psoralea Corylifolia: It's all in the name


Due to the science used to extract pure Bakuchiol oil from the babchi seeds, it cannot be labelled by standard INCI botanical naming rules. 


When a skincare product contains a carrier oil or extracts made from the babchi seed, it would be labelled on the ingredient list as Psoralea corylifolia seed extract or Psoralea corylifolia seed oil. These carrier oils are also called by their non-botanical names: bakuchi oil and babchi oil. The difference between babchi oil vs Bakuchiol is the method of extraction. Babchi oil is produced by cold-pressing the babchi seeds, just like other seed oils. Babchi oil does contain Bakuchiol, but in order to obtain pure Bakuchiol, a different chemical process is needed. 


When a skincare product uses concentrated, pure Bakuchiol oil, the only way it's allowed to be labelled is "Bakuchiol." Though extracted from the plant, it is not considered a botanical extract in the traditional sense, so botanical naming rules do not apply.


#4 Babchi Seed Oil Extraction


A complex method of isolating and extracting pure concentrated Bakuchiol oil from the babchi seed is called monomolecular extraction. That is why the naming rules described above apply.


If babchi seeds are cold-pressed or expeller-pressed, you have Psoralea corylifolia seed oil. If the seeds or leaves are macerated in oil or extracted with a solvent (i.e. ethanol, acetone), you have Psoralea corylifolia seed/leaf extract. Again, these might be referred to as babchi oil or bakuchi oil - but they represent an unrefined carrier oil and not the pure Bakuchiol that is sought after.


According to one study that analyzed babchi seed carrier oils, these extracts will contain some Bakuchiol (1.6%-12%). However, there is no standardization. This means there could also be irritating or undesired chemicals, like psoralens, which can be harmful to the skin in high concentrations.


If you buy and use products containing babchi seed oil or bakuchi oil, you have no way to know how much Bakuchiol is present or what other chemicals are. There is no requirement for the brand to disclose this to you. 


The money you spend should go towards the ingredients you want. This is especially true since the Bakuchiol research studies used specific percentages of the ingredient (0.5-2%).


#5: Bakuchiol Benefits


Bakuchiol is a powerful antioxidant. It also has anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties.  Bakuchiol does has structural similarities to resveratrol. Like retinol, it is felt to act on skin cells that produce collagen and melanin. Unlike retinol, it is not a chemical exfoliant. It also won't cause photosensitivity.


Based on the clinical evidence, Bakuchiol users should expect to see anti-aging effects like improved skin firmness, reduced fine lines and wrinkle depth, a more even skin tone, reduced appearance of dark spots, and improved acne. 


It's safe to say the cosmetic industry is excited about this ingredient and the science supporting its use. We summarized the current Bakuchiol research while developing our face oil. We keep this review updated as more becomes known. The Clinical data is summarized below:


Bakuchiol concentrations tested in the studies: 0.5-1.5%.

Multiple studies with a combined total of 190 people participating. 

Bakuchiol products tested for 4-12 weeks of use.

Participants had mixed skin colours. Sixty had sensitive skin, 26 had moderate acne, and 17 had eczema, dermatitis, rosacea, or cosmetic intolerance syndrome (this group used a 0.5% product).

People who used Bakuchiol saw improvements in skin elasticity, firmness, fine lines, pigmentation, smoothness, texture, clarity, radiance, number of acne lesions, and appearance of scars.

Objectively measurable effects were also found for wrinkle depth, pigmentation, and acne lesions.

Side effects, irritation, and intolerances were not experienced.


These studies suggest Bakuchiol is a chemical worth trying - especially if you are looking for alternatives to retinol.


#6: Bakuchiol vs Retinol: A Natural Retinol Alternative?


When tested head-to-head, Bakuchiol results were comparable to those seen with retinol (this was at a 0.5% concentration for both ingredients). 


When it comes to chemical structure and function, Bakuchiol is a meroterpene phenol. Even though the skin effects and visible results are comparable to retinol, the Bakuchiol molecular structure is not similar. They are entirely different chemicals. The two both work on cells that produce collagen and melanin. The end result is similar, but the chemical structures are unrelated. This likely explains why the two have such different side effects.


Everybody wants to know if Bakuchiol is as effective as retinol. Although the research supporting Bakuchiol as a natural retinol alternative is promising, there isn't a lot of data. There also isn't any data comparing Bakuchiol to prescription retinoids. When it comes to a long-term comparison of Bakuchiol vs retinoids (not just retinol), the safe assumption is that retinoids are probably more effective. The data for retinoids goes back to at least 1984, and Bakuchiol is just too new to say it's better. 


However, there are many other factors to consider when deciding what to use. Results matter, but not if the risks or side effects are too high. So many people can't tolerate retinol due to the skin barrier damage it causes. That is why we view retinol alternative regimens as important options. 


This Bakuchiol vs Retinol Infographic should help: 



bareLUXE Bakuchiol vs Retinol Infographic


#7: Skincare Product Marketing


Brands considering whether to use pure Bakuchiol are making a business decision. It's an expensive molecule. It's also thick, oily, and brown, making it tricky if a brand wants a particular look for the product. 


Brands have to choose between using the best concentration for effectiveness and capitalizing on popularity (but keeping the concentration low enough to not worry about colour or aroma).


This isn't a criticism; the sensory aspect of luxury cosmetics cannot be denied. If a brand is trying to create a light, fluffy, pink masterpiece, that goal will influence whether or not they use a high concentration of brown oil


When a product is marketed as "containing Bakuchiol," but the label says Psoralea corylifolia seed oil or (babchi) fruit extract, it contains traditional extracts. It doesn't have the concentrated, purified version of Bakuchiol.


This means the consumer might see results, but it's just as possible they will get no effect or even side effects from using an unpurified ingredient. 


Another area where marketing can get confusing is with "active ingredients." We prefer terms like Functional and BioActive because they still convey meaning - that a natural product will provide visible improvements to the skin's appearance - without suggesting it will have the same potency as prescription or invasive therapies.  


Since Bakuchiol is compared to retinol, new terms have emerged like: Bio Retinol, Phyto Retinol, and Botanical Retinol. These are unregulated marketing terms used to help a brand tell consumers what they are trying to sell, but there are no rules. We like the term Natural Retinol Alternative because many people want effects on skin tone, texture, or breakouts but can't tolerate the irritation of vitamin A derivatives. 


Summary


As a consumer, you already know if your skin tolerates retinol. You also know if you prefer to use natural plant substances over other options. If you're looking for a retinol alternative or if you've decided to give Bakuchiol a try, then this guide will help you make a choice that will maximize the chances you'll have a great result. 



Frequently Asked Questions



How Do You Use Bakuchiol?

Bakuchiol products should be used twice a day. It is oil soluble, so it will only be found in face oils or in products that contain emulsifiers. There are no special instructions for using Bakuchiol products. It does not require a lead-in period to build skin tolerance. It does not cause photosensitivity, though wearing SPF daily is essential for everyone.

Is Bakuchiol Safe for Pregnancy and Breastfeeding?

Always talk to your doctor when you're worried.The safety of skincare  ingredients in pregnancy is a topic that brands often prefer to avoid. A guarantee is never possible for anything and pregnancy is so high stakes. There is often fear based marketing aimed at pregnant or breastfeeding women. The following quote summarizes the general state of knowledge about pregnancy safety and cosmetics:


"Apart from hydroquinone (which is absorbed systemically in fairly substantial amounts and should be used very sparingly) and topical retinoids (owing to the troubling case reports), skin care products are not expected to increase the risk of malformations or other adverse effects on the developing fetus. Consequently, pregnant women can look their best without compromising the health of their unborn children."


 (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3114665/

Does Bakuchiol Help Acne?

The studies done are small, however the findings include a reduction in acne lesions and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation using 0.5% -1% Bakuchiol products.

Can I Use Bakuchiol and Retinol Together?

Yes. There is no interaction between the two. Generally, Bakuchiol is thought of as a natural retinol alternative, but there wouldn’t be a reason using them together would be a concern. 

Can I Use Bakuchiol with Vitamin C?

Yes. In fact, Bakuchiol is being studied as to whether it may help stabilize and improve the effectiveness of Vitamin C in solutions to prevent it’s oxidation. 

What About Other Ingredients Like Niacinamide?

There really haven’t been any incompatibilities found. We’d say it’s safe to add Bakuchiol containing products into your skincare regimen wherever you prefer.


Bakuchiol is what's called a phenolic compound. These compounds will all potentially change color if exposed to metals, so if you do use something like a copper peptide, it's always best to use the copper containing product separate from all your other skincare products.


Does Bakuchiol Cause Purging?

Probably not. Purging is  caused by retinol and other chemical exfoliants during initial use as the skin cells adjust to increased cell turnover. Bakuchiol isn’t a chemical exfoliant, that’s likely one reason it is so much more tolerable than retinol. The mechanism by which Bakuchiol works is thought to be on genes in the skin responsible for things like pigmentation and collagen. 

Where Can I Buy Bakuchiol Products In Canada?

There are many different green beauty brands that sell Bakuchiol products in Canada. Of course we have one, but many good options exist. We understand that face oils aren’t for everyone and ours is a Bakuchiol face oil.


We think the most important thing is to choose a product that has the ingredient listed on the INCI list as Bakuchiol. If it’s listed as Psoralea corylifolia then likely only the carrier oil was used. Also, look for products that use between 0.5-2% since that is what has been studied.


Commentary: bareLUXE™ Brand Approach to Bakuchiol


Being a physician, I'm used to reading studies to decide if they apply to my patients. If Bakuchiol was a drug and I was deciding whether to prescribe it, I would say the studies are not big enough, not numerous enough, and are all likely affected by commercial bias. I would wait for more data to be published.


As a natural skincare brand owner, I can say how rare it is for anything botanical to have data, and I'm impressed by Bakuchiol. Do I think it will produce equivalent results to very long-term retinol use or prescription retinoic acid?


Unlikely... (remember, our main marketing gimmick is transparency).


Bakuchiol face oils work great for me. The main reason is because I actually use them. My skin is intolerant of retinol, even at low concentrations. I get horrible dryness, flaking, cracking. My eyes get red, and I get blocked tear ducts (meibomian gland dysfunction). The inside of my nose gets painful and swollen. And after I stop using the retinol, it takes 4-5 weeks for my skin barrier to recover from the damage.


In my world, Bakuchiol is the clear winner.